0 280124Z NOV 78
FM ALBANY (89-70) (P)
TO DIRECTOR. FBI IMMEDIATE
SAN FRANCISCO IMMEDIATE
Re Bureau teletype dated November 24, 1978 and Albany telcall to San Francisco on November 28, 1978.
Richard Hongisto, Acting Commissioner, New York State Department of Corrections, Albany, New York, was contacted on November 28, 1978, re his knowledge of Rev. James Warren Jones, and the Peoples Temple Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. Hongisto advised that he was sheriff of the City and County of San Francisco from 1972 – 1977. During this period he became aware of the
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Peoples Temple Church in 1973 when he began receiving letters from congregation members praising his political position and work as sheriff of San Francisco. Hongisto stated these letters made reference to their leader James Jones. It was Hongisto’s opinion that Jones encouraged members of his congregation to write these complimentary letters. Hongisto was somewhat puzzled by these letters since the letters were postmarked Ukiah, California, a distance of 150 miles from San Francisco, where the church was located at that time. Hongisto could not understand why these people were interested in his performance as sheriff. Hongisto states that at approximately this time he was approached by FNU [first name unknown] Stone [Tim Stoen], Assistant District Attorney in San Francisco. Stone was apparently a member of the congregation and had previously been Assistant District Attorney in Ukiah. During this meeting Stone made reference to the good works of the congregation and
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their interest in the social problems of the poor and the underprivileged.
Hongisto went on to say that in 1975 or 1976, he received invitations to attend congregation services at their Temple located at Geary and Filmore [Fillmore] Streets in San Francisco. He stated that he attended two services at this Temple and noted that Reverend Jones was Caucasian while the majority of the congregation was black. Hongisto stated that he felt the services bordered on faith healing and Rev. Jones made references to establishing good working relationship with the local Muslim Temple. Jones made general statements pertaining to the reshaping of society which Hongisto interpreted to mean a type of social democracy as it is in the Scandinavian countries, as opposed to outright communism. During the course of his preaching, Jones made jokes and Hongisto stated that the congregation appeared to be in a buoyant happy mood. During the course of the service, Jones introduced Hongisto to the congregation.
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Attendance at these services was estimated by Hongisto to be between 300 and 500 people, which was the capacity of the Temple. Hongisto noted that at the second service he attended, a dance troupe from the local Muslim Temple performed a series of African dances as part of the religious program. Jones also stated during the course of his sermons that in effect, some illnesses are psychosomatic and spoke about the power of the mind in relation to the healing of bodily ills. Hongisto stated it was his opinion that Jones did not have any mystical powers over the congregation, and there was a communal involvement in the services. As a result of newspaper accounts, Hongisto stated that he was aware of large monetary contributions by the church members to the Temple, however he had no personal knowledge about such personal contributions or the degree of congregation participation in such fund raising activities.
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Hongisto advised that he noticed an evolution in the Peoples Temple between the period he first attended their services to the time he was asked to obtain gun permits for members of Jones’ staff in early 1977. Hongisto stated that it was his feeling that there was an air of paranoia among members of the church hierarchy. He said that he was approached by members of the Temple who he assumed were spokesmen for Jones and they requested gun permits for Jones’ bodyguards. As justification for these permits they eluded [alluded] to acts of vandalism being committed at the Temple and Jones’ feeling that he was being persecuted by unnamed federal agencies. Hongisto identified the persons making the request for pistol permits as Mike Prokes and FNU [first name unknown] Stowen [Tim Stoen] (phonetic). Hongisto was contacted several times over the course of several months in reference to his pistol permits, but he never issued them to
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members of the Peoples Temple. He stated that he declined to issue these permits since he was not able to substantiate any of the allegations made concerning threats either to the Temple itself or to Reverend Jones. He states that he finally suggested to congregation representatives that they might employ private protective agencies such as Pinkerton, if they needed armed protection.
Hongisto speculated that “the world was catching up with Jones” when news media iterest [interest] was being generated about the congregation’s internal affairs such as sources of revenue. This publicity resulted in Jones moving his Temple to Guyana.
Hongisto stated it was his opinion that Jones desired to be a great social leader working through his church. Hongisto feels he achieved this power by developing a congregation which was developed primarily of unsophisticated and uneducated minorities.
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In conclusion, Hongisto stated that it was his firm opinion that there was no association between Reverend Jones and the Peoples Temple and the recent murder of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk, allegedly committed by Dan White. Hongisto could only draw a parallel between Jones and White in that these men both saw their world crumbling around and lashed out in retaliation.
Through re telcall, San Francisco advised that FNU Stone interviewed week of November 19, 1978.
FD 302 follows. Armed and dangerous.