The Stoens, the U.S. Embassy, the State Department, and Congress

Even before Tim and Grace Stoen went to Guyanese courts with orders from California Superior Court awarding John Victor to Grace, the couple initiated contacts with both the Department of State in Washington, D.C. and the American Embassy in Guyana to assist them in their efforts to compel compliance. The response frustrated them: both State and the Embassy adhered to the official government policy of staying out of the internal affairs of a sovereign nation’s court system. Especially complicating the matter for the agencies was the fact that the disputants in the custody battle were American citizens, with equal – and hence, ostensibly unbiased – access to consular services.

The Stoens were also frustrated by the speed – or rather, lack of it – of the Guyanese judicial system. They fully expected a decision on a habeas corpus petition for John Victor within a few days or, at the most, weeks of the hearing. Instead, months dragged by. The Stoens insisted that the Burnham government had intervened in the proceedings, and had done so at the Temple’s request, even as Jones’ lawyers were questioning the very claim that the claim had any evidence to support it.

Throughout it all, both sides took their complaints – both legal and personal – to the Embassy in Guyana, to the State Department in Washington, and to their elected representatives in Congress.

The following documents were among the 6032 unindexed pages released by the Department of State to Rebecca Moore and Fielding McGehee pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request in 1981. The only identifying notation on each is a three- or four-digit handwritten number on the first page of many of the documents. Where they appear, those encircled numbers are noted below.

U.S. Embassy note to Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 16, 1977 PDF Text
San Francisco DA Request to Secretary of State for Assistance, November 25, 1977 (Document 407) PDF Text
Letters from Congress to State, late November 1977 (Document 406) PDF Text
State Department Replies to Congressional Inquiries, December 1977 (Document 416) PDF Text
State Department Reply to Joseph Freitas, December 16, 1977 (Document 426) PDF Text
Letter from Margaret Ryan to State Department, December 30, 1977 (Document 432) PDF Text
Richard McCoy Letter to State, January 12, 1978; Memo to the File, January 11 (Document 440) PDF Text
Letter from State to Margaret Ryan, January 11, 1978 (Document 437) PDF Text
Draft Embassy statement to Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, January 14, 1978 PDF Text
Stoen mailgram to Members of Congress, January 22, 1978 PDF Text
Congressional letters in response to Stoen mailgram, January 1978 (Document 442 et al.) PDF Text
State Department response to Congressional letters, January 1978 (Document 457) PDF Text
State Drafts of letters, statements on Stoen custody, January/February 1978 (Documents 687 and 689) PDF
Embassy Notes on Stoen case, January 27, 1978 (Document 448) PDF Text
Embassy Memo on Stoen case, January 27, 1978 (Document 449) PDF Text
Stoen statement of case, January 1978 PDF Text
Rep. McCloskey response to State, March 2, 1978 (Document 577) PDF Text
Stoen correspondence with Vice President Mondale, February 1, 1978 PDF Text
Letter of support for Stoens, February 2, 1978 (Document 462) PDF Text
Letters of support for Peoples Temple, Winter 1978 (Document 496 et al.) PDF Text
Correspondence between Richard Tropp and State Department (Documents 550 and 579) PDF Text
Letter to Embassy from Jonestown resident, January 24, 1978 (Document 781) PDF Text
Charles Garry letter on John Victor Stoen, February 10, 1978 (Document 484) PDF Text
State Correspondence Office report on letters on Stoen Custody, March 6-10, 1978 (Document 625) PDF
Undated letter to State Department from Temple member Guy Young (Document 681) PDF Text
State Department memos to file, Winter 1978 (Documents 471, 494 and 501) PDF Text
State Department informational sheets on Stoen inquiries, February 20, 1978 (Document 503) PDF Text
Additional State Department informational sheets on Stoen inquiries, February 28, 1978 (Document 508) PDF Text
Embassy response to Congressional queries, March 3, 1978 (Document 578) PDF Text
Stoen correspondence with State, Embassy, March 1978 (Document 521) PDF Text
Stoen Thank you note to State Department, March 15, 1978 (Document 526) PDF Text
State Department progress report to Congress, March 17, 1978 (Document 527) PDF Text
Follow-up State correspondence with Rep. McCloskey, March 21, 1978 (Document 558) PDF Text
Haas-State Department correspondence, Spring 1978 (Documents 564 and 563) PDF Text
Embassy letter to State, May 2, 1978 (Document 786) PDF Text
Embassy draft/template letter on Stoen custody, June 1978 (Document 622) PDF Text
Haas correspondence with State Department, June 15, 1978 (Documents 574, 575, and 578) PDF Text
Memo of conversation between State Department and Tim Stoen, October 3, 1978 (Document 587) PDF Text
Stoen “By Any Means Necessary” telegram, October 3, 1978 (Document 588) PDF Text
Grace Stoen letter to Congress, November 1, 1978 (Document 594) PDF Text

Documents from other sources – mostly from the FBI’s RYMUR release under the Freedom of information Act – relate directly to the Stoens’ efforts (and the Temple’s response) to involve the American Embassy in Georgetown, the State Department, and the US Congress in the custody battle over John Victor Stoen. They include:

U.S. Embassy note to Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 16, 1977 PDF Text
Originally posted on June 16th, 2020.

Last modified on June 19th, 2020.
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