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Idaho Sheriff's Department Updates Standoff Situation

Aired June 2, 2001 - 15:39   ET


DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: We apologize for interrupting "YOUR HEALTH" but we want take you for live coverage now to Idaho where those five children have been holed up for five days. This is the sergeant with the Bonner County Sheriff's Department.


SARGENT ROBERT RAHN, BONNER COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: ... effort to contact the children through known people the children trust. After a period of time contact was made and at that time the children received food and water. Sheriff's office primary concern is for the welfare of these children and every effort is being made to ensure their safety. More information will be provided if available at 3:30 p.m. with another press update. And that is our statement, OK. One question at a time, please.

QUESTION: Sergeant, would you just tell me, one: who were the people that went into the house, and secondly: will you try to make contact again today?

RAHN: OK, every effort, and we're continuing efforts as we speak, today and we are not going to divulge who the people are of how many there are.

QUESTION: What was the character of the conversation with the children? I know that you didn't see them face-to-face, but what was the characterization of the conversation? Were the children still distrustful, angry, were they willing to cooperate?

RAHN: OK, I am not divulging any of that information at this time: What was said or how it was being said.

QUESTION: So there has been a lot of speculation about Benjamin, the 15 year old being used as a potential intermediary. Can you say yes or no whether that's happening?

RAHN: Well, what I will say on that is there is a lot of speculation on who we're using, but a lot of what you're hearing is incorrect and we are not divulging on who those people may be.

QUESTION: Sir, can you characterize first of all, are you more encouraged with the actions of the last 24 hours? Is there reason to be encouraged? And secondly, I know you don't want to talk about whether Ben has been up there or has been the intermediary, but can you characterize if he is cooperating with your department?

RAHN: OK, several family members and trusted friends are cooperating. And, as far as -- what was other question, sir?

QUESTION: Are you more encouraged now than you were 24 hours ago? Is there a reason for optimism in your mind?

RAHN: We believe and we try to remain optimistic.

QUESTION: Is there more optimism today than 24 hours ago?

RAHN: Well I can't answer that, sir.

QUESTION: Have you made contact with them today?

RAHN: We are proceeding to have that done today, but I cannot confirm whether we have made contact with them today or not.

QUESTION: Are you using a telephone or face-to-face approaches?

RAHN: We are not using telephones at this time.

QUESTION: Is there something you can tell us about the condition or the leader of the children at the house right now?

RAHN: No, I don't have any information on that.

QUESTION: Sargent, given that hindsight is 20/20, would you do you anything differently if you were starting this process today than you have last Tuesday?

RAHN: Well I am not running this operation but I don't believe that we would do anything different. Our main concern is for the safety of the children and patience and restraint, I think is utmost in this.

QUESTION: Will you allow Mrs. McGuckin to go and see them? One of the concerns that has been said is that the children were not sure that she was alive or OK. Would you allow her to go and personally see them?

RAHN: I can't answer that for you, ma'am.

QUESTION: You know there are guns in the house. Would you characterize the children as armed?

RAHN: All we know is there are guns in the house. That's all I will say on that.

QUESTION: Have you seen the guns in the house?

RAHN: I have not seen anything.


RAHN: OK, I'm not going answer that, OK. QUESTION: Was the communication inside the home or outside the home?

RAHN: We have made contact at the residence.

QUESTION: Is that through megaphone, sir, or how are you making that contact?

RAHN: We are making personal contact at the residence.

QUESTION: Face-to-face contact, or person to person?

RAHN: We have made contact at the residence, sir.

QUESTION: You were talking about some type of contact today. Is it your understanding there will be another contact today?

RAHN: We are making every effort to continue this today as we speak.

QUESTION: Will the contact be similar to what happened yesterday?

RAHN: I am not going to respond on that, OK.

QUESTION: Has the sheriff's department had any contact with any federal agencies?

RAHN: We have had lots of contact with federal agencies but we are not utilizing any at this time.

QUESTION: Any reason to think that they may become involved?

RAHN: I cannot answer that, ma'am.

QUESTION: Are anyone of the children acting as a spokesperson for the children? Are you in contact with just one child or are you talking to different children?

RAHN: I don't have that information.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) by militia groups on the Internet and by people like Mr. Steele.

RAHN: I am not going to comment on that right now, ma'am.

QUESTION: Are there a number of families members in this area that are directly related to family?

RAHN: I don't have information on numbers.

QUESTION: Is she a local person, the mother?

RAHN: The mother is local, that's correct.

QUESTION: Did she grow up here? RAHN: I do not have that information.

QUESTION: Does have family have electrical power up in their house at this time?

RAHN: I do want to say that on Tuesday morning I confirmed with the power company there is electrical power at the residence.

QUESTION: Sir, there are some local people who are saying that they are offering to take the children in so that the children can be kept as a unit -- as a family during this time. Are you talking to those people? Or are you talking to others who may take the children in? Is that part of all of this?

RAHN: I am not personally doing that. I know that is being checked into, but I can't comment on anything further.

QUESTION: Are you or the animal shelter people doing anything about the dogs?

RAHN: We are not doing anything about the dogs right now. The dogs are not our main concern. I have offers from numerous agencies locally and nationally that will assist us in that. We may explore that when the time comes.

QUESTION: Do you know if you're feeding the dogs as well as the children?

RAHN: I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Do you know if the dogs are being fed?

RAHN: I don't have that information.

QUESTION: Sir, do you know of the condition of the children at all? Can you speak at all to their physical condition?

RAHN: I have no information on that points.

QUESTION: Has foods been given to them and what kind of food is it?

RAHN: OK, food has been given to them. I don't have exact details on what food was given to them.


RAHN: I can't give how many times. I know it was a prolonged period yesterday that they have had contact with the children.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) on the property right now?

RAHN: You will have to clarify.

QUESTION: Are there any sheriffs deputies, any family members outside of those five children that are on the property right now? RAHN: I don't have that information right now.

QUESTION: Sargent, would you characterize this as a one-sided conversation with the kids or are they -- is there (OFF-MIKE)

RAHN: I really can't comment on that. We are not divulging what we're doing on this side.

QUESTION: Then how can you tell if you've actually made contact?

RAHN: I can confirm that we have made contact with the children.

QUESTION: Sargent, prior to can you talk about what kind of dealings your department has had this with this family in the past?

RAHN: I don't have an updated list and an exact list so I am not going to comment on it right now.

QUESTION: Sargent Rahn, we were told by attorney for the Mrs. McGuckin, that in fact, these two individuals went into the house and were separated by the dogs in another room, but that they talked to the children for several hours and there was a message delivered from the mother that they didn't personally hand over, but that they left the food and water. Can you at least confirm that account?

RAHN: Who went up?

QUESTION: Sorry? That there were two individuals who the children trusted who actually got into house yesterday and the contact lasted for several hours. They handed off a message from the mother saying that she loved them and they should cooperate with the attorney Mr. Powell and that that was left with the food and water. Can you at least confirm that account.

RAHN: OK, I don't have the details on what exactly happened at the contact.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that notes from the mother were passed to the children? Or at least were left there for them to read?

RAHN: Like I said I don't have any details on what type of stuff was left.

QUESTION: Can you give us a sense of why you're being so careful with what you are releasing to us at this point?

RAHN: Well, we don't want to divulge a lot of stuff or anything that would jeopardize what we are trying to do and that's get these children out as safely as we can. OK?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) what message would you send to them if they are listening to you right now?

RAHN: If they were listening to me right now, is that their safety and well being is our only concern at this point. QUESTION: Do they have any electronic communication with the outside world? A radio, a television, anything -- a little black and white TV?

RAHN: I really don't know if they do or not.

QUESTION: Do you anticipate that this whole issue of are you going meet with them today, are you telling us nothing has been established yet? Do you anticipate contact today?

RAHN: Like I said, we are attempting to continue what we have been doing.

QUESTION: Sargent, what is the mother's situation on this? Does mother -- can you confirm the mother does want the children to bring this to a close?

RAHN: I can't confirm that yes or no.

QUESTION: Is the mother helping at all?

RAHN: I don't have that information, sir?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the Aryan Nation may be up hear to rally in protest today. Have you guys gotten wind of that and if so have you prepared yourself for if it does happen?

RAHN: We have had that information. Yes.

QUESTION: How have you planned to prepare for that?

RAHN: I am not going to divulge that.

QUESTION: Sargent, the fact that (OFF-MIKE) everybody up here has guns in their homes is not an uncommon thing. Could you go into a house in a situation like this, (OFF-MIKE) standard procedure, if guns are in the house would (OFF-MIKE) for your departments to react in a certain way?

RAHN: Sir, I am not going to comment on that right now, OK. Police procedures in normal circumstance is a whole different issue and the issue is the children and the children's safety right now.

QUESTION: How long are you prepared to wait?

RAHN: The sheriff's office is prepared to do whatever it takes in however long it takes to ensure these children's safety.

QUESTION: Sargent, have the dogs interfered with any of the negotiation?

RAHN: I have not had any reports of that, no.

QUESTION: So, do you ever foresee the sheriff's department ever going in there, I mean if this thing stretches on for two-three months? RAHN: You'll have to clarify your question, sir.

QUESTION: Do you ever foresee the sheriff's department ever going in to get these kids out of the home if this thing continues? (OFF-MIKE) indicated yesterday that that was a possibility?

RAHN: Well, that would be something would you have to ask the prosecutor. I am not sure on your question, so I am not going to comment, sir.

QUESTION: Any plans to narrow the perimeter at all. Obviously the procedure (OFF-MIKE) was to get past it keep them out but it seems that welfare (OFF-MIKE) got five minors inside a house. Are there any special efforts being made in that regard?

RAHN: No, ma'am, not at this time.

QUESTION: Sargent, one other point maybe you can rephrase. How patient is you department? Would you wait here until next Christmas, wait until Thanksgiving, wait until the end of September? Is there some sort of date where you can (OFF-MIKE) back for a week maybe, or three days?

RAHN: Well, my sheriff comment on that question, sir, is he was just recently elected and he has four years.

QUESTION: Do you want to end on that?

RAHN: That's all I'm going to say on that, sir. Well another release will be tentatively set for 3:30 this afternoon. If that changes, you will be notified. Thank you very much for your patience. I really appreciate it.

KELLEY: And so they wrap up this news conference here. That is Sargent Robert Rahn who's with the Bonner County Sheriff Department. Of the five children who have been holed up for five days there in Idaho. Their father had passed away a couple of weeks ago and then the mother was arrested allegedly for child neglect.

She spent three hours talking -- a lawyer representing the mother -- spent three hours talking to the children who are said to be armed and malnourished. Now the Sargent was saying that they had people who the children trusted and they had been in contact for a long time yesterday with those five children who are still in the house, they wouldn't say if that included or was Benjamin, who's one of the children who left the house earlier this week and went to a neighbor's and could perhaps have been talking to the kids.

Sergeant said the primary concern is the welfare of the children. They do have food and water now. They are trying to make contact with the children again. And he could confirm that they did have electric power and he said that they are trying to do the best that they can and show utmost restraint. He also said that they had heard that the Aryan Nation, which is a white supremacist group in that area might rally in protest. He said they had heard that and they were prepared for it. Now an attorney is going to be speaking.

EDGAR STEELE, ATTORNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Edgar Steele. You know it has been represented to me by members of this press that Bonner County's prosecuting attorney, Phil Robinson, is reporting that I was fired last night my Mrs. McGuckin.

That is not true. And it is merely another of many false statements made in this matter by local government officials. What's true is, that early yesterday afternoon I served written notice that I was voluntarily withdrawing for the time being because I have been cut off from all access to Mrs. McGuckin and her children by the local government.

This is forced upon me by the strictures of my profession's rules of ethics and applicable law. Now however, I may continue to speak out publicly about the outrageous conduct of local government officials in this matter. I have not abandoned the McGuckins. I will return to actively represent and support any member of this family and for any purpose immediately upon being asked to do so in person.

I continue to offer my support and counsel pro bono, meaning for free, of course. My concern at the moment first and foremost is for the welfare of the children still terrified and isolated in the family home just up the road, which is also just up the road from my personal residence here in Sagle, Idaho.

Now their interests will not best be served by stirring up additional controversy right now that can await resolution at a later time. Let's get the kids out and to safety first then we can discuss how best to reunite this family and begin the process of the healing the damage that they have already suffered. The Bonner County sheriff has now totally cutoff my access to JoAnn McGuckin, though I have been representing her and her children strictly for civil issues related to the pending criminal charge and for which she has been provided a tax payer paid public defender, Bryce Powell.

The Sheriff's rejoinder has been that I cannot see her since Mr. Powell is her attorney. Sheriff Jarvis steadfastly refuses to recognize my status as her personal civil attorney. I have been told by the sheriff deputies that Mrs. McGuckin desires that I communicate with her henceforth only in writing. And only through Mr. Powell. I have been unable to confirm that with her in person. Mr. Powell seems intent upon enforcing that arrangement as well. Even if true, I find this intolerable and unworkable. Since I pledged that I would serve only her interests, and that of her children. I cannot do that if others are claiming to speak to me for her.

The duties of a personal lawyer are just that -- personal. I originally met with Mrs. McGuckin for nearly two hours shortly after her arrest. During which she request my assistance for herself and her children. Since then, my firm, both locally and in California, has been working nonstop to develop a number of civil issues for her family, such as our inquiry into sale of their property for slightly more than 8,000 dollars in back taxes. KELLEY: And so this is Edgar Steele an attorney who apparently was representing JoAnn McGuckin, the mother of the six children who was arrested earlier this week saying that he was not fired, that he actually has voluntarily withdrawn. And he done so because he says his access has been cut off to the children and to the mother. And the authorities apparently have said that's because she has another attorney and this attorney saying that that attorney goes along with the local officials who are insisting that she has new attorney and so they have cut off his access in this case.

The five children are still holed up in that house and so we will keep you posted if any new development happen there.



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