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GAMBIT MAY TELL ESTES’ LEGAL PLAN AUSTIN The aborted attempt to impanel a jury in Pecos to try Billy Sol Estes on an indictment, and the transfer of the case to Tyler this week, were opening gambits in what may emerge, the Observer has grounds to speculate, as the basic defense strategy of the Estes cases. Few cases in American history have received more intense uniformly adverse publicity than the Estes case. From reports on defense lawyers’ hawkish questioning of prospective jurors in Pecos, it is manifest they had been counting on the approximate certainty that almost literally no adult in Pecos could convincingly assert that he could approach the Estes case dispassionately and without prejudice. Proving this in Pecos is one thing; in Tyler, another; and in the many venues in which the Estes cases might be brought to trial, quite another. Yet clearly, in light of the national saturation with radio, newspapers, television, and magazines, it might be possible to contend that Estes cannot now get a fair trial anywhere. It is the opinion of some attorneys that the law, or a construction of the law, in this eventuality requires that under the due process of law clause, since a man can’t get a fair trial anywhere, he cannot be brought to trial, and charges against him must be dismissed. The “Texas Scandals of 1962” danced jitterily down their various courses during the week. For reports on two kinds of oil scandals, see page one in this issue. Reflecting on what is going on, Railroad Commisioner Bill Murray said this week, “These things run in cycles.” Indeed they do * Wilson and his staff now insist they have released the names of all prominent politicians on the list of telephone calls made from Estes’ office. The Observer asked Wilson and Wells if, according to the telephone record, Estes had ever made calls to any key state-level politicians. They thought not. ‘Significant’ Three calls from Billie Sol Estes’ office in Pecos to Carter were placed in evidence. One lasted four minutes on December 7, 1960, to Carter in Austin. A second was of three minutes’ duration on January 4, 1962, to Carter in the Vice President’s office in Washington. The third was also to Carter in the Washington office of Johnson, a six-minute talk on March 9 of this year. Also introduced as evidence, according to Wells, was a telephone call placed by Estes, staying at the moment in the Statler-Hilton in Dallas, to Carter in Washington the day before Estes was arrested. The record also shows that on the day of his arrest Estes also placed calls to Senator Yarborough and his friend and confidante William E. Morris, who at that time was assistant to Assistant Agriculture Secretary James Ralph. \(Both Morris and Ralph Of all these and the other calls ‘introduced into the Pecos court record, Wilson told the Observer: “The significance is that they show a channel of communication THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 2 June 29, 1962 seem to: perhaps they’re like airplane accidents. One crack-up makes others nervous. Here are the essential developments currently ni the Estes, McClelland, and rice allotment scandals: ESTES. The Pecos charge on which John Cofer suddenly announced ready for trial alleges Estes stole $162,144 from a farmer through a fertilizer storage tank mortgage deal. Obviously, singling out this charge for a trial, Estes’ lawyers thought they had a. strong defense. The young prosecutor, D.A. R. B. McGowen, would not admit he has a weak case, though he admitted some of the indictments against Estes under federal law are stronger. According to Washington testimony from Frank Cain of Pacific Finance and Dallas, Texas, who is embroiled in a contest with the president of Commercial Solvents of New York over who is telling the truth about a meeting at which Cain said the president suggested Estes take out for Switzerland and Estes sugested Brazil instead, McGowen still works a a civil lawyer for Pacific Finance. Cofer introduced five thick scrapbooks of clippings into evidence. In winning the continuance, he also announced the defense was withdrawing its announcement of readiness and requested continuance for six to nine months to let publicity die down. He asked the case be continued “two or three terms of court” or until “the defendant can get a fair trial.” In questioning prospective jurors, Hume Cofer, another defense lawyer, said the defense would show Estes took nothing from the farmer in question, Albert Bell; that Bell had * from Estes to the Agriculture Department and to political figures in Washington who might have influence with the Agriculture Department. “It’s most significant that one was to the Vice President’s office.” The Associated Press reported Carter as remembering three calls from Estes. He is reported to have said that in the last call, March 28, “Estes told me that there were rumors he was being investigated, and asked if I had heard anything about it. I said no, and then he asked me if I’d call him if I did hear anything. I did not call him back. I did not make any check up.” Of the other telephone conversations he remembers with Estes, Carter is reported to have described one January call in this way: “He said he was coming to Washington and wanted to know if he could come by and see me. He did come by for about five minutes, but we discussed no business whatever.” Carter said in February Estes called to say he would be in Washington and planned to drop by Johnson’s office; Carter said he didn’t come. Carter is the man who wrote Estes the letter which Wilson read on statewide television during his campaign for governor, in a speech in which he sought to tie Johnsonto Connally. The letter urged Estes to “call on me in the Vice President’s office as we can serve you.” 37 to Yarborough The greatest number of telephone calls from Estes to Washington landed in the office of Morris. There were 42 calls in this round robin. already received $55,000 in profits from the transaction; and that Bell “does not stand to lose anything.” Granting the continuence, Judge J. H. Staley said he saw no possibility of a trial of Estes anywhere in West Texas. Cofer is expected to oppose the transfer to Tyler, alleging again a fair trial would be impossible there. In Washington Atty. Gen. Kennedy discussed new federal indictments against Estes based on charges of using the mails to defraud. Sen. John Tower said Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman should resign in the wake of the Estes scandals and the defeat of the farm bill. Speaking in Dallas, Tower said, “I don’t assign any culpability to Freeman, who is an honorable man and an honest man. But I don’t think he has the right approach to the Estes case or the farm problem.” Freeman “reprimanded” an official for going along with a superior in a pro-Estes finding, Atty. Gen. Will Wilson announced inquiry into the possibility of Federal tism to Estes when he was permitted to buy surplus military federal buildings and convert them into either apartments or private houses. In Pecos more than 500 townsfolk sent a petition to Pres. Kennedy and Freeman asking reinstatement of a Reeves County federal farm official for accepting a $50 gift certificate from Estes at Christmas, 1960. The Scripps-Howard s t a f f \(In Texas for three days of speeches, Yarborough told various newspaper reporters it was “utterly ridiculous” to get excited about Estes’ calls to him. He said he did not personally receive a call from Estes the day of, or the day before, Estes’ arrest, on which his office is shown hearing from Estes. He remembered phone conversations with Estes on only three subjects: the $100 a plate fund raising dinners in Washington; helping Estes get some Church of Christ missionaries into Tanganyika; and the Texas governor’s race, in which conversations Estes, a Connally supporter, said he would carry West Texas by 200,000 votes. On the last subject, he said he and Estes were not in agreement; they had no further conversations before Estes was arrested. “It would be a sorry commentary,” he said, “if a U.S. senator had to rule on who could phone him and who Senator Yarborough was a close second, with 37 calls placed from Estes’ office to Yarborough’s offices, either in Texas or Washington. Fourteen of these calls were handled by Yarborough’s office assistants. Yarborough says not all of the telephone conversations were friendly ones. For instance, he says that last February he talked with Estes by phone and disagreed sharply with the Pecos businessman for supporting Connally in the governor’s race. Five calls were made to Rutherford from Estes’ office, one in 1960, two in 1961, and two in 1962. Three calls were made to Henry Marshall, the U.S.D.A. official whose death in Franklin prompted a grand jury investigation. The longest conversation was 14 minutes on December 29, 1960. Estes made two other calls to Marshall early in 1961, the last one being four months before Marshall’s body was found on his farm. Subscribe to The Observer writer, Vance Trimble, reported that an unnamed friend of Estes said after talking to Estes: “This is about to make him crack up. He thinks maybe now he ought to tell the whole story.” Estes’ lawyers have told him not to talk until he has to. McCLELLAND. Probate Judge Clem McClelland, charged with profiting’ himself from his handling of the wills of the dead, was temporarily suspended as judge. One Richard Putney has attested that he split a $10,000 inheritance estate fee with McClelland. Putney and two other men are indicted with McClelland in nine cases. McClelland’s lawyer, J. Edwin Smith, issued a statement that the judge has been unfairly accused and asking citizens to remember a man is innocent unless proved guilty. Smith charges that it must, be pumped and will yield slightly less than 20 barrels a day. After that, they can keep her going around the clock. No Enforcement Is this sort of evasion of the state regulation common? Our informant at the Commission says: “It’s one of our biggest problems. We know it’s going on, but it is almost impossible to stop.” Why? “Well, we take the operator’s representation. If he says the well pumps iLss than 20 barrels a day over a 30-day test period, we take his word for it. We don’t go in there and ask if he’s choked back or what.” Why not? “We don’t have enough men to do it. Right now we have only 29 engineers in the field in all of Texas. The marginal test can be witnessed, but it usually isn’t. Anyway, if there was a bottom chokeone of the commonest devices for this crookednesswe couldn’t catch it if we tried.” A bottom choke is an artificial restriction on the amount of oil entering the pump barrel. Another common device for cutting back the amount of oil entering the well is the use of a very small pump barrel. The informant said there was almost no way for the Railroad Commission to stop this tactic, even if the commissioners knew about it, because “I doubt if we could legally dictate to the operators the type of equipment they are to use to take oil from their well. We’ve never specified the size of pump barrel. I don’t think we could send a guy In and say put in a bigger barrel.” Another method of breaking the law is to let parrafin pile up inside the barrel until the amount of oil coming through drops below the marginal limit. East Texas oil has a heavy parrafin content; if the passage of oil is not to be restricted the pump barrel must periodically be cleaned out. “As marginal wells are now defined by statute,” said our source, “it would be almost impossible to break up this kind of activity.” One leading independent oil operator in the East Texas field told the Observer he knows of some major oil company wells that could flow 10,000 barrels a day if they weren’t artificially choked back to less than 20 barrels so they could benefit by the marginal allowance. The commission source rejoins: “Why don’t they pinpoint their D.A. Frank Briscoe with publicityseeking in a court of injuiry that damaged McClelland. Motions for changes of venue are a possibility. RICE ACREAGE. Lewis David, state administrator for the Agricultural Stablilization and Conservation Service, said the rice acreage matter “will probably involve thousands of acres and spread to incredible proportions before it’s over.” David said the fraud involves, for example, a farmer assigning his total rice allotment to other farmers more than once. The Brazoria County office management for the ASC was suspended; thereupon, aggrieved, he resigned. A $2,500 bribe offer has been reported by a clerk in the Matagorda County office of the federal program. In Waller County, the ASCS office manager wsa suspended. charges? Why don’t they name names? I’ll grant there are some majors that do this sort of thing, but they’re very careful because they know these independents are just waiting to grab them by the nose if they can catch them. Speaking from experience, you can bet that if the majors say it is a marginal well, you couldn’t get more from it if you tried.” $6,000 a Month Looking through the Railroad Commission’s record of all oil wells in the East Texas field, one quickly sees the advantage of having marginal wells. Here are some examples from the record, chosen at random: Operator “A” has six marginal wells. The lowest amount he gets from any of these wells is 16.75 barrels a day. Together they give him 104.95 barrels a day, or 3,147.5 barrels a month. If these same wells flowed at a rate of as much as 20.1 barrels a day, the state would allow him to take only 960 barrels a month from them allless than one-third what the operator is getting now. With oil selling for $3 a barrel, this is a difference of $6,000 a month. Operator “B” has eleven marginal wells, three of which pump less than 14 barrels a day. But three of them pump more than 18 barrels a day, and all the rest pump more than 16. Operator “C” has 13 wells, nine of which are marginal but none for less than 15.63 barrels. Operator “D” has nine wells, all marginal, but none pumping less than 15 barrels and most of them pumping more than 17 barrels, for a total daily take of 153.20 barrels. These operators are getting rich being “little” operators. On their side, the oil men claim that they can’t make enough money to warrant drilling if they can’t get more than eight days’ production. The informant concedes, “If we got back to 15 day production, the problem would be gone.”