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JURY CHIEF ASKS JUDGE TO GO EASY ON CULT MEMBERS

SHARE JURY CHIEF ASKS JUDGE TO GO EASY ON CULT MEMBERS

The forewoman of the jury that convicted eight Branch Davidians on weapons charges for their role in a deadly 1993 shootout with federal agents asked a judge to give them a break at their sentencing.

Sentencing hearings for the former disciples of David Koresh were scheduled for Thursday and Friday.Sara Bain wrote U.S. District Judge Walter Smith to say she was astonished to learn that seven of the cult members face a five- to 30-year prison term for using or carrying a firearm during a crime. Prosecutors argued for the maximum because the weapons were automatic.

Bain and other jurors have said they convicted the cult members of the offense by mistake. Smith threw the conviction out as inconsistent with a verdict on another count but reinstated it later.

Six of the seven convicted of the firearm offense also faced up to 10 years in prison on other counts.

All 11 Davidians tried were found not guilty of murder and conspiracy in the shootout at the cult's Waco compound that left four agents and six of Koresh's disciples dead. Three of the cult members were acquitted of all charges.

The gun battle was followed by a 51-day standoff that ended when the compound went up in flames. Koresh and 78 others died.