Pubdate: Mon, 04 Dec 2000
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2000, The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Contact:  PO Box 59038, Knoxville, TN 37950-9038
Author: Richard Powelson


Roane County Farmer Claims Feds Cost Him His Farm, Cows

If persistence were a paying job, ex-farmer Henry R. Jones would be a 
wealthy man.

But after 12 years of trying to get the U.S. government to accept blame for 
the deaths of his 29 milk cows and the loss of his 300-acre farm in East 
Tennessee, he continues to struggle financially.

A bill pending in Congress proposes to pay him $1.2 million for being a key 
informant in a federal case that resulted in the conviction and 
imprisonment of a major drug importer and distributor -- aid to the 
government that Jones says backfired on him financially and ruined his 
farming operation in Roane County.

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, introduced the bill, H.R. 3260, 
after talking to Jones and having his staff review the case. He said the 
dollar amount in the legislation is unlikely to pass. Very few individuals 
win much financial relief from Congress, he said, but he will keep seeking 
some federal aid for Jones next year.

"I feel that Mr. Jones deserves some consideration," Duncan said. "He had 
tried to help the federal government in a pretty significant way, and it is 
my understanding that he suffered substantial loss because of it. What the 
exact amount should be or what can be done about it, I don't know."

Jones, 70, is working in maintenance for the Athens city school system and 
as a dog breeder while he awaits the government's decision. In dispute is 
whether the government is liable for the loss of Jones' cows and farm, 
whether Jones himself was at fault or whether this is another case of a 
small farm that just could not be profitable enough to survive.

"I didn't know what I was getting into," Jones said. "To think I had done 
what I had done to help the country, then the Drug Enforcement 
Administration dropped me (stopped giving him monthly payments). I was 
getting nothing. I was nothing to them. They had used me. They had gotten 
all the use out of me they wanted."

Over six months, the DEA paid Jones about $8,000. After consulting a lawyer 
and other experts, he determined his 29 Guernsey dairy cows were worth 
about $40,000, the milk and calves from their productive years would have 
produced gross income of about $122,000, and his farm land was valued at 
the time at $430,000 and would be worth at least three times that amount today.

Jones, as a dairy farmer and corn grower in 1987, said he was just trying 
to be a responsible citizen when federal officials approached him for 
cooperation with incriminating information on Andy Kenneth Miller, who the 
government believed was part of an international drug ring distributing 

Jones said he began helping the government after learning that one of the 
places where Miller was growing marijuana was on part of Jones' farm. At 
the time, Miller, who appeared to own and operate a profitable farm nearby, 
was paying Jones $225 a week to help with farm work and giving Jones 
one-third of the feed corn that Miller planted on land leased from Jones.

The government did appreciate his help in convicting Miller, as evidenced 
by a letter dated Oct. 5, 1989, by Assistant U.S. Attorney James "Russ" 
Dedrick in Knoxville.

Writing to Duncan at the request of an attorney for Jones, Dedrick said 
Jones aided in the conviction of "one of the largest drug distributors ... 
throughout the southeastern United States. If the United States is to 
defeat its drug problems, citizens such as Mr. Henry Jones must be 
encouraged to come forward.... Truly, Mr. Jones serves as a fine example of 
such citizen involvement and cooperation."

Duncan relied on Dedrick's letter as part of his research before filing a 
bill proposing additional federal funds for Jones.

Miller was convicted in 1988 by a jury of charges of producing marijuana 
and possessing it with the intent to distribute. A judge gave him a 16-year 
sentence. Later, Miller and his uncle, Charles Miller, pleaded guilty to 
operating a drug ring to distribute cocaine and marijuana along the eastern 
United States and netting about $800,000, and also pleaded guilty to 
charges of filing false income tax returns. All sentences ran concurrently.

Andy Miller is no longer in prison, federal officials said, but he could 
not be reached for comment.

On Sept. 16, 1987, a day when Miller allegedly was using a truck to haul 
the last of his marijuana plants from Jones' farm into a barn, a federal 
SWAT team and other agents surrounded the truck and arrested Miller.

Agents planned to burn the dried leaves in a huge bonfire but had no 
kerosene. Jones said they took buckets from his milk barn to fill them with 
kerosene from a nearby store. Only later, after some cows became ill, did 
he suspect they had used buckets containing a pesticide, Furdan, which he 
used in his corn fields.

He said he thinks the agents poured the poison outside his milk barn where 
cows could have ingested it. Within a week, "six or seven" cows died, he 
said, and others were ill.

"I didn't have money hardly to pay my light bill, so I sure didn't have 
money to get a vet out there," Jones said.

DEA has denied disposing of any poison on Jones' property, Dedrick said.

The DEA official in the Knoxville office who worked the Miller case, 
Stanley Persinger, now retired, was contacted but he declined to comment.

Dedrick said he recalled that an investigation found no federal agents 
disposed of poison at Jones' farm that day.

"I thought the federal agencies involved with him tried to be as fair with 
him as we possibly could. The DEA did a complete review of his complaints, 
and they tried to compensate him as fairly as they could see fit at the 
time" with the $8,000 prior payment, Dedrick said.

Jones said he first was promised confidentiality as an informant, but 
federal officials later told him just before Miller's trial in Knoxville 
that if he did not testify in court that he had given agents permission to 
enter his farm to arrest Miller that Miller would go free. Feeling 
pressured to testify, he did, he said.

Dedrick said no one pressured Jones to testify and that Jones expressed no 
reservations about it at the time.

Jones said that once Miller learned he was the informant, Jones lost his 
weekly income and access to his share of feed corn stored in Miller's silo.

The government later sold Miller's farm and Jones' feed with no 
reimbursement to Jones, he said.

A neighbor gave Jones some hay on credit, and Jones said he used other 
sparse remaining funds for more hay that winter. But it was not enough. His 
cows stopped giving milk.

One by one, over days and weeks, the rest of the cows died from starvation, 
he said.

"It was awful," Jones said. "My cows just literally starved to death."

Jones said his meager income "was not enough to feed them and me, too. 
Which one are you going to let go hungry? I couldn't make the mortgage 

With his farm scheduled for foreclosure in January 1990, he was able to 
sell it before then at no profit and thereby avoid having having a 
bankruptcy in his credit history, he said.

Soon after that, he worked with Knoxville lawyer W. Thomas Dillard, a 
former U.S. attorney for East Tennessee, to file a claim with the 
Department of Justice, blaming the DEA for the deaths of his cows and loss 
of his farm. The claim was rejected.

Dillard said he advised Jones that an appeal would not be successful.

"What it boiled down to was, in our mind, a lack of causal connection that 
we could actually prove," Dillard said. "There was a lot of smoke, but 
there wasn't the necessary fire."

Now Jones is getting help from a friend in Springfield, Ill., William 
Seltzer, who is a lawyer.

"I was hoping he would get at least something out of this," Seltzer said. 
"It's a pretty amazing story."

U.S. Agriculture Department and Humane Society officials said they would 
have found someone to care for Jones' cows that winter if he had asked. 
Jones said he did not think the USDA extension service office could provide 
that kind of help so he did not call there.

"Anybody who calls me, I try to help them," said John Goddard of USDA's 
Loudon County office. "If they can't find (afford) hay, I try to help them 
find some. Or I got a little hay in my barn; if someone's cows were 
starving, I'd give him some hay."

Kate Duran, an investigator for the Roane County Humane Society, said 
tipsters rarely call her about starving farm animals but she said she would 
help find a foster home for any animal in need.

"There is always a way to get help," she said. "A farmer who is not making 
it should know there are federal agencies to call for assistance."

Jones said he was so distracted by his financial problems, by Miller or his 
relatives harassing him, that the idea of giving his starving cows to the 
care of a friend or foster home "never crossed my mind. I never thought of 
that. From the humane standpoint, that would have been the thing to have done."

One day after Miller's arrest, someone shot at Jones several times, he 
said. He said he reported it to Persinger at DEA and nothing happened.

Another time a man claimed that Jones assaulted him, and another day 
someone left marijuana plants on his property and called the sheriff's 
office in "set-ups" that Jones blames on Miller or his relatives.

Jones was able to avoid indictment in both instances, but had to pay $1,500 
in legal fees at a time when he already was in financial trouble, he said.

The loss of Jones' cows and farm cannot be blamed on the federal 
government, Dedrick said.

Federal agents doing surveillance of the marijuana crop at Jones' farm 
before Miller's arrest noticed thin cows, he said. There appeared to be 
"pre-existing poor farming practices" at Jones' farm before he lost access 
to feed from Miller, Dedrick said.

Jones' current attorney, Seltzer, however, says two farmers provided 
affidavits saying Jones took good care of his farm animals before Miller's 
case caused him financial problems.

Jones feels that Dedrick, Persinger and other federal officials should have 
given him more support for aid in breaking up a major drug ring. No one, 
for example, ever told him he was definitely eligible for the federal 
witness protection and relocation program. He would have liked to have 
moved far away from the Millers and kept farming somewhere, he said.

But Jones said he does accept some blame for not being more assertive in 
checking on eligibility for witness relocation assistance. He was so 
distraught about the ill effects of the Miller case on his life that he did 
not do everything he should have, he said.

Jones cited the list of his woes. First, his identity as an informant was 
exposed at Miller's trial, so he lost access to the feed corn on Miller's 
farm. Then his monthly federal payments stopped. Eventually, he lost his 
cows and ultimately his farm.

"To be honest with you," Jones said, "I was mad at the whole world then. 
I'm getting upset now just thinking about it again."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth