What I didn't say is that John Barbagelata always blamed one man more than any other (besides Jones) for the alleged fraud -- Tim Stoen. Stoen was a loyal aide to and lawyer for Jones for many years, beginning with the Temple's earliest days in the Northern California town of Ukiah. The lawyer and local prosecutor loved and revered Jones so much that he once signed a document swearing that his son, John Victor, was actually Jones' scion.
Stoen broke from the Temple in late 1977, fleeing from Jonestown to San Francisco, where he and his ex-wife, Grace, began a protracted battle to retrieve their son from Jones. The custody fight was one of the key factors fueling Jones' descent into madness. The court battle over little John Victor increased press scrutiny of the Temple in 1978; that coverage led to the fateful and fatal trip in November by Rep. Leo Ryan, members of the media, and concerned relatives to Jonestown.
Stoen and Grace never saw their son again. He died during White Night.
In 1975, as Barbagelata and Moscone faced off in the mayoral election, Stoen was still a loyal Jones aide working to support The Prophet's chosen candidate, Moscone.
Later, after Barbagelata alleged voter fraud had occurred, the investigation was assigned to Stoen, who by that time was in the special prosecutions unit of the San Francisco DA's Office. Stoen's work led to the indictment of some 30 people for voter fraud in the 1975 election.
But the Peoples Temple was left unscathed.
Because of Stoen's dual role -- he was a voter fraud prosecutor while still a top attorney for Jones and his church --Barbagelata developed a not unreasonable conspiracy theory. He believed that Stoen had organized Temple members, who voted two or three times for Moscone under dead people's names, and then had covered up the fraud at the DA's Office.
This fervent belief festered in Barbagelata's belly. For more than 10 years after the loss in the mayor's race, Stoen was the focus of Barbagelata's rage.
Twelve years after White Night, by the most unlikely of circumstances, Barbagelata and Stoen met for the first time.
It all started when the San Francisco Chronicle sent a reporter out to do a story about Barbagelata. It was an inconsequential, if well-written feature that suggested the old man was still alive and kicking and interested in local politics. In the back paragraphs of the story, Barbagelata rehashed his allegations regarding Stoen and voter fraud.
Stoen, at that time living in Mendocino, read the story, and then wrote a letter to his archnemesis.
"I had never met him personally," Stoen recalled in a phone interview from his home in Colorado. "I said, 'John, I know you have strong feelings about my role in the Peoples Temple. I consider you to be a just and an upright man. If you would like to discuss with me my role in the Temple, please consider this an overture to do so. Bring any witness you like.' "
Three days later, Stoen picked up a phone message from Barbagelata. "I'd love to talk to you," Barbagelata said. "Confession will be good for the soul."
Barbagelata invited Stoen to dinner. Before dinner, they met at the old man's real estate office on West Portal Boulevard.
"We are there like two animals who are prowling each other," Stoen said. "He sees me as the monster; I see him as the ogre. The first thing he said is, 'Don't be nervous.' "
Barbagelata led Stoen to his home, where the former supervisor's wife, Angela, had laid out a marvelous Italian spread.
"It was a very memorable evening," Stoen said. "I walk into the house and go into the kitchen, and there is this cheery fireplace. There's a huge table set out like I am the prodigal son. Angela greets me with tremendous warmth and affection and put on a beautiful spread of delicacies.
"I did most of the talking. Midway through the evening, about 8 or 9 o'clock, I said to John, 'Look me in the face.' I said, 'I am telling you straight out I don't know of any Peoples Temple wrongdoing in any election, yours or otherwise.' He shot back, 'I believe you.' "
Barbagelata's daughter, Elena, also remembers the night vividly.
"He started telling everything. How he and his wife went their separate ways, how their son died, and the brainwashing thing that went on. And my father, such a good Christian man, he said, 'In my life you are forgiven for whatever you have done.' And he was crying and we were all crying."
As Stoen left that night, embraces were passed all around. The next evening, Stoen invited the Barbagelatas over for dinner. Angela Barbagelata called him the next day and told him John had come home that night, and, while drinking coffee in the kitchen, had seemed overwhelmed by the events.
All he could say was, "Do you realize we were once bitter enemies, and now we are friends?"
The following year, Barbagelata called Stoen again. He told him his lawyer, Quentin Kopp, had just been elected to the state Senate. Barbagelata needed a new attorney; would Stoen .... Stoen agreed.