30 Nov 2007

Father Wins Custody Of 5-Year-Old In Sex Cult Case

KFMB - CBS San Diego

November 29, 2007

A Serra Mesa father has won a long, bitter custody battle over his son. He claimed his ex-wife had been raising their five-year-old son inside a notorious sex cult. Today, the judge issued his final ruling in the high-profile case.

Most custody battles don't get the kind of media attention this case did. But then again, most parents don't raise their children inside a notorious religious sect where members live in communes and preach open sexuality.

According to court records, 30-year-old Angie Staughton is a member of that group, which calls itself "The Family." Mant former members call it a sex cult.

Angie's ex-husband, 33-year-old Paul Staughton, is a former member of The Family, who moved out of the Escondido commune three years ago.

"It's just a big commune of people living together, and there's almost zero interaction with the outside world," Paul Staughton said.

When he left, Paul wanted to take his son with him out of that sexually charged environment that he believed put his son at risk. And so began the long custody battle over the now five-year-old boy, Paul wanting his son to go to public school, Angie wanting to home school her son inside the commune.

Over the past year, the judge has ordered inspections of the commune and psychological reports on the child. He wanted to know if the boy was being sexually abused.

Many former members say the free love philosophy of The Family led to widespread sexual abuse of children during the 1970s and 80s, an accusation The Family denies.

Paul's attorney says he has concerns about the kids being raised in the communes today.

"The problem is, the children are smart. They see things, things they shouldn't be exposed to, and it can have a profound effect upon their life," Paul Staughton's attorney Robert Baumer said.

The Family has close ties to two local charities - a Christian publishing company called Activated Ministries in Escondido, and The Family Care Foundation in Dulzura. Members live in communes like the one on Calmin Drive in Fallbrook, and the one in Escondido on Alps Way.

"You have a five-year-old child in a commune where everyone is 28 to 30 years old, so this child has no peers to learn behavior from," Baumer said.

Angie Staughton and her attorney declined to be interviewed, but the final court order speaks for itself. After a year-long custody battle, the judge accepted a signed stipulation from both parties and gave sole legal custody to the boy's father.

"I'm really happy that he's now in my custody," Paul Staughton said.

Paul will put his son in a public school, and the boy won't be living in a commune anymore.

"It's been a long fight, and it's been hard," Paul said. "And I'm glad it's coming to an end now."

The mother recently moved out of the commune too, and relocated to Poway. She'll get visitation with her son two weekends a month, and one day a week.

Most of the people who were living in that Escondido commune have since relocated to a home near Rosarito Beach, Mexico.

The five-year-old boy is now doing well in kindergarten, and the father says his son is getting good grades.


29 Nov 2007

Robert Hale sentenced to 14 years, denies assaulting kids

Anchorage Daily News - November 28, 2007

by Tom Kizzia

For three hours Tuesday, Robert Hale blamed his wife and family for his troubles, denied ever assaulting his children, and said he only "gave corrections" out of biblical duty and a father's love.

Then the judge cut him off, called him a liar, and sent him to prison on a 14-year sentence for rape, coercion and incest.

Thus did Papa Pilgrim's long journey end this week in an Anchorage courtroom.

After the previous day's bloodcurdling testimony from Hale's wife and 14 of his children, who described whippings and sexual abuse and years of psychological torture at his hands, Hale got his chance to speak Tuesday morning. He called his family liars.

"I can hardly believe the lips of my children, using words like 'beat unmercifully,' " said the gray-bearded prisoner in a slow drawl. "My children don't even know what it means to be hit."

As Superior Court Judge Donald Hopwood told him to bring his autobiographical rambling to a conclusion, panic entered Hale's voice. He said his family -- especially the daughter he'd admitted raping in his plea deal -- risked eternal judgment unless they repented for lying about him.

"I'm asking my daughter to, please, it's got to be done," he said, his voice rising to a high whimper.

When it came time to deliver the sentence, Hopwood praised the victim statements delivered the day before by the Hale children. He said their words were "a huge first step in extricating themselves" from years of bondage.

"One thing quite remarkable here was the courage of (the rape victim) and the other family who have made these statements," Hopwood said.

The judge called it "one of the worst cases of domestic violence I've seen." Hale's practice of beating his daughter until she would no longer resist his sexual advances is "just about as bad as it gets," he said.

Afterwards, the eldest children said it was a great relief to hear an authority figure like the judge say he believed them.

"I was really pleased with how the judge was able to see through what he was saying," said Joseph Hale, the oldest son.


Hale was indicted in September 2005 on 30 felony counts, including rape, assault and kidnapping. His sentencing this week came under terms of a plea agreement first made a year ago, in which he pleaded no contest to three consolidated counts. With two years already served, Hale faces eight to 10 more years behind bars, where he is receiving medical treatment for advanced cirrhosis, diabetes and blood clots.

If the 66-year-old Hale lives that long -- and doesn't violate a court order by trying to contact his family -- he would be eligible for parole when he is 74, his defense attorney said.

Hale's lawyer, Paul Maslakowski with the state Office of Public Advocacy, said Hale would pose little risk, comparing him now to the unmasked "man behind the curtain" in the Wizard of Oz.

Hopwood disagreed. "It is apparent to me that Mr. Hale still believes he is omnipotent," the judge said.

At the urging of assistant district attorney Richard Payne, Hopwood recommended the parole board "carefully consider" the danger Hale poses to his family. Hale will also face a decade of probation.

Hale's children, taken in by a large Christian family in Palmer named Buckingham, have "begun to blossom," the judge said. The children said it was only when they spent time in the Buckingham home that they saw what parental love could mean.

The children said Tuesday they were not surprised their father showed no remorse. They said he would sometimes apologize for his anger and soften his ways, but only as a tactic for regaining control inside the family. Against the outside world, he was always the blameless victim.

In his three-hour self-defense, Hale described his well-to-do upbringing in Texas and denied distant suggestions that his FBI-agent father had anything to do with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Hale said it was the suspicious death of his teenage bride, the daughter of future Texas governor John Connally, that set him on a hippie quest at 18.

"So I became a pilgrim," he told the court.

He took the name Pilgrim when he moved his family to Alaska in 1998. They performed together as a bluegrass group and were involved in a high-profile battle with the National Park Service over access to their remote McCarthy-area home.

Hale blamed the Buckingham parents for poisoning his family's minds against him. He blamed the mother of his 15 children, Kurina Rose Hale, for many troubles through the years, including his drinking.

Hale said his children had broken God's commandments in bearing false witness against him.

"It's like there's this whole thing of blame everything on Papa," he said.

He described his conversion to Christianity, and quoted Scripture from memory in describing the independent course he took: "You need no man to teach you. The Holy Spirit will teach you all things."

He also quoted from the book of Proverbs to justify "correcting" children with a rod, but said his punishments were always gentle and administered with love. His children described such punishments as the whipping barrel, where their father drew blood with a braided-leather riding crop.

In his summation, Payne, the prosecutor, recalled that when Hale was first arraigned and asked his occupation, his response was: "Father."

"I really don't believe he knows what that means," Payne said.


Boy dies of leukemia after refusing treatment for religious reasons

Seattle P I - November 29, 2007

Because of his faith, Dennis Lindberg, 14, didn't want vital transfusions; his biological parents did. A judge sided with the son, who died last night.


His life began under trying circumstances. Now, at the age of 14, his life has ended the same way.

For Dennis Lindberg, most of his childhood depended on the kindness of strangers to help him survive. A few weeks ago, he made a decision that contributed to his death Wednesday night.

The Mount Vernon teenager was diagnosed with leukemia Nov. 8 and since then had been confined to Seattle's Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center.

Doctors said he needed blood transfusions to survive potentially lifesaving cancer treatments. But as a practicing Jehovah's Witness, Lindberg refused. Despite his age, he had been declared what is known as a "mature minor," meaning he was considered mature enough to make decisions about his treatment.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe accepting a blood transfusion violates God's law.

His aunt, Dianna Mincin, became his legal guardian four years ago after his father, now a recovering addict, was jailed for drug possession.

Mincin is also a Jehovah's Witness, and supported Dennis' decision.

The boy's biological parents did not.

Dennis Lindberg Sr. -- Mincin's brother -- and Rachel Wherry flew to Seattle from their home in Boise on Tuesday to attend a 9 a.m. hearing, hoping a judge could force the transfusions.

Wednesday morning, after hearing from the parents, the aunt, social workers and the boy's doctor, Skagit County Superior Court Judge John Meyer denied the plea. About 9 p.m., Lindberg Sr. called the Seattle P-I to say his son had died in his hospital bed.

With the transfusions and other treatment, Lindberg had been given a 70 percent chance of surviving the next five years, Meyer said in court, based on what the boy's doctors told him. Without them, he was likely to die. But his decision in what the judge called a "stunning case, which brings into play issues including, but not confined to, religious freedoms," was based strictly on facts.

"I don't believe Dennis' decision is the result of any coercion. He is mature and understands the consequences of his decision," Meyer said during Wednesday's court proceedings.

"I don't think Dennis is trying to commit suicide. This isn't something Dennis just came upon, and he believes with the transfusion he would be unclean and unworthy."

Parents and classmates of the boy, who had lived with his aunt for the past four years, cried in disbelief at the judge's decision. Wherry fled the courtroom in tears.

Mincin has repeatedly declined to speak about her nephew's ordeal. For legal privacy reasons, doctors and officials at Children's also have declined to speak about the boy's condition.

On a CaringBridge Web site that has now been deactivated, Mincin's final journal entry, dated Nov. 22, spoke to those who questioned the decision not to accept blood transfusions. She said that after her nephew made his decision, he "relaxed in a way that he has not relaxed since being admitted (to the hospital.) He is at peace."

"For those reading (about) this journey our family has been on that are not one of Jehovah's Witnesses, we compassionately understand your confusion and, perhaps, even your anger at the decision that Dennis and his family have made," Mincin wrote. "We understand that this is an amazing bright young man who has before him 70, maybe 80 years to contribute to this world. While we empathize with your strong feelings, we ask that you attempt to respect Dennis' fight for what he and his family believe so strongly in."

The decision was the final chapter in what has been a lifelong family drama for Lindberg. It is a saga that began when he was a baby born to parents addicted to methamphetamine.

"I was always too scared to ask my mom if she did drugs," Lindberg wrote in a school essay two years ago about his childhood that was featured in the Skagit Valley Herald.

Paul Joseph Brown / P-I

Dennis Lindberg and Rachel Wherry leave Skagit County Courthouse after Judge John Meyer ruled that their son, Dennis Lindberg Jr., 14, could not be forced to receive blood transfusions to treat leukemia.

"I saw a needle in a toilet once, but it didn't mean anything to me. I knew my mom had low blood pressure, was always pale and had extremely small pinhead pupils. For me, this was just normal."

The boy's life was spent constantly moving and he was often left with neighbors for days while his parents were getting high, he told the Herald. He didn't go to school and couldn't read. He spent his summers in Mount Vernon with Mincin, who eventually became his guardian after Lindberg Sr. was jailed for drug possession.

Both parents say they have completed drug treatment programs and are sober. They last saw their son in September when he and Mincin visited Boise.

Since his diagnosis, though, access to information about their son's condition has been restricted. Their only updates had been through the now-defunct Web site profile, which is how they learned about the blood transfusion debate. They contacted Child Protective Services, who appointed a lawyer to each of them and paid to fly the couple to Seattle Tuesday to attend the first hearing.

"My feelings have run the gamut from anger to tears not knowing who to believe and not to believe," said Lindberg Sr. "My sister has done a good job of raising him for the past four years, but her religious beliefs shouldn't be imposed on my son."

He said not having his son for the past four years weighs heavily on him. He said they gave the boy to his sister so he didn't suffer while they were getting their lives back on track.

"The decision would have been different had he been with us," he said. "He'd live through this treatment had we not made the decisions we made."

Lindberg Sr. said his son was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow that is the most common in children. Most children with this type of leukemia are cured after treatment, which can include blood transfusions, according to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Dr. Douglas Diekema, an ethicist at Children's and director of education at the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics, said the question was whether a 14-year-old really had the maturity to make medical and religious decisions on his own.

"In my mind, if there is a role of the court it would be to test a 14-year-old and see just how intense he is about his decision," said Diekema. "My approach would be to push it a little further. If he fights you physically, then I'd respect that. But also, are you willing to tie him down every time he needs a transfusion knowing he'll need treatment for the next three years? You'll have a hard time finding a provider willing to do that."

Lindberg Sr. said Wednesday's ruling shocked him, but after visiting his son later in the day, he decided not to appeal the judge's decision.

He said doctors told him earlier Wednesday evening that the teenager, who had been unconscious since Tuesday, likely had suffered brain damage. After learning of his son's death, the father did not want to comment further.

"We'll stay in town until the funeral," he said, "then we'll go back to Boise."


Mount Vernon leukemia patient, 14, dies after rejecting transfusions

Seattle Times - November 29, 2007

by Carol M. Ostrom

A 14-year-old boy who refused blood transfusions in his fight against leukemia -- based on religious beliefs -- died Wednesday night in Seattle, hours after a Skagit County judge affirmed his right to reject the treatment.

Dennis Lindberg, of Mount Vernon, died around 6 p.m. at Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center in Seattle, according to KING-5 television. As a Jehovah's Witness, Lindberg objected to receiving blood. Doctors had said he needed it to survive his cancer treatment.

In court Wednesday, Superior Court Judge John Meyer said that Lindberg, though in the eighth grade, was old enough to know that refusing blood transfusions might amount to a "death sentence," and that he had the right to make that decision.

Doctors at Children's diagnosed Lindberg's leukemia early this month and began giving him chemotherapy. Because such treatment destroys the body's ability to make red blood cells, transfusions were necessary, doctors said.

Lindberg's relatives disagreed about whether the boy should have been forced to get the transfusions. His aunt, who was his legal guardian and is also a Jehovah's Witness, supported his decision to refuse them. Through a hospital spokeswoman, she declined to comment after the judge's ruling.

Lindberg's parents, who live in Idaho, disagreed with their son and his guardian.

His doctors at Children's supported the boy's decision, Meyer said, although one doctor told the judge earlier that the boy's blood count was so low he could die overnight. The case came to court after officials at Children's reported it to the state, which went to court to force the transfusion.

Ethics experts and Jehovah's Witness officials said such a court case is unusual these days.

Most cases involving transfusions stem from surgical cases, and current policy at Children's is to inform parents that while the hospital will do everything it can to avoid transfusions, it will not let a child die for want of blood, said Dr. Doug Diekema, an ethics consultant there.

Years ago, courts routinely supported transfusions of children against the wishes of parents, Diekema said. While adults have the right to refuse any medical treatment, the courts ruled, that right doesn't extend to their children.

"The principle there is that parents can make martyrs of themselves, but they can't make martyrs of their children," Diekema said.

With an adolescent, the situation is much more complex, he said. "We all know that 14-year-olds change their minds; they become adults, and they have completely different belief systems. And that makes you nervous."

At the same time, 14-year-olds can have an "adultlike" decision-making process. And when the transfusion isn't a one-time emergency procedure but a long-term treatment, there's another complexity, Diekema said.

"Then the issue is: How can we effectively treat a kid when he's not going to cooperate?"

Diekema and Dr. Benjamin Wilfond, the hospital's director of pediatric bioethics, could not talk about Lindberg specifically. But such ethical and practical conflicts are the stuff of their professional lives.

Wilfond said most people instinctively want to do everything to save a young life. "But imagine if you heard a story about how this individual was strapped down to be given a transfusion, or tackled as he tried to leave the hospital," he added. "At 14, if you feel strongly about something, you're going to fight back."

Unlike the situation with very young children, "with adolescents, I think we find ourselves much more profoundly conflicted."

Wilfond said medical providers, along with parents, try to balance competing needs. "You're trying to respect their wishes, their evolving autonomy, balanced against wanting to protect them. Often, it's difficult to achieve both under all circumstances."

After the judge's ruling, Jim Nelson, chairman of the Jehovah's Witnesses' Seattle Hospital Liaison Committee, said Lindberg was a "very responsible young man who knows his mind and was very clear. He's a very brave young man, and he's standing firm for what he believes in."

Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Bible prohibits transfusions of blood, in part because blood is sacred, Nelson said.

And it doesn't mean the faith is "antimedicine," he added. "Jehovah's Witnesses do not have a death wish. We're not arguing a right to die."

When Lindberg became ill, his aunt took him to the hospital for treatment, Nelson noted Wednesday afternoon.

Material from The Associated Press and the Skagit Valley Herald is included in this report.


27 Nov 2007

Ex-priest's plea may end jail time

The Courier-Journal - Kentucky
November 27, 2007

Case overturned after years served

By Peter Smith

Former Roman Catholic priest Daniel C. Clark has pleaded guilty to two charges of sexually abusing boys in Bullitt County under an agreement that could spare him further time in prison.

Clark was scheduled to face a retrial beginning today on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse after the Kentucky Supreme Court overturned his original conviction in 2003.

He already had served nearly four years of his 10-year sentence before the court overturned the conviction, citing errors the trial judge made in instructions to the jury and in allowing testimony from a previous victim of Clark.

Under the plea agreement, Clark would serve probation for the remainder of his sentence, Bullitt Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Mann said. Clark also would have to register as a sex offender.

The agreement, which Clark entered last Wednesday, must be approved by Bullitt Circuit Judge Rodney Burress at a sentencing hearing.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Clark was moved from the Kentucky State Reformatory near La Grange to the Bullitt County Jail, where he was bailed out in July on a $10,000 cash bond posted by John P. Maloney of Louisville, the brother of late Roman Catholic Bishop Charles G. Maloney.

Mann said he didn't know Clark's current address but said he might be out of state.

Mann said that, while he'd "like to see somebody who's been convicted of something like this serve as much time as possible," he agreed to the deal based on the victims' wishes.

"Based on our discussion with the family, the victims in the case, there was a strong desire on their part to keep a low visibility on this thing," Mann said.

He also cited the Supreme Court's ruling that he could not present a witness at retrial who had been instrumental in Clark's 2003 conviction.

Neither of the Bullitt victims or their families could immediately be reached for comment.

Clark was one of the priests at the heart of the scandal of sexual abuse by clergy in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville.

He was accused in 19 lawsuits against the archdiocese, including one filed on behalf of the Bullitt County boys. The archdiocese eventually settled all the cases.

The archdiocese paid nearly $30 million in settlements and other expenses involving hundreds of cases in which more than three dozen priests and other church workers were accused.

Clark was accused of repeatedly fondling the two Bullitt County boys between 1999 and May 2002. After his conviction, he was sentenced to the maximum penalty of two consecutive five-year terms.

The Supreme Court ruled in May that Judge Thomas Waller erred by giving improper instructions to the jury and in allowing the previous victim, a man victimized by Clark more than a decade earlier, to testify at Clark's trial.

Though Clark had previously been convicted of sexual abuse and sodomy in 1988, he remained a priest until 2004, when he was removed by the Vatican after it approved stricter rules on abusers in the priesthood.

Because Clark's 1988 conviction took place before the establishment of Kentucky's sex-offender registry, he was not required to register his whereabouts.

The victim in the earlier case testified during the Bullitt County trial in 2003. The Supreme Court ruled that the testimony was prejudicial, prompting the jury to make an unwarranted assumption about Clark's guilt.

Courts generally limit testimony from victims whose cases are not currently being tried unless the testimony could demonstrate specific facts, such as the defendant's identity or pattern of behavior in committing a crime.

The Supreme Court also ruled that Waller gave "seriously flawed" instructions to the jury because he didn't give them the option of convicting Clark on second-degree abuse in the case of the older of the two boys.

The older boy turned 12 during the time the abuse occurred, according to the charges.

State law dictates that fondling children under 12 is a first-degree felony but a second-degree misdemeanor for minors 12 and up. The latter charge carries a lesser penalty and can only be prosecuted within 12 months of the offense, while felonies have no statute of limitations.

Victims' advocates are trying to change state statutes to make all sexual abuse of minors a felony.

Barbara Dorris, an outreach director for the national group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement: "While we are grateful that … Daniel Clark's victims will be spared the ordeal of a trial, we are worried that he may molest again. Kids are safest when serial predators are jailed."


Clergy abuse suit back on Vermont docket

The Boston Globe - November 23, 2007
Mistrial halted case vs. diocese

By Associated Press

BURLINGTON, Vt. - A man suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington over alleged sexual abuse by a priest returns to court Monday, five months after a judge abruptly declared a mistrial in his case.

The civil suit brought by James Turner, 46, a former Derby man who now resides in Virginia Beach, Va., will be tried again in Chittenden County Superior Court. It still will involve the same lawyers, some of the same witnesses, and the same issue - but with a new judge presiding.

Opening statements to the 10-woman, four-man jury, including two alternates, are set for next week.

"We look forward to bringing this case in front of the jury, and taking it through to completion," said Turner's lawyer, Jerome O'Neill.

The diocese and its lawyers did not comment.

The statewide diocese, which represents about 118,000 Roman Catholics in Vermont, has about 25 lawsuits pending that allege sexual abuse by priests. It has paid out more than $1 million in settlements in other cases, but Turner's was the first to go to trial.

Turner says that Alfred Willis, who was then a priest, performed a sex act on him in a Latham, N.Y., hotel room after attending a June 1977 ordination for Turner's brother. Turner, who was 16 at the time, did not sue the diocese until 2004 - more than 26 years later.

Willis, who denies the allegations, settled out of court with Turner and was removed from the case against the diocese that alleges church officials are liable for his behavior.

The church contends that it had no prior knowledge of sexual misconduct with minors by Willis and cannot be held liable in the case.

The first trial ended unexpectedly June 25 when Judge Ben Joseph ruled that David Cleary, a lawyer for the diocese, had overstepped the limits of a pretrial order restricting what could be asked of Turner about an alleged sexual relationship between Turner's brother and Willis.

Joseph later ordered the diocese to pay Turner's legal fees and expenses - more than $112,000 - for causing the mistrial. And, in an Oct. 5 order, Joseph imposed the trial costs on the diocese, saying the mistrial delayed the progress of other sex abuse claims against the diocese and gave the church an advantage in preparing for the retrial.


26 Nov 2007

Girl's eyes gouged to get rid of devil

Dominion Post - New Zealand
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

by Emily Watt

A 14-year-old who nearly died during an exorcism needed emergency treatment to save her sight after relatives scratched at her eyes to remove the devil.

The girl is a cousin of Janet Moses, the woman who died during the October 12 ceremony to lift a Maori curse. The girl had chunks gouged from her eyeballs.

The Dominion Post has learnt that her family believed they saw the devil in her eyes - and tried to scratch out the curse with their fingers. Relatives also syringed water into her eyes and poured it down her throat in an attempt to drive out the curse.

Ms Moses, 22, a mother of two, also had her eyes scratched and water syringed into them before she drowned as up to 40 relatives watched. Members of her family say Ms Moses was "marked up" on her upper arms, forearms and torso with bruises that they say were caused as she was being held down. After her death, family members continued to work on her young cousin in the same way.

Family members gazed into others' eyes at the ceremony to judge whether they were cursed, treating any believed tainted.

Another five people, aged 14, 15, 16, 29 and 31 were also treated in the curse-lifting ceremony, but not harmed.

The 14-year-old was taken to Hutt Hospital close to death.

An eye specialist from Wellington Hospital was called in to treat her injuries.

She needed to wear eye patches and remained in hospital for several days.

It is understood that doctors believe the girl will not lose her sight.

The teen was later taken into Child, Youth and Family care. The agency has reportedly been monitoring the family out of concern for other young people involved.

Child, Youth and Family would not confirm whether she was still in care.

A spokeswoman said the girl was in a safe and secure environment and the agency was working with the family.

The curse was believed to have started after Ms Moses' sister stole a stone lion statue from the Greytown pub.

Ms Moses' two daughters, aged one and three, are being cared for by Janet's mother.

Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy said police were still working through evidence, seeking legal advice and consulting Maori experts.

"We know what's happened, but we're assessing the culpability of individuals," he said.



Deliver us from evil: Exorcisms in demand

Nine to stand trial over 'curse-lifting' death

23 Nov 2007

Woman Says Jehovah's Witnesses Covering Up Sexual Abuse

WSMV - TV Nashville

November 22, 2007

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- One of the world’s major churches is dealing with a storm of scandal.

Video: Church Covers Sexual Abuse, Woman Says

The church of Jehovah's Witnesses has settled nine lawsuits accusing clergy of sexually abusing children.A gag order has forced victims to stay quiet, but a midstate woman who was on the inside said instead of stopping it, the church tried to cover it up.

Barbara Anderson helped blow the whistle on the church. She said she’s collected more than 5,000 pages of court and church documents.

She said it started in the early 80s when she went to work for the church's headquarters in New York and came across some disturbing letters.“Many of the letters discussed their own abuse and accused men of prominent position in their organization of being their molester,” she said.

Anderson said the church’s policies protected abusers. Victims said they have to have a witness to back up their claims.“If the victim couldn’t prove their accusation, they were threatened with ex-communication. That's what kept this secret in this group for all these many, many years,” she said.

That meant losing touch with family and friends."I knew that children here in Tennessee were being molested. I knew of many right here in the area that I live, in Tullahoma, but nothing was being done about it,” she said.

Anderson said years of frustration caused her and her husband to leave the church. She said she hopes speaking out about the issue now will help protect other children.

"They left dangerous men in their position who could then go on and molest more. I read letters and evidence that some congregations who had as many as 30 or 40 children molested,” she said.

The Andersons said they no longer have a relationship with their son, who is an elder in the church.They haven't seen their 8-year-old grandson in five years.

The church released a statement saying that it does not condone or protect child molesters and that cases within the church are rare.


22 Nov 2007

Second group of cult followers awaits apocalypse in Penza, Russia

RIA Novosti, Russia

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, November 22 (RIA Novosti) - A new group of doomsday cult followers have barricaded themselves into the home of their leader in the Penza Region to await the end of the world, local media said on Thursday.

Two women and three children, who were too late to seal themselves underground together with the main group of 32 members of the so-called True Russian Orthodox Church, have locked themselves in the house of the cult leader.

The sect, which calls itself The True Russian Orthodox Church,” was formed by Pyotr Kuznetsov, known as Father Pyotr, a 43-year-old diagnosed schizophrenic.

He is believed to have ordered his followers underground in early November, but declined to join them in their cave.

The group leader is currently being held in a psychiatric hospital, and a criminal case has been launched against him.


New evidence in Jehovah's Witness allegations

NBC News Investigative Unit - November 21, 2007

The Jehovah's Witnesses have settled nine lawsuits alleging church policies protected men who sexually abused children for many years.

By Lisa Myers and Richard Greenberg

Frederick McLean is one of the most-wanted fugitives in the United States, charged with 17 counts of child sexual abuse in California. Law enforcement sources say that when a victim’s family confronted McLean in 2004, he allegedly confessed. But before he could be arrested, McLean fled.

Authorities identified at least eight victims that McLean allegedly abused over the course of nearly a decade. One victim estimated McLean molested her “over 100 times,” according to the U.S. Marshals Service. Deputy Marshal Thomas Maranda, who is leading the hunt for the 56-year-old fugitive, says McLean gained the trust of many of his victims through his leadership position, as a so-called ministerial servant, in his local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses near San Diego.

“His role in the church was significant,” Maranda explains, “because we believe that his participation in the church gave him access to his victims.”

His role in the church also became a matter of legal controversy. Last year, some victims’ families filed suit against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, alleging that both McLean’s local congregation and the church’s national headquarters, the Watchtower Society, “knew, or should have known, that Frederick McLean was a pedophile.”

The Jehovah's Witnesses recently agreed to pay to settle that lawsuit and eight other similar cases, without admitting wrongdoing. The cases all involved men the church allegedly knew had sexually abused children. The settlements for those cases are confidential and filed under seal.

Frederick McLean

However, NBC News has obtained a copy of one of the settlements from the McLean lawsuit, and it may offer an indication of the potential magnitude of the payouts. According to the court record, the church agreed to pay $781,250 to the accuser, who claimed McLean abused her from age 3 to age 9. (After legal fees and other costs, the accuser was set to receive approximately $530,000.)

Lawyers for the plaintiffs declined to comment.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses did not comment specifically on any of the lawsuits, but issued a statement to NBC News: “For the sake of the victims in these cases, we are pleased that a settlement has been reached. Our hearts go out to all those who suffer as a result of child abuse. Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide are united in their abhorrence of this sin and crime.” [Click here for the complete statement.]

Internal records now coming to light from the settled lawsuits may help explain why the church agreed to settle the cases. Documents show that the church knew for years that some prominent members were sexually abusing children and did little. Church officials allegedly became aware of several of the cases in question through what amount to internal judicial proceedings, at which local elders confronted suspected abusers, obtained confessions, then meted out punishments.

James Henderson, for example, was a longtime Jehovah’s Witness elder in Red Bluff, California – and a serial molester. The newly uncovered documents include a 1994 letter from a senior regional church official to headquarters stating that Henderson was sanctioned by the church, stripped of a leadership position, “in the early ‘70’s” in another California town. “Now he has admitted to doing it again,” the letter states. In the late 1980s, according to another internal church document, a local elder dismissed allegations that Henderson had been sexually abusing a young boy: “There was no way it could be true so it was forgotten.”

James Henderson

By October 1994, Henderson was Presiding Overseer – the top elder – in his congregation. After a father of one of his victims confronted him, according to church records, Henderson confessed to other elders preemptively, although he said he had stopped molesting the boy more than three years earlier. That was significant, because, at the time, the church apparently had a policy of waiving sanctions if a sinner was repentant and the sin had occurred at least three years earlier.

In spite of Henderson’s confession, the elders did not inform California authorities. (In 1994, California law did not yet mandate that clergy report suspected abuse; the law changed in 1997). Instead, they conducted their own inquiry, apparently while Henderson and his wife were on vacation. A few weeks later, elders reported they found “irregularities” in Henderson’s story, and confronted him a second time. Henderson admitted molesting the victim “one and one half years ago.” He also admitted “paying restitution for a similar offense” in the early 1970s.

The elders decided to remove Henderson as Presiding Overseer and “publicly reproved” him, announcing to the congregation that he had committed a sin, without disclosing the details. Still, they did not go to authorities.

But then the victim’s family did.

While police were investigating, church officials questioned Henderson yet again. He confessed to molesting other children, including his own son, according to a church document. At that point, Henderson was excommunicated. In the meantime, law enforcement authorities contacted the local elders, who at that point apparently cooperated in the investigation.

On December 14, 1994, Henderson was arrested. In 1995, he pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual abuse and was sentenced to four years, four months in prison. By 1998, he was out on parole and, according to church correspondence, attending another Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation.

Alvin Heard

Like Henderson, Alvin Heard was also a member of a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Red Bluff, California and was also excommunicated – “disfellowshipped” – for molesting children. In Heard’s case, records show the church first learned of the abuse in 1981, when the local congregation sent a letter to the national headquarters explaining that Heard was kicked out after he admitted sexually abusing three children, whose “ages range from five nine and eleven years.”

In a deposition filed as part of the recent civil lawsuits, Heard admitted confessing to church elders in the late 1980s that he had molested four more young children. His punishment that time: “private reproval.” In other words, church elders chastised him privately, but never told other members of the congregation, according to the deposition. Again, it appears, the church did not pass the information to police or child welfare authorities.

In the 1990s, Heard moved to South Dakota. In his deposition, he said he told church elders there that he had a history of child molestation. They, too, apparently kept his secret.

By 2003, Heard had moved to Oregon, where he molested yet again. In January 2004, he was indicted for sexually abusing a five-year-old boy. He pleaded guilty and currently is serving six years, three months in prison. Through the prison warden’s office, Heard declined to be interviewed.

In all, the nine settled lawsuits involved 16 victims and eight alleged abusers, all of whom – except Frederick McLean – have been criminally convicted. Among them: Larry Kelley, a television personality and children’s entertainer in Amarillo, Texas; and Timothy Silva, who reportedly taught “adolescent book studies” at a congregation in Woodland, California. The church allegedly knew of Silva’s problem as early as 1987, according to one of the lawsuits, but still allowed him to work with children.

Timothy Silva

Barbara Anderson, a former church member and a vocal critic of the organization on this issue, contends that Jehovah’s Witnesses policies “protect pedophiles rather than protect the children.” Anderson recently compiled documents from the lawsuits on a CD titled “Secrets of Pedophilia in an American Religion.”

Anderson says she first focused on the controversy in the early 1990s when she worked at the Watchtower Society headquarters in Brooklyn and was assigned to deal with letters from church members complaining of abuse. While conducting that research, she says she discovered that in its internal proceedings against accused molesters, the church applies a biblically based “two-witness” rule. “They require another witness to the actual molestation,” Anderson says, “which is an impossibility.”

Anderson also claims that she discovered the church headquarters kept track of sexual abuse cases in confidential files.

The recent lawsuits produced evidence that the headquarters did keep internal records of abuse reports submitted by local congregations. The court filings include a church form called a Child Abuse Telememo. “Just thinking that they had a memo made up, printed up that says ‘Child Abuse Telememo,’” Anderson says, “indicates to me that they were handling this a lot. Because why make up a form for it?”

The Telememo appears to be a questionnaire to guide officials at headquarters who receive phone calls from local elders. It includes boxes to check as to whether the alleged incident took place in a “reporting state” – where clergy by law must report suspected abuse – or in a “nonreporting state.” In reporting states, the form instructs officials to advise local elders “to make an anonymous phone report from a neutral location, such as a phone booth.”

The church consistently has maintained that it follows all laws on reporting suspected child abuse. Those laws are complex. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 25 states specifically mandate that clergy report suspected abuse; but 21 of those states recognize exemptions for “pastoral communications.” Another 16 states have blanket reporting laws, which cover “any person” and may be interpreted as including clergy; seven of those states also grant pastoral privilege. [Click here for a state-by-state review of reporting laws.]

In its statement to NBC, the Jehovah’s Witnesses said it does “not condone or protect child molesters. Our elders expel unrepentant sinners who commit this crime.” According to the church, “the incidence of this crime among Jehovah’s Witnesses is rare.” The statement said the organization does “not silence victims” and “members have an absolute right to report his horrible crime to the authorities.” The church has issued many publications about child abuse, including the cover story in the October issue of its magazine, Awake. “These articles clearly show our concern for protecting children from sexual abuse,” the church said in its statement.

In the meantime, Frederick McLean remains on the run. The U.S. Marshals Service says he should be considered “armed and dangerous, and possibly suicidal.”


$50 million for Alaskan abuse plaintiffs

Plaintiffs' attorneys say $50 million will be paid by Jesuits for 110 claims of sexual molestation coming out of remote villages.

By William Lobdell and Stuart Silverstein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers

November 19, 2007

The Jesuit order of the Roman Catholic Church has agreed to pay $50 million to 110 Eskimos to settle claims of sexual abuse by priests and missionaries in some of the world's most remote villages.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs announced the settlement Sunday, calling it a record payout by a Catholic religious order. However, officials for the Jesuits -- formally called the Society of Jesus -- said there were "still many issues that need to be finalized."

"We are disappointed by today's actions by the plaintiff's attorneys, which we see as premature and detrimental to the work of healing about which we are all concerned," said John D. Whitney, the provincial superior of Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, in a written statement.

E-mail between the Jesuits' and victims' attorneys indicated a deal was in place, though some details needed to be worked out.

"This e-mail will confirm that a settlement has been reached," wrote Richard K. Hansen, attorney for the Jesuits, to the Eskimos' lead attorney, Ken Roosa, on Friday. "The settlement calls for $50 million to be paid to the plaintiffs/claimants in exchange for releases of all claims against the Jesuit defendants."

The settlement does not require the order to admit fault, Roosa said. None of the priests was ever criminally charged.

A dozen priests and three missionaries were accused of sexually abusing Eskimo children in 15 villages and Nome from 1961 to 1987. The flood of allegations led to accusations that the Eskimo communities were a dumping ground for abusive priests and lay workers affiliated with the Jesuit order, which supplied bishops, priests and lay missionaries to the Fairbanks diocese.

Jesuit officials have denied transferring molesting priests to Alaska, saying that it was a prestigious assignment for the most courageous and faithful. In Jesuit fundraising literature, Eskimo villages were called "the world's most difficult mission field."

Many plaintiffs said their once devoutly Catholic villages -- cut off from the world and without law enforcement -- offered a perfect setting for a molesting priest. In 2005, The Times published a story about Joseph Lundowski, a Jesuit deacon who allegedly sexually abused nearly every boy in two small villages on St. Michael Island between 1968 and 1975.

Lundowski's accusers -- now in their 40s and 50s -- said the abuse led to alcoholism, violence, emotional problems and suicide attempts. They kept their secret -- not even talking about it among themselves -- until the Catholic Church sex scandal erupted in 2002.

That year, Roosa filed the first civil suit against the Jesuits and the Diocese of Fairbanks. The cases against the diocese are still pending.

Roosa said he spent Sunday on the phone, relaying the news of the settlement to his clients who were scattered across western Alaska: "I'm tired but I'm able to call clients today with good news."

This year, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles paid $660 million to settle with 508 claimants, and the Diocese of San Diego paid $198 million to settle with 144 alleged victims.

In Orange County, the Diocese of Orange two years ago paid out $100 million to 90 people who alleged they were victims of clergy sexual abuse.

In Alaska, the average payout of $554,000 was far below those in Southern California, but comparisons can't yet be made because the Fairbanks diocese hasn't agreed to a settlement.


Baltimore priest faces abuse allegation

Baltimore Sun - November 19, 2007

Pastor of Little Italy church is removed
By Liz F. Kay |Sun reporter

A popular priest has been removed as pastor of St. Leo Roman Catholic Church, the cornerstone of Baltimore's Little Italy neighborhood, because of an allegation that he sexually abused a teenage boy at a parish in Brooklyn, N.Y., more than 30 years ago.

The Rev. Michael Salerno, who parishioners said has revived St. Leo's during his 10 years as pastor, neither admitted nor denied that the abuse had taken place, according to a statement read by the Rev. Peter Sticco at a parish meeting yesterday.

Some in the crowd gasped as they heard Salerno's name. Some began to cry, and a few walked out after listening to Sticco.

Salerno has not been defrocked but cannot celebrate Mass publicly or otherwise serve as a priest while the church investigates. He is not facing criminal charges, but the allegation has been reported to civil authorities in New York, said Sticco, the provincial leader of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, a South Orange, N.J.-based religious order also known as the Pallottines, which staffs St. Leo's.

Salerno, 61, joined the Pallottines as a brother - a lay member who has taken vows, not a priest - in 1968. He served at two Brooklyn, N.Y., parishes and one on Long Island as a brother. He also worked at a Catholic high school in New Jersey and a Brooklyn homeless shelter before he was ordained in 1993. Salerno was appointed pastor of St. Leo's four years later.

Sticco and archdiocese officials did not name the accuser. The man contacted his home diocese last week to report the abuse, which he said took place at All Saints Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn when he was a young teen, Sticco said. Salerno had served there from 1971 to 1978 as a brother.

That diocese contacted the Diocese of Brooklyn, which informed officials at the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Pallottines. The accuser and Salerno are receiving counseling.

Sticco could not estimate how long the investigation would take because Vatican officials will have to weigh in; nor would he elaborate on the nature of the abuse.

Salerno is cooperating with the investigation and has expressed concern for the church members, Sticco said.

"His expectation is that the parish would come together during this difficult time because it is such a strong community of faith," he said.

Salerno is the second priest removed from his parish since the installation of Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien last month. A Locust Point priest, the Rev. Ray Martin, was punished because the archdiocese said he violated employment policies and church teaching about participation of non-Catholics in Catholic Masses.

Salerno, a native of New York, has been praised for restoring St. Leo parish by counteracting declining Mass attendance that has driven others to close.

St. Leo's, like many Baltimore parishes, was once at the center of an ethnic enclave. It was the spiritual home of the D'Alesandro clan, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Salerno persuaded some people to convert to Catholicism and drew others from surrounding counties who had moved from the city or who were attracted to his folksy, down-to-earth manner, according to a 2002 Sun profile.

Now, nearly 800 families are registered as members, and weekend services in the brick church's restored sanctuary can be standing-room-only.

Some parishioners at the meeting yesterday said that they didn't believe the accusation and continue to support Salerno.

"You'll hear people say they'll do anything for Father Mike," said Sadie Zaccari Witz, whose father was baptized at St. Leo's. The Catonsville resident became a parishioner eight years ago after reading about Salerno in the newspaper, and she volunteers at the church nearly every other day.

"We all love him. We will support him to the fullest," Witz said, wiping away tears.

"My heart goes out to Father Mike," said Fran Brooks. She and her husband, Dennis, attended a Christmas Mass at St. Leo's six years ago and have traveled from Hunt Valley for services ever since.

The Rev. Frank Donio will assist with duties at St. Leo's during the investigation, Sticco said. At the meeting, Sticco called for any victims of abuse to come forward, as well as for prayers for Salerno, the accuser and others affected.

Parishioners asked how they could contact Salerno. Sticco said they could send cards and letters to him through St. Leo's. One woman asked whether he could return to the parish, even if the accusation proves true.

Another woman corrected Sticco when he referred to "the victim," interjecting "alleged victim." A man asked whether the accuser was "gainfully employed, and has he made a demand for money?"

"The victim has only asked for counseling help, that's all," Sticco said.

Jeff Anderson, a civil attorney in St. Paul, Minn., who has represented clergy abuse victims around the country for 24 years, said in an interview that under New York's statute of limitations, most accusers who are now older than 19 or 20 can't pursue criminal charges or civil suits.

"We continue to see allegations come forth on a very regular basis," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests.

"The sad truth is that no matter how much national publicity there is to this issue, victims have a long, tough struggle before they can reach the point of being strong enough to come forward," he said.

Preliminary findings of a study of sex abuse by Catholic clergy, released last week in Baltimore at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting, suggests that abuse by clergy parallels the rise in abuse reports among the general population.


Extreme religious sect campaigns against Greens in Tassie

Scopical News - Australia

November 21, 2007

The Exclusive Brethren have reportedly begun campaigning against The Greens Party in Tasmania, distributing leaflets warning against voting for the party.

The leaflets are addressed to the "Citizens of Tasmania", and authorised by over 50 members of the Exclusive Brethren group.

Greens Leader Bob Brown has called into question the groups motives, saying that no one will listen to their "weird" policies.

"I don't think people will take much notice of what the Exclusive Brethren, with their weird policies of not allowing married women to work, of banning their children from being allowed a university education and of dividing families forever," Mr Brown said.

The Exclusive Brethren were recently implicated in accusations suggesting the group had funneled over $300,000 in support of Liberal Party advertising.

It was alleged that the group had used a complex network of cash transportation to pay for advertising in key media publications supporting the Liberal's, and lambasting the Greens Party.

The allegation also raised questions over the ethical standing of the groups leaders and whether or not they declared the deposits to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

Registered charities and Church groups are by law not permitted to participate in political lobbying or pressure, and risk losing tax exemption if they do.

It was also revealed that both Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello had met with leaders from the Church on "several" occasions, with Labor Leader Kevin Rudd labeling the group "extreme".

Both the PM and Mr Costello denied their meeting was conspiratorial, saying that anyone has a right to put their views to elected Government.

The Exclusive Brethren however does not allow its members to vote in democratic elections, nor attend school's, watch television or socialise with those outside of the Church.

Fairfax Newspapers also revealed this month that the Prime Minister had exchanged letters with the group on five separate occasions since 2003, but would not release the documents until after the election.

The group has also been involved in American politics and in campaigning for the conservative Republican party.


Second lawsuit launched against Anglican School

Brockville Recorder & Times - November 21, 2007
by Kim Lunman

Former students at Grenville Christian College alleging physical and emotional abuse at the now-closed private school could be squaring off in court against each other now that there's a second class-action lawsuit in the works.

A Toronto lawyer representing 35 former pupils of the elite boarding school east of Brockville in a pending litigation said in an interview she will be seeking a court ruling to certify her clients' case as the only class-action lawsuit against the school.

"A court has the jurisdiction to determine which class-action lawsuit can proceed," Loretta Merritt, a specialist in abuse cases, said in an interview. "Only one can be certified."

Earlier this month, Burlington lawyer Christopher Haber filed a $1-billion class-action lawsuit on behalf of former Grenville Christian College students who attended the school between 1970 and 2007.

They are seeking damages for allegedly being "physically, emotionally and psychologically abused and harassed sexually" over nearly four decades at the school, which shut down in July.

The statement of claim filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Milton on Oct. 17 names two of the school's former headmasters, Rev. Alastair Haig and Rev. Charles Farnsworth, as defendants along with the Anglican Church, Grenville Christian College, Berean Fellowship International of Canada and a Massachusetts group known as the Community of Jesus.

None of the allegations have been proven in court and no statement of defence has yet been filed.

"The majority of the allegations are the same," said Merritt of her clients' accusations.

Merritt said her clients claim that Farnsworth, of Brockville, forced them to chant "chastity, monogamy and AIDs" in the dormitory's "blue lounge" before they left the school for the summer months.

"He told the girls they would get AIDs" if they weren't chaste or monogamous in marriage, said Merritt, referring to the ex-student's allegations.

Farnsworth, 75, denies the allegations in the class-action lawsuit filed in Milton, his lawyer, Todd Burke of Ottawa, said in an interview. Burke said he is filing a statement of defence in that case for Farnsworth, who was headmaster at Grenville Christian College between 1984 and 1998.

As far as the second pending lawsuit is concerned, Burke said he cannot comment.

"I haven't seen the claim or the nature of the complaints."

Merritt said she is seeking a court ruling under the Class Proceedings Act to determine which lawsuit can proceed.

Haber would not disclose the total number of litigants he is representing in his class-action lawsuit.

That statement of claim alleges former students were beaten with wooden paddles and subjected to "light sessions" in which they were told they were sinners. It also accuses former staff of questioning female students about their virginity and denouncing them as "whores."

Allegations by former students against the elite private school first surfaced on Internet chatrooms and in the media after Grenville Christian College suddenly shut its doors this past summer.

The complaints sparked an Anglican Church Diocese of Ontario inquiry into complaints and an OPP criminal investigation.

Rev. Haig, of Coldwater, Ont., was a founding member of the college and is an Anglican priest who served as headmaster there from 1970 until 1984.


21 Nov 2007

Waiting for Armageddon

By Kathryn Westcott
BBC News

21 November 2007

Attempts are being stepped up in Russia to end a stand-off between the authorities and members of a doomsday religious group who have barricaded themselves inside a cave in a remote region and are threatening to blow themselves up.

Pressure is mounting on the authorities to act because of concerns for four children - one as young as 18 months old - who are among the 29 members of the splinter group of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The group retreated to the man-made cave in a wind-swept, snow-covered ravine in Penza, some 640km (400 miles) from Moscow, almost a month ago.

They said they would await the end of the world there, adding that they would kill themselves up if moves were made to force them from their hideout.

On Wednesday, it was reported that the group's leader, self-declared prophet Pyotr Kuznetsov - who did not go into hiding with his followers - had visited the site to try to win the release of the children.

The 43-year-old, who established his True Russian Orthodox Church after he split with the official Church about seven years ago, has been charged with setting up a religious organisation associated with violence.

The drama is the latest incident in the country's troubled relations with what the authorities describe as "cults" or "sects" but Western observers prefer to call "new religious movements".


Over the past decade, attempts have been made to restrict foreign or foreign-influenced groups.

Post-communist Russia initially gave religious creeds free rein, sparking an influx of religious groups throughout the 1990s. Among them were Scientologists, Moonies, Krishna devotees and Jehovah's Witnesses.

But the flood of foreign evangelists and missionaries raised an outcry that Russia's moral fibre and even its national security were at risk. Many were labelled as "destructive cults".

"In some cases, the so-called minority religions became the whipping boy. In the 1990s, there was a coming together of conservative forces, politicians and authorities within the Orthodox Church in a kind of campaign against foreign groups," says James T Richardson, an expert in new religious movements at the University of Nevada.

He told BBC News that this campaign was partly responsible for the introduction of a 1997 religion law, which enshrined Orthodox Christianity as the country's predominant religion. The law pledges respect for Buddhism, Islam and Judaism, which are called traditional religions, but places restrictions on other groups.


The Penza incident has prompted calls from some quarters for the authorities to act against such "home-grown" groups.

So far, however, there appears to have been sympathy for the Penza group from members of the Orthodox Church.

Monks and priests have scaled down ropes to try to coax the faithful out of their dug-out.

One local priest, Father Georgy, in an interview with Russian television, described them as "ordinary Christians."

Marat Shterin, an expert in Russian religion at Kings College London, said, says: "The Russian Orthodox Church tends to be quite anti-sectarian, but on this occasion there seems to be a degree of understanding that while this manifestation of millenarian beliefs - belief that we live in 'the end time' - is extreme, some the group's views are shared by many within the Church."

He says that millenarian beliefs are fairly widespread in Russian Orthodoxy, both within the formal structures of the Church and outside it.

"What they all share is a sharply dualistic view of the world, according to which salvation in these end times is only possible within and through the Church, while the world outside is evil and doomed to imminent destruction.

"However, some of them feel that the official Church does not live up to its salvationist mission and they get attracted to new prophecies and prophets who claim the failing church is in itself a sign of the end of time."


Pyotr Kuznetsov declared himself a prophet several years ago, establishing his True Russian Orthodox Church after splitting with the official church.

According to one priest who has led prayers outside the dug-out, the group believes that "everything in the world is evil. Globalisation is evil".

It is not clear what the group's specific grievances are, but experts have highlighted other concerns held by local millenarian groups.

"In recent years there has been a whole movement within the Church that resisted the introduction of tax and individual identification numbers and new passports, seeing these as signs of 'satanic globalisation' and tribulations leading to the end of the world," says Dr Shterin.

But, he argues that while there are a number of such groups in Russia, it is dangerous to see them all as potential "doomsday cults".

He says that many are integrated in society and more concerned with "spiritual purification and trying to conquer evil by improving the world around them".

Others, he says, have taken a more "separationist" stance and moved to relatively remote areas, while still keeping some communication with wider society.

Violence rare

Estimates vary as to the number of new religious groups in Russia. According to Dr Shterin there are about 300 to 400 different new religious movements, or about 1,000 local communities allied to the larger movements. This, he says, includes "older groups" such as Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons.

One of the largest "home-grown" groups is the Church of the Last Testament in Siberia, which has some 5,000 followers. Its leader, a 46-year-old former traffic policeman, predicted that the world would end a few years ago, but the date passed without incident.

Experts argue that while "end of time" beliefs are widespread around the world, it is rare that such groups engage in violence.

"There have only been about eight (violent) incidents in the past few decades," says Dr Richardson.

He also says that it is difficult to explain what exactly triggers such events.

"People who study these things have thrown up their hands and said that each situation has been so unique that it is impossible to tell what set it off.

"There are so many people that hold such beliefs but live normal lives. Somewhere, something significant happens - it could possibly be down to the way a group interacts with the authorities."

In the Penza case, it has been reported that Mr Kuznetsov told authorities that the local community had written in "some paper complaining that if we were not removed, they would complain to the authorities".

Dr Shterin stresses that the outcome depends very much on how the "wider society will react towards the group", which expects the world to end in May 2008.

"This is a very long time for a group with small children to survive in an artificial cave," he says.

"On the other hand, they could easily interpret any outside pressure as a sign of the 'end time persecution', therefore as the end of the world already unfolding."


Polygamy leader Jeffs sentenced to prison

Reuters Canada - Nov 20, 2007

By Tim Gaynor

ST. GEORGE, Utah (Reuters) - U.S. polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, self-proclaimed prophet of a breakaway Mormon sect, was sentenced on Tuesday to 10 years to life in prison for forcing a 14-year-old to marry her first cousin.

The leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, received five years to life for each of two felony convictions on charges he was an accomplice to rape. The sentences will be served consecutively and a state board of pardons will ultimately determine how much time he spends in prison.

Jeffs spent 15 months on the run and was on the FBI's Most Wanted list before his arrest in August 2006. He was convicted in September.

Looking gaunt, Jeffs showed no emotion when the sentence was read and he declined to address the Utah court which was packed with his supporters and opponents.

The victim, who is now 21 and has remarried, was in the front row and addressed the judge before sentencing.

"Jeffs and his influence over me, as a 14-year-old girl, affected me and my family in so many ways," said Elissa Wall, her voice trembling with emotion.

She said she trusted the court would give him "the sentence that he deserves and that some good would come from this." Jeffs forced her to marry her 19-year-old cousin despite her objections.

Revered as infallible by his followers and reviled as power-crazed and delusional by others, Jeffs, 51, led some 7,500 FLDS members in the borderlands of Utah and Arizona.

Women members of the church wear long, pioneer-style dresses, have their hair in long braided plaits and are brought up to be submissive to their husbands. Church members are generally suspicious of outsiders.

The Jeffs trial riveted Utah which has a majority Mormon population, many of whom consider polygamy an embarrassment.

The practice of taking multiple wives was an early tenet of the Mormon faith, although it was banned in 1890 when Utah sought to become a state. The FLDS -- which has no ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are called Mormons –-- is the largest group still practicing polygamy in the state.


Dissident former church member Flora Jessop, who fled a forced marriage to a cousin arranged by the FLDS, welcomed the sentencing as a start. Jeffs faces similar sex abuse charges in Arizona as well as federal charges.

"Thousands of children can sleep safer tonight with Jeffs in jail," Jessop said outside the court house.

"It is a positive first step, although much more needs to be done ... to protect women and children who want out of the community," she added.

The sentencing came days after the court unsealed documents that revealed that Jeffs attempted suicide in jail in January and told his brother he was "not the prophet" -- revelations potentially damaging to the FLDS.

Sources with insight into the group said the disclosures and the sentence were unlikely to devastate the closed world of the church, where members are told not to watch television or read news on the Internet.

But Benjamin Bistline, a historian of polygamy in Colorado City, the FLDS' stronghold in Arizona, said it might help end the practice of forced marriages for minors.

"They'll never get rid of polygamy in Utah, never," Bistline said. "What they will stop is the underage marriages." (Editing by Alan Elsner)


20 Nov 2007

Israel May Extradite Sex Abuse Suspect

Associated Press - November 19, 2007


JERUSALEM (AP) — A man who fled the U.S. for Israel more than two decades ago amid accusations he sexually abused children while pretending to be a rabbi and psychologist appeared in court in Jerusalem — a step toward his possible extradition.

Abraham Mondrowitz, 60, a member of the ultra-Orthodox Gur Hasidic Jewish sect, arrived in court Sunday after his arrest in Jerusalem on Friday. He is accused of abusing children while running an unlicensed private clinic in Brooklyn during the 1980s.

The father of seven fled to Israel in 1985 as New York police investigated charges against him.

The judge extended Mondrowitz's detention until Nov. 27, at which point he will decide whether Mondrowitz will remain in jail or be placed under house arrest.

Mondrowitz's attorney, David Ofek, said he plans to appeal the decision to keep him in custody.

"The state didn't take action for 25 years, so they cannot bring the case back (now)," Ofek said, adding that he has seen no medical reports indicating abuse.

The U.S. requested Mondrowitz's extradition in 1985. Israel ordered his expulsion in 1987, but it was unable to carry out the order as its extradition treaty with the U.S. did not cover sodomy.

In January this year the treaty was amended to include all crimes whose punishment is more than one year imprisonment, and two months ago the United States resubmitted the extradition request, Israeli Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen said.

Sunday's ruling followed an expose on Mondrowitz in local daily Haaretz on Thursday.

Mondrowitz grew up in Tel Aviv and in Chicago after his family moved to the United States in the 1950s, Haaretz said. In 1979, he moved to Brooklyn, where he impressed the Orthodox Jewish community when he told them he had degrees in clinical psychology and educational administration, and was an ordained rabbi, it said. He counseled children at a clinic at his home.

Patricia Kehoe, a retired NYPD detective, told Haaretz all the diplomas were fake.

In December 1984, New York police charged that on two occasions in June of that year, Mondrowitz abused a 10-year-old boy at his home.

Haaretz said that Mondrowitz was a highly influential figure in the Gur community of Brooklyn in the early 1980s. New York police suspect Mondrowitz sexually abused children brought to him as patients, Haaretz said.


Popular ex-priest hid dark side

San Gabriel Valley Tribune - November 20, 2007

By Ruby Gonzales, Staff Writer

He was known as Father Mike, a popular priest at St. Hilary in Pico Rivera and at St. Paul of the Cross in La Mirada.

But Michael Stephen Baker hid a dark side.

The ex-priest once admitted to having relationships with boys. Children in parishes he served accused him of molesting them as far back as 1974.

Since last year, the defrocked clergyman has been in a Los Angeles County jail as a second molestation case against him winds its way through the courts.

Prosecutors allege that the 59-year-old Long Beach man molested two boys from 1994 to 1998 while assigned to churches in Pico Rivera and Los Angeles. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and will return to Los Angeles Superior Court on Nov. 30 for a hearing.

Baker is being held at Men's Central Jail in lieu of $800,000 bail.

"I don't say anything," Baker's lawyer, Donald Steier, said when asked for comment on the case.

Baker is one of the more infamous priests in the Los Angeles Archdiocese accused of sexually abusing children. Cardinal Roger Mahony was criticized for the way he handled Baker's case.

Baker was assigned to work, with restrictions, at different parishes after he admitted to Mahony in 1986 that he had a relationship with two boys for seven years.

The archdiocese sent him for treatment in New Mexico in 1987. A year later, it allowed him to work at various parishes.

But Baker allegedly continued to molest children.

In 2000, the archdiocese settled for $1.25million with two brothers who accused Baker of molesting them in locations in Mexico, Arizona and California from 1984 to 1999.

Baker, who paid $500,000 of the settlement, met them while he was priest at St. Hilary in Pico Rivera.

Mahony began the process of removing Baker from the priesthood when Baker petitioned to leave the priesthood. His request was granted in December 2000.

The reported molestation of one of the brothers would lead prosecutors to file a criminal case against Baker in 2006. The second alleged victim in the current criminal case is a boy Baker met while at a Los Angeles church, sheriff's detectives said.

"The cardinal admits that he made mistakes with Michael Baker," said Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the Los Angeles Archdiocese. "Looking back in hindsight, the cardinal was naive. He thought at the time something like this could be treated with psychotherapy."

Tamberg called Baker "the worst kind of child molester" and said Baker lied about the nature and extent of his problem.

"He never came forward and said he molested children. On the surface while he looked like he was complying with restrictions, he was not," Tamberg said.

Tamberg said Baker mischaracterized and lied about the nature of his problem to Mahony and the therapist.

"When he made this half-hearted, insincere, inaccurate revelation (in 1986), he was taken from the ministry," Tamberg said.

He added that Baker was then sent to treatment and, based on the report from this treatment, he returned to the archdiocese in a limited capacity.

"Back in those days only priests were allowed to sign checks. He would go to parishes, sign checks for day-to-day business. He was never a pastor again. He had restrictions," Tamberg said.

But Baker violated his restrictions in 1989, 1995 and 1996 by having contact with minors. These were not sexual in nature, according to a report by the archdiocese.

After the third incident, he was transferred in 1997 to St. Camillus de Lellis in Los Angeles.

"Its only parishioners are in-patients at (Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center)," the archdiocese report noted.

Church officials said they didn't get a victim complaint about Baker until 2000 and removed him from the ministry soon after.

Four years later, the archdiocese listed in a report that Baker had 23 accusers from incidents starting in 1974 and ending in 1999. Baker was ordained as a priest in 1974.

Tamberg isn't sure if there are more than 23 alleged victims.

"We put in what we know at the time," he said.

Sheriff's detectives estimate there could be up to 28 victims.

This summer, the archdiocese settled with more than 500 alleged victims of clergy abuse for $660million.

Frank Zamora, 62, of La Mirada said his younger son, Dominic, was one of those plaintiffs. He said his son was an altar boy at St. Paul of the Cross in La Mirada and was allegedly molested by Baker from ages 7 to 14.

Baker would attend gatherings at the Zamora home. He was known to take kids in the parish to McDonald's.

Frank Zamora said his son started drinking at an early age and lost his faith because of the alleged abuse. The Zamoras were unaware of what happened to their son until he told them four or five years ago.

Dominic Zamora was in county jail for having unpaid traffic tickets when he spotted a familiar face in the lockup.

"He called, `Baker is in here and I will tell you something,"' said his mother, Virginia.

She said Baker was called "Father Mike" when he was at St. Paul and popular.

"Oh, big time. He was popular with everybody. He still has followers," she added. "To me, he was a wolf in sheep's clothing."


Cult leader seeks to free children, official says

CNN International

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- A doomsday cult leader whose followers are barricaded inside a cave in southern Russia will be taken to the site in an attempt to secure the release of several children, according to a government official.

The 29 cult members -- including four children as young as 18 months -- retreated last month to the hideout in the Penza region, about 640 kilometers (400 miles) southeast of Moscow, threatening to blow themselves up if the authorities tried to intervene.

Self-declared prophet Pyotr Kuznetsov, who was not with his followers, is now in a psychiatric hospital but will be taken to the site Wednesday to seek the release of the children, Yevgeny Guseynov, a regional government official, told The Associated Press.

Russian Orthodox monks and priests have already tried to contact the cult members who are reported to be mostly women, but members refused to speak to them, AP reported. The 29 members of the cult, which calls itself the "True Russian Orthodox Church," say they will ignite gasoline canisters if authorities try to force them out, Guseynov told CNN.

He said officials would also try to find experienced negotiators. "There is no talk whatsoever of any sort of storming" the site, he said.

The cult excavated the cave system themselves after Kuznetsov told his followers to hide themselves away to await the end of the world, which he predicted will take place next May, according to Russian media reports.

Although the cult members have been exchanging letters with Kuznetsov, they are mistrustful of his intervention because they believe he is acting under the influence of the Russian government, Guseynov said.

"They still respect him, they listen to him but they don't trust him as they believe he is acting under pressure from the authorities", Guseynov said.

Kuznetsov was charged Thursday with setting up a religious organization associated with violence. "I've met the man, and he's definitely mentally sick, big time," Guseynov told CNN.

A trained engineer, Kuznetsov did not let his followers watch television, listen to the radio or handle money, according to Russian media reports.

Temperatures in the cave are below 12 degrees Celsius (54 degrees Fahrenheit), Itar-Tass news agency reported.

The cult members have gathered enough food supplies to last until spring, according to the agency.

A 24-hour operation has been established in the nearby village of Nikolskoye incorporating teams of local police, officers from the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations and medical staff.

Guseinov said negotiators are trying to persuade the cult members to accept food, medicine and hot water to bathe the children.

CNN's Maxim Tkachenko contributed to this report.


17 Nov 2007

A battle for Bountiful's children

Vancouver Sun - CanWest News Service

November 17, 2007
Teressa Wall Blackmore, mother of three, testified against Warren Jeffs

In mid-September, Teressa Wall Blackmore walked confidently to the witness stand in the St. George, Utah courtroom to testify against fundamentalist Mormon prophet Warren Jeffs.

Dressed in a smart suit with attractively styled hair, Blackmore clearly no longer belonged to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

What Teressa had no idea about was the truth of the adage, "No good deed goes unpunished."

Teressa's testimony supported her sister's. Elissa Wall was 14 years old when she was forced to marry her 19-year-old first cousin, Allen Steed, who subsequently raped her.

The first rape occurred only a few weeks after the wedding in the spring of 2001. Shortly after she was raped, Elissa and her husband visited Teressa and Roy Blackmore, in Bountiful, B.C. During that first visit, Teressa testified that Elissa confided in her about the rape.

The second visit stretched from late fall 2002 into February 2003 because Elissa had a miscarriage. It was her second one. By then, Teressa testified, "She was basically a body with no soul."

Within two weeks of the jury convicting Jeffs on two counts of rape as an accomplice, Teressa's estranged husband, Roy Blackmore, filed for sole custody of their three children as well as an interim order from the B.C. Supreme Court for Teressa to return the children from her new home in Payette, Idaho to the closed, polygamous community in Bountiful.

Roy never objected when Teressa took the children in June, which suggests that this is retaliation from the FLDS leaders and a warning to others not to testify against the prophet.

But the custody battle is more than that. It is a landmark case with ramifications far beyond the fate of three children.

Children's best interests

A B.C. Supreme Court justice will have to determine whether it's in the best interests of children to be raised in the closed, polygamous society. The judge must decide if children are harmed by being raised in a community where the illegal practice of polygamy, arranged marriages, forced marriages, underage brides and perfect obedience to the prophet are the norm.

In deciding, the judge must consider the religion itself. The FLDS is listed as hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Its prophet is not only in jail, his mental stability seems questionable.

In jailhouse confessions to his family last January, Jeffs renounced the role of prophet, declared himself guilty of immoral acts with a sister and a daughter and then attempted to hang himself in his solitary cell in Purgatory Correctional Facility.

Jeffs will be sentenced on Tuesday and faces from five years to life on each count in prison. Even though he plans to appeal, Jeffs may be on trial again within a few months -- this time in Arizona where he's charged with five counts of sexual conduct with a minor and two counts of conspiracy.

But if FLDS leaders thought that the custody suit might dissuade Teressa, Elissa and their other sister Rebecca from testifying at that trial, they once again under-estimated the stubborn, fearless sisters.

Teressa Wall was a rebellious teen, growing up in Salt Lake City's fundamentalist Mormon community alongside her 14 siblings and 10 half brothers and sisters. In FLDS terms that means she asked a lot of questions and listened to the radio.

Her father, Lloyd Wall, managed a number of church-owned companies. Her mother, Sharon Steed, was the second of three wives.

In 1997, Teressa sat stubbornly silent through an hour-long meeting with FLDS prophet Rulon Jeffs. Finally, he ordered her to go to the FLDS community in Canada -- Bountiful -- to work and repent. Unless she did that, he told her, she would not be welcome back in his house or in her family.

Winston Blackmore -- Bountiful's bishop and superintendent of the government-funded school -- sent Teressa to work at his post-and-pole-manufacturing mill in Sundre, Alta. Dressed in her pioneer-styled dress without the benefit of any safety equipment, she got no pay for working the night shift -- only room and board.

"They were trying to make my life miserable so that I would agree to get married," she said in an interview.

Blackmore, 40, offered to add her to his growing list of wives -- he eventually had 26. She refused. She also refused Winston's suggestion that she marry Winston's older brother, Brandon, whose wives included two of Teressa's aunts and one of her sisters.

In 1998, Winston told her that if she didn't get married, she would have to leave the community. Teressa eventually agreed to marry Winston's nephew and Brandon's son, Roy. He was 18 and had told Teressa's cousin that he loved Teressa even though he'd barely spoken to her.

"I believed there were only a few more years before the end of the world [as Rulon Jeffs had prophesied]," Teressa says. "So with all the people putting pressure on me, I thought why not? It will only last two years. I already knew I was damned to hell and I didn't know where else I could go."

On May 31, Teressa and Roy were married in a religious ceremony. Two months later, they were married again in a civil ceremony even though Teressa was living illegally in Canada, having long overstayed her six-month visitor's visa.

Teressa no longer had to work in the mill. But she continued to live in Sundre with Roy in a single room in his brother's house.

It was immediately apparent they wanted different things. Teressa wanted to have fun and get to know her husband. Roy "wanted to get busy and start a family right away."

Their first daughter, Jasmin, was born in April 1999. Three months later, Teressa was pregnant again. Their son, Nike, was born in May 2000 in Bountiful. The next day, Roy went back to work in Sundre, leaving Teressa to live with two babies in a single room in the workshop area in her father-in-law's garage.

A few months later, Teressa was told to move into a decrepit trailer in one of Winston's logging camps in the Bugaboo Mountains where Roy was working 10 to 12 hours a day.

There was no running water. The toilet was an outhouse.

Roy got paid $1,000 a month. Of that, 10 per cent had to be paid in tithes. More went to special "donations." With the end of the world coming, Winston ordered frequent practice "famines."

Families were told to stock up. Then, for three months they could not buy any groceries. Grocery money had to be handed over to the church. During one of those "famines," Teressa and her family lived for weeks on only a five-gallon bucket of rice.

By the time their second daughter, Summer, was born in June 2002, there was chaos in Bountiful. Winston had been excommunicated. About half the community stuck with him; others, including Roy Blackmore, choose to stick with the FLDS.

"The church things were getting really crazy. We couldn't wear prints. We had to wear plain colours and all of Warren's other craziness," Teressa says.

After Rulon Jeffs died in September 2002, Warren became the prophet. Teressa's older sister, Rebecca, had been assigned at 19 to marry the 83-year-old Rulon. With Rulon dead, his son Warren tried to force Rebecca to marry him. Instead, she fled.

Defiance blamed for illness

Roy told Teressa she could no longer contact Rebecca. She was an "apostate." Teressa defied him and went to visit Rebecca in Oregon in the fall of 2003.

While she was there, Teressa's youngest daughter became very ill and spent more than a month in hospital. Teressa was blamed for Summer's illness; it was God's retribution for her wickedness.

She went back to Oregon in June 2004 and only went back at the end of August because Teressa says she couldn't bear to live without her children.

Roy was "offish" and suspicious. A few weeks later, the new FLDS bishop Jim Oler, on orders from Jeffs, told the couple that they could no longer sleep together. They could only live as man-and-wife if Teressa repented and agreed to be re-baptized.

Roy begged Teressa to do as she was told and write a letter, repenting a list of "sins" including her failure to wear the so-called holy underwear. As Teressa had expected, it wasn't enough. She was asked to do more penance. She refused.

Roy continued to work away from Bountiful during the week, leaving Teressa alone with the children. By then they had their own apartment in Bountiful. Roy became convinced Teressa was having an affair. She'd developed a close friendship with his cousin, Ben Blackmore. In FLDS society, men and women can't be friends.

One fall night, midweek and close to midnight, Teressa heard footsteps on the roof of their home. She heard someone slide down over the eaves in an attempt to look in the window. Terrified, she called a neighbour. When he came over to investigate, they found a ladder propped up against the house. After he'd gone, the phone rang a couple of times. No answer, just heavy breathing.

Teressa locked the door. No one locks their door in Bountiful. A few minutes later, there was banging on the door. The door rattled and metal scraped in the lock.

Teressa was in the hallway with Roy's shotgun in her hand when Roy came around the corner. Fortunately, she didn't know how to load the gun.

Roy believed he'd catch her with another man.

At the end of March 2006, Teressa told Roy she was leaving. She no longer believed Jeffs was the prophet and she didn't want her daughters to be married at 14 like her sister Elissa. Teressa urged Roy to leave with her. He refused, but agreed that she could take their daughters, but he demanded that their son, Nike, stay behind.

Teressa says Roy told her that he was choosing God and the prophet over his family and that he would be rewarded 10 times for doing that. Roy disputes that. In his affidavit, he says, "I was not prepared to lose everything just because she wanted to leave."

Teressa went to Payette, Idaho, where Rebecca now lives with her husband, a former FLDS member. With only a Grade 9 education, the only job Teressa could get was waitressing at night. Rebecca looked after the girls, while Teressa worked. But nobody was happy with the arrangement.

Teressa took her daughters back to Roy in June 2006. But she told him that when she got settled, she would come back for the children. Roy disputes that, but Teressa's friends, Ben and Suzann Blackmore have sworn affidavits confirming that.

'Children have very soft voices'

When school ended in June 2007, Teressa collected her children -- now aged eight, seven and five. She works as a bank teller, has a rented three-bedroom house with a yard and has a boyfriend.

Even though the children were far behind where they should be in school, they are doing well now. Nike was held back in Grade 1 for a second year, but last week he was named Student of the Month for his academic improvement. Jasmin is doing well in Grade 3 after lots of extra coaching from her mom. Summer is happy in kindergarten and at her daycare.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, British Columbia's children and youth representative, is very concerned about what might happen to those three children.

"Children have very soft voices," she said. "But it is very significant that their interests are considered and their voices heard. In principle, children need their own lawyer, an advocate who knows the system well because there is important information that needs to be put before the court."

Because Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is the B.C. government's responsibility to appoint a lawyer to represent them.

All Teressa or her lawyer need do is ask, Turpel-Lafond said.

That would help level the playing field because right now, it's the coffers of a church staked against a bank teller's wages over the fate of three children.

If Teressa loses, she's afraid her children will disappear as her mother and four sisters did more than two-and-a-half years ago, and that her daughters' futures will mirror her sister Elissa's past.