Oct 27, 2016

Russian Supreme Court to review Aum Shinrikyo ban

October 27, 2016

The court will check the legitimacy of the ban on the Japanese cult.

Russia's Supreme Court is going to check the legitimacy of a ban on international organization Aum Shinrikyo in Russia, the court’s press service told TASS on Oct. 27.

“An appeal against the decision on recognizing Aum Shinrikyo as a terrorist organization and banning its activities in the territory of the Russian Federation will be discussed on Oct. 27,” the source said.

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On Sept. 20, the Supreme Court approved the petition of the General Prosecutor's Office to ban the organization in Russia, but the decision was disputed.

Aum Shinrikyo was founded by Japanese national Shoko Asahara in 1987 and made global headlines in 1995 when its followers sprayed sarin, a lethal nerve gas on five trains of Tokyo metro. The terrorist act claimed the lives of thirteen people. In September 1999, the Japanese Public Security Investigation Agency said Asahara had confessed to organizing the terrorist act with the use of sarin. A court found him guilty in 2004 of thirteen out of the seventeen charges and sentenced him to death.

Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal case this April over setting up of the group, the activity of which involved violence against people and infliction of damage to their health. The investigators said unidentified persons had set up a union of followers of the Aum Shinrikyo group in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Between 2012 and 2014, the group raised money via Internet to carry out its illegal activity that involved “violence against citizens and injury to their health,” the investigators said.


Veteran Sports Journalist Adversely Confronted by ‘Hot Yoga’ Guru Bikram Choudhury During Interview

October 27, 2016

Veteran sports journalist Andrea Kremer was antagonistically confronted by ‘hot yoga’ pioneer Bikram Choudhury while she interviewed him for a segment for HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel,” which first aired Oct. 25.

Kremer, who made history in 1989 as ESPN’s first female correspondent, interviewed Choudhury at his teacher training studio in Aamby Valley, in the Lonavala hills outside Mumbai. The journalist asked him about three lawsuits filed against him by former students who have accused Choudhury of sexual harassment and assault.

Choudhury denied the allegations. “They are lies. Lies. Lies. If I wanted to sleep with women, there would be a line outside,” the Indian American yoga practitioner said.

Of the three students interviewed for the HBO segment – each of whom have filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Choudhury – the guru said: “I picked them up from the trash and gave them a life.”

At one point during the interview with Kremer, Choudhury got visibly upset and left the room. When the journalist called out to him to finish the interview, Choudhury called down from a staircase where he was standing and called Kremer “the same trash,” along with other invectives.

“It turned personal,” Kremer told India-West. “He chose to respond in a very vitriolic way. It showed us who he really was.”

“We felt we had witnessed a degree of transformation,” said the Emmy Award winning reporter, noting that Choudhury had been affable and charming in the days prior to his meltdown. The interlude is shown during the segment.

Kremer interviewed Sarah Baughn, Jill Lawler, and Maggie Genther, who have each filed sexual harassment lawsuits against Choudhury. Producer Maggie Burbank interviewed 30 women who all allegedly had similar stories of being sexually harassed by Choudhury. All paid upwards of $12,000 to attend the guru’s signature teacher training course.

Baughn said that – after Choudhury allegedly assaulted her in 2008 – she tried to kill herself by swallowing pills and walking into the ocean.

Genthner and Lawler described in detail in the 20-minute segment how Choudhury forced himself on the young women. Genthner, who served as Choudhury’s personal assistant, settled her suit in July.

Kremer told India-West that each of the women she interviewed “unabashedly loved Choudhury. They felt he was changing their lives.”

“It was very difficult for them to speak publicly. The pain and anguish they felt was very palpable,” she said.

In May, India-West reported that Choudhury had packed up his Beverly Hills, Calif., headquarters and moved to Maharashtra after losing a $7.4 million sexual harassment lawsuit brought about by his former in-house attorney, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden. Calls to his Beverly Hills home at that time were answered by a housekeeper, who said she had not seen her employer in six weeks. Choudhury’s wife Rajashree – who co-founded Bikram Yoga – has reportedly separated from her husband.

The segment will repeat several times on HBO through Nov. 15, and on HBO2 through Nov. 19. The show is also available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and affiliate portals.


Understanding religious cults can be complicated

Ron Burks, Ph.D.
TMH blogger
July 31, 2015

The word “cult” conjures images that range from religious regimentation and extremism to dancers around open fires and sacrificing chickens in the backyard. The popular show “The Following” portrays a group that spends most of its time murdering people and outsmarting the longsuffering detective. Real cults are far less entertaining, but they nonetheless, inflict lasting harm on their followers and their families.

Cults are often formed because of a religious belief. One religious body may disagree with the beliefs of another and consider themselves a “cult.” Being disliked or having detractors does not mean a group is a cult. When drama and diatribe is stripped away, factors that distinguish between cults and various religious bodies, civic clubs or other social associations become clearer. The term “cult” must be used in a very narrow sense in any discussion on public health, and more specifically, mental health.
It must be remembered that cults probably include some benefits or else no one would join. Most cults provide a unique form of belonging, closeness and a sense that one will never be alone again. Whether loved, feared or both, cult leaders provide a sense of peace, order and security. The atmosphere of a cult provides simple answers to complex life issues. There are usually special inspirational experiences that make members grateful to be apart. Cults also have the ability to increase the suggestibility of its members.

In time, most members begin to surrender personal choice believing it to be in their own best interest. Questions are met with simplistic responses implying that further inquiry is insulting to the intelligence of the leader or the group in general.

Restricted opportunity to make unaided choices usually impairs a sense of personal identity. Members forget who they are, or were. Cults usually create some form of separation from mainstream culture, whether it is psychological or physical. Members feel they only “fit in” with their group. Cults usually espouse an ultimate purpose that is in sync with the member’s morals or life goals.

Deception and fraud are usually at the heart of any group that deserves the name cult. When exposed, the powerful psychological processes that held the member to the group are disrupted. The member sees through the deception and leaves. Then, the ex-member of a cult or partner in a cult-like relationship says: “I don’t know who I am or where I belong” and/or “My life has no purpose.” These factors often result in years of depression and aimlessness.

Internet sites like icsahome.com, wellspringretreat.org, neirr.org and many others provide connections, information and opportunities for specific, formal residential treatment. There are resources for mental health professionals at icsahome.com who are attempting to treat ex-members. The Tallahassee Memorial Behavioral Health Center has treated many ex-members and offers a monthly support group. To learn more, please call 850-431-5105 or visit TMH.org.
Ron Burks, Ph.D., LMHC, Tallahassee Memorial Behavioral Health Center


Pseudo-Christian shamanistic cult alleged to have influence over President Park

Korea Joongang Daily
October 28, 2016

Opposition politicians have raised suspicion that a cult was behind President Park Geun-hye’s oddly intimate relationship with her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.

“This is not even a dictatorship,” Choo Mi-ae, chairwoman of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, said Thursday. “It’s a scary theocracy.”

She added, “Park never communicated with the people. She never communicated with the public servants, vice ministers or ministers. She only had her spiritual communication with Choi.”

Park’s relationship with the scandal-ridden friend goes back decades. Choi, 60, is a daughter of the late Choi Tae-min, Park’s mentor. According to various records, Park and Choi Tae-min first met after First Lady Yuk Young-soo was assassinated. He wrote to her and claimed the late Yuk had appeared to him in his dreams and delivered a message.

“Park has also been forced to explain her own past, including her relationship some 35 years ago with a pastor, Choi Tae-min, whom her opponents characterize as a ‘Korean Rasputin,’ and how he controlled Park during her time in the Blue House when she was first lady after her mother's assassination,” a diplomatic cable by then U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow said in 2007, before the presidential election. It was a confidential report, but was made public by WikiLeaks in 2011.

Vershbow continued, “Perhaps even more damaging to her image as the maiden who sacrificed herself in the service of the nation upon the assassination of her mother, Park has been linked to the late Choi Tae-min, a charismatic pastor. Rumors are rife that the late pastor had complete control over Park's body and soul during her formative years and that his children accumulated enormous wealth as a result.”

Born in 1912 in Hwanghae Province, Choi Tae-min reportedly worked as a policeman during the Japanese colonial period and became a Buddhist monk after Korea’s liberation. In the early 1970s, he established his own cult, Yeongsaenggyo, literally “Eternal Life,” by combining tenets of Buddhism, Christianity and Korea’s indigenous Confucian-shamanist movement, Cheondoism. He created the Korea Salvation Mission in April 1975. Park attended its masses in subsequent months. In 1976, Park became the president of the New Heart Volunteer Group, established by Choi.

But Choi was questioned by Park’s father, President Park Chung-hee, in September 1977 based on the intelligence agency’s report of his corruption. Nevertheless, he managed to evade any criminal charges. Kim Jae-gyu, then head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency who assassinated the strongman on Oct. 26, 1979, later wrote in his appeals that Park Chung-hee’s inaction against Choi was one of his motivations for assassinating him.

Choi Soon-sil, the fifth daughter of Choi Tae-min, first met Park Geun-hye as the university student president of the volunteer group. She left for Germany in 1979 to study and returned to Korea in 1985.

The Choi family gained media attention in 1986 when Park’s little sister, Geun-ryeong, wrote a letter to the Blue House to expose their abuse of power over a nonprofit foundation for children’s welfare. “Choi is a crook and he should be sternly punished and my sister Park Geun-hye should be saved from his capture,” she wrote at the time.

Choi Tae-min died in 1994, but rumors spread that his daughter continued to exert her cult-based influence over Park.

“Choi Soon-sil reportedly said North Korea will collapse within two years,” said Rep. Woo Sang-ho, floor leader of the Minjoo Party, said Thursday. “She appeared to be a shamanist prophet. If Park was captivated by her prophecy and implemented her foreign and North Korea policies, this is a serious problem.”

On Wednesday, Rep. Park Jie-won, acting head of the People’s Party, also raised a similar suspicion. “Park must have been captivated by the cult of Choi Tae-min and Choi Soon-sil,” he said.

Rumors spread further as it was pointed out that Park often used unusual expressions in her speeches, possibly influenced by Choi.

“If you do not learn history properly, your soul will become abnormal,” Park said on Nov. 10, 2015. “If you wish earnestly, the entire universe will help you,” Park said in her Children’s Day speech in 2015.

Park admitted Tuesday that she had sought Choi’s help in editing her speeches, but it is unclear if those remarks were written by Choi.

Rumors also spread that Choi had established a secret inner circle, named the “Eight Fairies,” to control state affairs. The National Intelligence Service’s logo was abruptly changed earlier this year to depict a dragon, and speculation has spread that it symbolizes the Mi-R Foundation. Mireu is an ancient Korean word for “dragon,” and Choi was accused of using the foundation to strong-arm conglomerates to make massive donations and then embezzling the money.

Park’s inaugural ceremony was also questioned by observers. During the ceremony, a tree of hope was created at the Gwanghwamun Square and small silk purses were hung on it. The traditional purses were supposed to symbolize the link between humans and the universe and to conjure happiness. A file stored on a tablet computer recovered from Choi’s office by JTBC, the TV network of the JoongAng Media Group, showed the designs of the purses.


Watchdog investigates British charity's alleged cult connections

EXCLUSIVE: British charity is allegedly linked to cult whose leaders are wanted by Interpol.

Tom Porter
October 27, 2016
Britain's charity watchdog is investigating whether a second-hand clothing charity has links to a Danish cult accused of running an international fraud and tax evasion racket.

The Denmark-based Teacher's Group (TG) is accused of collecting money through bogus charities, and filtering it through a complex network of registered companies and offshore accounts to group leaders.

Among organisations in Britain allegedly connected to the group is charity Development Aid from People to People UK (DAPP UK), which registered in 2005 and has several charity shops in Britain.

A spokesman for the Charity Commission told IBTimes UK that an investigation had been launched into Dapp UK in August, following a BBC report on British aid paid to TG-linked DAPP Malawi.

"The Charity Commission is aware of concerns raised regarding the charity Development Aid from People to People and links to an organisation known as the Teachers Group," said a spokesman.

"The commission has an open compliance case and is engaging with the charity's trustees."

What is the Teachers Group?

In the early 1970s a man named Mogens Amdi Petersen attracted a number of followers, who came to be known as the Teachers Group. Members were prepared to give up ordinary life and follow their leader's Maoist-inspired doctrine of communal life and social renewal.

TG went on to open schools for children with learning difficulties, and branched out to run plantations, mills, used clothing shops and educational projects across several continents.

According to Danish court documents, members were forced to place their earnings in a communal fund, allow group leaders to decide where they worked, and forgo personal decisions such as the right to start a family.

"They were continually pressurising you to join the Teacher Group, which means that they take everything and you get pocket money," said a former employee of a TG-linked charity in Mozambique in the early 1990s, who spoke to IBTimes UK on condition of anonymity.

"Having seen some of the tricks they get up to, it is not pleasant. They harm people's lives mentally and financially."

In 2003 Petersen went on trial with several other group leaders on tax evasion and fraud charges. They were acquitted, but fled the country while the verdict was under appeal. In 2013 a new case was opened and an international warrant issued for Petersen's arrest. He is believed to be in hiding in a multimillion dollar compound on Mexico's Pacific coast.

A BBC investigation found that only 12% of the income of TG-linked company Planet Aid UK was paid to humanitarian causes. By contrast, 79% of Oxfam's income is directed to humanitarian projects.

According to an FBI file on TG-linked groups in the US obtained by NBC, "Little to no money goes to the charities" with "funds ultimately controlled by" the Teachers Group "who divert the money for personal use".

Researcher Mike Durham has spent more than a decade compiling information on the group and exposing its activities. He said the elaborate structure of the group's operations made it difficult for authorities to take action against them.

"It's hard [for authorities] to grasp and do anything about," said Durham.

"How they operate is unethical – they do it by setting up different funding streams that look charitable and using financial cleverness to reduce the tax rate pay and switch money from country to country. Funding may be used for window dressing to support charitable work, for example running companies and farms which are using money to invest in developing countries."

DAPP UK registered as a charity in the UK in 2005, following the closure of TG-linked Humana People to People charity for "serious financial irregularities". Among its UK trustees is Trond Narvestad, who according to media reports was investigated for raising money for TG-linked organisations in Sweden.

Its recorded income since 2011 is £1.2 million. According to its last financial statement covering 2014-2015, 16% of its £409,000 income was spent on charitable projects, and was donated to TG-linked Humana People to People India.

DAPP UK spokesman Nick Colwill said: "DAPP UK's filed accounts for the last three financial years show that the proportion of total funds raised donated to charitable causes ranged between 16-22%. It should be borne in mind that the administrative and staffing costs in maintaining 96 clothing banks and four second-hand shops in the UK constitute the bulk of expenditure. The recycling of second-hand clothes, however, also has its own environmental benefit."

DAPP UK charity shops are listed in Northampton, Warrington, and Rugby, which sell clothing donated to TG-linked not-for-profit companies, including Planet Aid UK, and Green World Recycling Ltd.

On its website, Planet Aid UK declares it "is the recognised operator working on behalf of DAPP UK and is directly responsible for the maintenance of all the registered charities [sic] clothing banks." It claims to have 1,500 collection bins throughout the UK.

Further, it says it has been working with Harlow Council and Huntingdonshire District Council to "increase the number of textile bank sites" in the areas. Both local authorities confirmed the arrangement in statements to IBTimes UK.

Asda supermarket has banned Planet Aid UK from collecting second-hand items on its premises over concerns about how its funds were being used. In 2008 North Somerset Council investigated charity bins placed in the Weston area by Green World Recycling, while in February Greenwich Council banned collection bins from another TG linked business, Gaia.

Professor Mark Button, director of the Centre for Counter Fraud Studies at Portsmouth University, said that chronic government underfunding has left police departments and the Charity Commission without the resources to conduct complex anti-fraud investigations.

"They are not sufficiently resourced to deal with fraud," he told IBTimes UK. "That tends to go across most of the organisations that deal with this kind of behaviour.

"The police have a huge in-tray of fraud investigations and if they get one in a grey area which is much more difficult to prove it is tempting to turn to another one in their in-tray where it is just as big, just as bad but maybe easier to investigate and get a result."

A recent study by the department found that only 2.3% of police forces are devoted to tackling fraud, with the number of fraud offences increasing 25% in one year according to a 2015 report by anti-fraud organisation Cifas.

Colwill said: "DAPP UK has no policy either to encourage or discourage employees to join the Teachers Group. It regards this as a private matter of personal choice for the individuals themselves."


Greeting the guru

By Becca Costello
July 19, 2007

Everyone wore white: the women on the escalator in loose-fitting pants and shawls, the men behind me in pressed shirts, and the volunteers holding signs requesting silence. Oblivious to the dress code for meeting a guru, I’d opted for a bright-orange blouse and jeans. I stood out like an escaped convict at a meeting of the Emily Dickinson Fan Club, but no matter. Her Holiness Sai Maa Lakshmi Devi, being a living embodiment of divine love, would forgive my fashion faux pas—if she even noticed me in the crowded Sacramento Convention Center auditorium.

I found a spot in back and was relieved to observe other newbies wearing colors. I craned my neck to see the stage, where white lights festooned a white backdrop behind a white chair covered with white pillows. Nothing was happening, so I had time to wonder why I’d come.

I knew nothing about Sai Maa (though I later learned she’s an Indian spiritual master who embraces all religions and hopes to inspire humanity to divine love in action). I’d simply seen her picture on a poster and was surprised by her happy expression. All the photos of gurus I’d ever seen, on book covers or in yoga studios, showed humorless men whose eyes seemed to challenge: “How’s that monkey mind of yours? When was the last time you fed a poor person or did a sun salutation, huh?” Sai Maa wore a bright dress and grinned broadly. She looked like someone I wanted to meet.

Unwilling to pony up $177 for an intensive workshop, I took a chance on the $20 Evening with Sai Maa. It began with the announcement that we would all receive diksha, a “transmission of divine energy to initiate the process of enlightenment.” Before I knew it, a white-clad woman whose name tag read “Ann” stood before me with her hands on my head. As I relaxed under her touch, I felt a startlingly palpable pressure, like someone kneading dough inside my skull. The sensation continued after Ann moved on and throughout a guided meditation in which we imagined light illuminating our brains, healing outmoded habit patterns.

We sat in silence. A habitually fidgety meditator, I marveled at my uncharacteristic calm. Then someone said, “You may turn and greet Sai Maa.”

She stood at the door, a small woman in a white robe and a large white sun hat trimmed in marabou, looking like a grandmother headed to church. She beheld us with love in her eyes, as if we were her children at a long-awaited family reunion.

The second I saw Sai Maa, I smiled and burst into a torrent of tears. I desperately wanted her to look at me, and this shocked me. How could I be so happy to see a stranger? Why was I crying? Was this enlightenment, or was this how cult leaders convince people to drink toxic Kool-Aid?

Sai Maa sat on the white chair and spoke for some time. She answered questions from the crowd, and she laughed a lot. None of the ideas she communicated—we are all one, it’s time to remember our divine nature—were new, but my uncontrollable crying left me especially receptive. It suddenly seemed possible to release my grudges and fears, and step into a lighter life. We chanted together and, lastly, Sai Maa sang: “How could anyone fail to notice that your loving is a miracle / how deeply you’re connected to my soul?”

Walking home, I felt energized and beautiful. And confused. What had moved me to ecstatic hysterics? I tossed fitfully throughout the night, debating whether to attend Sai Maa’s workshop the next day. I didn’t want to shy away from universal love, but wasn’t I a bit, well, American for a guru?

I fell asleep after dawn and woke to discover I’d missed the workshop. Equally relieved and disappointed, I wondered if I’d ever reach enlightenment, and if I even wanted to. Then I recalled the words one master teacher said the night before: “Once you meet Maa, it’s already too late.” Perhaps I’ll buy some white clothes


The president, her close friend and South Korean secrets

South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s approval rating has tumbled to a record low amid a high profile influence-peddling scandal implicating her long-time confidant Choi Soon-sil

October 27, 2016

Media reports said that South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s close confidant Choi Soon-sil (pictured), who has no official government position, had meddled in presidential duties by receiving drafts of her speeches and sometimes editing them. Photo: SCMP Picture
South Korean prosecutors on Thursday set up a high-powered “task-force” to probe a widening scandal involving alleged influence-peddling by a close confidante of President Park Geun-hye.

Choi Soon-sil, an enigmatic woman with no government position, was already part of an investigation into allegations that she used her relationship with the president to strong-arm conglomerates into multi-million dollar donations to two non-profit foundations.

The scandal snowballed when it emerged that Choi had also been given advance access to presidential speeches and other documents - a revelation that forced Park to make a televised public apology.

“I am sorry for having caused you concern, surprised you and hurt your hearts,” Park said.

Prosecutor General Kim Soo-nam told the new task force to “investigate thoroughly and reveal the whole truth”, a public affairs official said.

Led by the head of the powerful Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office, the new unit will absorb the smaller team investigating the earlier allegations against Choi.

South Korean media reports have suggested Choi revised Park’s speeches and may have influenced key government appointments and even the president’s North Korea policy.

The scandal has been extremely damaging for Park whose approval ratings have slumped to a record low of 17.5 per cent, according to a Realmeter poll, at a time of elevated military tensions with the North, and problems with skyrocketing household debt and falling exports at home.

South Korea's leader Park proposes reform that could open door to two-term presidencies

Choi left the country in early September for Germany and, in her first interview since the scandal broke, said she was suffering from serious stress-induced health problems.

In the interview with the Segye Times, owned by the Unification Church, she admitted receiving presidential documents but denied intervening in state affairs or coercing donations from conglomerates.

“I am suffering from a nervous breakdown and I have been diagnosed with heart issues,” she told the newspaper.

“I could take poison and die here”.

Choi is a daughter of the fifth wife of a mysterious religious figure, Choi Tae-min, who acted as a mentor for Park Geun-hye from the mid-1970s to his death in 1994.

Choi Tae-min, who had seven different names and was convicted of fraud, set up a cult-like group known as Yongsaeng-gyo (Eternal Life Church), and proclaimed himself a “Maitreya” or future buddha.

Park, who took office in February 2013, explained that Choi had also helped her during the presidential campaign by providing input for speeches and public relations.

Opposition lawmakers have suggested the president had fallen “under the spell” of Choi and his daughter.

Even the conservative Chosun Ilbo daily has come down on Park, with an editorial Wednesday suggesting she had “collapsed beyond recovery”.

“Angry voices demanding her impeachment are flooding the street ... This is not an ordinary lame-duck phenomenon. This represents a collapse of the president’s state administration,” the editorial said.

Park has just over a year left in office, with presidential elections slated for December, 2017.


Oct 26, 2016

Quebec coroner investigating death of another Jehovah's Witness after childbirth

Mirlande Cadet, 46, died of suspected hemorrhage day after giving birth by C-section

By Stephen Smith, CBC News 

Oct 26, 2016

A Quebec coroner is investigating the death of a 46-year-old Jehovah's Witness who died Oct. 3 from complications shortly after giving birth by caesarian section in a Montreal hospital.

A spokeswoman for the coroner's office, Geneviève Guilbault, confirmed that the bureau was launching an investigation into Cadet's death in an email to CBC Montreal.

"Based on information that's been circulating … and other information we received from the hospital, it's been decided that a coroner will investigate the death of Mrs. Cadet," Guilbault wrote.  

The inquest is the second coroner's investigation this month into the death of a Jehovah's Witness following childbirth in Quebec.

Unclear circumstances

Cadet experienced complications after she gave birth to a healthy son by C-section at St. Mary's Hospital on Oct. 2 and required a blood transfusion, according to her brother Isaac Cadet.

It is unclear if Cadet got a blood transfusion, or if she did, when she received it and what the circumstances were that led to its approval.

Blood transfusions are forbidden under Jehovah's Witness doctrine, which holds that the Old and New Testaments command them to abstain from blood.

All Jehovah's Witnesses are expected to sign and carry a card refusing a blood transfusion.

Isaac Cadet questions whether his sister would have signed a card and refused a blood transfusion. He described her as a loving mother to her two other children and a devoted aunt who loved to get family together. 

"I have a lot of doubt that my sister signed that document," Cadet told CBC News.

He welcomed news of the coroner's investigation, saying his family needs to know what happened to its "leader."

"It's a relief because we've tried to find out what happened, tried to access documents, and we weren't allowed. We were told they're confidential," he said.

Mirlande Cadet's husband declined to be interviewed when contacted by CBC Montreal.

Church elders at hospital 'intimidating'

A Quebec coroner is already investigating the death of Éloise Dupuis, 27, who is said to have refused an emergency blood transfusion for a hemorrhage after delivering a baby by C-section at Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis Hospital near Quebec City.

She died Oct. 12.

Coroner Luc Malouin is working to determine whether her refusal was free and informed as required by medical and legal standards.

After her death, Dupuis's aunt, Manon Boyer, filed a complaint with police in Lévis alleging her niece was pressured into refusing consent by a Jehovah's Witness hospital liaison committee.

The committees are composed of Jehovah's Witness elders who are dispatched to a hospital when a member is facing a blood transfusion decision.

According to the faith group, their role is to advocate for bloodless medical procedures and ensure their members' wishes are respected.

Their presence, however, has been criticized by a former Jehovah's Witness, who said it's "intimidating."



Jehovah's Witnesses, other sects flock to Hudson Valley town

Adrienne Sanders
October 26, 2016

SHAWANGUNK - This Ulster County town, with a ridge of quartz mountains rising 2,000 feet, is a mecca for rock climbers. In recent years, religious groups have also begun flocking to the mid-Hudson Valley municipality of 15,000 residents, putting down roots and scooping up tax breaks.

In 2015, the 29 Shawangunk properties with religious non-profit status were worth $148 million, up 85 percent since 1999.

“Our town is nearly 30 percent exempt,” said town Tax Assessor Curt Schoeberl. “In the last five or 10 years, the largest tax-exempt group’s growth is religious. These groups are growing faster than the taxable part of the tax rolls.”

“The only thing they don’t have on the property is an oil well," Schoeberl quipped.

Brimming with hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from the sale of its Brooklyn properties in recent years, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and their nonprofit arm, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, is amassing property all over the Hudson Valley. Watchtower owns about 1,500 acres in Shawangunk, where the group maintains a printing press for its religious literature, a working farm and refrigeration and ready-mix concrete plants.

In the Orange County town of Warwick, Jehovah’s Witnesses are building a new headquarters, reportedly set to be 1.6 million square feet.

In Putnam County, Watchtower owns nearly 750 acres — nearly all of it tax-exempt. Spread out on both sides of Route 22 in Patterson, the property is home to a massive education center, several apartment buildings, a farm, dining hall and several other buildings.

In Shawangunk, Schoeberl said Watchtower gives back to its host community “in an unbelievable fashion.

"They almost single-handedly built two town parks with their manpower and equipment," he said. "I don’t think they’ve ever said no" to a request for help.

Schoeberl said several Buddhist groups have also joined other nonprofit organizations in making their home in Shawangunk in recent years, buying large tracts of land for several temples.

“We are a stone’s throw from New York City, where most of them are headquartered,” Schoeberl said. “We have cheap land in the sense that we’re not Westchester County, for example. This is where they want to be.”

Schoeberl said the spread of tax exempt properties follows the birth of new spiritual communities.

“If you go back to when the county was founded — how many religious groups were there when the pilgrims came here? One or two? Now we have a church of holy grasshopper,” Schoeberl said.
Coupled with three other nonprofits that moved to town in recent years, Schoebel noted that two them — Occupations Inc. and New Horizons Resources — together occupy land worth $1 million.

"For a small community, even this million-dollar hit is felt by the taxpayers," he said.


Expert Wants Mormon Sect's Police Dissolved

Courthouse News Service
October 26, 2016

     PHOENIX (CN) — Disbanding a police department along the Arizona-Utah border may further alienate members of a fundamentalist Mormon sect there, but it looks like the best option, a former Phoenix police chief testified Tuesday.
     The Department of Justice wants to dismantle the Colorado City Marshal's Office, which polices the twin towns of Colorado City, Ariz. and Hildale, Utah. The towns and the marshal's office are dominated by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose leader and "prophet" Warren Jeffs is serving life in prison for sexually abusing two girls.
     The United States sued the towns in 2012 for discriminating against residents who do not belong to the sect by denying them police protection and other services. A jury awarded six residents $2.2 million in March after finding that the towns denied them police and water services and housing. Now the United States wants the towns' Marshal's Office dismantled.
     The Justice Department hired Jack Harris, who was Phoenix police chief for seven years, to present options that U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland can use to overhaul the Colorado City Marshal's Office.
     "Is there a problem with disbandment?" Judge Holland asked Harris on Tuesday, the second day of the evidentiary hearing.
     "Any option is going to have issues," Harris said, "issues within the community, because there is going to be change."
     Harris said he considered replacing the entire staff of the Marshal's Office, or placing a monitor or receiver to oversee it, but disbanding the office is the best way to stop the discrimination.
     "All options have some possibility of success," Harris said, but issues with the hiring process and chain of command make disbandment the best option.
     "The police chief is currently reporting to his brother, who is the city manager," Harris said. Colorado City Manager David Darger is the brother of Jerry Darger, the chief marshal.
     "This situation is very unique because of the allegations of biased reporting based on religion," Harris testified. "The resolution is getting good policing."
     Sheriff's departments in Mohave and Washington counties could respond to calls in the two cities if the Marshal's Office is disbanded, Harris said. He said similar police services are used in the Phoenix area.
     "Many people here don't know if they are getting Maricopa County Sheriff's or Phoenix P.D.," Harris said.
     Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher testified Monday that he supported dismantling the Marshal's Office, and that his department could take over policing. An attorney for the Mohave County Sheriff's Office echoed Pulsipher's statements during the Monday hearing.
     Some members of the FLDS church may never trust the sheriff's offices, but outreach could build their relationships, Harris said. "Both sides have assured me they have unbiased policing now," he added.
     Pulsipher said his deputies are regarded as outsiders by members of the FLDS, but that relationships with church members improved after a flash flood in September 2015 that killed 16 people.
     City Manager David Darger testified during the jury trial in February that he was a victim of religious discrimination by the Justice Department.
     "They want to take me and smear me and try to make me look bad for their ulterior motive," Darger said. "The federal government wants to come in and usurp and trample on state rights."
     The church gained notoriety in the 2000s after Warren Jeffs was placed on the FBI Most Wanted list for sexual abuse charges in Arizona and Utah. He is serving life in prison plus 20 years for sexually abusing two girls he called his "spiritual wives."
     Attorneys for the two cities on Wednesday were to lay out their arguments against dismantling the Marshal's Office. The hearing is expected to last through Thursday.


Agape Ministries's worth grows to more than $9 million while tax debt balloons to $11 million, court told

Exclusive - Chief Court Reporter Sean Fewster, The Advertiser

October 26, 2016


THE Agape doomsday cult’s pool of hidden assets has increased by $2.5 million to more than $9 million while its debt to the taxman is now a staggering $11 million, it can be revealed.

On Wednesday, a Supreme Court judge vowed to end the six-year saga, saying he was “already frustrated” after presiding over it for just 45 minutes.

The cult’s fugitive leader, Rocco Leo, his angry former followers and the Australian Taxation Office are each vying for control of the remains of the fallen financial empire.

Justice Martin Hinton gave the warring sides two weeks to prepare their best arguments, saying he wanted to resolve the complicated case by early 2017.

“I’ve only been hearing this matter for 45 minutes and I’m already frustrated, so I can’t imagine how other people are feeling,” he said.

“In 14 days, I expect to hear from all of you ... then I will decide whether we should just get on with it.

“Your chances of getting a judgment by Christmas, though, are remote at best.”

Agape’s assets were frozen in 2010 after a police raid uncovered its hidden caches of weaponry, and Leo and his inner circle fled overseas.

Lawsuits were believed to have dismantled the cult until last month, whenThe Advertiser revealed one offshoot, Universal Holdings Australia, still had $6.7 million in its bank accounts.

The ATO wants the money — to clear the cult’s tax debt — as do former parishioners seeking $2.5 million compensation over Leo’s claims of impending apocalypse.

Leo, however, insists the money was being held “in trust” for the parishioners, making it exempt from the ATO.

On Wednesday, Gillian Walker, for the ATO, said it had learned the cult still had properties worth up to $2.5 million in its control — meaning her clients were owed even more.

“The liability has increased significantly ... Leo (personally) owes $8.5 million of the $11 million my client is claiming,” she said.

Steven Mitchell, for Leo, said the ATO was “putting a gloss” on the case and said it was “extremely optimistic” to think the case would be resolved quickly.

He said that, because the ATO had failed to identity “the actual owners” of the $6.7 million, at least a portion of it should be released to Leo.

That money, he said, would be used to fund Leo’s battles against his tax debt in both the Supreme Court and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

“There has been, from the outset, a dispute as to who owns this money ... the ATO has failed to identify them, so the freezing order should be discharged,” he said.

Justice Hinton ordered the parties to file their arguments ahead of a one-day hearing in November.


In May 2010, a police raid of Agape’s properties seized an arsenal of weapons, ammunition and explosives.

Former members alleged they were duped into handing over millions byclaims of human microchipping, mass-murder and government-run concentration camps.

They said they were promised sanctuary on “The Island”, a South Pacific location at which Leo would also heal the sick and profoundly disabled.

After the raid, Leo moved to Fiji and has remained there in defiance of an arrest warrant — meanwhile, all of his and the cult’s assets were frozen by court order.

In August 2010, The Advertiser revealed Agape’s financial empire spanned two states, eight properties and a fleet of 13 vehicles, with funds in 10 separate bank accounts.

In June 2012, the District Court awarded a disabled former parishioner $420,000 compensation and, two months later, awarded the ATO $3 million in money owed, plus costs.

In September 2014, BRI Ferrier was appointed to liquidate Agape’s assets to pay its debts.

In March 2015, seven former parishioners — some of whom publicly swore loyalty to Leo — sued him, seeking a refund of the $2.5 million they poured into his coffers.

In September 2016, The Advertiser revealed one of the cult’s offshoots still had $6.7 million in its bank account — sparking a three-way war for the cash.




Oct 25, 2016

Special team may probe ‘diversion’ of funds from Osho foundation

Kanchan Chaudhari
Hindustan Times
October 26, 2016

A special team is likely to be formed to probe the allegation pertaining siphoning of funds from Osho Foundation to private accounts of a few individuals abroad.

Conceding that a lot needs to be done by the police to probe the alleged fraud, public prosecutor Sandip Shinde on Tuesday informed the Bombay high court that a single police officer will not be able to handle the entire probe and a special team is needed to investigate the case from all aspects.

He informed the division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice PD Naik that the police will require to scrutinise records available with the Charity Commissioner’s office relating to the trust, investigate the source of funds and the alleged diversion of funds. He said though pursuant to directions of the court a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) is supervising investigation, it will be difficult for a single officer to investigate all aspects of the matter and assistance of persons conversant with financial aspects will also be required.

Shinde was responding to a petition filed by Yogesh Thakkar, a Pune resident and follower of Osho, alleging that though the Koregaon Park police station registered an offence three years ago on the basis of his complaint regarding forgery of the spiritual guru’s signature on his purported will and diversion of funds of Osho Foundation, no steps have been taken by the police to probe these allegations.

According to Thakkar’s counsel, advocate Pradip Havnur, though the FIR was registered on December 8, 2013, the police did not bother to obtain the handwriting report from the experts to ascertain the veracity of Osho’s will, which surfaced in a Spanish Court 23 years after the spiritual guru’s death.

Responding to the allegations, the public prosecutor on Tuesday informed the court that according to one of the accused, the original will has been destroyed, and what was presented to the handwriting expert was a photocopy of the certified copy of the will, and the expert has expressed his inability to give any opinion as regards Osho’s signature on the will.

The judges reacted to the revelation stating that obtaining report of a handwriting expert was not the only mode of investigation available to the police. They said police could at least interrogate the accused to find out if the will was actually made and if it was really made, when was it made, when and how it was destroyed.

“Put an end to these allegations and counter-allegations (by the accused persons, who have sought to intervene in the matter), at least come out with a prima facie conclusion, one way or the other,” said the judges. They added that forgery (of signature on the purported will of Osho) was just one aspect of the matter, besides there is trust property, diversion of trust funds and all these aspects are required to be properly investigated.

The bench has now posted Thakkar’s petition for further hearing after six weeks with a direction to the investigating officer to submit a report of progress in investigation.


Pastor pleads guilty to manslaughter, assault after church's 'counseling session' turned fatal

Washington Post

  October 24, 2016

In the eyes of the Word of Life Christian Church, 19-year-old Lucas Leonard and his 17-year-old brother Christopher had sinned. One of Lucas’s sins was his desire to leave the church entirely, to seek a new path.

Tiffanie Irwin, the church’s pastor, along with other worshipers there, wouldn’t accept any sort of new path and decided the teens needed to repent.

So on Oct. 11, 2015, the pastor gathered with her brother Joseph Irwin, mother-son pair Linda and David Morey and several other believers at their church in New Hartford, N.Y., and decided to hold a “counseling session.” Among them were the teens’ parents, Bruce and Deborah Leonard.

After an eight-hour Sunday service, they asked the Leonard brothers to stay behind for a few moments.

It would end up being 14 hours.

During that time, the Associated Press reported, the congregation told the brothers they had to repent for sins of all stripes — such as using a voodoo doll or allegedly molesting their half-sister’s children, a claim police say is unsubstantiated and unsupported by any evidence — according to Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara.

To force this repentance, the worshipers beat the teens for most of the 14 hours, taking a folded four-foot electrical cord to their torsos and genitals while telling them to “confess to prior sins and ask for forgiveness.”

As Sunday slipped into Monday, the parishioners continued to punch, kick and beat the teens until, at one point, the older brother stopped breathing.

“I looked over and saw Luke on the ground,” Christopher later told the court, according to the Observer-Dispatch. “I rushed over and saw he wasn’t breathing. I was trying to give him CPR. Someone went up to find [the pastor] — she was pressing on his chest while I tried to fill up his lungs.”

As The Washington Post’s Lindsey Bever reported, Lucas was rushed to St. Luke’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead from blunt-force trauma.

After investigators finally discovered he had been beaten at the church, they made a “tactical entry” into the building and found Christopher bleeding on the ground.

On Friday, a little more than a year after the assaults, Tiffanie Irwin pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault. In addition, Linda and David Morey and Joseph Irwin pleaded guilty to assault, according to the AP.

The teens’ parents had previously pleaded guilty to assault.The church’s matriarch, Traci Irwin, and her son Daniel previously pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment.

Sarah Ferguson, the teens’ half-sister, was the only of the nine involved to decline a plea deal. She was found guilty after a non-jury trial in July, and she was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The church, housed in an old, three-story, brick schoolhouse, was far from typical.

In fact, some people who lived near the church referred to it as a “cult” when speaking with the Syracuse Post-Standard. One neighbor, who often heard chants slipping from the building, claimed to see the church’s congregation only at night, sometimes as late as 3 a.m.

She also claimed the men affiliated with the church routinely wore long, black trench coats.

Lisa Brown, who grew up across from the church, told the Observer-Dispatch that the parishioners used to reach out and invite everyone to attend services, but at some point, those invitations ceased.

Now, neighbors said, the gate that guards the church is always closed.

“When they first took over the building, they would post Mass schedules so people knew when there were services,” Brown said. “Now, it’s not like just anyone could go to church there. … It’s kind of been the running joke that there’s a cult there.”

Julie Howard, another neighbor who called the church a “cult,” suspected its members of breeding dogs.

“There’s always been weird things going on,” Howard told WKTV. “You always hear dogs, they’re breeding dogs. The cops have been called there before, they’re not allowed in the building, they can’t get in the building. The cult thing over here has been going on for a while, I guess around 30 years. It’s their own religion.”

A reporter from the Syracuse Post-Standard entered the church days after Lucas died. There, he found the place in a state of disarray. One room contained Styrofoam cups of cold coffee and a half-eaten pork sandwich. In another room was a framed, stitched textile that read, in part, “We have been commissioned through the written word of God to reach out to those who have not experienced the love of Jesus Christ in their lives. … Through the systematic training up of saints, our goal is for them to reach out confidently, sharing the love and compassion of Jesus Christ.”

A sign still hung on the front door, reading “Welcome to Word of Life.”

It is unclear whether the house of worship is still operating, although after the arrests, policetold the Post-Standard that several children from the church had been placed in protective custody.

Sentencing hearings for the eight people who have pleaded guilty are scheduled for December and January.




In a First, a Brooklyn Yeshiva Agrees to $2.1 Million Child Sex Abuse Settlement


Larry Cohler-Esses

October 24, 2016

An Orthodox Brooklyn yeshiva has agreed to pay two of its former students $2.1 million for alleged sexual molestation they suffered at age six from a senior rabbi on the school’s faculty—the first known case of such a settlement by a Jewish day school.

Yeshiva Torah Temimah, a prominent school on Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway with more than 600 students, originally made the court settlements secretly with the plaintiffs. But the settlments were disclosed Sunday by the New York Post, which reported that attorneys for the two students had filed papers complaining that the yeshiva had failed to make the payments.

“This is unheard of,” Rabbi Yosef Blau, a spiritual adviser at Yeshiva University in Manhattan, told the Post. “I am not aware of any other settlements,” said Blau, who is a longtime advocate for victims of child sexual abuse.

In fact, most such suits are peremptorily dismissed—or never filed—because New York State law bars alleged victims from filing a civil complaint after they turn 23; one of the strictest statutes of limitation for child sex abuse allegations in the country.

Researchers report that most child sex abuse victims do not come to understand and develop a capacity to act against what was done to them until well into adulthood, sometimes decades later, long after this deadline has passed. Along with the Catholic church, many ultra-Orthodox institutions, including the umbrella group Agudath Israel of America, have fought off legislative efforts to extend this deadline for future victims. The religious groups object in particular to a provision that would give past victims who have missed the statute of limitations a one-year window to file suit.

The settlements in question involved two rare cases in which the children told their families about what happened while they were still young, and the families believed them, and pursued action against the school despite strong pressure from within the Orthodox community against airing such charges publicly.

In their lawsuits, filed in 2006, both of the students complained that Rabbi Yehuda Kolko had repeatedly molested them and that the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Lipa Margulies, had received reports about his conduct with them and with earlier students for decades, yet failed to take action. Kolko, who is also known by the first name “Joel,” allegedly had boys sit on his lap and fondled their genitals.

For 25 years, the yeshiva received “multiple credible allegations of pedophilia” against Kolko,” the suits charged. According to the complaint, it covered them up and even threatened families who dared to complain.

At the time the complaints were filed, Kolko also faced a criminal felony indictment for allegedly touching the two first-graders in their sexual areas and forcing an adult former student to touch him during a visit to the school.

But in a move that sparked public controversy at the time, Charles Hynes, who was Brooklyn’s district attorney, reached a plea agreement with Kolko reducing the charges to child endangerment, a misdemeanor. Kolko’s guilty plea to the reduced charge spared him from serving jail time and from having to register with the state as a sex offender.

Critics, pointing to several other cases, charged that the settlement reflected a pattern of reluctance by the D.A. to aggressively pursue sex abuse within Brooklyn’s politically powerful ultra-Orthodox community. Hynes, who was later defeated for re-election and has since died, heatedly denied the charge.

Under the pressure of the original criminal indictment, Yeshiva Torah Temimah announced in May 2006 that it had put Kolko on “administrative leave.” But an April 2008 article in the New York Jewish Week later revealed that the school had continued to pay Kolko for many months afterward, in amounts of up to $6,000 per month, as the criminal and civil cases proceeded.

Attorney Michael Dowd, who represented the plaintiffs, voiced concern at the time that the payments could influence Kolko to remain silent about any knowledge or neglect by the school regarding Kolko’s alleged conduct.

“These child abusers could literally sink the institutions with the[ir] knowledge,” he said, explaining what he saw as Torah Temimah’s motivation for the payments.

Blau saw the settlements as a much belated positive development. “If word gets out, other schools will think twice if they hear about abuse,” he said.

Phone messages left by the Forward for Yeshiva Torah Temimah and for Kolko seeking comment were not immediately returned.



Jack Chick, fundamentalist Christian cartoonist, dies at 92

Los Angeles Times

Associated Press

October 24, 2016

Jack T. Chick, whose cartoon tracts preached fundamentalist Christianity while vilifying secular society, evolution, homosexuality and the beliefs of Catholics and Muslims, has died. He was 92.

Chick died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday evening, according to a Facebook posting Monday by Chick Publications, based in Rancho Cucamonga. It did not provide other details, and a call for comment left after hours was not immediately returned.

The posting promised that the company would continue Chick's method, vision and purpose.

Chick's pulpy, lurid cartoons combined traditional evangelism with frankly conspiracy-minded attacks. He and later other illustrators produced several hundred tracts over the decades. Latching onto the issues of the day, the tracts took aim at abortion, occultism, ecumenism and other perceived evils.

They portrayed everything from rock music to Dungeons & Dragons and Harry Potter as literal traps of the Devil.

One tract, “The Walking Dead,” tapped into the hit zombie TV show but argued: “We're all like zombies. The spirits inside our souls are dead.”

As with underground comics of the 1960s and 1970s, Chick's work opposed “the system.” But instead of the military-industrial complex or “The Man,” it was a secular society viewed as debased, demon-inspired and virulently anti-Christian.

One anti-evolution booklet, “Big Daddy?” has a college student exclaiming: “Then we didn't evolve! The system has been feeding us The Big Lie! We really do have a soul!”

Chick managed to offend Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims and Freemasons, who found their beliefs discounted, ridiculed or condemned as false — or worse.

“Learn how the papacy helped start Islam, only to have this new daughter rebel against her. You'll understand the Arab's place in Bible prophecy. Muslims have been saved by reading this book,” says the blurb for one pamphlet on the Chick Publications order website.

The tracts were criticized for using debunked or one-sided arguments and stereotypical portrayals of blacks, homosexuals, Arabs and others. But they also attracted collectors and fans who cherished them as quirky works of art.

Chick was born in Los Angeles on April 13, 1924. A biography on the company website says he was converted to Christianity by listening to a radio revival program on his honeymoon.

Unable to find a publisher, Chick published his first cartoon revival book in 1961 using $800 he borrowed from a credit union. He founded Chick Publications in 1970.

The tracts were intended to be handed out in bulk and were available cheaply. Chick's company claimed it had sold about 750 million of them, translated into more than 100 languages.

“His burden has always been to get the Gospel into the hands of millions of lost people around the world,” according to the website.



Sheriffs Want Mormon Sect's Police Dismantled

Courthouse News Service
October 25, 2016

PHOENIX (CN) — The marshal's office dominated by a fundamentalist Mormon sect in twin towns on the Arizona-Utah border routinely hides children involved in custody disputes from outside law enforcement, a sheriff testified Monday as the federal government tries to shut down the agency.
     "When they know that we are coming, those children are moved, making it harder to find them," Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher told a federal judge.
     Pulsipher testified that his agency quit notifying the Colorado City Marshal's Office of child custody disputes involving his office. The Marshal's Office oversees Hildale, Utah, in Washington County, and Colorado City, Ariz.
     The Department of Justice sued the two cities in 2012 for discriminating against residents who do not belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The sect is run by its "prophet," Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually abusing two underage girls he called his "spiritual wives."
     A jury granted six residents $2.2 million in damages in March, finding the cities denied them housing, police protection and water hookup. Now the Justice Department is asking the court to disband the Colorado City Marshal's Office.
     Sheriff Pulsipher testified that he supports effort, based on his agency's "experience, working relationship and what we see." He said his department could take over policing in Hildale if the Marshal's Office is disbanded.
     James Schoppman, special counsel for the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, also wants the Marshal's Office dismantled. He testified to a "history of abuse" by the Marshal's Office, and said appointing a receiver or a monitor would not be sufficient.
     "This is nothing new, this is something that the Sheriff's Office and law enforcement have been dealing with for years," Schoppman testified. "If it's just a receiver or a monitor, we'll be here next week."
     Schoppman said the Mohave County Sheriff's Office would be willing to take over policing if the Marshal's Office is disbanded. Colorado City is in Mohave County.
     U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland asked Schoppman who would pay for police services. Schoppman said it would be Colorado City.
     "What if they refuse?" Holland asked.
     "The court can ensure that they are paying for that," Schoppman said. "Probably nobody else would think this would happen, but in no other place would this happen than in Colorado City."
     Schoppman said the sheriff's and marshal's offices had a "strained" relationship.
     Blake Hamilton, an attorney for Hildale, seized on that phrase, asking Schoppman if the relationship was strained because Mohave County Sheriff Jim McCabe has a "religious bias" against the FLDS church.
     In 2014, McCabe told the Today's News-Herald of Lake Havasu City, "If you haven't already heard, we put Colorado City up for sale on Craigslist last night. They've been a thorn in our side for years."
     Schoppman called that comment "tongue-in-cheek."
     The court also heard testimony that all deputies in the Marshal's Office are under investigation for possible decertification by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.
     Travis Meadows, a detective with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, testified that he began investigating the Marshal's Office in November 2015, after receiving complaints that the marshal was not investigating property damage claims by the United Effort Plan Trust. The trust owns most of the property in the two cities.
     "The Marshal's Office acted in a biased way," Meadows said.
     Meadows reviewed more than 150 police reports completed by the Marshal's Office, a number of which were not timely completed.
     "There are a few reports here that were over 450 days [old]," Meadows told the court.
     The hearing is expected to continue through Thursday.


Trial begins for three people facing child removal charges

·        by  Trevor Crawley - Cranbrook Daily Townsman

·        Oct 24, 2016 

·         A trial for three people associated with the polygamous community of Bountiful facing alleged child-related charges began on Monday in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

Brandon Blackmore, Emily Blackmore and James Oler are all facing one count of removal of a child from Canada, with each charge being approved by a special prosecutor in August 2014.

In front of Justice Paul Pearlman, the trial began with a voire dire — a process where prosecution and defence lawyers argue the admissibility of evidence and is expected to run for a weeks.

Evidence presented during the voire dire cannot be reported, however, once the process concludes, the trial will begin in earnest, and is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 14, 2016, in Cranbrook.

Peter Wilson, a special prosecutor appointed by the provincial government four years ago, approved the charges after receiving two reports from the RCMP in July 2013 and January 2014.

The reports included evidence gathered from earlier charge assessments from previous special prosecutors, along with new information collected by law enforcement in the United States investigating members of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints communities in Arizona, Texas and Utah.

According to a government release, the unlawful removal of a child from Canada  charges were approved following new information gathered curing the investigations in the U.S., with RCMP receiving a large volume of documentary information seized by American authorities.

Additional charges were considered, namely, alleged offences of sexual exploitation, however, those charges were not approved after Wilson  determined that the standard was not met.