Dec 25, 2006

A Guru And A Vacant Hotel With 1 Building Empty, Concern Over Another 

Hartford Courant
December 25, 2006
Kenneth R. Gosselin

At its opening, the hotel on Constitution Plaza in downtown Hartford was described as almost too luxurious for the city.

Today, its owner is marketing the vacant, decaying structure as worth $10 million - but there are no takers. Hartford's mayor says the building should be torn down.

The 12-story hotel, empty for a dozen years, has been a troubling obstacle for those who see the building as part of a crucial gateway to the city. The sale price set by the Maharishi School of Vedic Sciences Inc., its owner since 1995, has been too high to make any redevelopment, hotel or otherwise, financially possible, observers say.

And now, as WFSB, Channel 3, next door on the plaza prepares to sell its studios - known as Broadcast House - and move to the suburbs, there is the concern that yet another building in the same high-visibility location could go dark.

The two buildings - or at least the land they occupy - are seen as vital to enhancing riverfront development around Columbus Boulevard. With both buildings vacant, visitors entering the city would be greeted with an even more desolate streetscape at the end of the Founders Bridge.

Mayor Eddie A. Perez said he probably will propose a redevelopment zone encompassing the two buildings. Rezoning the property would allow the city to work with whoever buys the WFSB building - and it would give the city the option of acquiring the hotel by eminent domain, a highly controversial practice.

In the hotel's place, Perez envisions a 15-story residential tower, either apartments or condominiums. He's not bothered by slow condo sales and apartment rentals at new downtown residential developments. He said that momentum will build, and that any construction on Constitution Plaza would be a few years away anyway.

Demolition of the 42-year-old hotel figures prominently in those plans and development could include the Broadcast House property - just yards away.

Although Perez would prefer that private developers take the lead, he said the city may have no choice but to take over the hotel site. The city would then seek development proposals.

"There is the real unpredictability of the owner's desire to sell," Perez said. "You're not dealing with a traditional real estate investor."

`Impossible To Deal With'

The hotel - most recently a Clarion - was bought for $1.5 million by the school for transcendental meditation, founded by the guru to the Beatles. Now on the market for $10 million, according to a listing on the Internet, the price breaks down to about $50 a square foot for the 200,000-square-foot structure.

Similar vacant buildings in the central business district might sell for about $20 a square foot, according to local architects and commercial real estate brokers.

Based on that average, the old hotel should be priced closer to $4 million.

Doors along the plaza level of the building are chained shut. Some graffiti - "SANTA IS REAL," for instance - was evident last week, but the structure appears to be intact. The ravages of time can be seen through the windows: Wallboard is crumbling and radiator covers are falling off.

And now, when the plaza is host to the Festival of Lights, the hotel is a dark, hulking presence.

Developers have made several attempts to acquire the hotel, which opened in 1964 as the Hotel America, and was later a Sonesta, then a Summit. Deals collapsed over the asking price for the property, which has bounced between $5 and $17 million, according to city officials.

"The Maharishi is impossible to deal with," said David Ong, president of Acquest Realty Advisors Inc., of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., which wanted to resurrect the building as a hotel in 2000. "We were never able to make a deal that made economic sense."

"At the end of the day," Ong said, "they are land speculators."

A representative of the Maharishi did not return several calls seeking comment.

The Maharishi may be holding out for rising commercial real estate values in downtown Hartford, but the building is increasingly standing out as a gaping hole in an area that has been abuzz with redevelopment.

The air is filled with the sound of construction nearby. Cranes strain under the weight of steel structural beams at the science center site across Columbus Boulevard. And, to the west, workers swing hammers as student housing and apartments rise at the old Sage-Allen department store site.

Ong, who studied the hotel extensively, said the structure would require a gutting if it were to remain a hotel, particularly because the rooms are much smaller than those today.

The renovation of older buildings, particularly vacant ones, are more expensive than simply erecting a new structure. That's why getting the lowest sales price is key to making the projects work financially.

Architect Anthony Amenta, of Amenta/Emma in Hartford, said sellers "practically [would] have to give the building away" for a project to be viable.

The city saw that earlier this year, when two real estate partners paid $7 million for the historic Connecticut Mutual headquarters in Asylum Hill in Hartford, well below the original $13 million asking price. That 11.2-acre facility features 450,000 square feet of office space and a 662-space parking garage. The developers plan to spend up to $30 million on that property.

Some say the hotel site on Constitution Plaza has potential for use as a hotel or perhaps as a hotel combined with condominiums. The latter arrangement is gaining high-profile popularity in larger cities such as New York, where the famed Plaza Hotel is undergoing such a makeover.

Two Key Parcels

Perez said he believes a fresh start at the hotel site, however, would benefit the riverfront area, and views from residential units to the river would be "spectacular."

Demolition would cost about $2 million and would include removing asbestos believed to be in the building, Amenta said. Without the building, the land - less than an acre - could be worth between $1.5 and $2 million, according to Cushman & Wakefield of Connecticut, the commercial real estate firm.

The city also views Broadcast House as just as key as the hotel, particularly since it is at the corner of Columbus Boulevard and State Street. The city had sought to acquire the property when it was negotiating to keep the television station in downtown Hartford.

The city would have gained control of Broadcast House, essentially swapping it for a city-owned parcel near Main and Trumbull, where WFSB had considered building a new facility.

WFSB, a CBS affiliate, decided to build a new facility in Rocky Hill, which is expected to be ready in late spring or early fall.

The station now has a contract with a prospective buyer, and expects to know in early January if the sale will go through. If that doesn't happen, the station's general manager said WFSB would consider restarting talks with the city.

"We would absolutely consider it, with them or anyone else," station general manager Klarn DePalma said.

The city would be very receptive to those discussions, said John Palmieri, the city's director of development services.

The success of redevelopment efforts involving Broadcast House and the hotel are critical not only to the riverfront but to Constitution Plaza itself, which is starting to put behind it a legacy of failed 1960s urban renewal, observers say.

The two prominent office towers on the plaza have been renovated by owner Capital Properties of New York. One tower - One Constitution Plaza - is now 90 percent leased, and the other - 100 Constitution Plaza - is 65 percent leased, with a major tenant, the insurer XL America, according to Cushman & Wakefield broker Jonathan K. Putnam, the leasing agent.

A restaurant - Spris - has been open for six years.

If hurdles over the sale of the hotel could be cleared, Ong said, he would still be interested in the site.

"I'd be back in a heartbeat," he said. "It's a marvelous location."

Nov 19, 2006

A Prophet in Purgatory Will throwing the book at polygamist Warren Jeffs bust up his sect or be a boon to it?

Don Lattin
San Francisco Chronicle
November 19, 2006, Page CM-6

Nevada Highway Patrolman Eddie Dutchover wasn't expecting much when he stopped the maroon 2007 Cadillac Escalade heading north out of Las Vegas. All the officer wanted to know was why the car had paper tags rather than license plates. But there was something strange about the tall, thin man in the back seat. The guy seemed nervous, so jittery you could see the main artery in his neck furiously pumping blood up into his face. Plus, he was obsessively eating a salad, refusing to make eye contact with the patrolman.

It was a hunch, but the cop was on the money. He had just pulled over Warren Jeffs, the spiritual leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted fugitives, and a man with a $100,000 bounty on his head.

If there is a pope of Mormon polygamy, a powerful prophet who controls the lives of thousands of Americans who still believe in the sanctity of plural marriage, that man is Warren Steed Jeffs. His 10,000-member fundamentalist Mormon sect is the largest of several splinter groups that refuse to accept the mainstream Mormon church's decision more than a century ago to suspend the practice of polygamy.

Today, the vast majority of the world's 12 million Mormons raise their children in monogamous marriage. But for those who live in a string of polygamist communities along the border of southern Utah and northern Arizona, God never changed his mind about the spiritual power that comes from having more than one wife.

Those who know Jeffs say he continues to run his sect from a jail cell in Hurricane, Utah. They also warn that his arrest on Aug. 28, and his forthcoming trial for arranging marriages with underage girls, may strengthen his control over a flock that already believes the government is out to get them -- and their way of life.

Traveling with the polygamist Mormon leader on the night of his arrest was one of Jeffs' brothers, one of Jeffs' wives and a mother lode of suspicious loot. Among items found in the car were clothes, pots and pans, eating utensils, a police radar detector, laptop computers, wigs, walkie-talkies, 15 cell phones and $67,000 cash.

There was also a ledger with a list of families offering money and shelter. Among the papers was a letter from Jeffs to his flock. "So I have to be in hiding in my travels," he wrote. "And when I come to a land of refuge, you must not reveal where I am in your phone calls and your letters.''

Jeffs was born in San Francisco on Dec. 3, 1955. At the time, his mother was hiding out in the Bay Area following a 1953 government raid and roundup of Mormons living in Short Creek, a polygamous settlement at the foot of the vermilion cliffs on the Utah/Arizona state line. Mormon leaders had scattered all over the West -- some took refuge in Canada and Mexico. San Francisco -- just a long day's drive from Salt Lake City -- was a great place to get lost in the crowd but still be close to home.

Today, more than 50 years after the Short Creek raid, the state and federal governments have resurrected its campaign against the diehard polygamists living in the twin towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah -- or at least against those polygamists who have sex with girls under 18.

Jeffs' arrest came four months after the sect leader was put on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list -- placing him in the select company of an even more notorious polygamist, Osama bin Laden. Jeffs was wanted in Utah and Arizona on charges of sexual conduct with a minor, conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor, rape as an accomplice and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Jeffs is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for a key pretrial hearing on the Utah charges of arranging marriages with underage girls.

Utah and Arizona have different laws and penalties regarding sexual contact with minors, cohabitation and polygamy. Bigamy (attempting to legally marry more than one person) is against the law in both states, but Utah has stronger laws against polygamy. Today, in the United States at least, polygamy often involves a legal, civil marriage to one spouse, followed by quiet cohabitation with additional women -- or girls.

Gary Engels, a special investigator with the Mohave County Attorney's office, has charged nine men in the sect -- including Jeffs -- with offenses in Arizona involving sexual contact with girls younger than 18. "We are not going after them for polygamy," he said. "We are going after them for underage sex."

Engels works out of the "Mohave County Multi-Use Facility," a temporary building erected in Colorado City for investigators with the county sheriff, child protective services and the witness protection program. On the Saturday afternoon following the prophet's arrest, Engels sat behind his desk. Pinned on a bulletin board behind him was the "FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive" poster emblazoned with three photos of Jeffs.

"Tremendous pressure is put on these victims by their family members and friends," Engels said. "These girls are intimidated and indoctrinated. They don't know better. You're taught all your life that what you are put on earth for is to raise children. You do what the prophet tells you to do."

Since his capture, Jeffs has been held under tight security inside the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Washington County, Utah. That's right, the prophet is in Purgatory, and according to his critics, that's where he belongs.

"Warren Jeffs is not a normal human being," said Salt Lake City dentist Dan Fischer, a former polygamist who grew up in the sect and took three wives. "He comes across as sanctimonious, but inside, compassion and feeling are just not in there."

Jeffs, the former head of the sect's Alta Academy in Salt Lake City, solidified his control over the Fundamentalist Church -- along with Hildale and Colorado City -- when his father, the former prophet Rulon Jeffs, died in September 2002.

Hidden away in this spectacular desert landscape between Zion National Park and the northern rim of the Grand Canyon, this community of 6,500 souls doesn't look like much from Highway 59. There's the usual gas station, mini-mart and other roadside attractions found in towns across the Southwest.

Closer inspection, however, reveals one of the most unusual communities in the United States. The first clues are all the sprawling single-family homes -- once-normal abodes that have morphed into mini-mansions as more wives and children were brought into the fold.

The commercial district of Hildale/Colorado City can't be seen from the highway, but again, it doesn't look all that different at first. There's the Food Town Market, a florist, a Radio Shack, another gas station, a health food store and a couple of restaurants.

What make this place unique are the people -- and the clothes they wear. All the women and girls are decked out in pioneer-era dresses that reach down to their ankles and out to their wrists. All the men and boys wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants -- even in the stifling summer heat.

Random residents declined interview requests. A man standing guard at Warren Jeffs' block-long Hildale compound, which is surrounded by an 8-foot-high brick wall, refused to take a reporter's card or announce his presence to anyone inside. Jeffs has never given media interviews, and he continues that policy in Purgatory.

Defending the Practice

Most of the property in these two towns belongs to the Fundamentalist Church, through its communal United Effort Plan Trust. The trust, set up in 1942 by seven church leaders, including Rulon Jeffs, allows faithful followers to build homes on church property, but the legal arrangement has given sect leaders great power over dissident members.

Dissident Ross Chatwin's battle with Warren Jeffs began in 2004 when Chatwin announced that he would fight the prophet's efforts to evict him from his home and force him to leave his family. Chatwin said Jeffs told him his sins were threefold. One, he was full of pride. Two, there was too much junk in his yard. Three, there were complaints about his business dealings with other community members. Chatwin says he cleaned up his yard, tried to be more humble and sought a further explanation of his alleged business transgressions. He was the local car dealer in Colorado City.

Jeffs was not satisfied. He publicly denounced Chatwin as a "master deceiver" and ordered church members to stay away from him.

"Basically, I just fell out of the prophet's good graces. I posed a threat to him," Chatwin said. "I had told someone else that I thought we were putting too much faith and power in the prophet, and that got back to him."

Chatwin, 37, sat in the house of his father, Marvin Wyler, in Colorado City. It's Sunday evening and friends and family have gathered for dinner. After the meal, they move into the family room of this large, kid-friendly home just yards from the Utah state line. Covering the wall behind them are framed, individual photographs of each of Wyler's 34 children.

Much of the conversation is a defense of polygamy -- and the women in the home are its strongest defenders.

"Everyone thinks plural marriage is a sexual thing. But it's a harder trial for the man than for the woman," says Laura Johnson, a friend of the family. "What about a guy who has three or four wives and they all have PMS? I'm serious! Imagine it. If these men were just in it for sex, they'd do what the average American male does. They'd go out and get a barfly."

Charlotte Chatwin, 55, the biological mother of 16 of the family's children, and of Ross Chatwin, agrees. She was just a teenager when she married Marvin Wyler in 1966.

Ross Chatwin, the oldest of the 34 children in the Chatwin/Wyler family, only has one wife and six children, but he hopes to find one or two more women to marry.

"Polygamy isn't the problem here," Chatwin insists. "Warren uses polygamy, but this is really about power and control."

In 1994, the same year Jeffs tried to kick Chatwin out of town, the Colorado City prophet excommunicated 21 other men from the church, ordering them to leave the town and their families in order to "repent from afar." Most of them obeyed.

Chatwin won his legal battle to live in his own home. But then Jeffs' control over the town's real estate suffered a more serious blow when a federal court suspended the United Effort Plan trustees and appointed an outside administrator to run the organization.

Today, Jeffs sits in the Purgatory Jail, but those who know the man and his church warn that while the prophet may be down, the last thing anyone should do is count him out.

Breeding Loyalty

Warren Jeffs' battle to practice polygamy and lead his earthly domain as he sees fit is just the latest chapter in the 150-year-old saga of Mormon polygamy in the West.

His sect -- which also has members in Canada, Mexico, Texas and elsewhere in the United States -- sees itself as the true continuation of a religious tradition dating back to the spiritual revelations and sexual lifestyle of Joseph Smith, the 19th century founder of the Mormon faith. In 1890, the mainline Mormon Church officially suspended the practice of polygamy in a deal that allowed the UtahTerritory to join the United States. Today, the 12.3-million strong Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints excommunicates members who openly practice plural marriage.

But that does not stop an estimated 37,000 Latter-day Saints who see the taking of multiple wives as one of the central tenets of the Mormon religion.

One of them is Marvin Wyler, who cites Mormon scripture to back up his belief that Latter-day Saints must practice polygamy to rise into the upper reaches of heaven, where Mormons believe man can "be like God."

"In order to obtain the highest level in the celestial kingdom you have to live in plural marriage," Wyler said. "They (the mainline Mormon Church) gave that up. It was too hard for them."

According to historians, Joseph Smith had taken 33 wives by the time he was murdered by an angry mob in Carthage, Ill., in 1844. Among those women taken as wives by the founding prophet were the already-married wives of his top male lieutenants, a practice anthropologists say can actually breed loyalty among the tribe.

That's not unlike what's going down in Colorado City. According to Chatwin and other dissident members, Jeffs reassigns ousted men's wives and children to his most loyal male followers.

Most of the church's longstanding male leaders have agreed to be banished, but their numbers pale in comparison to the exodus of teenage boys from Colorado City. Some of these young men are seen as unwanted sexual competition for the hearts of young women betrothed to older men. They're called the Lost Boys.

"A lot of boys have been kicked out, but more have left on their own," Chatwin said. "They don't see a future here. They know something is wrong here. They see a dictatorship. Warren demands absolute control. If someone is on the edge, Warren pushes them over."

Sam Icke was barely 18 when he was kicked out of Colorado City for his romantic involvement with a female church member.

"I think the decision came from the fact that I knew too much," he said. "I have a good sense for reading people, and they don't like that out there. You can't keep those kinds of people in control. I realized how much of a phony [Jeffs] was, and he saw me as a huge threat."

Icke, now 20, recalled the day Jeffs called him into his office for disciplinary action.

"It was very eerie. He has this drawl. His speech is very dry and collected. It's hard to describe. It's almost like he's speaking in a daze. Almost like he was speaking through a daydream. I looked in his eyes for a minute to see if I could see any truth or conviction that the church was right. All I saw in his eyes were a lot of fear and distrust -- no faith at all. I completely lost faith in the system that day -- completely."

While he was itching for freedom, Icke said getting kicked out of town "really freaked me out."

Like many of the Lost Boys, Icke moved to Hurricane -- the nearest real town to the Hildale/Colorado City enclave. He moved into a tiny trailer with a couple of other banished kids. Like many of his peers, Icke started drinking and drugging. He managed to steer clear of the speed that seriously messed up some of his friends, but he did get into marijuana and psychedelic mushrooms.

Icke's story is no surprise to John Larsen, a social worker with the Utah Department of Human Services. He works out of an office in the same building in Hurricane that now houses Warren Jeffs.

"It breaks your heart," Larsen said of the Lost Boys. "These are hardworking kids who are given little education. A lot of them were pulled out of school to work construction. Then, when they are kicked out, they're not supposed to have contact with family until they repent. All some of them want to do is to be able to call and talk to their mom."

Larsen estimates that about 400 young men have been pushed out of the sect in recent years. "Emotionally, they're all over the place," the social worker said. "Some of them don't know what to think. They have been conditioned all their life to obey this man. Some of them are sure they're going to hell."

Getting Out

Icke and dozens of other Lost Boys found a savior of sorts in Dan Fischer, the Salt Lake City dentist, businessman and former polygamist. Since leaving the Fundamentalist Church in the mid-1990s, Fischer has made a small fortune with Ultradent, a dental product business that in the past 12 years grew from a home operation to a 220,000-square-foot facility employing more than 600 workers. He has also set up a foundation to assist young people trying to leave Colorado City.

Few have made that transition with as much aplomb as Fischer, born in 1949 to a family with deep roots in Utah polygamy.

Fischer's grandfather, Charles Zitting, was one of the founders of the religious movement that would eventually be known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What are now Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., were then called Short Creek. The polygamists who lived along the border were known as "Crickers."

Fischer is just old enough to remember the Short Creek raid the night of July 26, 1953 when Arizona Highway Patrol officers, Mohave County Sheriff's Deputies and Arizona National Guardsmen swooped down. Descending upon the settlement were more than 100 law enforcement officers, 25 carloads of reporters and 12 agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Scores of residents were questioned in a makeshift courtroom set up in the Short Creek schoolhouse. Thirty-one men and nine women without minor children were taken the next day to Kingman, Ariz. Later, Arizona state officials decided to take the Short Creek children to Phoenix and put them in protective custody. Their mothers insisted on coming with them, so another 43 women and 177 children were rounded up.

In a plea bargain later that year, 26 of the Short Creek polygamists pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of "conspiracy to commit open and notorious cohabitation." They were given one-year suspended sentences. But it would take more than a year and a successful lawsuit filed by polygamist families until all the women and children were allowed to return home.

Back in 1953, many Short Creek residents, like Jeffs' mother, who moved to San Francisco, escaped arrest by going underground. "Some of them lived in our home in Salt Lake when they were hiding," Fischer recalled. "I remember a baby being born in our house back then. And from then on, we grew up in total hiding. My mother didn't come out of doors for 11 years.''

While Fischer was allowed to attend a public school in suburban Salt Lake, he and his siblings always knew they were not like the normal children of the world.

"Our parents were to raise their kids as 'calves in the stall.' We were covenant children -- preordained to be on the other side to help usher in the millennium and the beginning of the end and the Second Coming of the Savior."

They were also taught to marry whomever the prophet told them to marry. "We were to do whatever the prophet asked. Most of us went on a work mission for two to three years to help build up the town. If you were submissive enough you were given a 'blessing,' meaning a wife.

"You never went to a dance or on a date or interacted with females," said Fischer recalled. "It was pretty extreme."

Fischer's father had three wives and 36 children. His mom had nine of the kids, and Dan was the oldest of the brood.

One day, when he was 17, Fischer was summoned to the offices of Prophet Leroy Johnson, who preceded Rulon Jeffs as the leader of the church. Fischer had his tools ready and was set to go on his work mission to Short Creek.

The prophet was just a short, old bald guy, but to Fischer he embodied the Mormon pioneer spirit. Johnson was born and raised onColorado River at Lees Ferry, the only place you could cross the Colorado for a couple hundred miles. His family ran the boat that took people across the river.

"Leroy Johnson had a lot of fine virtues," Fischer said. "I won't say I agree with all his teachings today or that everything he did was right, but he was a true grit pioneer. And he had family values."

Fischer found him sitting at his desk on an old roller-wheel chair. The prophet spun around and looked at the teenager for what seemed like an eternity. One of Johnson's little fingers had been broken and never set back into place, so he had had this little L-shaped finger. It was his trademark -- almost an icon -- and there he was scratching his bald head with it.

Finally, the prophet spoke.

"Young man," he proclaimed, "we need a dentist." The rest was history -- and good news for Dan Fischer. He was sent to theUniversity of Utah, and then off to dental school.

He was also sent a wife. That was in 1968 and she was not the girl Fischer would have chosen. His new wife was 18 and had only an eighth-grade education. "My first wife and I were oil and water. It happens in many of these cases. You know nothing about the likes and dislikes of the person."

Fischer's first wife often took ill, so the prophet decided that his second wife should be his first wife's older sister. Fischer married his second wife in 1973 and went onto to have 14 children with the two of them -- seven with each sister.

In 1981, Fischer was blessed with a third wife. "Her father was a prominent guy and had influence with Leroy Johnson. I think the guy expected he'd get a lot of free dentistry out of me. It seems crazy, but that was probably the bottom line."

Fischer would have two more children with wife No. 3. He was making good money by now with his dental business. He built a 14-bedroom house on a 5-acre spread on the edge of Salt Lake City.

In the early 1990s, Dan Fischer found himself living with 17 children and three wives. "I became determined to not go beyond that," he said.

His third wife was not happy with that decision. She took her two kids to Colorado City, and refused to come back. Fischer never saw them again.

"I managed to talk to the kids once, but that was it," Fischer said. "I tried to get access to them through Rulon Jeffs, but he told me she was a fornicator and more married to her father than to me. I was being played on a string. It's one of the things that convinced me to separate from that organization.

"As soon as you go public on something like that, you know you are never going to see your family members again. But I decided to break the cycle and keep my other children from getting into plural marriage."

Fischer had decided long ago that his real wife was his second wife, the older of the two sisters. So he divorced the younger one and legally married her older sister. Today, his oldest child is 36. His youngest is 12.

Over the past few years, Fischer has watched as countless men and boys have been banished from Colorado City. He has also watched as Jeffs reassigned the married exiled men's wives and children to his most loyal subjects.

Fischer sighed. "With the wave of a hand he has reorganized hundreds of families. "Imagine all the scarring in all those children. We'll be paying the price for decades to come -- at least for a generation or two."

There are several theories as to what effect Jeffs' upcoming trial could have on the polygamists in Utah and the rest of the American West. If convicted of just the Utah charges, the leader of the Fundamentalist Mormon Church could be sentenced to life in prison.

And that might be the best thing that ever happened to him and his church.

Benjamin Bistline, a former Short Creek resident and author of "Colorado City Polygamists -- An Inside Look for the Outsider," points out that the legal morass and public reaction against the 1953 government raid only strengthened the polygamist community along the Utah-Arizona border.

"If they would have just let us alone we'd probably have died out by now," said Bistline, who was 18 when the government agents moved on the settlement. "They were just kickin' the mustard tree and scatterin' the seeds."

Perceived persecution often fans the flames of religious faith. That prompts many seasoned observers to predict that Jeffs' arrest and upcoming trial may swell the roster of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

"If Warren plays this thing right, he could have a massive flow of converts," Chatwin warned. "He is going to look like Christ reincarnated and crucified again."

Don Lattin is writing a book on a 2005 murder-suicide involving a religious sect known as the Family/ Children of God. It will be published next year by HarperCollins. To contact the author, go to www.donlattin.com.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/11/19/CMGTTLVBEJ1.DTL

Oct 12, 2006

B.C. girl felt 'flattered' by teacher's advances

Rod Mickleburgh 
Globe and Mail (Canada)
October 12, 2006 

VANCOUVER -- They were young, lonely girls, and when their tall, good-looking high-school teacher told them they were special, they believed him.

Yesterday, a rapt courtroom heard how their teenaged infatuations propelled them into a web of sexual encounters with the teacher, Tom Ellison, who is facing 16 sex-related charges involving 12 of his former students in the 1970s and early 1980s. 

The two middle-aged women, whose identities were protected by a court-ordered publication ban, recounted how they made frequent trips to Mr. Ellison's live-aboard sailboat in Vancouver, where various forms of sexual contact took place. 

One testified that she was 14 when Mr. Ellison began making physical advances to her on his boat by massaging her breasts after a long night of drinking wine. 

During subsequent trysts, she said, "he put his hands all over me [and] in my pants," often lying on top of her, rubbing his penis to ejaculation, although they always stopped short of sexual intercourse. 

"I was nervous and I felt squeamish. But I really wanted him to love me, and when he did that, I really felt he loved me." 

Mr. Ellison, her Grade 9 science teacher, gave her a pet nickname. "I was his tomato," she said. 

The second witness was 17 at the time she became sexually entangled with Mr. Ellison, regularly visiting him on his sailboat, the Nostradamus, throughout her final year at Prince of Wales Secondary School. 

"He said he was preparing me for my sexual future with other partners," she told the court. 

Mr. Ellison, 63, is charged with 12 counts of gross indecency, three counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault. 

All but one of the 12 complainants met Mr. Ellison while they were students and he was the senior teacher in a groundbreaking outdoors program at Prince of Wales called Quest. 

The second witness said her initial sexual contact with Mr. Ellison occurred during a 10-day, co-ed summer sailing trip with seven other Questers. 

One night, she slept beside him in the bow of the ship. She agreed to a massage, complying with Mr. Ellison's suggestion that it would be better if her clothes were off. 

"Somewhere along the line, he whispered in my ear that it would also be better if I rolled over on my back. So I did. At that point, he massaged my breasts. . . . Then he used his mouth to suck on my nipples." 

Matters went further during the school year. There was oral sex. Mr. Ellison digitally penetrated her vagina numerous times, "and often he had a vibrator he used all over my body," she testified. 

Asked by prosecutor Ralph Keefer why she agreed to meet Mr. Ellison for sex, the woman replied: "I had a crush on him the whole year. I was flattered by the attention. 

"I was a quite shy and naive 17-year-old. All the girls were in love with him, and I felt very special." 

Finally, just before she turned 18, she decided to end her relationship with Mr. Ellison. He did not object. 

"I felt I was not living a normal Grade 12 life," the woman said, sobbing quietly and pausing to collect her thoughts. "I felt ostracized by my friends, and it was something I had done. 

"Someone asked me out. I really wanted to go, but I supposed I shouldn't [because of Mr. Ellison]. I couldn't go on a date with a boy my age," the woman said, as Mr. Ellison looked down, his hands clasped under his chin. 

Only years later, she said, did she learn that there were many other girls "special" to Mr. Ellison. In 1993, she went to the police. 

After that, she said she received an angry telephone call from her former teacher, "who told me that he thought we had something special. I was 34 then. It sounded like a lie to me, but when I was 17, it would have been very flattering." 

Answering questions from defence lawyer Bill Smart, the woman agreed that she was "a willing participant" in her sexual activities with Mr. Ellison. 

Asked whether she was "sexually excited" by them, she replied: "I assume I was." 

"You looked forward to those visits?" Mr. Smart questioned. 

"Yes, I did," she said. 

Mr. Ellison has admitted that his behaviour was wrong and unprofessional, but not criminal under laws existing at the time. 

The first witness recalled that Mr. Ellison would tell her she was beautiful, superior to all the other kids and much more mature than they were. 

"I was obsessed [with him]. A mixed-up, lonely little girl," she said. 

She said Mr. Ellison gave her an A in the Grade 9 science course she took from him. "The next year, I got a C." 

During subsequent trysts, she said, "he put his hands all over me [and] in my pants," often lying on top of her, rubbing his penis to ejaculation, although they always stopped short of sexual intercourse. 

"I was nervous and I felt squeamish. But I really wanted him to love me, and when he did that, I really felt he loved me." 

Mr. Ellison, her Grade 9 science teacher, gave her a pet nickname. "I was his tomato," she said. 

The second witness was 17 at the time she became sexually entangled with Mr. Ellison, regularly visiting him on his sailboat, the Nostradamus, throughout her final year at Prince of Wales Secondary School. 

"He said he was preparing me for my sexual future with other partners," she told the court. 

Mr. Ellison, 63, is charged with 12 counts of gross indecency, three counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault. 

All but one of the 12 complainants met Mr. Ellison while they were students and he was the senior teacher in a groundbreaking outdoors program at Prince of Wales called Quest. 

The second witness said her initial sexual contact with Mr. Ellison occurred during a 10-day, co-ed summer sailing trip with seven other Questers. 

One night, she slept beside him in the bow of the ship. She agreed to a massage, complying with Mr. Ellison's suggestion that it would be better if her clothes were off. 

"Somewhere along the line, he whispered in my ear that it would also be better if I rolled over on my back. So I did. At that point, he massaged my breasts. . . . Then he used his mouth to suck on my nipples." 

Matters went further during the school year. There was oral sex. Mr. Ellison digitally penetrated her vagina numerous times, "and often he had a vibrator he used all over my body," she testified. 

Asked by prosecutor Ralph Keefer why she agreed to meet Mr. Ellison for sex, the woman replied: "I had a crush on him the whole year. I was flattered by the attention. 

"I was a quite shy and naive 17-year-old. All the girls were in love with him, and I felt very special." 

Finally, just before she turned 18, she decided to end her relationship with Mr. Ellison. He did not object. 


"I felt I was not living a normal Grade 12 life," the woman said, sobbing quietly and pausing to collect her thoughts. "I felt ostracized by my friends, and it was something I had done. 

"Someone asked me out. I really wanted to go, but I supposed I shouldn't [because of Mr. Ellison]. I couldn't go on a date with a boy my age," the woman said, as Mr. Ellison looked down, his hands clasped under his chin. 

Only years later, she said, did she learn that there were many other girls "special" to Mr. Ellison. In 1993, she went to the police. 

After that, she said she received an angry telephone call from her former teacher, "who told me that he thought we had something special. I was 34 then. It sounded like a lie to me, but when I was 17, it would have been very flattering." 

Answering questions from defence lawyer Bill Smart, the woman agreed that she was "a willing participant" in her sexual activities with Mr. Ellison. 

Asked whether she was "sexually excited" by them, she replied: "I assume I was." 

"You looked forward to those visits?" Mr. Smart questioned. 

"Yes, I did," she said. 

Mr. Ellison has admitted that his behaviour was wrong and unprofessional, but not criminal under laws existing at the time. 

The first witness recalled that Mr. Ellison would tell her she was beautiful, superior to all the other kids and much more mature than they were. 

"I was obsessed [with him]. A mixed-up, lonely little girl," she said. 

She said Mr. Ellison gave her an A in the Grade 9 science course she took from him. "The next year, I got a C." 


http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20061012.BCQUEST12/TPStory/?query=Tom+and+Ellison 

Sep 26, 2006

Father grieves as cold case simmers

Monica Yant Kinney
The Philadelphia Inquirer
September 26, 2006

September is a cruel month for Jack Gilbride. Within 30 short days, he mourns a murdered son and a wife whose death two years later was hastened by her own pounding grief.

The ambush killing of former MOVE member John Gilbride is not the only unsolved homicide in Burlington County. But given all the publicity before and after the shooting, it's the hottest cold case for miles.

Last week, Prosecutor Robert Bernardi declined my request to talk about the mystery of a suburban dad killed amid a custody fight with an urban cult, MOVE.

Jack Gilbride, John's father, has long struggled with whether to hold back to respect the legal process, or speak out in the hope it sparks a tip to give his family closure.

Yesterday, on the eve of another anniversary with no news - in spite of a $20,000 reward - he turned up the volume ever so slightly.

Gilbride says he speaks to investigators every two weeks. From those talks, he believes they have long ago ruled out the theories that John was killed because of drinking, gambling or another woman. Ditto for the far-out suggestions he was the target of a government rubout or mob hit.

As for the victim's well-documented disputes with MOVE? That cannot be dismissed.

"The investigators know where the responsibility for John's murder lies," Jack Gilbride asserts. They just don't know with whom it lies.

A murder mystery

John Gilbride was found dead at 12:08 a.m. Sept. 27, 2002, in his car in the parking lot of the Ryan's Run apartment complex in Maple Shade.

The 34-year-old US Airways baggage supervisor had just returned home from work. The car radio was still on, the engine still running.

Gilbride was in the midst of a vicious, four-year custody battle, but his ex was no ordinary scorned woman. The woman he left was Alberta Wicker Africa, the widow of MOVE's spiritual founder, John Africa, and matriarch of the volatile Philadelphia cult.

Leaving MOVE was one thing. Trying to take a MOVE child from the family was a declaration of war.

"John knows that my belief would never allow me to just hand him over my son like that," Africa testified in a Philadelphia Family Court hearing 17 days before the murder - the very same hearing in which Gilbride testified that a MOVE supporter had threatened to kill him.

In the two weeks before Gilbride's murder, MOVE fortified its West Philadelphia house, demonstrated in South Jersey, accused him of being a child abuser, vowed to defy the court order granting him time alone with his boy and - perhaps prophetically - posted a Sept. 17, 2002, Internet alert warning of "dangerous developments" in the custody case and urging supporters to do "whatever it is their power to do to avert this government assault."

In the end, MOVE got its wish to keep Gilbride at bay: He was killed mere hours before he was to have his first unsupervised visit with his son.

Timing is everything


Early on, Bernardi said the custody fight was one of several leads investigators would explore. Later, he acknowledged interviews with MOVE members provided no real insight.


"There is still this problem with the timing of this homicide given what was pending in the custody dispute," the prosecutor said in 2003. "Is that a coincidence, or is there something more to it?"

For the father, timing is everything.

"I'm very sure this wasn't a random killing," Jack Gilbride told me. "Someone had to know he'd be that place, at that time."

Just like now, Jack Gilbride is easy to find sitting in church pews every September at two Masses said for his fallen family: one for the son who died fighting for his boy, and one for the sorrowful mother who followed hers.

Jun 9, 2006

Asia-Pacific islands seek warmer ties



Jean Lin
Taipei Times

June 9, 2006

REGIONAL MEETING: Twenty-two countries are taking part in the Asia-Pacific Island Nations Summit, discussing issues such as peace-building

The second Asia-Pacific Island Nations Summit was launched yesterday in Taipei with the aim of strengthening cooperation between island countries, especially in light of pressure from "major powers" in the region.

The conference is being held by the Universal Peace Federation (UPF), a non-governmental organization (NGO) with special consultative status to the UN's Economic and Social Council.

The group aims to resolve conflicts and promote international peace.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, who is also chairman of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, a sponsor of the event, said during a keynote speech that the Asia-Pacific region was well-known for its rapid economic development, which has influenced the world.

However, with Taiwan's cross-strait issues and North Korea's nuclear threat, the stability of the region, as well as world peace, is deeply affected, Wang said.

"The government must incorporate NGOs, religious groups and other sources of civic power to achieve the goal of world peace," he said.

Johnson Toribiong, Palau's ambassador to Taiwan, said that Asia-Pacific island nations had many things in common, including having lived through World War II and colonization, and therefore understand the importance of regional peace.

"We must encourage and promote mutual understanding of our island nations through education and international conferences," Toribiong said. "Ignorance creates conflicts."

Thomas Walsh, the secretary-general of UPF International, said that NGOs have an advantage in promoting peace since they can take action more quickly than governments, which are bogged down by bureaucracy.

Chen Tou-huan, the secretary-general of UPF Taiwan said that Asia-Pacific island nations play an important role in the world, and the goal of the summit was to increase cooperation and establish peace and stability in the region.

Some powerful countries in the region care only about their own interests, creating instability for the whole area, Chen said.

Lily Lin, vice-president of the Women's Federation for World Peace Taiwan, said that China had been trying to penetrate and influence island nations in the area.

Taiwan, Japan and other countries must build strong relations to fight such a power, Lin said.

China should not be an enemy to the US, the other major power in the region, said Mark Barry, director of the Northeast Asia Peace Initiative.

"US policies should guide China to become a responsible major power and not just a self-interested country," Barry said.

Some of the issues to be discussed at the summit are interreligious cooperation, reconciliation and peace-building, as well as how to strengthen the community of Asia-Pacific island nations. Twenty-two nations are participating in the summit, which ends today.


http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2006/06/09/2003312455 

Feb 16, 2006

From remote home in a Dutch forest, ex-Beatles guru aims at bigger goals

AP
Jamaican Observer
February 16, 2006

VLODROP, The Netherlands (AP) - The wizened sage sits alone upstairs in his secluded wooden house, massaging his temples in fatigue as he speaks to the camera.

It's late afternoon, and he has been at it since 3:00 am, conducting his business by video link-up around the world: new schools in India, new meditation centres in Europe, a new medical curriculum for his university in Iowa.

At his age - believed to be 89 - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has no interest in dwelling on the halcyon days of the 1960s and '70s when he was guru to the Beatles and the Beach Boys and his Transcendental Meditation movement was the new buzz on college campuses.

Sleeping only two or three hours a day, he is grappling with weightier problems, his aides say - translating the theory of meditative power into a blueprint for feeding the hungry and bringing peace to the world.