Aug 1, 2014

Hindu guru Swamiji sentenced despite his absence at trial

Noelle Newton
March 8, 2011

The Hays County religious leader convicted of sexual contact with a child has been sentenced to both 14 years in jail and $10,000 on each of his 20 convictions.

Eighty-two-year-old Prakashandand Saraswati, known to his followers as Swamiji, did not appear for his sentencing trial.

Friday afternoon was the last time KVUE cameras captured Swamiji. Jurors had just found him guilty of molesting two girls. The last time Swamiji's followers saw him was either at the Embassy Suites Hotel in San Marcos Sunday afternoon or at 6 p.m. Sunday at a home in Driftwood.

He was scheduled for court on Monday, but never showed. He is believed to be with a female caretaker.

After one hour of no Swamiji Tuesday morning, the judge began the sentencing phase without him.

Followers took the stand discussing the Hindu teacher's failing health. They say he was sick over the weekend, complaining of chest pains and even passing out. However, the sheriff's office checked local hospitals and did not find him.

In closing arguments the defense said "if he's still alive" when addressing his absence.

The prosecution claims all of Swamiji's ailments are attributed to old age. They say he has already gotten away with living 15 years in lavish Hindu temples while the victims suffered.

Swamiji surrendered his passport last October. His followers say he is not a citizen of India.

One follower who took the stand Tuesday was Pete Speigel. Speigel paid $1 million cash so Swamiji could bond out of jail when he was arrested in 2008. He signed making himself personally liable for $10 million if Swamiji did not show for court.

Swamiji was the leader of a religious compound in Northern Hays County called Barsana Dham.

Last Friday he was convicted of groping two young girls whose families lived at the compound, and each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

The girls, now women, spoke to KVUE after the sentencing phase concluded.
"It's hard, but you have to do the right thing. Now when we go to sleep at night we know we did the right thing," Shyama Rose said.

KVUE asked the victims how they felt about Swamiji skipping out on court. They said it did not surprise them.

"I think he's serving his own sentence in a way, you know. He's running and he's running hard," Rose said.

Juror Patti Scott said the Hindu leaders choice to not appear was insulting.
"We were just ticked. We were just all put off by the fact that he didn't honor the United States and our way of doing things well enough to stick around and face the consequences," Scott said.

Anyone with information about Swamiji's location should call Crime Stoppers at 800-324-8477.