Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Court Case: Sexual Abuse - Donald Walters

I have often wondered about this court case. When I read the court case years ago I remember being sickened by these women’s testimonies as I really felt that they could be true, but I also had my doubts as to the extent they went. I remember an SRF member telling me of her experience with Walters: He had asked her to massage him, and then he asked her to strip naked, which she did. Yet he made no other moves towards her, and so I believed then that he knew that she wasn’t interested and so wouldn’t pursue it. This ex-Ananda member had spent years traveling with Swami Kriyananda and actually had a nice time visiting other countries. Yet the testimonies of these women in the Bertolucci case presented a different picture, one of his forcing himself on them. So I kept wondering if they were true or if SRF had their hand in this case. Today I read this.


How did the Bertolucci case end?

“The trial in the Bertolucci case began September 1997. Ananda’s evidence showed that between 1985 and 1994 Kriyananda was married, and that this fact was publicly known and written about in the press. He was not “masquerading as a celibate swami” as Bertolucci claimed. Kriyananda admitted to a handful of consensual sexual relationships in the early 1980s, before his marriage to Rosanna Golia, but denied sexually harassing anyone, including Bertolucci.
In a highly irregular ruling, the trial court refused to allow Kriyananda’s lawyers to cross-examine his accusers, or to impeach their credibility through the testimony of other witnesses. The judge also refused to allow Kriyananda’s lawyers to tell the jury why they weren’t cross-examining these women, or introducing other impeachment evidence.

The testimony of Kriyananda’s accusers thus stood unchallenged and unexplained. The jurors could draw only one conclusion: that their testimony was true.

The court order prohibiting cross-examination was imposed as a discovery sanction. Ananda had hired a private investigator to obtain information relating to SRF’s sponsorship of the Bertolucci suit. Despite Ananda’s clear instructions to the investigator that all information was to be obtained legally, the sub-agent of the investigator’s agent apparently reached into a fenced outdoor trash area to obtain the trash from the Flynn Sheridan and Tabb law firm, (now Flynn and Stillman), instead of waiting until the trash had been placed on the nearby street.

The documents obtained from the trash were worthless and outdated, and were not used by Ananda. Set aside and forgotten, they were not included in later document productions. This oversight in not producing copies of the documents in discovery provided the basis for the sanctions.”
In the initial response of this woman, it states: “Initially, Bertolucci accused Kriyananda only of having sexual “designs” on her. She cited a brief (consensual) neck massage incident and the viewing of a movie. Although Kriyananda was married, Bertolucci also accused him of “fraudulently” holding himself out to be celibate by his continued use of the title, “swami.”

This goes along with the experiences of the SRF Member. This doesn’t mean that I condone his actions of having sex with members, but knowing how SRF wanted to destroy his organization and has done everything in their power to do so, I rather believe, and this is my own personal opinion, he was not as bad as they painted him to be.

Was SRF involved in the Bertolucci lawsuit?

“We believe so… Citing the tarnishment claim, SRF asked the judge to consider whether SRF was being "tarnished" by association with Ananda. The Bertolucci lawsuit had been filed, SRF said, and was being reported in the newspapers.

Ananda responded by accusing SRF of having "unclean hands" in the matter. SRF could not both create the tarnishment and then benefit from it. Ananda demanded to take the deposition of Daya Mata to explore SRF's involvement in the Bertolucci lawsuit. Ananda based its case on the following facts:

1. Just weeks before she filed her lawsuit, Bertolucci was escorted by long-time SRF members to SRF headquarters, where she met with Daya Mata and other SRF board members.
2. SRF members helped instigate the lawsuit by supporting and encouraging Bertolucci, and helping her find an attorney to take her case.

3. Nearly all of the women making accusations against Swami Kriyananda were associated with SRF, either as members or followers.

4. Michael Flynn brought Paul Friedman, a successful businessman and major SRF donor with close ties to Daya Mata, to Kriyananda's sealed deposition, under the pretense that Friedman was a paralegal at Flynn's firm.

5. Shortly after Kriyananda’s deposition, SRF transferred to Paul Friedman an apparently valuable piece of land for $1 and "other consideration."

6. Friedman boasted to a new Ananda member that he had attended Kriyananda's deposition, and that even though most SRF members did not know anything about the Bertolucci lawsuit, Friedman did because he was so well-connected with people at the higher levels of SRF, and knew Daya Mata well.

Despite the court order, Daya Mata refused to appear for her deposition, forcing Ananda to file a second motion to enforce the deposition order. At this point, Daya Mata accepted Kriyananda's suggestion that both sides sit down together and try to settle the SRF case.

One of the first concessions SRF requested was that Ananda not take Daya Mata’s deposition. As a gesture of goodwill, Ananda agreed. A few months later, settlement discussions broke down. In the meantime, SRF decided not to pursue its tarnishment claim. Had it done so, the issue of unclean hands could have been revisited.”

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