8 11-04-88 08:41 pes Abductors of Unification Church member acquitted of kidnapping By

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8 11-04-88 08:41 pes Abductors of Unification Church member acquitted of kidnapping By BRAD SMITH DENVER (UPI) _ Two men who admitted abducting a woman at her parents' request to get her away from the Unification Church were acquitted by a jury Friday of kidnapping and conspiracy charges. The jury of eight women and four men deliberated more than eight hours over two days before finding Dennis Whelan, 52, of Omaha, Neb., and Robert Brandyberry, 41, of Brice, Ohio, innocent. If convicted, they would have faced maximum sentences of eight years in prison. Whelan, who has helped scores of families abduct loved ones from the church for "deprogramming", said the verdict "sends a clear message to cult members that parents will strike back when their children are lured into cults." Whelan and Brandyberry were charged with second-degree kidnapping and conspiracy for abducting Britta Adolfsson, 31, from a Denver street May 26, 1987. The two had been hired by Adolfsson's Swedish parents. Adolfsson escaped eight days later from a house in Lyons, Kan. Defense attorneys admitted the two men abducted Adolfsson. But they argued the "rescue" was justified because the woman had been brainwashed by the controversial church, whose members are popularly referred to as "Moonies" after their leader, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. In closing arguments Thursday, defense lawyers characterized the church as a cult whose leaders deceive and control members for their own aggrandizement, and said forcible abduction of members is necessary to save them from a life of servitude. Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt issued detailed instructions allowing the jury to consider the so-called "choice-of-evils" defense, which permits commission of a crime to prevent a greater offense. He said in order to acquit the defendants, the jury must believe the kidnapping was necessary to prevent harm to Adolfsson. Defense attorneys said Whelan, a private detective, has taken part in about 100 "rescues." They said Brandyberry has earned his living as a "deprogrammer" since leaving the Unification Church in 1982. Attorneys for both sides agreed the issue at trial was freedom. Defense lawyers said members of the Unification Church have lost their free will. Prosecutors argued the church is a religion and that Constitution guarantees everyone the right to practice whatever faith they choose. Brandyberry said the jury's decision means "the people of Colorado don't appreciate the kind of coercion going on in the Unification Church. Then, breaking into tears, he said, "I'm just sorry I couldn't help her (Adolfsson)." Juror Jacqueline Smith said Whelan and Brandyberry "did what they had to do." "They were trying to help the parents," she said. "She (Adolfsson) has the right to choose her religion. But we didn't think she chose this religion. She was sucked in there." Moses Durst, a national leader of the Unification Church, called the jury's verdict "obscene." "The practice of kidnapping members of religious groups to deprogram them is nothing less than spiritual gang rape," Durst said. Adolfsson faces deportation for lying to federal immigration officials three years ago that she was living with a husband she had married during a mass wedding of 2,000 church members. They were divorced after she received her green card, the immigration document allowing her to remain in the U.S. Prosecutor Diane Balkin told jurors they should not base their decision on their personal feelings about the Unification Church, and should decide only if Whelan and Brandyberry broke the law. She said the defendants "aren't rescuers. They're out-of-town hired guns. They're vigilantes." She said Adolfsson's parents, physicist Tord Adolfsson and his wife, Edith, might have been well-intentioned, but did not have the right to force their daughter to leave her chosen religion. Defense attorney Jeff Pagliuca told the jury the Unification Church "is not a religious organization. It is a fund-raising organization that uses people." He said church members are very restricted, and have no free choice to decide where to live, how to spend most of their time or whom to marry. Pagliuca and co-counsel Jim Davis said Denver police knew about the abduction three days before it occurred, and told Whelan that he and Brandyberry probably would not be arrested. "This was a rescue, not a kidnapping," Davis said. "If it was a kidnapping, would you tell the police before? Pagliuca also said the trial was "about one thing _ love. Love that a parent harbors for a child." He described Whelan as a "grandfather with a heart condition" and the paunchy Brandyberry as a "teddy bear who wouldn't hurt anyone."


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