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
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."