APny 08/31 2219 Drescher-Pardon MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) -- A Hare Krishna devotee serving

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APny 08/31 2219 Drescher-Pardon MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) -- A Hare Krishna devotee serving a life sentence for murder asked Gov. Arch Moore to pardon him in a letter mailed Monday, saying it is in the "state's best interest" to do so. Thomas Drescher, a New York state resident who was sentenced to a life term for the December 1983 death of Charles St. Denis at the Krishna community at New Vrindaban, said he deserves "a full and unconditional pardon" from Moore. "It's a very serious thing to jail an innocent person, not to mention a priest," said Drescher, who became a religious leader in the sect during a controversial ceremony at the West Virginia Penitentiary last month. "It says throughout the scriptures that if someone unjustly afflicts a follower then they will be severely reprimanded by Krishna," Drescher said. "In order to avoid grave repercussions they ought to release me. "It's in their best interest to do so." Moore has ordered Drescher extradited to California where has been charged with the unrelated murder of Steve Bryant, a Krishna dissident from Detroit. The governor was in Kentucky on Monday and not available for comment. But John Price, Moore's press secretary, said the governor has in the past turned over such requests to the state Board of Probation and Parole. "I'm sure he would want to reserve comment until he has received the request," Price said. Drescher, 40, of Buffalo, N.Y., has appealed Moore's extradition order to the state Supreme Court. He said he would withdraw the appeal and travel to California voluntarily if he received the pardon. "There's been so much talk about this California case," said Drescher. "I feel in good faith that they ought to release me. Otherwise it would prejudice the jury out there and be nearly impossible for me to get a fair trial." Marshall County Prosecutor Thomas White, who prosecuted the case, called Drescher's request "absolutely crazy." "I hope the governor realizes that this is just another crazy plan by a man already condemned to spend the rest of his life in prison," White said. Drescher was convicted of St. Denis' murder in December 1986. He received the maximum penalty possible under West Virginia law, a life term without the possibility of parole. Prosecutors said St. Denis was shot a dozen times, stabbed, beat with a hammer and finally suffocated with plastic wrap placed in his mouth before he was buried. Drescher's co-defendant in the case, Daniel Reid, 31, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and provided assistance to police.

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