APwv 08/15 0032 Krishna Discrimination By RAY FORMANEK Jr. Associated Press Writer NEW VRI

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APwv 08/15 0032 Krishna Discrimination By RAY FORMANEK Jr. Associated Press Writer NEW VRINDABAN, W.Va. (AP) -- The state Human Rights Commission says it will hear a Hare Krishna devotee's complaint that Marshall County Prosecutor Thomas White is discriminating against the religion. "I think it's very good that this matter is being looked into," Umapati Swami, the Krishna minister who filed the complaint, said Friday. "I think the people of this county ought to know the kind of people they have in office." The Human Rights Commission has scheduled an October hearing on the complaint. Umapati said he filed the complaint after his request for a state minister's license, required to perform marriage ceremonies and other religious duties, was delayed. "Instead of issuing the license, the county clerk turned my application over to the prosecutor," Umapati said. "The prosecuting attorney does not normally get involved in such matters. "The only reason he did is because he and the county clerk are disciminating against my religion." White has denied the allegations and said he is waiting for a member of the Governing Board Commission of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness to certify that Umapati is a minister. But the Krishna devotee said that certification may never come because ISKCON disassociated itself from the New Vrindaban encampment -- the largest Krishna community in the United States -- after accusing its spiritual leader, Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, of violating the tenets of the religion. "My point is that ministers of other religions are not subject to this," Umapati said during an interview at the settlement where he is a spiritual leader. "What right do they have to ask a totally different church if I'm certified or not? "We are a legally separate church and registered as such by the state." The Human Rights Commission hearing is scheduled for Oct. 14 at the Marshall County Courthouse, according to a letter signed by Howard D. Kenney, the commission's executive director. "I have received the notice of the hearing but have not had a chance to examine it," White said. "We are continuing to review the matter." Kenney was in Bluefield attending the state's NAACP convention and not available for comment. According to the hearing notice, White has 10 days from the time he received the letter to respond to the charges. If no reply is made, the allegations may be assumed to be valid. Marshall Moss, a spokesman for the commission, said that a hearing officer and a member of the human rights commission will hear evidence presented at the hearing and decide whether Umapati was discriminated against for his religious beliefs. The commission will then decide what remedy, if any, is in order. Moss said that White or Umapati may appeal any decision made by the comission to the state Supreme Court. By RAY FORMANEK Jr. Associated Press Writer MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) -- Hare Krishna devotee Thomas Drescher says he wasn't surprised when a Marshall County Circuit judge ordered him sent to California to stand trial in the 1986 death of a Krishna dissident. "It's just being done for appearances," Drescher said Thursday, minutes after Judge Steven Narick approved a request by California authorities to extradite him. "Their case of religious persecution will go on no matter how many witnesses we produce." Narick agreed to delay Drescher's extradition until Sept. 4 to give his attorney time to file an appeal. "I'm disappointed," said Mark Karl, the Krishna devotee's attorney. "But I will file an appeal with the (state) Supreme Court right away." Drescher, 37, of Ravenna, Ohio, has been charged with one count of murder in the May 22, 1986, shooting death of Krishna dissident Steve Bryant. Bryant was gunned down as he sat in a van parked on an East Los Angeles street. Drescher, whom prosecutors describe as a fringe member of the Krishna community of New Vrindaban, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at the West Virginia Penitentiary for an unrelated murder. During Thurday's 2 1/2 hour hearing, Drescher -- handcuffed to a belly chain and clad in leg irons and a bright orange prison jump suit -- appeared relaxed. He fingered 108 prayer beats inside a saffron-colored prayer bag and joked occasionally with his guard. Marshall County Prosecutor Tom White called Los Angeles Police Detective Leroy Orozco to the stand, where the officer presented the court with a signed statement from a rental car operator who placed Drescher in the city near the time of Bryant's death. In the affadavit, Gabriel Alon said Drescher called his firm on May 22, 1986, to say he had left a rental car at a parking lot at the Los Angeles International Airport. Alon also identified Drescher by picking his picture out of six photos presented by investigators, Oroczo said. Alon did not appear at the hearing because he said his business would suffer, the Los Angeles detective said. Karl disputed the validity of Alon's statement and said there was no proof that the rental car operator was trustworthy. He stressed that the statement was dated Aug. 4, 1987 -- 15 months after Bryant was slain. "It's incredible, from my point of view, that this man would remember an event -- the rental of a car -- 15 months after its occurence," Karl said. In addition, three residents of New Vrindaban testified that Drescher was in Columbus, Ohio, around the time of the killing. Another devotee, Alex Georgiadis, testified that Drescher was at the Columbus Krishna temple on May 22, 1986. "We exchanged a few words," Georgiadis said. "I was surpised to see him there." "There is certainly enough evidence that Mr. Drescher was not present in California on the date of the murder," Karl argued. He said the statement was the only item that put Drescher in Los Angeles near the date of the murder. "It is at most a statement given outside the courtroom -- a declaration, an unsworn statement," Karl said. White countered that the statement had been given by Alon in the presence of a police officer and under the threat of perjury. Bryant, who was from Detroit, charged that Krishna leaders -- especially Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, the leader of New Vrindaban -- strayed from the religion's tenets, condoned violence and broke up Bryant's marriage. execute Bhaktipada. Drescher was convicted last year of the 1983 murder of Charles Saint-enis, a fringe member of New Vrindaban. The two men had a running feud over land and money, authorities said. APwv 08/14 0128 Drescher Hearing By RAY FORMANEK Jr. Associated Press Writer MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) -- Hare Krishna devotee Thomas Drescher says he wasn't surprised when a Marshall County Circuit judge ordered him sent to California to stand trial in the 1986 death of a Krishna dissident. "It's just being done for appearances," Drescher said Thursday, minutes after Judge Steven Narick approved a request by California authorities to extradite him. "Their case of religious persecution will go on no matter how many witnesses we produce." Narick agreed to delay Drescher's extradition until Sept. 4 to give his attorney time to file an appeal. "I'm disappointed," said Mark Karl, the Krishna devotee's attorney. "But I will file an appeal with the (state) Supreme Court right away." Drescher, 37, of Ravenna, Ohio, has been charged with one count of murder in the May 22, 1986, shooting death of Krishna dissident Steve Bryant. Bryant was gunned down as he sat in a van parked on an East Los Angeles street. Drescher, whom prosecutors describe as a fringe member of the Krishna community of New Vrindaban, is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole at the West Virginia Penitentiary for an unrelated murder. During Thurday's 2 1/2 hour hearing, Drescher -- handcuffed to a belly chain and clad in leg irons and a bright orange prison jump suit -- appeared relaxed. He fingered 108 prayer beats inside a saffron-colored prayer bag and joked occasionally with his guard. Marshall County Prosecutor Tom White called Los Angeles Police Detective Leroy Orozco to the stand, where the officer presented the court with a signed statement from a rental car operator who placed Drescher in the city near the time of Bryant's death. In the affadavit, Gabriel Alon said Drescher called his firm on May 22, 1986, to say he had left a rental car at a parking lot at the Los Angeles International Airport. Alon also identified Drescher by picking his picture out of six photos presented by investigators, Oroczo said. Alon did not appear at the hearing because he said his business would suffer, the Los Angeles detective said. Karl disputed the validity of Alon's statement and said there was no proof that the rental car operator was trustworthy. He stressed that the statement was dated Aug. 4, 1987 -- 15 months after Bryant was slain. "It's incredible, from my point of view, that this man would remember an event -- the rental of a car -- 15 months after its occurence," Karl said. In addition, three residents of New Vrindaban testified that Drescher was in Columbus, Ohio, around the time of the killing. Another devotee, Alex Georgiadis, testified that Drescher was at the Columbus Krishna temple on May 22, 1986. "We exchanged a few words," Georgiadis said. "I was surpised to see him there." "There is certainly enough evidence that Mr. Drescher was not present in California on the date of the murder," Karl argued. He said the statement was the only item that put Drescher in Los Angeles near the date of the murder. "It is at most a statement given outside the courtroom -- a declaration, an unsworn statement," Karl said. White countered that the statement had been given by Alon in the presence of Bryant, who was from Detroit, charged that Krishna leaders -- especially Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, the leader of New Vrindaban -- strayed from the religion's tenets, condoned violence and broke up Bryant's marriage. He urged members of the nation's largest Krishna encampment to rebel and execute Bhaktipada. Drescher was convicted last year of the 1983 murder of Charles Saint-enis, a fringe member of New Vrindaban. The two men had a running feud over land and money, authorities said.

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