APoh 08/13 1606 Drescher Hearing By RAY FORMANEK Jr. Associated Press Writer MOUNDSVILLE,
APoh 08/13 1606 Drescher Hearing
By RAY FORMANEK Jr. Associated Press Writer
MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) -- A Marshall County circuit judge on Thursday
ordered Hare Krishna devotee Thomas Drescher extradited to California to stand
trial in the 1986 death of a Krishna dissident.
Judge Steven Narick agreed to delay Drescher's extradition until Sept. 4 to
give his attorney time to file an appeal.
"I'm disappointed, but I will file an appeal with the (state) Supreme Court
right away," said Mark Karl, Drescher's attorney.
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 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 possibility of
parole at the West Virginia Penitentiary for an unrelated murder.
During the 2 1/2-hour hearing Thursday, Drescher -- handcuffed to a belly
chain and wearing leg irons -- appeared relaxed. He fingered 108 prayer beads
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 Orozco presented the court with a signed
statement from a Los Angeles rental car operator who placed Drescher in that
city the day of Bryant's death.
In the affidavit, Gabriel Alon said Drescher returned a rental car to his
firm on May 22, 1986. Alon also said he identified the Krishna devotee by
picking his picture out of six others presented by investigators.
Alon said he could not travel to West Virginia for the hearing because his
business would suffer.
Karl questioned the validity of Alon's statement and said there was no proof
that the rental car operator was trustworthy. He stresed that the affidavit
dated was 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 slaying.
Krishna devotee Alex Georgiadis said he saw Drescher at the Columbus Krishna
temple on May 22, 1986.
"We exchanged a few words," Georgiadis said. "I was surprised to see him
"There is certainly enough evidence that Mr. Drescher was not present in
California on the date of the murder," Karl argued. He said the affidavit was
the only evidence presented that put Drescher in Los Angeles.
"It is at most a statement given outside the courtroom -- a declaration, an
unsworn statement," Karl said.
However, White countered that the statement had been given by Alon in the
presence of a police officer and under threat of perjury.
After the hearing, Drescher said he was not surprised by the outcome.
"It's just being done for appearances," he said. "Their case of religious
prosecution will go on no matter how many witnesses we produce."
Bryant, who was from Detroit, alleged 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
the residents of the country's largest Krishna commune to rebel and execute
Drescher was convicted last year of the 1983 murder of Charles Saint-Denis.
The two men had a running feud over land and money, authorities said.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank