2 12-08-88 03:46 pps Multimillion-dollar award to ex-Krishna tentatively slashed By KATE C

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2 12-08-88 03:46 pps Multimillion-dollar award to ex-Krishna tentatively slashed By KATE CALLEN SAN DIEGO (UPI) _ A state appellate panel indicated Thursday it will likely throw out most of a $9.7 million jury award to a former Hare Krishna devotee who claims she was brainwashed and falsely imprisoned by the religious sect. Chief Justice Daniel J. Kremer said he and two other justices had reached a tentative decision that damages should not be awarded to Robin George on grounds of false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and libel. Because the young woman voluntarily accepted the religious tenets of the Krishna sect when she joined a temple in 1974, "the panel has difficulty finding any restraint that in any way overcame Robin's will," said Kremer. However, Kremer said, damages awarded to Robin's mother, Marcia George, for emotional distress, libel and the wrongful death of her husband, who died of a stroke following his daughter's Krishna stay, might be upheld. The justices' final decision is due by March. If they rule against the damages to Robin George, the $9.7 million jury award, which threatened to bankrupt the Krishna sect, would be reduced to approximately $2.5 million. An Orange County jury originally awarded the Georges $32 million in 1983. A judge reduced the award to $9.7 million and placed assorted Krishna property in the United States and Canada in receivership pending appeal. Both parties have predicted the case will eventually go before the California Supreme Court, which in October ruled in favor of two plantiffs who similarly charged they were brainwashed by The Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, which has been widely criticized for its alienating influence on young people. At age 15, Robin George left her parents' Cypress, Calif., home to live at a Krishna temple in Laguna Beach. A year later, following discussions with her parents and the Citizens Freedom Foundation, an organization devoted to cult deprogramming, she broke with the sect, returned home and later filed suit. The Georges' appeals attorney, Louis E. Goebel, argued that Robin, as a minor, was psychologically coerced into staying with the sect and forbidden to communicate with her parents. Krishna leaders went so far as to transfer the teenage girl to temples in New Orleans, La., and in Canada to distance her from her parents, said Goebel. The Krishnas "controlled her resources, her money, her clothing and her ability to travel," said Goebel. "The Little Sisters of the Poor do that all the time," Associate Justice Don R. Work responded, referring to the Catholic order. On the issue of Marcia George's damages, defense attorney Alan Martin said Robin's voluntary conversion to the Krishna religion "was at the heart of the emotional distress claim." "She adopted and embraced the religion (and) that was distressing conduct to her parents," said Martin. The justices agreed that George, even though she was a minor, was not coerced into staying with the sect for a year. "She willingly participated ... with every single element that (she) postulates as a barrier to moving back (home). She cooperated almost enthusiastically," said Kremer.

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