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
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.