APn 01/21 2104 Krishna Trial CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - A Hare Krishna swami serving a life
APn 01/21 2104 Krishna Trial
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) -- A Hare Krishna swami serving a life
sentence for murder was sentenced to 10 more years in prison Thursday
for burning an apartment building in an alleged scheme to collect on the
"I told my attorney that it's a good thing I believe in
reincarnation, otherwise I won't be able to do all the time I have to
serve," 39-year-old Thomas Drescher said from the West Virginia
Drescher, also known as Tirtha Swami, was convicted of arson Dec. 15
in the 1983 fire at the sect's New Vrindaban community near Moundsville.
Prosecutors had accused Drescher of an attempt to collect $40,000 in
insurance, but Drescher was acquitted of the mail fraud and conspiracy
The leader of the sect, Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada, was acquitted
of all charges in the alleged scheme.
The 10 years added to Drescher's life-without-parole sentence were
the maximum prison term U.S. District Judge William Kidd could have
Drescher repeated his belief Thursday that the case was religious
"They're going after Hare Krishnas now. Before, it was Scientologists
and Moonies," he said. "Tomorrow, they'll go after the mainstream
religions -- Catholics, Jews, Protestants."
Defense attorneys said that in 1983 the Krishna community turned a
$1.9 million profit and had no reason to set fire to the building.
Drescher is in prison for murdering Charles St. Denis, a fringe
member of the community. He also is charged with shooting to death a
dissident Krishna in Los Angeles in 1986.
He is fighting extradition to California, where he would face the
death penalty if convicted.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank