Press Esc to close
Saturday 04 July 2015
News updated at 10:29 PM IST
Weather
Max: 33°C
Min : 21°C
In Bengaluru
Rain lightly

Hindu guru sentenced to prison for sexual molestation in US

Last updated: 09 March, 2011
Houston, Mar 9, (PTI):
Prakashanand Saraswati. Photo taken from Barsana Dham website

A US jury on Wednesday sentenced an elderly Hindu religious leader to 14 years in prison and fined a USD 10,000 on each of 20 counts of molesting two girls who grew up on the ashram he founded and led in Central Texas.

Prakashanand Saraswati, known to his devotees as Shree Swamiji and head of the 200-acre Hindu ashram in Texas, was sentenced by a Hays County jury after he failed to appear before it for the punishment phase of his trial.

District Judge Charles Ramsay will decide later whether 82-year-old Swamiji's prison sentences are to be served concurrently.

Last week the jury found Swamiji guilty of indecency with a child by sexual contact, based on his repeated groping of two teenagers whose families lived at the ashram he founded southwest of Austin.

Now 27 and 30 years old, the women brought charges against the Swamiji three years ago, saying he molested them on the Barsana Dham ashram in Driftwood in the mid-1990s while they were in their teens.

The parent organisation to which Swamiji's Barsana Dham ashram belongs owns and operates temples and hospitals in India and other countries.

Meanwhile, the search for the guru, missing since Sunday evening, continued with police reporting no new leads as to his whereabouts. Prakashanand is thought to be traveling with his longtime assistant and caregiver, Vishwambhari Devi. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Earlier, prosecutors asked the jury to sentence Swamiji to 20 years in prison — 400 years total — for "each and every" one of the 20 criminal counts on which the guru was convicted of molesting two girls.

"This defendant is not a good candidate for probation because he can't even make it to the rest of the trial," said Hays County assistant district attorney Kathy Compton.

The Swamiji's defence attorneys told the court that their elderly client's various ailments — coronary disease, hypertension and back pain— make him too infirm to be in prison.

"To put him in a penitentiary setting at his age with these type of physical disabilities would be a death sentence for Swamiji," said Jeff Kearney, his lead attorney.

Spokesmen for the ashram that he founded in Driftwood say they don't know where he is.

Peter Spiegel, a wealthy devotee who posted a USD 1 million cash bond that was forfeited when Swamiji failed to appear in court yesterday, testified that he doesn't know the guru's whereabouts, either.

Spiegel also signed a USD 10 million indemnity agreement in 2008, in exchange for the court allowing Swamiji to travel abroad while he was awaiting trial.

However, the guru's passport was revoked last year.


Go to Top

Photo Gallery
Kalari Academy of performing Arts students presenting Kalaripayattu...

Kalari Academy of performing Arts students presenting Kalaripayattu...

Actor Prakash Rai at a photography exibition on Tigers in Bengaluru on Saturday...

Actor Prakash Rai at a photography exibition on Tigers in Bengaluru on Saturday...

Sky Diving Demo in Chennai...

Sky Diving Demo in Chennai...

Cadets of officers Training Academy performing free fall para jumping from AN 32 Aircraft...

Cadets of officers Training Academy performing free fall para jumping from AN 32 Aircraft...

Villagers cross Rambi Ara River...

Villagers cross Rambi Ara River...

British Grand Prix 2015...

British Grand Prix 2015...

Derailed coaches of a goods train after collision with a truck in Purulia district in West Bengal...

Derailed coaches of a goods train after collision with a truck in Purulia district in West Bengal...

Stray cows jumped the barricade to eat the grass in front of Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru...

Stray cows jumped the barricade to eat the grass in front of Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru...

Labourers extract sand from the Jhelum River in Srinagar on Saturday....

Labourers extract sand from the Jhelum River in Srinagar on Saturday....

Bollywood actor Salman Khan with singer Mika Singh during the launch of an Eid song...

Bollywood actor Salman Khan with singer Mika Singh during the launch of an Eid song...

Copyright 2014, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523