Disclaimer: The article below only touches the surface of the trial and persecution of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati by Sherri Tibbe and Cathy Compton. You need to pursue the “further reading” links at the bottom for indepth analysis into the trial and persecution of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati by Sherri Tibbe and Cathy Compton. Also note that this article is a work-in-progress. Check back in future for extra facts and analysis.
In 2011, Swami Prakashanand Saraswati (Shree Swamiji) was convicted on charges of groping Kate Tonnessen, Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer and Shyama Rose – three white women – 15 years earlier. There was no evidence or witnesses to back up the accusations by Kate Tonnessen, Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer and Shyama Rose. Furthermore, Hays County Sheriff and Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe (who prosecuted the case) admitted or defended destroying crucial evidence, on which Swami Prakashanand Saraswati’s defense hinged.
How a Swami with no prior accusations was convicted based on no evidence or witnesses? Many groping cases don’t even have witnesses. They occur behind closed doors. Kate Tonnessen, though, made the bizarre claim that dozens of people were present when she got “groped”. She couldn’t remember their names or anything about them. Conveniently, none of them showed up in court. Kate Tonnessen, Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer and Shyama Rose were unable to answer 200 questions about the alleged incidents. At trial, Kate Tonnessen, Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer and Shyama Rose had a prepared skeleton story of what happened – each unable to answer anything outside of that skeleton story.
The charges were ridiculously weak. Even to their best friends, to whom they told everything, Kate Tonnessen, Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer and Shyama Rose had not made even a whisper of the allegations was made until 10+ years after the alleged crimes. They had never even spoken about it to each other, even though two of them were sisters. I have been assured by criminal prosecution attorneys, as well as criminal defense, that the case should never have been brought from the beginning. Nothing that Kate Tonnessen, Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer and Shyama Rose ever did prior to 2007 – neither in behavior nor in word, indicated that anything had happened to them 15 years earlier. They returned to the temple year after year. They had been employed by the temple years after the alleged “groping” took place. They were not even witnesses of each other.
On the other hand, there were a lot of defense witnesses who said the accusers were “habitual liars”. They said that Swami Prakashanand Saraswati never spent time alone with girls, and that no groping ever took place. What’s more, defense witness after defense witness had some physical evidence to back up their statements (photos, documents etc.). Prosecution had nothing but an inconsistent story told three times. None of the women’s family members or childhood friends supported them as witnesses in the trial.
A sister of Kate Tonnessen and Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer claimed that her sisters were “habitual liars”. They blackmailed their family. They threatened to “bring down” the organization if their family did not leave. This was a family feud. Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was collateral damage.
The biggest criticism is in the way the Hays County District Attorney and Sheriff’s office led the joint investigation into the allegations against Swami Prakashanand Saraswati. There was no investigation whatsoever. How could the Hays County District Attorney and Sheriff’s office bring about charges against Swami Prakashanand Saraswati when they:
1. Didn’t interview Swami Prakashanand Saraswati at all; 2. Didn’t interview anyone at his temple; 3. Didn’t even visit the Barsana Dham to see that Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was surrounded by crowds all the time; 4. Didn’t visit any of the locations where the alleged events occurred.
These were generic charges. They could be applied to any Hindu religious leader. There was no effort to specifically investigate the allegations against Swami Prakashanand Saraswati. The ‘evidence’ and ‘investigation’ were 100% the women’s statements.
An investigation would have shown that Swami Prakashanand Saraswati has given speeches and religious services to literally millions over the years. Hundreds of thousands have come to Barsana Dham. He has stayed in the homes of families around the world since he was 30. There was NEVER one whisper made against him of sexual misconduct. This is not the pattern of a child abuser (i.e., lots of opportunities for contact, in the public eye, but all of a sudden, in his late 60’s and 70’s he starts groping girls? Such behavior would normally have been noted much earlier). Furthermore, ALL of the Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe and Hays County Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton’s “information” about Swami Prakashanand Saraswati and Barsana Dham was scraped from wikipedia, ant-Hindu facebook pages and other internet sites.
Kate Tonnessen had already cried wolf to child protective services. She alleged that a minor had been molested by a completely different religious leader. In that case, CPS did conduct an investigation. The investigation cleared and dropped that accusation. Kate Tonnessen, then, in fury pushed Shyama Rose and Vesla Tonnessen and Tui Rose to make accusations against Swami Prakashanand Saraswati.
Not only was the ‘evidence’ and ‘investigation’ based 100% on Kate Tonnessen, Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer and Shyama Rose’s statements – the women’s recorded statements were destroyed or lost by both the Hays County District Attorney’s office AND the Hays County Sheriff’s office. The tapes went missing from the Hays County Sheriff’s office evidence room. The backups at the Hays County District Attorney’s office were corrupted and unusable. The computers used to copy the tapes also vaporized from the Hays County Sheriff’s office. Swami Prakashanand Saraswati’s defense team fought to get access to that evidence – evidence which their case hinged on. After all, Kate Tonnessen, Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer and Shyama Rose’s initial statements to the police were the crux of the case. There was no other evidence. A visiting judge demanded that the evidence be handed over to Swami Prakashanand Saraswati. Only after that, did it come to light that it had all vaporized. Someone did not want that testimony to ever see the light of day. Can you honestly say that you believe this is normal that every trace of the defense evidence can vanish from multiple locations?
Most similar offenses (but current offenses, not decade-old) of groping would be rolled into 1 count of misconduct for each purported victim (2 counts total). Instead, they made it 10 counts for each girl – a total of 20 counts. It sounds extreme. The judge and press loved to dramatize that number. The nature of the charges (groping rather than rape etc) should have been of a lower class charge, eg 3rd degree felony or misdemeanor instead of 2nd degree felony. The higher category of charges were only for PR purposes.
There was a sealed warrant for arrest of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati. With no warning he was arrested as he disembarked from the airplane, into Dulles, VA airport. They could have waited for him to come to Austin and inform at that time (or arrest at that time). Without questioning or giving him right to call an attorney, Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was put into jail in Virginia for 3 nights. They did not provide Swami Prakashanand Saraswati with a telephone or a lawyer. They, more than likely, didn’t even read him his rights. Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was taken to Austin in handcuffs with armed escort.
Swami Prakashanand Saraswati’s bail and bond were probably the highest in state history according to several expert lawyers—and this for 2nd degree felony, not rape, not murder, not multiple murders, etc.
During the 2 week trial, the prosecuting Hays County District Attorney gave no reason whatsoever as to how the Hindu religious leader, Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, could be guilty – or even possibly how he might be guilty – other than he was a Hindu religious leader, and his “fanatic” supporters “would defend him, wouldn’t they?”
Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe and Hays County Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton spent the entire trial attacking the defense witnesses on religious grounds. The judge didn’t put a stop to it despite repeated demanding cries from defense lawyers for a mistrial. Defense witnesses were portrayed as liars, based on no evidence other than they were “fanatics”. They were liars by default. Hour after hour, Swami Prakashanand Saraswati’s defense witnesses were mocked and insulted and portrayed as evil, criminal and brainwashed without any evidence or reason given. If you were a small town conservative jury member, what verdict would you have given?
The perception that Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe wanted to portray to the public and the media was that someone dangerous was in the courtroom. Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe and Hays County Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton were shadowed by scary looking security guards as they entered and exited the courtroom. Even the media asked Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe what the unprecedented level of security was all about. Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe never gave an answer. Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe continually called Barsana Dham a “compound” to stir up memories of other cases that have nothing to do with Barsana Dham.
To a conservative and highly uneducated jury, Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was the follower of a religion that sounded like “Voodoo.” This fear was accentuated when one of the women accused Swami Prakashanand Saraswati by-proxy of being a devil worshiper. Hays County Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton called him a “fox.” Hays County District Attorney said he should definitely go to jail for 400 years because he sits on a chair, is driven in a Lexus, and traveled to Las Vegas on religious duties. The irony is that Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe herself drives a Lexus, and also sits on a chair as most humans do.
In closing arguments, the Jury was carefully instructed by assistant Hays County Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton to “use your gut” in deciding the verdict. The gut feelings of the Jury were that Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was a bad man. He deserved to go to jail forever (something the defense characterized as a “death sentence”) despite the fact that defense had physical evidence which demonstrated that Kate Tonnessen, Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer and Shyama Rose gave false statements. The closing arguments are a summary or reiteration of the key points of the trial. So it is clear that the entire prosecution case was based on nothing but swaying the uneducated jury with tired old racist stereotypes and clichés.
Perhaps the low point of the trial (if it could get any lower) was in the closing arguments. When reacting to Swami Prakashanand Saraswati’s lawyers chart with the timetable of the events, Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton threw her hands at those dates and said: “these dates don’t matter. I picked those dates!” Kate Tonnessen, Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer and Shyama Rose had all claimed (and then contradicted themselves) that they had filed the reports on their own, independent of the Hays County District Attorney’s office. If the Assistant District Attorney selected the dates on which Kate Tonnessen, Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer and Shyama Rose were groped, how can the women have them in their reports? Reports that were supposedly done without collaboration and without any “help” from the Hays County District Attorney’s office? This alone should have been grounds for a mistrial.
The most obvious feature of the persecution of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was that Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe and Hays County Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton created a vacuum in which there was as little as possible for Swami Prakashanand Saraswati’s lawyers to argue against.
The most insidious aspect of the trial was that the women’s inconsistencies and inability to remember anything or answer any questions was presented as PROOF that they were telling the truth. Hays County Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton told the jury that the women were intelligent enough to have made up a much better story. Hays County Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton told the jury that the lack of evidence and inconsistence was conclusive proof that Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was a guilty.
Its like saying that a murder suspect is definitely guilty because there is no evidence. The lack of evidence proves just how skilled he is at covering up his crimes. Its like saying that a woman is definitely a witch because she used her magic powers to conceal the evidence and make the witnesses give false testimony.
In real trials, only the evidence and testimony presented in court is weighed up by the jury. In witch trials, evidence which proves the witnesses are lying, is proof that the witnesses are truthful.
For example, Kate Tonnessen said in her testimony that Shyama Rose saw her being groped by Swami Prakashanand Saraswati. However, Shyama Rose testified that she never saw it happen to anybody. Shyama Rose said that she never told anybody about it, and Shyama Rose never testified she ever talked to Kate about it like Kate Tonnessen said. The contradiction between the two testimonies, according to Hays County Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton, is proof that the women were truthful and by extension, that Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was guilty.
Swami Prakashanand Saraswati volunteered for, and passed a polygraph test, but unfortunately it was inadmissible in Texas courts: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=a05_1222970419
Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was given 280 years (to be served in concurrent 14 year terms) for a crime he did not commit. However, the fact is that Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was not convicted of 280 years. The Hindu faith was convicted for 280 years. The Hindu faith was charged, abused and convicted. Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was selected for internment, because of who he is.
After the trial, it emerged that Hays County District Attorney’s Office has a history of dishonesty, corruption and falsifying of evidence. In 2009, Hays County Assistant District Attorney Lynn Peach stormed out in protest of the utter dishonesty of her colleagues at the Hays County District Attorney’s office. An innocent man had been imprisoned based on false evidence (in 2009). As a result of Hays County Assistant District Attorney Lynn Peach blowing the whistle, the man was given a new trial. He was then acquitted. No action was taken against Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe who initially defended the falsification of evidence. After Lynn Peach resigned, only corruption was left at the Hays County conviction factory.
Swami Prakashanand Saraswati’s accusers, according to Austin American Statesman were: 1. Kate Tonnessen, age 31 2. Vesla Tonnessen Kazimer, age 30 3. Shyama Rose, age 27
Swami Prakashanand Saraswati and his 30-year-old organization, JKP Barsana Dham had enjoyed the support and commendations of Presidents of the USA, Governor of Texas, successive Austin Mayors. Before 3 women came forward in 2007, there had been no hint of any wrongdoing on his part. Now the Hindu religious leader is missing – for a crime he did not commit. His Hindu supporters (who only ever wanted to practice their faith in the privacy of their own homes and temple) are being terrorized by waves of rumours and smear campaigns, hackings, veiled threats by the U.S. Marshal via the media. The media is choosing to look the other way. All for what? All because of the baseless accusations of 3 women.
The following note was posted by a supporter of Barsana Dham (Radha Madhav Dham) on one of the dozens of articles written by Eric Dexheimer, who followed the case since its inception. Eric Dexheimer has acted as a mouth-piece for the Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe and the extreme hate group “The Truth Project” (whose membership includes some of the false accusers against Swami Prakashanand Saraswati and who is led by Karen Jonson who uses the pseudo name Rishika). This message succinctly conveys the helplessness and frustration of the Swami’s supporters, at how the case has been handled by the media over the past 3 years:
“To Eric Dexheimer: Why is it that you have written NOT ONE WORD about the extremely prejudicial manner in which Shree Swamiji and the people at Barsana Dham were treated during the trial? The DA was verbally abusive, mean-spirited and religiously prejudiced filling the jury’s heads with wrong information with nary a concern for justice or truth. Hour by hour she mocked and insulted Shree Swamiji and Barsana Dham, portraying the people there as evil, criminal and brainwashed.
She even mobilized a small army of armed officers to “protect her from the vegetarian, over 50 and peaceful minded devotees” who came to support Shree Swamiji . Did you know that they ( Hays County Assistant District Attorney Sherri Tibbe Cathy Compton and Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe) had snipers in position on the roof of the courthouse with guns trained on the Barsana Dham devotees the day of the verdict who are parents, grandparents, doctors, housewives, office workers, you name it – i.e., ordinary people – did you know that??? No, that was not of interest. You just piled on – even this story about the name change was leaked to you by a woman who runs a hate blog. Of course, now that I have spoken up in support of the ashram, I will be attacked here in this forum because, God forbid, I’m not joining in all the verbal bloodletting. Okay, I’ll say it so you all don’t have to. I’m evil, I’m brainwashed, and I’m criminal. There, now I did that for you.
Eric, use your considerable intelligence to look into the broader circumstances of the trial. The charges were 15 years ago, there was no evidence, there were no witness, there was lost testimony, there was an outrageous bail/bond amount and the punishment was totally off the charts – 280 years! 280 years!!! A murderer in Texas gets 25 years! Lawrence Taylor gets 6 years’ PROBATION for rape of a minor!!! Case after case – do your research, Mr. Dexheimer.
And remember that as a man, if you get into an elevator with a woman and you are alone with her, in a matter of a few minutes while the elevator takes you to another floor your life can be ruined and you can easily be convicted of molestation – without evidence, without witnesses – purely on her testimony. I can tell you that I will no longer be alone with any woman except my wife.The judge, the Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe and Assistant District Attorney Cathy Compton partook of a real southern style lynching. I myself have been sobered to my core. I thought trials like this were the stuff of an older, more biased generation. It is not so. Prejudice is alive and well in Hays County, Texas.”
A young supporter of the Swami, who attended the trial said:
“When I read To Kill a Mockingbird in High School I thought it was a sad book and times back then were tough…I could have never forseen I would experience such a circumstance in my life. It was completely surreal, as it was happening I kept thinking this isn’t real, this can’t happen in real life.”
Youtube video with a summary of the facts of the trial of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati.
Faces of Deceit: Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe and Cathy Compton destroyed video testimony to convict an innocent man
The 6 Stages of Reaction to Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe & Cathy Compton’s Religious Persecution of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati
Mass hysteria and the religious trial of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati.
Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe: Remover of Obstacles
Like this facebook page to show your support for Swami Prakashanand Saraswati.
Official website of Hays County District Attorney’s office.