Swami Prakashanand Saraswati - The Disappearing Guru. Why he disappeared
The disappearance of religious leader Swami Prakashanand Saraswati in March 2011 following his conviction was widely interpreted by the media as proof of his guilt. However, a close look at the record suggests that he may have fled because he failed to receive a fair trial in rural Hays County, Texas, and was facing an unusually harsh sentence disproportionate to the crimes of which he was accused.
This site presents a wide range of documented evidence about his trial in an effort to raise awareness about the many troubling aspects of the accusations and trial that were underreported or ignored by the media at the time.
• Hays County did no investigation before bringing the indictment against a respected religious preacher. Hays county investigators did not question Mr. Saraswati, the parents and siblings of the accusers, Mr. Saraswati’s assistants, the other preachers at the temple, nor anyone else residing at Barsana Dham, where the alleged actions occurred. Had they done an investigation, they would have found that:
o There were no witnesses (despite one accuser saying that the actions happened in public with dozens of onlookers)
o The accusers had never said anything at the time of the alleged actions, nor for years after
o The accusers continued to live at Barsana Dham of their own volition for years after the alleged incidents
o Discordant family dynamics were at the root of the accusations
• In the 5 years prior to the charges against Mr. Saraswati, no case was brought against any person for accusations so old (13 years) and so minor (inappropriate touching). The charges brought against Mr. Saraswati were designed to negatively influence the jury and the public against Mr. Saraswati, and to exaggerate the nature of the charges.
• The bail set for Mr. Saraswati ($1 million cash bond) was the highest bond in 10 years (and possibly longer) for any criminal indictment in Hays County-- approximately 30 times the norm for similar charges. The next highest bond—a quarter million dollars less-- was set for an alleged murderer and member of the Mexican mafia.
• An additional bond of $10 million was levied in order for Mr. Saraswati to receive his passport, necessary for his work in India. This is an unprecedented amount in Hays County.
• No witnesses came forward to corroborate testimony by three women who made accusations against Mr. Saraswati. This was despite the fact that one of the women testified that the inappropriate touching happened in public, in front of ‘dozens’ of witnesses.
• The Hays County Sheriff’s office lost video recordings of the plaintiffs that potentially contained exculpatory evidence and were critical to the defense, and their backup copies were damaged beyond repair.
• Despite the loss of evidence, Mr. Saraswati’s attorneys were denied the right to depose or question the witness.
• One of Mr. Saraswati’s accusers falsely accused another religious leader of groping an underage girl. Hays County Child Protective Services investigated and concluded that the accusations were false. This evidence of previous false accusations was not admitted at the trial.
• Mr. Saraswati volunteered for, and passed, 2 polygraph tests, but they were not admissible as evidence.
• The sister of two of the plaintiffs testified that her sisters (the plaintiffs) were “habitual liars.”
• The court did not allow the 2 cases to be tried separately. The law stipulates they be tried separately, but Assistant D.A. Cathy Compton said “I don’t give a shit about that,” and the judge allowed her to prevail. Had the cases been tried separately it is almost certain that at least one-if not both- of the cases would have been dropped, and the outcome would have been very different.
• The court denied testimony from an expert witness on false memories and false accusations.
• The bail and sentence imposed on Mr. Saraswati were punitive.
BACKGROUND OF SWAMI PRAKASHANAND SARASWATI
Swami Prakashanand Saraswati was a Hindu spiritual preacher who established a worldwide network of religious centers and was widely known for his writing about the history of India and Hinduism.
Mr. Saraswati studied religion extensively in India during his formative years. At the age of 21, he was given the renounced monastic order of sanyas by one of India’s most renowned spiritual teachers of the time, Jagadguru Shankaracharya, the religious head of Jyotir Math, one of the 4 main monasteries of India. Mr. Saraswati took vows to dedicate his life to serving God and uplifting humanity. He spent several years living in the forests of India, immersed in devotion, before embarking on his lifelong teaching of raganuga bhakti, or practice of devotional meditation and service. In his preaching activities in the U.S., England, Ireland, Singapore, Europe, and New Zealand he inspired tens of thousands.
Mr. Saraswati was a prolific author who wrote more than 10 books about Hinduism. His writings and speeches are distinguished by his intelligent and accessible presentation of the principles of Hinduism. His writings have won acclaim from religious leaders and scholars in India and worldwide. His best known work, The True History and Religion of India, chronicling the history of India and of Hinduism, won awards from the World Religious Parliament, which gave Mr. Saraswati the honorary title of Dharm Chakravarti (Spiritual Teacher for the Upliftment of Humankind).
Accusations and Trial of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati
At the age of 80, Mr. Saraswati was arrested in April 2008 after two former residents of Barsana Dham accused him of groping them 12 years earlier. The specific allegations focused primarily on the claim that he had touched their chests through their T-shirts and kissed them. Notwithstanding his advanced age and the extensive period between the alleged events and the formal complaints, Mr. Saraswati was arrested and handcuffed after stepping off a flight at Dulles International Airport.
Remanded to Hays County, Texas, the District Court released Mr. Saraswati and allowed him to travel internationally on $11 million bail—an unprecedented amount, and well in excess of the amounts imposed on violent criminals. Mr. Saraswati was also barred from entering Barsana Dham, his home.
Mr. Saraswati refused settlement discussions from the Hays County District Attorney, and proceeded to trial, beginning on Feb. 23rd, 2011.
The trial of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, which took place in the rural town of San Marcos, Texas was unusual in several respects
• The only witnesses against Mr. Saraswati were the three women who made the accusations: sisters Kate Tonnessen and Vesla Tonessen Kazimer, and their best friend Shyama Rose. No witnesses came forward to corroborate their testimony despite the fact that the accusers said that dozens of people witnessed the incidents.
• Hinduism is widely regarded as one of the world’s most peaceful religions. Barsana Dham members who attended the trial were invariably polite and reserved. Nevertheless the Hays County Sheriff’s Department positioned gunmen on the roof of the courthouse and instituted high-level security on entering the courthouse—acts of extraordinary intimidation.
• Key testimony from defense was denied admittance by the judge.
• The court denied testimony from an expert witness on false memories and false accusations.
• The judge denied virtually every motion from the defense.
• The husband of one of the jurors had previously worked for a security company that provided services to Barsana Dham, and had worked at Barsana Dham. The husband posted this on an online forum, after the trial took place. His wife was one of the people who appeared on camera on the day of Swami Prakashanand Saraswati's conviction. It shows that Swami Prakashanand Saraswati did not have a jury of his peers, and jury tampering likely took place.
All that place is a cult and a corp hiding place for tax evasion using stupid people as a front. Yes, I said stupid. Anyone who devotes themselves to any person is someone who has no spine and not enough intelligence to think for themselves and should not be allowed to use my oxygen. The guy who posted his bond is a business man who evades taxes by operating from a church, therefore pays no taxes. And also there was no cover up by the prosecutors. I should know, my wife was the biker lady on the jury. that whole place needs to be bulldozed with all the devotees locked inside. I was also able to oberve the stupidity first hand as the company I worked for was the security company there. One more reason I quit. These are NOT self sustaining entities as the devotees turn over all worldly posessions to the ashram or will be sent to hell. I bow to no man! And I will eat his meals before he does.• On March 4, 2011, a jury found Mr. Saraswati guilty after only 30 minutes of deliberation.
Considering the numerous instances of irregularity in this case from the very beginning, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Mr. Saraswati decided to leave Hays County rather than face a biased and unfair legal process.
Mr. Saraswati, then 83 years old, failed to show up for his sentencing on March 7, 2011 and has never been seen again. The jury fined him $200,000 and sentenced him in absentia to 280 years in prison, a sentence far exceeding that of violent offenders including convicted murderers, in Hays County.