THE UNION- September 19, 1998

Other's Voices Column


Is The Union the swami's new ally?

By Michael J. Flynn, Ford Greene - Sat, Sep 19, 1998


Does Swami Kriyananda and his church, Ananda Church of Self-Realization have a new

ally - The Union?

In a recent editorial, The Union portrayed the second phase of Anne-Marie Bertolucci's

lawsuit against Ananda Church and the swami as a "mean-spirited" abuse of the legal

process. At best, this opinion plainly ignores the findings of the jury and the rulings of the

judge in the first phase of the case. At worst, it conceals an underlying agenda designed to

influence the jury pool in the Nevada City case.


Here are some facts established in the first trial which may cause The Union readers to

arrive at a different opinion.

Bertolucci first sued the swami and Ananda for fraud and sexual abuse. After a 31/2-month

trial in Redwood City, the evidence conclusively proved that since founding Ananda in

1968, the swami has used his self-elevated spiritual status as a "swami" - a celibate monk

of the Hindu Giri Monastic Orders, to get sex, money and labor from countless young,

devoted female disciples. Swami claimed this status and wore monastic robes even though

he had been thrown out of the Order in 1962 for various improprieties. The jury found that

during the 26-year period between 1968 and November 1994, the swami engaged in a

continuous pattern of fraud, sexual abuse and cover-up. The jury also found that the

current church leadership, the Novaks, the Smallens, the Pravers and others, lied and

covered up the swami's sexual "problem"; a word used in the trial by the swami after

admitting to sex with at least a dozen female disciples who worshiped and pledged

obedience to him. The swami had previously denied under oath any sexual involvement

with these women in an effort to keep his defamation case alive and he swore under oath

that Bertolucci was a liar, a dupe and a slut.


During the trial, the judge ruled that Ananda had concealed evidence, taken confidential

documents from Bertolucci's lawyers, including a list of about 20 women who had been

abused by the swami, some of whom had expressed fear for their lives. The judge ordered

that Bertolucci's case against Ananda for malicious abuse of the legal process and for

invasion of privacy be tried in a subsequent case - the current case in Nevada City. The

judge's ruling and the jury's findings in the first case were based on the following


Like hundreds of other young female devotees, Bertolucci joined Ananda believing that

Kriyananda, as a real "swami" would lead her to truth, happiness and salvation. That he

could be entrusted with her body, mind and soul. She swore and signed a pledge of loyalty

to the swami and Ananda. The swami and his leading minister then proceeded to take all of

her money (about $22,000), use her body for sex, and to program her mind and soul, in

order to fuel swami's growing spiritual empire. She ended up destitute, homeless and

suicidal. An Episcopal minister called a as witness described Bertolucci's ordeal as "soul


The details of the swami's 26-year history of abusing female devotees in bizarre

spiritual/sexual rituals are not fit for a family newspaper. They give a new perverted twist

to the classic menage-a-trois, particularly one between a cult leader and several of his

female "slaves." The swami's usual sermon to several of his female devotees who were

sexually servicing him at the same time was that swallowing his ejaculate conferred a

spiritual blessing on them that resonated through the universe. Kind of like getting to

Ananda heaven by receiving the swami's communion.

Because Ananda's cash flow depended upon keeping the swami's "problem" hidden from

the paying public and other less-fortunate devotees not worthy of his sexual presence, the

swami and the leadership covered it up. Therein lies the basis of the Nevada City case.

The best defense is a good offense, even if it is fabricated. Use the cost of litigation to bury

your opponent. After Bertolucci brought suit, Ananda and the swami sued Bertolucci for

defamation claiming that she and at least 10 other women who had come forward were all

lying about the swami. See the articles in The Union dated Nov. 30, 1994, and Jan. 21,

1995. Bertolucci and her lawyers spent the next three years and about $350,000 in legal

fees and over $300,000 in costs defending against the swami's and Ananda's false claim

that Bertolucci and the women were lying and that the swami was really a swami. Ananda

spent over one million dollars of tax-exempt money on legal fees and costs prosecuting

Bertolucci and the women as liars. The "swami" fraud had to continue in order to keep the

tax-exempt donations flowing.

On the first day of the Redwood City trial, before the jury was empaneled, swami and

Ananda dropped their defamation charges. They did this to prevent the jury from hearing

testimony from the 10 women about the swami's 26-year "problem." The strategy partially

worked. By dropping the defamation claim, swami and Ananda prevented Bertolucci from

proving that the swami brought the defamation to beat Bertolucci and her lawyers into

submission. Additionally the judge ruled that all damages to Bertolucci and her lawyers

from the swami's "maliciously prosecuting" the defamation claims had to be decided in a

second case. Thus, the jury never heard evidence about the financial and emotional

damages suffered by Bertolucci and her lawyers during the three years of defending false

claims brought solely to conceal swami's fraud.

At the same time in October 1997, as the trial was about to begin, Bertolucci's lawyers

discovered that two years earlier, Ananda had stolen confidential documents from

Bertolucci's lawyers by trespassing onto their property, penetrating a 6-foot fence and

stealing attorney/ client privileged documents from their trash. Ananda and the swami then

spent over two years lying and concealing their conduct, including the secret payment of

over $250,000 of tax-exempt money to at least three California law firms to cover-up the

theft. Ananda money was laundered through the client account of the lawyer who professed

to represent the trash stealers and not Ananda. Bertolucci's lawyers spent over two years

and $250,000 trying to uncover the cover-up.

The judge ruled that Ananda's and the swami's invasion of privacy, malicious prosecution

of the defamation case, and all of the costs to Bertolucci and her lawyers had to be tried in a

second case. The jury in the first case was not allowed to hear this evidence. In the first

case, the jury determined damages for fraud and sexual abuse alone of $325,000 against

Ananda and one of its ministers; and $1,295,000 against the swami. To date, Bertolucci

and her lawyers who have actually spent over $300,000 in out-of-pocket costs, and over

$600,000 in attorney fees have not received a cent. The swami and Ananda have spent over

$1,250,000 of tax-exempt money to conceal swami's "problem." Ananda has filed

bankruptcy to avoid paying the judgment. The paying public still goes to Ananda

uninformed of what has transpired, and continues to give tax-exempt donations to the

swami and Ananda. Based upon these facts and the illegal conduct of Ananda, it is clear

that this second case is not "mean spirited" and is fully justified and necessary. A

tax-exempt church and its charlatan leader should not be allowed to prey upon innocent

spiritual seekers, then use tax-exempt money to destroy them when they try to warn others

about the swami's "problem." Religious ministers who counsel thirsty souls should be held

just as accountable as a psychiatrist counseling troubled minds. Innocent people making

tax-exempt donations to a sexual predator who clothes himself in the monastic robe of a

spiritual sheep have the right to be warned. We have the duty to warn them. So does The

Union. Bertolucci and her lawyers don't own a newspaper in Nevada City where the jury

pool will be chosen from. Our voices are filtered through the swami PR department. We

don't receive tax-exempt donations or any other donations to fight this case. But I doubt

any well-informed juror in Nevada City would ever perpetuate swami's fraud. Thank God

for a jury of your peers.


Michael J. Flynn and Ford Greene are attorneys who represent Anne-Marie Bertolucci.