Michael Flynn is the Plaintiff's Attorney in this trial.
Michael Flynn's closing argument was in two sections: a 2-hour section on 1-28-98 and a 40-min section on 1-29-98. This is the 2-hour section, 1-28-98.
This informal transcript was transcribed from an audio recording. Uneven taping quality resulted in some words missing, as indicated.
Ladies and gentlemen, obviously I have to tell you, first, thanks. On behalf of Ford Greene, and the plaintiff, we all thank you. You've been jurors that paid attention, with the utmost attentiveness. I can tell by watching you that you've been scrutinizing the evidence, scrutinizing the witnesses, listening to not only what a person said but the way they said it. You've been here, like me and the judge and the defense, for three months. It's been a long three months and I'm sure there are things that came up where one or more sides have made mistakes. If the plaintiff's counsel has made any mistakes, you can rest assured that they've been made in front of you. There's been no effort on the part of the plaintiff to hide, conceal, destroy, fabricate, take, engage confidential privileges. What you've seen, from us, whether good or bad, mistakes, or aggressive pursuit of truth, it's been right in front of you, and you can judge for yourselves. For some of you, I know it's been a hardship to be here. And for all of you, I know that sitting here for three months, listening to a case involving conduct between the spiritual leader of a closed religious community and a minister with one parishioner is something that at various times you've wondered, what are the issues here? What are we called upon truly to decide? Mr. Rockhill told you in his opening it was a love story. Well, I think after you've heard all of the evidence, you can safely conclude that what went on here could not possibly have been a love story. Love is ennobling, it's fulfilling, it's creative, it's productive, it causes happiness, it produces joy, it uplifts the human heart, it uplifts the mind, it causes productivity, it does not do what occurred here. It does not reduce a woman to living in a hut in a remote location, being assaulted in a gym, being sexually used for three months, while she loses 30 pounds, has a nervous breakdown, ends up with a counselor produced by the defendant, who produces notes that at best are highly suspect. I think, based on all of your collective and individual experiences, you can safely conclude that that is not love.
Now, we're going to get into a lot of issues about the nature of a minister, and the minister-parishioner relationship, and the nature of the ministry, and the type of things that they have in that. Before we do that, I ask you to kind of take a broad perspective of what's gone on in this courtroom the last three months. This is a very unusual case, and as I think we're going to develop in the argument, you're going to find that there are very substantial issues that should be addressed by you. Issues that are bigger than just this case.
So let's take a look at what's gone on in the courtroom for the last three months. You have a 28-year-old woman who joins a religious group to find God: (the plaintiff). She pursues meditation initially because she wants the reduction from stress. She finds in meditation an enormous benefit from a spiritual point of view. It's unquestionable. She finds that benefit. She then pursues, with the Ananda Church, the benefits that the Ananda Church represents are available to her through the pursuit of meditation. And who is the living example of the proof of the benefits of meditation? Swami Kriyananda. The person who everyone in the Church has vowed obedience to.
Now, in the short time that she's in the Church, we find out that one minister, xx his wife has fallen in love with another man. So, he's needy. As soon as Ms. (the plaintiff) joins the Church, what does Mr. xx do? He hits on Ms. (the plaintiff). Now, he's not a party in this case. But ask yourself, as soon as she joins the Church and moves in, because his wife's fallen in love with someone else, he hits on a parishioner. Now, she then tried to get out of that relationship immediately, as you know, and leaves and goes to Ananda Village. During the course of the trial, they blame HER for not properly responding to xx.
She goes to Ananda Village, she gets in the monastic training program, and by April of 1993 she's hit upon by a second minister, Mr. XX Now, she's gone there to find God. Mr. Rockhill is right about one thing: this is a love story. But it's not a love story, obviously, between her and Levin. It's a love story, as reflected the declaration of spiritual intent, between her and God. That's what she was trying to do. That's what she was trying to accomplish. And the evidence is clear. Her contemporaneous writings at the time show you that she wanted to find God. She had given up a husband. For sure, it was a troubled marriage. All the more reason to go to a church. That's why people go to a church.
So, she goes to find God, and the second minister preys upon her. She resists, writes a letter, complains, and we're going to get into the details of that. And then she gets blamed, she gets moved, the minister gets moved into, in effect, her home, and then she gets blamed, shamed, shunned, removed, loses jobs, loses weight, has a nervous breakdown. With the minister everything stays the same. Then what happened? To get some justice, she brings a case. She comes in court. And a parade of witnesses ends up in front of the jury. A parade of witnesses vilifying her, with everything, virtually, a person can be accused of. The ministers, their status, stays the same. She's the one responsible. That's the whole point of the defense: to blame (the plaintiff). These ministers, like Swami Kriyananda, according to their own members, have no accountability.
So, if you sit back and you look at what happened, and you look at the succession of witnesses that were brought in here to vilify her, I ask you to ask yourself, Why are they vilifying her to such a degree? She was a new church member who joined the Church obviously to find God, who practiced all their techniques religiously, believed in meditation. She gets hit upon by a succession of ministers, causing this total emotional devastation that you heard from other witnesses, and she comes to you and says, "This problem has got to be corrected. There's got to be some kind of accountability." And they come forward and they say, "It's all her fault."
Now, I simply ask you to use your common sense with regard to whether or not in this kind of a context, first of all, whether ANY fault can be contributed to (the plaintiff). Any fault whatsoever. She says she wants counseling with D and D, she complains to V, she writes Mr. XX letter, saying "Let's be brother and sister," and none of it works. And yet, she gets blamed.
.......To be continued in Closing arguments part 1
Michael Flynn closing arguments part #2
You remember the testimony of Woman #7. When she began to say no to Swami, several women came up to her and said, "Well, you don't really treat Swami that way." And they began to shun her, and she became more isolated. And then she went into a state of depression, and then went to a therapist.
Now, the reason society needs to have rules is to prohibit taking advantage of. It's like the plumber taking advantage of not being a plumber but getting work and getting money. There must be some prohibition society should impose to prevent someone in a position of power from taking advantage of someone else. Particularly when you have all the tools of power that Swami Kriyananda had in this case. And which came down to Mr. XX which we're going to talk about. Every amount of power you can put in a person over another person, Swami Kriyananda has in that community. Jobs, housing, spiritual direction, just his pure position in the community.
These people come in, as Asha Praver testified, their minds get changed. Their brains get changed. I submit to you, their minds get bent. They get distorted. They begin to believe in the face of just absolutely blatant evidence to the contrary -- Remember Mr. G, remember the fellow with the Western Athletic Clubs? Obviously a very sophisticated man. He comes and he testifies, "I have a 14-year-old and an 18-year-old. I haven't read the declarations." Remember that testimony? And I said, "Well, if you knew that Swami Kriyananda was using massage to have people then masturbate him, and give him oral sex, would you warn your 14-year-old daughter? Not only say, 'Don't go near the Swami,' would you warn her?" What did he say? He said, "No, she's intuitive."
Now, I suggest that common sense tells you, any parent whose mind has not been bent would say, "Of course, I'd warn my 14-year-old, if I knew facts like that." These facts are in front of this man, and he wouldn't even read them. That's the degree of reality that you as a jury have to confront in this case. In many ways, what's going on here is shocking. The degree of reality that needs to be dealt with, is that these people, blindly, do not care. They believe in Swami, period. They won't even read what went on, because they don't want their beliefs shaken. And yet that level of ignoring basic rules of society, basic issues that parents have to confront, that people have to confront when they're dealing with each other, they just ignore.
That's what you as the jury have got to confront in this case. Whether or not there should be some basic rules that apply to ministers, and, in this case, [to] the head of the community. You heard from Reverend Cooper-White that in Minnesota and Florida, it's a felony when you engage in sexual contact. There's a developing area of the law, with regard to this problem, and you as jurors have been thrust into it, the entire development of the process. In this case, you've got to deal with a level of reality that, I submit, 25 or more witnesses that came in from Ananda Village have not confronted.
Now, Reverend Cooper-White says a sexual predator's wants are his needs. Does that describe Swami Kriyananda? He's a rule breaker. The Swami had no rules all these years. He did with these women whatever he wanted. No empathy. You heard him on the witness stand. A sexual predator of this type has no empathy. Do you think he cared about these women? Do you think there was one ounce of affection that took place between him and these women? He had them sexually service him, good-bye.
A sexual predator has to be the center of things. Well, that's easy. He's the Swami. Takes no responsibility. You heard from Mr. XX and you heard from Swami. Swami said, "It's between me and God." The Ananda Church and its members are paying for the defense here, but he says it's between him and God. Mr. XX said, "No, I don't think there should be any responsibility." He took that all the way to the people at Jonestown. "The ones who escaped, escaped." When challenged, he feels like a martyr. Well, Swami Kriyananda's been challenged in this case. And he feels like a martyr. He feels like a victim. He's been abused by the women. The women are coming in and lying about him. Poor Swami.
He has a need for greatness, to be a star. Well, he's the Swami. These are all characteristics of a sexual predator. In over a hundred cases, Reverend Cooper-White has seen it, and she listed them for you people.
He uses rhetoric to cover up the reality of his narcissism. She says, "Look at his deeds, not his words." I think the testimony of the women tell you about his deeds.
Vilify opponent as patterned response. Well, do you think his narcissism has spread to the entire Ananda community? (the plaintiff) shows up, joins the Church, and she's literally Satan when she tries to come in and expose what's going on.
When confronted with misconduct, the sexual predator has total denial. Do you think you've seen that?
And in Mr. XX, do you think you saw that? Remember the declaration of Mr. XX dated February 1995? -- where it was all (the plaintiff). (the plaintiff) jumped up on a bar this high -- which, incidentally, 42 inches comes to about here. I'm roughly XX's height. That's above my belt, up near my belly button, and she's sitting up -- her legs would be up around here (indicating). (the plaintiff) jumped on the bar. (the plaintiff) laid him down in the undergrowth, remember that? And then he says, "Well, I've kind of modified that position because I no longer really feel -- I'm now taking responsibility for myself." Well, does that mean that he lied in his declaration? -- when he wrote it? And if he lied once, admittedly, should he be believed now? Minimize the importance of it. "Oh, it was just a sexual encounter."
Well, Woman #1, Woman #2 have carried it around inside them all of these years. Reverend Cooper-White described it as "soul devastation." (the plaintiff) 's been through three years of therapy, with her soul and her heart devastated, because she trusted to such a degree this individual, Swami Kriyananda, his ministers, his Church, to take her to God. She trusted to such a degree (untranscribed). And all of the other women described a similar thing. Woman #1, Woman # 2, M (another woman) who had a simple little encounter and she never went back to pursuing the spiritual path.
The sexual predator, when faced with misconduct, blames the victim. The accuser is the perpetrator. Remember him blaming woman #2? Blaming these other women
....To be continued in Closing arguments part #2
Count one: Both the Ananda church and Walters were found liable on the charge of "constructive fraud", with a finding of "malice and fraudulent conduct".
Count two: Both the Ananda church, Walters and the Senior Minister were found liable for "intentional infliction of emotional distress" with a finding of "malice" and a finding of "despicable conduct" against the church.
Count three: Both Ananda and the church were found liable for "negligent supervision"; that the church had a duty to control Walter's behavior, and failed to do so, with a finding of "malice and fraud" on the part of the church.
The jury also found that the Senior Minister had made "unwelcome sexual advances".
Friday, February 6, there will be depositions concerning assets, which will be weighed when considering punitive damages.
In addition, Ananda ministers Asha and David Praver reportedly said they do not want to comply with the judge's order to appear tomorrow with records and testimony concerning Ananda's assets in Palo Alto and Mt. View. They reportedly said they will be hiring their own attorney.
Awards for "compensatory damages":
$595,000 in compensatory damages against Swami Kriyananda and the Ananda church.
$30,000 in compensatory damages against the Ananda Senior Minister.
Monday the jury will hear testimony on Ananda and Swami Kriyananda's financial records, for the assessment of punitive damages.
*Punitive Damages were also awarded to the plaintiff in the amount of $1,000,000 (one million dollars). Punitive [exemplary] damages are awarded after actual damages. Punitive damages serve to warn others that certain conduct will not be condoned. They are typically awarded in lawsuits where a defendant has acted in a willful, intentionally malicious way.
Also in 1998, Ananda agreed to pay an additional $200, 000 to settle two additional related lawsuits. One of these lawsuits was brought against Ananda because Ananda admitted hiring[and paying with Church tax-exempt money] for the theft of trash [privileged client-attorney information] from the plaintiff's lawyers' office.
For too long now, through ignorance or design, Ananda's leaders and many followers, have chosen to follow personality over principle, to pledge their "obedience and loyalty" to Donald Walters, rather than the basic moral and ethical standards of society.
During the three and half years of this lawsuit and continuing to date, Ananda vilifies anyone who dares to speak out, condemning them as "negative","liars", "embodiments of evil" or in league with dark secret conspiracies.
Kriyananda and Ananda leaders have consistently refused to accept any responsibility or accountability for their actions.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "The world looks like a mathematical equation which, turn it how you will, balances itself. Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty."
After deliberating almost a week, an impartial jury of American citizens has weighed the evidence, and found Ananda wanting.
It is now time for Ananda to stop the vilification and denial, to accept responsibility, to realign itself with established codes of moral and ethical behavior. To do less will only take Ananda further down the path of public condemnation and ultimate self-destruction.
Far from wanting to see such destruction, it is the hope of many that through a return to the principles of honesty, accountability and humility that Ananda may yet return to the spiritual principles which it claims to follow.