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Wednesday, January 12, 1994 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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`Deprogrammer' Trial Gets Under Way -- Man Allegedly Kept Victim In Motel Room For Several Days Against His Will

An Arizona "deprogrammer" who consulted with federal authorities last year on Waco's Branch Davidians, went on trial today in Grays Harbor Superior Court on charges of the unlawful imprisonment of an 18-year-old man whose mother wanted him out of a Bellevue fundamentalist church.

Deputy Prosecutor Joe Wheeler presented opening statements in the case against Rick Ross, 41, who in 1991 allegedly took Jason Scott from his mother's Kirkland home and kept him in an Ocean Shores motel room for several days against his will as Ross attempted to persuade Scott to leave the Life Tabernacle Church.

Two other men charged along with Ross, Mark Workman and Charles Simpson, pleaded guilty yesterday to lesser charges of coercion, Wheeler said, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Prosecutors expect to complete the presentation of their case against Ross by tomorrow.

According to them, Scott's mother, Kathy Tonkin, hired Ross and the other men to "deprogram" her son, who was then 18, after she left the church. Tonkin, now an Arizona resident, has not been charged. Prosecutors are taking a wait-and-see approach.

"We have not yet made a formal charging decision on Kathy Tonkin," Wheeler said. "After we're done with the situation of Mr. Ross we'll sit down and evaluate the situation."

The charges were filed last summer after "extensive investigation," Wheeler said, and more than two years after Scott allegedly escaped and made a report to police.

Ross's defense attorney, Jeff Ranes, could not be reached for comment.

One possible defense, the "necessity defense," used in some trials of deprogrammers, argues that the harm of the church or cult outweighs the harm of the kidnapping or unlawful imprisonment. It was disallowed by Grays Harbor County Superior Court Judge David Foscue.

Copyright (c) 1994 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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