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Krishna Leader Found Innocent

December 15, 1987|Associated Press

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — A federal jury found the leader of the nation's largest Hare Krishna community innocent of arson and fraud charges today but convicted a follower of burning an apartment building in a scheme to collect $40,000 in insurance.

The 11-woman, one-man U.S. District Court jury deliberated about three hours over two days before clearing Kirtanananda Swami Bhaktipada of conspiracy, arson and mail-fraud charges. Jurors, however, found Thomas Drescher, also known as Tirtha Swami, guilty of charges that he burned a vacant two-story building near the Krishna's New Vrindaban community. Bhaktipada, leader of the 600-member community located about 70 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, has maintained that the charges were part of a $4-million effort by federal, state and local authorities to chase the Krishna community off the 4,000-acre compound.

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