|The Swami Case, One Year on
By Eric Dexheimer
April 24, 2009
Today marks the one year anniversary of the arrest of Prakashanand Saraswati, the spiritual leader of Barsana Dham, the Hindu ashram south of Austin. Over the past twelve months, Prakashanand's case has been winding through the court system at an unusually slow pace, officials said.
On April 24, 2008, U.S. marshals took Prakashanand, who is known as Shree Swamiji to his followers, into custody as he exited a plane at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. He was subsequently charged with groping two teen-aged girls on 10 occasions each between 1993 and 1996, according to a Hays County indictment.
Since then, other women affiliated with Barsana Dham have come forward claiming that the holy man, or his India-based guru, either had sexual contact with them, or solicited it. (Read those stories here.)
While the case produced a few dramatic moments early on — in May a devotee pledged $10 million of his personal fortune as a guarantee that the swami would return to the country for his trial if permitted to travel in the meantime — it generally has been plagued by one postponement after another. In all, various hearings have been canceled and rescheduled eight separate times, according to Hays County court records.
Although complicated criminal cases often drag on, that seems like an unusually high number, admitted Hays County District Attorney Sherri Tibbe in an email. "It is true that cases typically are not reset or canceled this many times in my experience," she wrote, although she conceded that "I do not have any statistical information to document that point."
Tibbe also declined to give any updates. "We are anticipating a trial in this case and I do not want to make any comments specifically about the case," she wrote.
A separate case, in which Prakashanad is appealing his ban from the ashram, is pending at the 3rd Court of Appeals.
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