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COLOMBRITO v. KELLY

July 5, 1984

ANTHONY COLOMBRITO, Plaintiff, against GALEN G. KELLY, et al., Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: OWEN

OPINION AND ORDER

OWEN, District Judge

 Before me is a motion by defendant Galen Kelly for attorney's fees incurred in defending against a $9,000,000 civil rights action which the plaintiff sought to drop before the conclusion of but after some three weeks of trial. Plaintiff's application to discontinue the action was denied by this Court under circumstances that are detailed hereafter. On mandamus to the Court of Appeals with a stay of the trial, the action was terminated with prejudice pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 41(a)(2) as if judgment had been rendered in defendant's favor after completion of trial, and with the commitment of a non-party, the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, to pay any attorney's fees that might be awarded.

 Plaintiff Anthony Colombrito is a young man who was -- and still is -- a member of the said Holy Spirit Association, the major United States organization of Reverend Sun Myung Moon. Defendant Galen Kelly for many years has been engaged by the parents of various young men and women, members in certain cults or sects, to assist in getting their son or daughter to leave the sect. This endeavor has come to be called "deprogramming". *fn1" In this case, Kelly had been engaged by Anthony Colombrito's parents to "deprogram" their son from the Holy Spirit Association. The parents were motivated by the fact that their son, a college graduate, was spending almost every day of the year from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. as a member of a fund-raising team selling flowers on the streets to raise money for the Association, which regime they believed to be jeopardizing his mental and physical health. *fn2" His mother, anguished over this, went to a New Jersey state court and obtained a court order giving the parents temporary custody of Anthony. Her sworn petition in support of the application described her son's activities as follows:

 . . . Part-time work on Master's Degree, never completed. Repaying school loan. Suddenly stopped payments. Loan still partially outstanding.

 . . . Every two or three months, Anthony calls. He only says what he is doing, not interested in coming home. Paranoid about coming home, no interest, no thought of coming home.

 * * *

 Efforts to visit - allowed only when supervisors say so. He only wanted to sleep during visit, had to work all previous night to make up for visit time.

 Anthony could not tie shoes, could not make decision, could not distinguish knife and fork, is afraid to take shower, would not talk, seemed in a trance. *fn3"

 The court order was granted -- and its validity was not successfully challenged during the later trial before me. Thereafter, the parents had a "social" meal with Anthony at a Howard Johnson's in Kingston, New York. Afterwards they got into their car in which, by prearrangement, Kelly and an associate were already seated in the back, and drove the unwilling Anthony to Kelly's grandmother's home nearby to start "deprogramming" rather than taking Anthony back to his residence at the Holy Spirit Association. *fn4"

 In this case however, the "deprogramming" did not run its course since certain Association members located Colombrito the next day and, after a series of events causing police intervention, Colombrito returned to the Association amid charges and countercharges of kidnapping and assault, all of which failed of grand jury action. This federal civil rights action, with Colombrito as the sole plaintiff against Kelly and others -- but significantly not his parents -- followed.

 During the course of the extensive trial I heard much uncontradicted testimony as to other young men and women being induced by an escalating and eventually heavy indoctrination to become followers of Reverend Moon. These followers were then placed in teams and sent out in vans to various sites throughout the United States to sell flowers and solicit money on the same approximate schedule as had Anthony. *fn5" At the trial, Kelly flew deprogrammed young men and certain of their parents to New York from all over the country to testify to this, and to the fact that they had been questionably fed and housed. I heard little contradiction of the foregoing by anyone affiliated with the Holy Spirit Association. I also heard uncontradicted evidence of callousness by members of the Association in thwarting parents' efforts to meet with their children when it was believed a parent wanted to talk to the child about leaving. *fn6"

 The evidence regarding Anthony and other similarly situated Association members presented a picture of an organization raising substantial funds at great personal cost to its members. The great bulk of these funds were expended on such things as an annual multi-million dollar international conference and the lavish personal expenses of Reverend Moon and certain high officials of his various organizations, with but modest expenditure on works more traditionally regarded as that of a religious group. As plaintiff's claims involved allegations that defendant Kelly abducted him with a "class-based animus" of hostility to his religion, I concluded that, in ...


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