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 Swami Denies Sexual Abuse Charges

But church leader tells court he made `mistakes'


Benjamin Pimentel, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 3, 1997

The self-described swami of a controversial Palo Alto church denied in a San Mateo County courtroom yesterday that he used his position to sexually exploit female church members.

J. Donald Walters, head of the Ananda Church of God Realization, testified in his own defense in a suit filed by Anne Marie Bertolucci, a former member who accused him of fraud, wrongful termination and sexual abuse.
Walters, 71, also known as Swami Kriyananda, called Bertolucci a perjurer in suggesting that he made her lie on his lap as a way to manipulate her to have sex with him.

``She had a headache,'' Walters said in the courtroom of Judge Lawrence Stevens in Redwood City. ```Would you like me to massage your head?' I asked. She said, `Yes.' ''
Walters admitted that he had had sex with some of his female devotees -- although he portrayed such relationships as mistakes. ``I was weak,'' he said.
He also denied that he ever forced any one of his partners to have sex. ``I never wanted to demand anything of anyone if it's not freely given,'' he said, referring to one partner. ``I didn't think of it as her sexually servicing me. I thought of it as an act of friendship.''

The case took an unexpected turn earlier this year when Bertolucci's attorney, Michael Flynn, discovered that Ananda had hired an investigator who pilfered his garbage in 1995.
The investigator apparently wanted to get information on the legal strategy of Bertolucci's team, Flynn said. In reaction to the theft, Flynn requested that Stevens enter a default judgment in their favor.

Instead, Stevens barred the defense from cross-examining Bertolucci or either of the two other women who claimed that Walters had had sex with them.

Ananda was founded in 1968 by Walters, a disciple of the Indian yoga teacher Paramhansa Yogananda and author of the book, ``Autobiography of a Western Yogi.''