Cult sex offender seeks to be paroled

Daily Sentinel (Grand Junction, CO)/February 5, 2003
By Gary Harmon

The former head of a cult based in Molina asked Tuesday for his freedom after serving 10 years for 10 sex-related felonies involving children.

James Randazzo, 64, once the jaunty, self-assured leader of the Spiral of Friends Church who fought fire with a barrage of legal threats against government investigators, quietly told state parole board members he was remorseful for his actions and guilty of even more than he was charged.

Questioned as to why none of the charges against him were for violations against children while he was in a position of trust, the heavyset Randazzo, sporting a ponytail of white hair reaching down to the middle of his back, said children who were exploited by him indeed had been entrusted to his care. He was known for his insouciance, hopping out of limousines in tailored, three-piece suits to attend hearings and his trial.

"I was the top dog" of the Spiral of Friends Church, he said in a barely audible voice. "I know I was in a position of trust."

In one instance of abuse, Randazzo acted as director of a 104-minute video of his wife, Colleen, having sex with a 16-year-old boy.

The Randazzos said they had hoped the experience would prevent the youth from committing suicide. The youth and his mother later testified the youth had suffered no harm from the experience.

Randazzo had sought to defend himself against charges related to that incident using a "choice-of-evils" defense, saying that to do otherwise might have contributed to a suicide attempt, but that legal maneuver was rebuffed by the judge.

At the time he was sexually assaulting children, Randazzo said, he believed he was doing good.

"I thought it was educational for them," he said. "I was dysfunctional."

After he was found guilty in 1989, Randazzo jumped a $50,000 bond and fled the country. He was returned to the United States in September 1992 after he assaulted a police officer in Budapest, Hungary. He began serving his 16-year Department of Corrections sentence in 1993 and is scheduled to be discharged in September 2005.

While in prison, he was punished on one occasion for his continued connections with the Spiral of Friends, he said, but had come to realize he was using the organization to contact children.

The Spiral of Friends Church has survived Randazzo's incarceration and its current head, the Rev. Cathryn Ivie, told the parole board she and her husband were prepared to be responsible for him at the church, which now is based in Phoenix.

Children no longer are part of the church, Randazzo told the board members.

Ivie, who told the board she had known Randazzo for 20 years, said she believed him to be remorseful and to have no intent to resume his previous activities. She and her husband have consulted with an expert on how best to help Randazzo if he is released, she said.

Ivie declined comment about any plans she had for Randazzo, saying contact with a reporter would be "inappropriate."

Randazzo, who said he had academic training in mathematics, psychology and nuclear physics, told the board he was a broken man, suffering from problems with his "mental apparatus" as a result of a prison accident in 1998, and that he suffers from arthritis.

Were his victims present, he said, he would apologize and hope they would realize he had "seen the error of my ways."

While Randazzo has been imprisoned, his former wife received a sentence reduction from eight years of incarceration to eight years of supervised pro- bation.

He made no mention of her during the parole hearing.

Once he completes his Department of Corrections sentence, Randazzo is to serve a year in the Mesa County Jail for a separate sex-related offense involving children.

The two parole board members were to discuss Randazzo's case with the rest of the board before deciding on his parole application.

Meanwhile, Randazzo has filed suit against the state Department of Corrections, saying he has been deprived of the free practice of his religion because he was denied contact with church members.

The suit is pending in federal court in Denver.

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