Judge: California man must pay Alabama religious group $2 million

Associated Press/December 20, 2006

Birmingham, Alabama — A Shelby County circuit judge has ordered a California millionaire to pay the Caritas religious group $2 million for violating a confidential April 2005 settlement of an earlier lawsuit.

Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner also cited San Jose, California businessman Phillip J. Kronzer for criminal and civil contempt of court and ordered that Kronzer relinquish his passports and attend a January 10th deposition.

The Caritas Community is a residential religious group near Sterrett that Terry Colafrancesco founded after a 1988 visit from a Bosnian woman who reported visitations from the Virgin Mary in his cow pasture. The group periodically hosts the woman, Marija Lunetti, and the appearances customarily draw large crowds.

The order Tuesday calls for payments of $1 million each from Kronzer as an individual and from his Phillip J. Kronzer Foundation, based in Los Gatos, Calif. A Kronzer associate, Donn Waters, also was ordered to pay Caritas $25,000.

Joiner signed the contempt orders because Kronzer failed to show up for a December 13th deposition with lawyers for Caritas. The deposition involved a lawsuit in which the group claimed Kronzer defaulted on a mediator's award in a previous legal case between the two.

Caritas lawyer Daniel Burnick said the group did not expect the defendants to pay the new judgments.

"To date, the defendants have not paid a single penny that they promised to pay pursuant to the settlement agreement," Burnick wrote in an e-mail to The Birmingham News. "The conduct of the defendants, and Judge Joiner's contempt order and entry of judgments, speak for themselves."

A phone message left with the Kronzer foundation was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Kronzer declared war on cults when his wife left him several years ago to join what he claimed was a cult, The News said. He repeatedly has claimed that Caritas is a cult and published material about the group on the Internet.

Caritas sued Kronzer, Waters and the foundation last year. The group claimed Kronzer had violated the 2005 settlement of a lawsuit in which former members of Caritas, bankrolled by Kronzer, claimed they were brainwashed and drained of assets by Caritas.

In testimony last summer, Kronzer admitted violating a portion of the settlement that forbids him to make disparaging remarks about Caritas and Colafrancesco. He admitted to posting derogatory information on his Web site and writing letters and documents under false names that said Caritas was under investigation by the Vatican, Congress and the IRS.

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