Cult critic charged in abduction (Deprogrammer says he will be vindicated)

The Daily Morning News/July 8, 1993
By Lee Hancock

A Phoenix man whose work with a former Branch Dividian member drew attention during the cult's siege faces a felony charge in Washington state in connection with a failed deprogramming. Rick Ross and two other Arizona men were charged last week in Grays Harbor County Superior Court, accused of falsely imprisoning an 18-year-old Pentecostal sect member in January 1991. Mr. Ross denied wrongdoing Wednesday.

"I suspect very strongly that I have been targeted," he said. "It seems to coincide with my high profile during Waco. The cults are very angry. They're looking for any way to retaliate against their critics." "I believe that in the end, when all the facts come out on this case, I will be vindicated."

Federal agents interviewed Mr. Ross because, he said, he had deprogrammed a Branch Dividian member in June 1992. After a Feb. 28 federal raid on the sect near Waco ended in a gunfight and protracted siege, Mr. Ross said, he repeatedly talked with FBI agents trying to negotiate an end to the standoff. He also was quoted extensively in Texas and national media outlets as an expert on the small, heavily armed sect. Mr. Ross and his associates are charged with holding Jason Scott against his will in the county after abducting him from the Seattle suburb of Kirkland. Grays harbor County is on the Pacific coast about 140 miles southwest of Seattle. An affidavit filed in Grays harbor Superior Court alleges that Mr. Ross and his associates abducted Mr. Scott after handcuffing and gagging him with tape while Mr. Scott visited his mother's home. Mr. Scott was then held for five days in a condominium at the resort community of Ocean Shores before escaping, the affidavit alleges. If convicted, Mr. Ross could receive a maximum of five years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

Mr. Ross said Mr. Scott's mother hired him to deprogram her son after he remained in a Seattle-area church that she had left the year before. The church is affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church. The mother, who accompanied Mr. Ross and his associates to Ocean Shores, has not been charged in the case. Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Wheeler declined to comment on the mother's role in the case. He said the case is being prosecuted 2 ½ years after Mr. Ross' arrest because "an extensive investigation" was required before charges could be filed. "This was an 18-year-old man who just wanted to go to church," he said. "The word cult is one of those nebulous words that can be twisted to mean whatever you want it to mean."


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