Goodies for guru keep sect poor

Lawsuit documents say Da Free John went to great lengths to avoid liability

San Francisco Examiner/August 4, 1985
By Don Lattin

San Rafael -- Devotees of sect leader Da Free John are living "an essentially impoverished" life here while cases of champagne, caviar and expensive gifts are sent to their reclusive guru and his nine wives in Fiji, according to statements on file in Marin County Superior Court.

The allegations are contained in declarations filed last week by three former members of the Johannine Daist Communion, or JDC.

Da Free John and seven other leaders of his Marin ­ based religious sect are accused of false imprisonment, sexual abuse, assault, brainwashing and involuntary servitude in a lawsuit filed in April by former member Beverly O'Mahony. She is asking for $5 million in damages.

JDC officials have denied O'Mahony's allegations.

The legal declarations by O'Mahony and two high ranking defectors, filed in support of the lawsuit, are designed to prove that New York native Da Free John, 45, also known as Franklin Albert Jones, ultimately controls the sect.

Da Free John, his nine wives and 30 longtime devotees live on the remote Fijian island of Naitaumba, which JDC purchased two years ago from actor Raymond Burr for $2.1 million.

JDC lawyers, who have filed papers to quash a summons served against the guru at the organization's San Rafael headquarters, contend that Da Free John is not an officer, shareholder or director of the 1,100 member sect.

That issue, along with a defense motion that the case be dismissed, is scheduled to go before a Marin County judge Friday.

One of. the declarations was filed by Andrew Parker, a member of the group from 1978 to 1983 who served on its board of directors.

He said that "as much as 80 percent of the wealth of the JDC Corporation is tied up in assets that are completely set aside for the total control and pleasure of Jones, including real estate in Hawaii, Lake County (and) Fiji" and "fine art, expensive jewelry, boats and automobiles."

Patricia Masters, a devotee from 1974 to 1984, said in her declaration that she was married to Dennis Duff, who headed a JDC division called Renunciate Order Services, which provided money, property and services for the guru's inner circle in Fiji.

Masters said she prepared shipments of imported champagne, caviar, expensive fabric, designer jewelry and women's lingerie for Da Free John and his nine wives, one of whom is former Playboy Playmate of the Month Julie Anderson.

Masters also said $2,000 was provided for a gift every time one of Da Free John's wives had a birthday.

Both Parker and Masters said Da Free John went to extraordinary lengths to make it appear that he was merely "a renunciate with no ownership and management powers." For example, they said, the guru:


  • Concealed all records and references to the personal habits of Franklin Jones, including particularly his participation in unusual and bizarre sexual activities and drugs."


  • Attempted to "form a secret and separate corporation for Franklin Jones' benefit."


  • Repeatedly spoke of his desire "maximize control while minimizing his own liability."


  • Moved to an isolated South Pacific island because of his "paranoid need to insulate himself from the consequences of his own acts and those of JDC."

Parker said JDC was constantly in debt because of the guru's demands for expensive landscaping and "lavish appointments and equipment" for his private homes in Lake County where JDC owns a 600 acre hot­springs resort and on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where the sect has a retreat in the shadow of Mount Waialeale.

O'Mahony, the estranged wife of JDC President Brian O'Mahony, said much of her husband's time was spent raising money to support Da Free John's extravagant lifestyle.

"I would hear him on the phone trying to figure out ways to pay for all the things Da Free John wanted such as planning fund raising, ways to bring in new students, increase tithes," she said in her declaration.

In his declaration, Parker said the guru's tithing followers in Marin County and elsewhere "remain an essentially impoverished group, living in rented homes, often three families to a home, without savings or equity of any kind."

O'Mahony said Da Free John often urged his male followers to consider polygamy because "their wives would one day become older and less attractive."

"This placed a tremendous strain upon all the women in JDC who watched their husbands being encouraged to think of other women," she said.

Parker said Da Free John had a "pervasive influence" on the marriages, sex lives and family living arrangements of his devotees.

"He would determine what particular couples were to be married or divorced, which children would live with which parents or with people other than their parents," Parker said.

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