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Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - Page updated at 08:15 AM

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Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh disciple gets probation in murder plot

The Associated Press

PORTLAND — A disciple of the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was sentenced to five years probation for conspiring to kill a U.S. attorney more than 20 years ago.

Catherine Stork, 60, cried in the federal courthouse Monday as she expressed remorse for her part in the aborted plot to kill then-U.S. Attorney Charles Turner.

Stork pleaded guilty last fall, joining six other followers who had earlier done the same. The others were sentenced to prison for two to five years.

Stork was a member of a commune that operated on a 100-square-mile ranch in the Central Oregon town of Antelope from 1981 to 1985. The commune members plotted to take over the local county government in 1984, spiking salad bars in The Dalles with salmonella in an effort to incapacitate non-Rajneeshee voters.

A year later, the Bhagwan's inner circle conspired to kill Turner, after he was appointed to head a federal grand jury investigation of the commune.

Stork and six other disciples were indicted in 1990. But Stork refused to leave Germany, where she is a naturalized citizen. In 1991, Germany declined an extradition request from the United States.

Last year, Stork voluntarily returned to Portland to face the federal charges in order to be free to travel to Australia to visit her dying son.

U.S. District Judge Malcolm F. Marsh let her leave the United States to see her son, returning to be sentenced this week.

"I think there are times when justice trumps mercy," Marsh said. "There are other times mercy trumps justice. We have such a case here."

Stork could have been sentenced to life in prison.

"I think I'll be paying for the rest of my life," Stork said outside the courtroom. "My debt is great."

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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