1980-Apr.: Bribe Charge

Dymally’s attorney, cultist indicted here

Bribe Charge – April 4, 1980, San Diego Evening Tribune


By Joe Hughes

Tribune Staff Writer

The San Diego County grand jury has indicted former Lt. Gov. Mervyn Dymally’s attorney and a religious cult leader on charges they conspired to solicit and pay a bribe to Dymally when he was lieutenant governor.

Indicted are attorney Edward L. Masry of Westwood and Patricia Sperato, an official of the Morningland religious cult once headquartered in Escondido and now operating in Long Beach.

Dymally, now a Democratic congressional candidate for the 31st District, was not indicted.

Masry and Sperato, also known as Sri Patricia, have agreed to surrender next Wednesday at Vista for arraignment on the charges, say sources in the state Attorney General’s office.

Masry is accused of soliciting a $10,000 bribe from Morningland, to be paid to Dymally for his help in urging the Legislature to investigate government harassment of Morningland and Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple.

Masry and Sperato also are charged with conspiracy to pay the bribe to Dymally.

If there was no such conspiracy, the indictment adds, Masry faces a grand-theft charge for taking the money from Morningland under false pretenses by telling others in the cult that it was for a bribe.

Sperato also was indicted for misapplication of Morningland funds.

Dymally has denied receiving any solicitation or bribe money from Masry or Morningland. He and Sperato were unavailable for comment today.

Masry said last night during an interview on a Los Angeles religious television station: “At no time did either Morningland or I give Mervyn Dymally a dime.”

Masry called the indictments “a vicious, unrelenting, Gestapo-type assassination of churches” and attacked the state Attorney General’s office, which conducted the year long investigation.

“Any attorney in this state who is representing any religion out of the mainstream may be in difficulty as far as the attorney general is concerned,” he said. “Generally speaking, the attorney general’s office is becoming reminiscent of the black shirts of Nazi Germany.”

Masry said he was “not going to keep quiet” about his testimony before the San Diego County grand jury. Witnesses before the jury are directed not to discuss their testimony in public.

At one time Morningland – which Masry represented as an attorney – had more than 400 members. It closed its Escondido temple in 1978 after the possibility of wrongdoing was raised by the Escondido City Council.

After Escondido residents complained that their children were being alienated from them by the religion, the council started a probe.

Morningland remains in operation in Long Beach, where the sect is involved in astrological, mystical-spiritual doctrines, telepathic teachings and astronomical reactions.

Although Dymally was not indicted, state Justice Department agents, in affidavits filed in Los Angeles, allege that $10,000 in Morningland funds were paid to Masry for Dymally to influence an official act by a state official.

Dymally allegedly had proposed legislative hearings on harassment of the church and the People’s Temple.

Former Morningside (sic) members told Justice Department investigators during the probe that a $10,000 check was given by the church to Masry to give to Dymally.