Psychics arrested in Ft Lauderdale Broward County Florida

Are psychics protected by religious rights?  Freedom of speech as a criminal defense in Ft Lauderdale Florida.

by Sharon Hill on April 9, 2012 at 11:12 am

Psychics’ practices protected by religious rights, lawyers say – South Florida

What a South Florida family of psychics did for 20 years was criminal fraud, federal prosecutors say. But the Marks family’s defense team says it was something very different — religion, free speech and a sincere belief in spiritual healing.

Nine members of the Fort Lauderdale family of Roma, or gypsies led by fortunetelling matriarch Rose Marks, were arrested in August on federal fraud conspiracy charges and accused of defrauding their clients of $40 million.

Defense attorneys are attacking the criminal indictment on several fronts, hoping to get the charges dismissed before a proposed trial date in November.

Lawyers have argued in court papers that the family members had a constitutionally protected right to practice fortunetelling and spiritual healing because it is a part of their religious belief system and fortunetelling is legally considered to be free speech.

According to a release from the Justice Department, the Marks:

used magic tricks and false statements to frighten their victims into giving them large sums of money and other valuables, including jewelry and gold coins, to be “cleansed” of the evil spirits. The defendants told victims that they and their family would suffer terrible consequences, including diseases, hauntings, and financial hardships, unless they turned over their money and valuables for “cleansing” by the defendants.

Describing the case as "slipshod" in a written ruling this week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann Vitunac ordered prosecutors to turn over transcripts of some of the usually secret grand jury testimony to the defense.

What do you think ? Is this religious freedom of speech?