[FINAL UPDATE] Fugitive Buddhist Monk Arrested in Hippie-Era Hash Smuggling Case!
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First the bad news: Despite hopes that the Orange County District Attorney's Office would have come to its senses and drop the charges by now, the bizarre case of the People vs. Brenice Lee Smith, continued to crawl forward today. In a hearing this morning before Judge Thomas M. Goethals, Smith pleaded not guilty to the 40 year old indictment that brought down the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, and which is now responsible for Smith being in jail. Meanwhile, the DA's office asked for a week to review a defense motion to reduce bail from $1.1 million to $50,000, which might allow Smith to get out of jail sometime soon. The next hearing in the case will be on October 23, by which time Smith will have spent nearly a month behind bars. DA Hicks told the judge he expected the trial, which will be scheduled on the 23rd, to last "at least" a month.
Now the good news: In a brief interview outside the courtroom following the hearing today, Hicks made a point of saying that his investigation into the charges against Smith is still continuing, and an important part of that investigation will be determining what Smith has been doing with his life for the past 40 years--see below for some answers on that--and "what his prospects are" after getting out of jail. Supposing that Smith really was living at a monastery as a Buddhist monk in Nepal and isn't really the Kingpin of Kathmandu, the DA seems to be saying that would work in Smith's favor. Although Hicks said that dropping the charges against Smith wasn't something he's considering, he did allow that, rather than being determined to see this case go to trial, he's just looking for a "fair resolution."
Check out next Thursday's OC Weekly for a print story about Smith and check Navel Gazing next Friday for the latest courtroom drama.
Previously: Aat a hearing late this morning at the Orange County Superior Court, Judge Thomas M. Goethals set bail for Brenice Lee Smith at $1.1 million. "This case is an old case that in its day was a notorious case," Goethals said, adding that although he was an OC prosecutor during the original Brotherhood of Eternal Love conspiracy case back in the early 1970s, he had nothing to do with the prosecution and wasn't going to recuse himself. The Deputy DA handling the case, Jim Hicks, had asked for a much higher bail, noting that some of the original defendants had faced possible sentences of life in prison.
|Brenice--rhymes with Dennis--Smith in court Monday morning.|
After nearly 40 years on the run, the last member of the so-called "Hippie Mafia" to evade the long arm of the law, has finally been captured, the Weekly has learned. Brenice Lee Smith, who grew up in Anaheim, was one of the founding members of the Laguna Beach-based Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a group of hippie hash smugglers who befriended Timothy Leary and sought to turn on the entire world through their trademark acid, Orange Sunshine. He was arrested by U.S. customs agents at San Francisco's International Airport at about 9 p.m. on Sept. 26, just minutes after arriving from Hong Kong in the second leg of a trip that started a day earlier in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Smith (pictured above, second to left, bottom row, in the famous 1972 Brotherhood of Eternal Love wanted poster) is now being held at a jail near the airport in Redwood City thanks to two nearly 40-year-old warrants relating to his involvement in the Brotherhood. A jail spokesperson said Smith was expected to be extradited for arraignment in Orange County sometime this week. However, Susan Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney, said she had no information about any extradition or warrants involving Smith, although she stated that could be because the warrants are so old.