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Bohemian Grove commando found guilty

Kelly St. John, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 17, 2002

A Sonoma County jury convicted a Nevada man yesterday of all charges stemming from a bizarre episode that he undertook in hopes of exposing human sacrifice at the Bohemian Grove.

The jury deliberated for less than an hour yesterday morning before finding Richard McCaslin, 37, guilty of five felonies, including arson, burglary and brandishing a weapon at a peace officer.

He was also found guilty of two enhancements for being armed and wearing a bulletproof vest while carrying out those crimes last January. They apparently were committed out of his belief that the Bohemian Club's benign "Cremation of Care Ceremony," performed each year at its annual encampment, is a satanic ritual involving child abuse and human sacrifice.

McCaslin, of Carson City, Nev., faces a sentence of as long as 12 years in prison when he is sentenced on May 14. Prosecutors said they intend to ask for the maximum penalty.

"In his mind, however unreasonable it is, he thinks it was the right thing to do," said Deputy District Attorney Charles Arden. "That's why I believe he is extremely dangerous."

McCaslin's attorney, Jeff Mitchell, did not return phone calls asking for comment.

McCaslin is still facing federal charges, including crossing state lines with the intent to commit arson, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Jacobs.

During the trial, McCaslin testified he was following the Bible when he moved from Texas to Nevada and spent more than a year planning a commando- style assault to root out pagan worshipers sacrificing children.

McCaslin said he was also inspired by a Texas talk show host, Alex Jones, who says he has seen "bizarre, Luciferian ceremonies" at the 2,700-acre grove known for its annual two-week summer encampment which draws business and political leaders, such as Henry Kissinger and former President George Bush.

In an interview with The Chronicle last January, McCaslin said he was "expecting armed resistance" that Jan. 19 when he crept into the grove, wearing a skeleton mask and blue fatigues with "Phantom Patriot" spelled out in red letters across his chest.

He was also armed with a sword, crossbow, machine gun, and explosive device.

"I felt if physical damage was inflicted upon them and it got enough attention, the American people would rise up," he said.

That night, McCaslin said, he lost his way and crawled into a cabin to sleep.

The next morning, McCaslin found the club's giant owl statue, but could find no enemy to confront. McCaslin then set fire to the camp's mess hall, but sprinklers extinguished the flames.

He was confronted by Sonoma County sheriff's deputies and surrendered 15 minutes later.

Mitchell, McCaslin's attorney, argued that there was insufficient evidence to show that McCaslin entered the compound intending to commit burglary and arson.

Jurors spurned that argument, Arden said, adding that he interviewed eight of the jurors after the verdict.

"They felt very comfortable and confident," Arden said. "One said he was a domestic terrorist."

E-mail Kelly St. John at kstjohn@sfchronicle.com.

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