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.
Tip: @edzardErnst on twitter
Their lawyer is saying that his client, Nancy Marks, 42, did nothing but try to help people, in line with her personal spiritual beliefs.
“Nancy Marks’ conduct is rooted in her religion and spirituality,” Gottlieb wrote. “Based upon this prosecution, the defendant has lost her livelihood and has been unable to make a living using her historical religious and spiritual gifts.”
That is ABSURD! No such GIFTS have ever been shown to exist in anyone ever, let alone that the Marks’ have them. And, even if it is a religious rights issue, that does not exempt you from the law. I’m pretty sure that’s well established in case law. Talk about REACHING!
Here is what they say:
Because the U.S. Constitution and the Establishment Clause guarantee freedom of religion, the lawyers argue that the government shouldn’t be allowed to prosecute the Marks family for pursuing their beliefs. Courts have ruled that religious beliefs don’t have to be “acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection,” the lawyers wrote.
And taking money for services is consistent with other mainstream religions that use the donations for the upkeep of places of worship and to cover other expenses, the attorneys wrote.
Nancy Marks’ behavior was no different from that of “religious teachers, preachers, and healers and demon chasers,” evangelists and the Psychic Friends Network, whose shows are often televised on cable where donations are sought, the lawyers argued.
Well, let’s not venture into the gray area of what above-board religious institutions do. But let’s be clear – they took advantage of people’s beliefs as do MANY others. And people should be aware that this could happen to them. But according to the witnesses, they were promised something that the Marks would not have been able to deliver. The family took valuable items from their clients without ever returning them. That’s plain old stealing.
It just appears that the religious freedom angle is once again being abused. I don’t think this will get them very far. While I don’t have much sympathy for their victims, some who still even feel the Marks’ helped them, it’s fair that this family be put out of business.
More from earlier: “Marks” of a psychic scam (Update: Nancy Marks in jail)