Phyllis McCarthy was once a leader at an Oregon cult compound called “Rancho Rajneesh,” where she was known as “Ma Yoga Vidya.” Now “Ma” is a “psychotherapist” in South Africa.

But the former follower of deceased guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh had to face her past this week in an Oregon courtroom as part of a deal she struck with prosecutors, reports The Oregonian.

McCarthy will begin serving a one-year sentence next month for her role in a murder conspiracy to assassinate a government official. It seems she will be the last “Rajneeshie” to face justice, a notorious cult that terrorized Oregonians during the 80s.

Maybe this is a year for tying the loose ends of old cults?

Last month “Sybionese Liberation Army” (SLA) members were in court too. Fugitives from that 70s cult entered into plea bargains much like McCarthy in exchange for light sentences. One member of the SLA was also hiding in South Africa.

McCarthy, like former SLA members, appears to regret her past. She said, “My trust in people and my sense of loyalty was my weakness.” Referring to the trust she placed in her dead guru and his top lieutenant and enforcer “Ma Sheela.”

However, when cult members commit crimes that threaten the safety of others, misplaced trust is not a very viable legal defense. And in cases where innocent lives have been lost, hard time behind bars is frequently the outcome. Charles Manson’s followers found that out.

Fortunately for McCarthy she never completed the murder plot. But her intended victim wasn’t so forgiving. He said her sentence was “laughable.”

What’s not “laughable” is that Rajneesh or “Osho” as he is now often called, still has followers, who unlike McCarthy have never ceased in their devotion to the guru. Despite the revelations about his crimes the guru’s old ashram in India has become something of a shrine.

Apparently, to these die-hard devotees such loyalty is not a “weakness.”

According to the Massachusetts Court of Appeals two parents were correctly designated “unfit” in a lower court ruling, which transferred custody of their child to state social services, reports the Associated Press.

The parents are members of a destructive “cult” called “The Body” led by Roland Robidoux. The group does not accept modern medicine and the couple’s child died due to medical neglect during a home birth.

Another child also died within the group due to starvation. A parent connected to that death is now serving a life sentence for murder.

“The Body” has proven repeatedly that it is a deeply destructive group with dire consequences for children. What can be seen from this group’s history is that adults under the influence of an extreme “cult” may become irrational and even criminal.

Children born or brought into such “cults” often cannot rely upon their parents to exercise good judgement and protect them. And frequently social services and the courts are their last hope for meaningful help.

Sadly, authorities were not able to help two children within “The Body.” Their lives were tragically cut short because of the mindset promoted by the group’s leader Roland Robidoux.

However, though parents have been charged and/or restricted by the courts, nothing has been done regarding Robidoux, who is clearly the root cause of these tragedies.

In the case of Charles Manson and his “Family,” the cult leader was criminally prosecuted and convicted for the influence he held over group members, which ultimately led them to murder.

Why hasn’t Roland Robidoux been charged? How many more innocents may suffer before a prosecutor takes action against this “cult” leader?

Karen Robidoux 27 is charged with the murder of her one-year-old son Samuel. The child was starved to death, supposedly due to a “prophetic vision,” which allegedly led the baby’s parents to withhold solid food for 51 days.

Robidoux’s husband Jacques was also charged and found guilty in a previous trial. He is now serving an automatic life sentence in prison.

Karen Robidoux’s lawyer says that cult “brainwashing” rendered his client “powerless” to stop the starvation of her son and that she felt compelled to follow the group’s beliefs.

Robidoux plead not guilty and now claims she is no longer a member of the cult called “The Body,” which is led by her father-in-law Roland Robidoux, reports NBC News of Providence.

However, the prosecutor scoffs at the brainwashing defense and says cult members still visit her weekly.

There is no doubt that what motivated Karen Robidoux to starve her child was religious devotion. She had no other reason to kill her baby and the prosecution hasn’t offered another motive.

But the jury in Jacques Robidoux’s trial rejected any religious defense and instead convicted the father regardless of his faith.

Will a second jury now find Karen Robidoux innocent due to sympathy for a mother driven by “prophecy” and peer pressure to neglect her child to death? It seems doubtful that the jury will place its sympathy with anyone other than the baby Samuel.

Historically, there has been little sympathy in court for cult members when their actions cause deaths.

This has been proven repeatedly through the Manson Family trials and the death sentences handed out to members of Aum in Japan. Nine Aum members have been sentenced to death thus far for their roles in the 1995 gas attack of Tokyo’s subway system that killed 19 and injured thousands.

Former Manson family followers such as Leslie Van Houten have found little sympathy even after thirty years in prison. Van Houten has been denied parole over and over again.

Charles Manson was not present for the grizzly Tate-La Bianca murders, but he was charged and convicted for his role anyway, as a cult leader who controlled his followers like puppets.

However, Roland Robidoux the leader of “The Body,” has yet to be charged with any crime.

This summer there were negotiations between the prosecutor and Karen Robidoux’s lawyer for a plea agreement. There was some speculation that she might plea guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

If history remains consistent a plea agreement is probably the best outcome she can expect.

Like other cult members who have caused deaths in the past, Karen Robidoux will likely have many years in prison to reflect upon her actions and the group that led her to tragedy.

Arthur Sandrock 62 is in jail charged with sexual assault. He victimized two girls beginning at the ages of 8 and 10, reports the Great Falls Tribune.

The victims say they were “brainwashed.”

Sandrock claimed to be the “High Lord of Yawe” and “Fourth Son of God.” He told the girls sex was the way they could “satisfy God through him” and avoid hell.

The cult leader was supposedly waiting for “an invisible ship from the vortex,” which “would carry him to …God.”

But now the “High Lord” is waiting for his day in court and says he was just crazy. One examining psychiatrist initially agreed, but others say Sandrock is faking, or intentionally exaggerating his symptoms.

The controversy surrounding Sandrock does seem a bit silly though. It shouldn’t be difficult to discern that destructive cult leaders are often crazy. Of course mental health professionals would prefer we use more concise terms like “paranoid schizophrenic” and/or “psychotic.”

Charles Manson and Jim Jones are just two obvious examples.

David Koresh like Sandrock claimed he was a “High Lord” and also used that status to extract sexual favors from his victims. Marshall Applewhite, a former mental patient who led his followers to suicide in San Diego, was waiting for a spaceship too. In this context, there is nothing new or even particularly unique about the jailed Montana cult leader.

The sad thing about cults is that group members often become so deeply dependent upon their leaders that they will follow them without question. And this can easily become a formula for disaster when the leader is insane.

It is now one year since the most heinous attack ever launched against America took place. More than 3,000 died in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But what have we learned in the past year about the dynamics of groups like al-Qaeda?

It seems like we are still struggling to understand why well educated men from mostly affluent Arab families would throw away their lives to serve the agenda of one madman.

Osama bin Laden, not unlike Charles Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh and Shoko Asahara had a self-obsessed dream, which became a nightmare for others. He too believed that horrific murders would somehow fulfill his prophetic view of the world. And as David Koresh twisted the bible, Shoko Asahara maligned Buddhism, Jones and Manson manipulated racial tensions and politics, bin Laden came up with his own bizarre, destructive world view and version of Islam.

Rather than looking at the Arab-Israeli conflict, United States foreign policy or the living conditions within the Arab world to explain the motivation for bin Laden’s brand of terrorism, perhaps we should examine more closely the history of destructive cults and the psychopaths who frequently lead them, to better understand September 11th.

It seems like the Goth craze never really goes away, but instead persists as a popular style statement for the young. In a recent report for The Independent in London, Ryan Gilbey detoured for a “journey on the dark side.”

Dressed in black, pale, often gaunt and almost always pierced, the cult following of Goth eerily marches on within its own strange subculture.

Goth trendsetters include “Addams Family” star Christina Ricci, the director of “Edward Scissorhands” Tim Burton, and vampire storyteller Anne Rice. But perhaps its most disturbing icon is murderer Charles Manson. However, Manson’s face on patches seems to be as close as Goth enthusiasts come to destructive cult status.

Their desire to shock and/or mock mainstream society is perhaps the one most important feature that explains Goth’s enduring appeal. Typically teenagers want to individuate, but it’s ironic that so many do it in exactly the same way.

Karen Robidoux, a member of the cult called “The Body,” is charged with the starvation murder of her year-old son. Jacques her husband has already been tried and convicted of first-degree murder for his role in the baby’s death. He testified that the group’s teachings and “visions” caused him to withhold solid food from his son.

Now Mrs. Robidoux’s attorney Joseph F. Krowski says he will use a cult version of the “battered woman’s syndrome defense” to explain his clients behavior, reports the Boston Globe. Krowski said that the 26-year-old mother was essentially bullied and brainwashed by cult members to cooperate.

Historically the “cult brainwashing” defense has not always fared well in court. Patty Hearst attempted to explain her behavior this way and was convicted anyway. Leslie Van Houten, of the infamous Charles Manson “Family” has been denied parole repeatedly, despite such an explanation regarding her crimes. But with Jacques Robidoux already serving an automatic life sentence in prison, perhaps the court will be more willing to consider such a defense for the young mother.

The jury in Karen Robidoux’s coming trial will be faced with a tough decision. When they deliberate they will likely discuss the apparent cult vicitimization of the defendant, but jurors will certainly be confronted by the facts concerning that cult’s ultimate victim, a defenseless year-old child.

Lee Harris wrote a long analysis about al-Qaeda and September 11th, which was published by the Wall Street Journal. His somewhat pedantic article goes on about everything from Aztec King Montezuma, to the game “Dungeons and Dragons.” Harris ultimately makes the point that Osama bin Laden was an actor within a kind of “theater” based upon “radical Islamic fantasy ideology.”

He concludes, “We are fighting an enemy who has no strategic purpose in anything he does–whose actions have significance only in terms of his own fantasy ideology.”

However, Harris failed to cite bin Laden’s most obvious parallels, such as Shoko Asahara of Japan, who gassed the subways of Tokyo in 1995 to initiate “Armageddon,” or Charles Manson who believed a series of murders would facilitate his fantasy called “Helter Skelter.” Both men, like most destructive cult leaders, were possessed by “fantasy ideology.”

Simply put Osama bin Laden can easily be seen as both a cult leader and a psychopath. And the “martyrs” who murdered some 3,000 Americans on September 11th, as his “brainwashed” followers. To see the longer version click here.

Jacques Robidoux, the 29-year-old son of cult leader Roland Robidoux, was convicted of first degree murder June 14th. Later, the man who starved his own infant son to death attempted to reduce that conviction to manslaughter through an appeal. His appeal was denied reports the Boston Globe. Robidoiux has begun serving his automatic life sentence.

Robidoux acted upon supposed “visions” received by the infant’s aunt, which instructed that the baby be denied food. Many say that undue influence led to this tragedy.

The child’s mother and aunt are now apparently hoping to make deals through plea bargains with prosecutors to avoid trial.

Roland Robidoux, the founder and undisputed leader of the cult remains uncharged.

Little consideration has been given to the undue influence of destructive cults historically when members commit violent crimes and especially homicides. Jacques Robidoux will likely live the remainder of his life in prison.

And when it comes to murder, cult members have often been given long sentences or condemned to death.

Larry Layton, convicted for his role in the murder of California Congressman Leo J. Ryan at Jonestown (1978), is still in prison.

Likewise, the followers of Charles Manson (1969 Manson murders) were sentenced to death, but those sentences were later commuted to life in prison when the death penalty was dropped in California.

However, former Manson family members have routinely been denied parole due to the horrific nature of their crimes. Manson follower Leslie Van Houten who has served 30 years, was denied parole for the 14th time this month.

In one historic case a cult member did receive some consideration. Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped (1974), raped and allegedly “brainwashed” by the SLA, was never the less sentenced to a prison term for crimes while inside the cult. President Jimmy Carter later commuted that sentence and Hearst was subsequently pardoned by Bill Clinton as he left office.