Chief U.S. District Judge Aubrey E. Robinson Jr., presiding over the trial of nine members of the Black Hebrews religious sect, warned a former member yesterday to teach her four children to resist the entreaties of such groups.
There are "all kinds of groups -- Black Hebrews, Green Hornets, call them what you will -- political, religious," with schemes and shortcuts to the "good life," Robinson said in an unusual admonition from the bench. "We have to make decisions about what to do with them."
Robinson's comments, part of a long, fatherly lecture, were delivered during sentencing of Warrena Bostic, a 31-year-old Connecticut woman who pleaded guilty to transporting stolen airline tickets across state lines while she was a member of the sect.
The nine Black Hebrews are charged with trafficking in stolen airline tickets and financing the group's operations with bad checks and stolen credit cards.
Jurors in the three-month trial have been deliberating for two weeks on the 69-count indictment and will resume their work Monday.
Among those on trial is Warren Brown, the leader of the Black Hebrews. The group, officially known as the Original African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem, has an estimated worldwide membership of 3,000 to 20,000 members.
Bostic, who admitted stealing 400 blank airline tickets from the Diplomat Travel Service here in December 1981, was sentenced to what Robinson termed six months of "house arrest" as part of a five-year probation. During the first six months, the judge said, Bostic can go to work, take her children to the doctor or the library, "but dancing you will not."
Robinson said he believed that Bostic had learned from her experience. "You've gone the whole nine yards, as they say," but he warned her that if she commits any criminal act in the future, she will "go to prison." He suspended a five-year prison term.
With any future criminal violation, the judge said, he would use as many "police, FBI, Secret Service agents" or whomever he needed to bring her back to the District to receive punishment.
"We don't intend to have our lives . . . dominated by people who have no concern about our life and property," Robinson said.
In April, Bostic, speaking in a low, nervous voice, told the jury that she went to the travel agency where she worked and took the tickets. Hours later, Bostic testified, she turned them over to one of the men on trial, and then was whisked to a Black Hebrews compound in Liberia to avoid prosecution.
Bostic also appeared nervous during yesterday's hour-long hearing and at times struggled to retain her composure as she addressed Robinson.
"I think with my new job and people giving moral support, I have a chance to start over," Bostic said, adding that she hoped her experience would be a lesson to those who "think there is a shortcut aside from the straight and narrow."
She and Robinson discussed her four children, fathered by another former Black Hebrew who is now in jail in Fairfax County, and the children's difficulties in adjusting to the changes in their lives.
She said that her 6-year-old son was having trouble in school but that her 13-year-old son had a "thirst for learning," which Robinson encouraged her to cultivate, advising her to get books from the library for him and the others.
"You are a grown woman. There are decisions and choices you have to make all day every day," Robinson said.
"This is a hard world out there with all kinds of schemes, ideas, call it what you may" on how to get money without working for it, he added, warning her not to fall prey again to the entreaties or allow her children to be tempted by them.
"Good luck," Robinson said in conclusion. "But don't misunderstand. You have no piece of cake. You're going down the road that's been earned.