Cult Official Convicted On Charge 'Forever Family' Aide Guilty In N.Y.
May 28, 1986|The Morning Call
An official of a religious cult that has its roots in the Lehigh Valley was found guilty yesterday of endangering children in one of the cult's group homes in New York City. Harry Weinbaum of the Church of Bible Understanding was convicted by a six-member jury after a weeklong trial in Manhattan criminal court, according to one of the witnesses in the trial. After a June 1985 raid on the cult's Manhattan home, Weinbaum was charged with endangering the welfare of children and operating a group home without a license.
The raid was conducted by the New York attorney general's office, which discovered unhealthy conditions in the house. The attorney general's office says Weinbaum was the manager of the house where cult members lived. The cult was started in Allentown in the early 1970s as the "Forever Family" by Fountain Hill native Stewart Traill. The charge of operating a group home without a proper license was dropped yesterday because Judge William Thom ruled the licensing statute in the state law was too vague and didn't include specific requirements for churches. Weinbaum could get a maximum sentence of a year in jail or be placed on probation. No sentencing date has been set. Closing arguments were heard yesterday in the trial, which began last Tuesday. The jury reached a verdict in less than two hours, said Ann Donahue, a lawyer for Covenant House, a Manhattan shelter for runaway children. Donahue testified during the trial because Covenant House has accused the cult of luring children away from its shelter.