Arizona to extradite Scientology protester to Riverside County

A Scientology protester who fled to Canada before he could be sentenced to 180 days in county jail in 2001 has been arrested in Arizona and will be extradited back to Riverside County, officials reported.

Former Palo Alto resident Keith Henson, now 65, was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of intimidating, threatening or oppressing religion, race or color during protests at the Church of Scientology‘s Golden Era Productions in Gilman Hot Springs near San Jacinto, according to court records.

Henson could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Henson was arrested Feb. 2 on a fugitive warrant for failing to appear at his sentencing and booked into the Yavapai County Jail, Prescott, Ariz., police Sgt. Ken Morley said Thursday. Jail officials there were unable to immediately confirm he was in custody.

Henson will be brought back to Riverside County within 90 days to face sentencing that also involves three years of probation, Riverside County district attorney spokeswoman Ingrid Wyatt said Thursday.

Henson was arrested in Prescott, outside a home where he had lived for a few months, Morley said.

Before Henson’s sentencing, he fled to Toronto where he lived with a fellow Scientology critic while he waited for the Canadian government to hear his bid for asylum. The status of his bid is unknown.

Henson was also charged with making terrorist threats, but the jury deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial, records showed.

While in Canada, Henson communicated with a judge via e-mail, saying he would not accept the sentence because he thought it was too harsh for his actions.

“I think it will eventually be overturned,” Henson said in 2001 of the conviction. “The charges against me are absurd.”

Golden Era employees said they were afraid of him and said he kept them from entering their church.

Scientology spokesman Muriel Dufresne said in an e-mailed statement, “He has been a fugitive for years. It is now between him and the law.”

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This post was last updated: Friday, November 8, 2013 at 10:07 AM, Central European Time (CET)