Kin sent hippie shoot suspect cash, says DA

The trigger-happy hippie accused of trying to kill the leader of a Staten Island commune a year ago could have company in prison: her mother and sister.

Rebekah Johnson’s blueblooded family helped finance her year on the run with a stream of cash sent to the fugitive through Western Union, authorities charged yesterday. “She was communicating with her family throughout the year,” Assistant Staten Island District Attorney Kelly Carroll said. “And they were supplementing her with money that she would retrieve at Western Union locations.”

Prosecutors are exploring charges against Johnson’s mother, Margaret, and sister, Courtney.

Johnson, a minister’s daughter whose family ran a horse farm in an upscale Virginia community, gave her mother a toothy smile. Her lawyer, Stanford Bandelli, asked if the accused felon could have five minutes alone with her mom.

“No,” Staten Island Criminal Court Judge Leonard Rienzi replied, folding his arms.

Johnson’s mother and her mother’s lawyer sat silently as Johnson’s indictment in the attempted murder of Ganas commune founder Jeff Gross was read aloud. While her family had deplored the violence, they claimed Johnson was abused by the “cult” and said they didn’t know where she had been since the May 29, 2006, shooting. Johnson pleaded not guilty.

“My client had some problems with things that were done inside this cult,” Bandelli said. “She was fearful for her life.”

Bandelli said Johnson did not want to see Gross hurt or murdered. “My client wants to see Jeff Gross publicly humiliated.”

Johnson allegedly stalked Gross for years over perceived abuses while she was a commune member. She is accused of ambushing him a year ago outside his home. She allegedly fired six shots with a .38-caliber pistol before bolting. Gross, hit at least three times, survived.

“There was never one second or doubt in my mind that she tried to kill me that night,” Gross told the Daily News yesterday. “I’m very relieved that she is in a place where she cannot harm anybody.”

Johnson was captured June 18 in Philadelphia after she registered a vehicle in her own name. Police found a loaded AK-47 in her messy Philadelphia hideout.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday July 8, 2007.
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