Defense attorney Steven D. Silverman argued that his client, Ria Ramkissoon, was “just as much of a victim as her son” with regard to 1 Mind Ministries, a Christianity-based religious cult whose members are charged in the starvation death of 2-year-old Javon Thompson, Ria Ramkissoon’s son. According to the Baltimore Sun, in a plea deal that may have set legal precedent for its unusual wording, Ramkissoon pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse resulting in death Monday, March 30, in return for her testimony against other members of 1 Mind Ministries. She will also be released from jail. Four other members of 1 Mind Ministries were scheduled for trial as well but proceedings were postponed because two of the members did not have legal representation.
Prosecutors for the state of Maryland allege that members of the small cult 1 Mind Ministries, led by Queen Antoinette, caused the death of Javon Thompson by withholding food and water from him until he died. Queen Antoinette had ordered that the child not receive sustenance because he was a demon and refused to say “Amen” after being fed. After praying over the body in attempts to resurrect the child, the group then transported his body in a green suitcase to Philadelphia.
In what might be an historic precedent, a clause was attached to the plea bargain on the insistence of Ria Ramkissoon that allows for a “Jesus-like resurrection, which is distinguished from a reincarnation” for her son, Javon, who Ramkissoon still believes will be brought back to life. Added into the plea agreement as a “process of deprogramming,” the clause stipulates that if and when Javon Thompson is resurrected, all charges against his mother will be dropped. Silverman maintains that Ria Ramkissoon still does not believe she is the victim of 1 Mind Ministries’ brainwashing, and “believes that the child will be resurrected, and that if she gives up hope of that happening, it would call decisions she’s made in the past into question.”
As part of the deal, Ria Ramkissoon will have her 20-year prison sentence suspended, less time served, as long as she testifies against the other 1 Mind Ministries members. Upon release from jail, she will be on probation for 5 years. She has also been ordered to undergo two 8-hour sessions of deprogramming with a cult expert.
Javon Thompson’s paternal grandmother was outraged that Ria Ramkissoon will be allowed to go free. Geraldine Ridgely believes Ramkissoon should have to pay for her grandson’s death with her life. “This is a serious crime,” she tearfully told the Sun. “This is a baby – he didn’t ask to come into this world.”
Some would argue that Ridgely’s eye-for-an-eye view is entirely appropriate. Some would argue that, considering Ria Ramkissoon’s altered mental state, she was not able to distinguish right from wrong, allowing cult groupthink to overpower reason. Yet, if this is the case, why would prosecutors, who are charged with serving and protecting the common good, allow such a person of altered and/or diminished capacity to go free, nearly without restrictions? Time served and sixteen hours of cult deprogramming would seem to some to be ridiculously inadequate as punishment, curative, or preventive. What is to stop Ria Ramkissoon from making decisions based on her religious beliefs that might again cause harm or the deaths of others? Even if one were to give Ramkissoon the benefit of doubt because of being brainwashed, why was this person not at least confined to a psychiatric facility until mental health professionals deemed her less delusional?
Historic or no, the final plea deal in the case against Ria Ramkissoon appears to be a sweeping victory for the defense and for Ramkissoon. Admittedly complicit in starving her own son to death for religious reasons, she will soon be free to walk the streets with only 16 hours of deprogramming standing between her and society.
Defense attorney Silverman argued that Ria Ramkissoon was “just as much of a victim as her son.” But she was not. As an adult, she agreed to become part of 1 Mind Ministries. As a child, Javon Thompson did not. As his care provider and protector, Ria Ramkissoon chose the religious lifestyle of 1 Mind Ministries over the welfare of her child and became just as instrumental in his death as Queen Antoinette. She abdicated her responsibility as both a provider and a protector.
The state of Maryland has done much the same thing with its social responsibility. By allowing this “historic” clause to go through in a plea deal that might see four people imprisoned and one supposedly mentally damaged person to go free, they have abdicated their social responsibility as provider and protector for the individual and common good.
And Ria Ramkissoon was not nearly as much a victim as was Javon Thompson. She does not await resurrection.