Manson Follower Recalls His Life of Crime at Sanity Hearing

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 28 – Kenneth Como, one of four Charles Manson followers convicted of committing two robberies as part of a plan to free the cult leader from prison, told jurors Tuesday that “all I wanted to do was to live, fight and die…to help my brothers rotting behind bars.”

The 30-year-old Como made the statement at the end of a half-hour chronology of his problems with the law, starting with an arrest at the age of 13 for burglary.

Under questioning by his attorney, Richard Walton, Como said his “rap sheet” showed 45 arrests in the ensuing 17 years, but he added, “It was really more like 145 times since sometimes I got picked up but not booked.”

He told of spending five years in prison for taking a car from an El Monte used car lot.

“I found out that every year when I came up for parole, the West Covina police and city officials urged that I be held,” Como testified. He had lived in that community for several years after his parents and five brothers and sisters moved to the West Coast from Chicago.

He attributed much of his problem with law enforcement to the fact that police there decided he “was, a bad guy” while he was still a teenager.

Como recounted details of a lengthy criminal record including convictions for assault, robbery and possession of narcotics. He also told of twice escaping from jail.

Talking in a composed, dispassionate manner, he denounced the penal system in California as a “most vicious, dehumanizing experience that I wouldn’t put my dog through.”

“I was trapped in this vicious cycle…I couldn’t fight it, I couldn’t get out of it. It was constant negative, negative programming,” he testified. “Then they put a man out on the streets, give him $30 and no job and expect him to act in a positive manner.”

Como was the final witness during the sanity hearing for himself and three others who have pleaded innocent by reason of insanity in the robbery case.

Convicted with Como were Lawrence Bailey, 23, Mary Brunner, 29, and Catherine (Gypsy) Share, 30. All four were found guilty of taking 143 rifles and $630 from a Hawthorne surplus store on Aug. 21, 1971, and $2,600 eight days earlier from a Covina beer distributing firm.

By WILLIAM FARR

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