UPDATE: Names of the game
Judge refuses to reduce bail for controversial former candidate jailed for allegedly making terrorist threats and violating a restraining order
By André Coleman 06/07/2013
A Pasadena court commissioner refused to reduce bail set for a Pasadena minister accused of making a terrorist threat against a woman who had just filed a restraining order against him.
However, Court Commissioner Collette Serio dismissed two traffic warrants totaling $50,000 against Nicholas Mnkandla, also known as Nicholas Benson and the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Benson, a former Pasadena City Council District 3 candidate and pastor of Summit Evangelical Free Church of Pasadena, located on North Fair Oaks Avenue.
Appearing in court Thursday in handcuffs and a blue jail jumpsuit, Mnkandla pleaded not guilty to charges of violating a restraining order and making a terrorist threat against Theresa Naty, a tenant of the Back to Life transitional housing facility run by Mnkandla at 280 W. Washington Blvd.
Mnkandla has gone by a host of names — Benson Mnkandla (his alleged birth name), Nicholas M. Mnkandla (his real name, as he told Serio in court), Nicholas Benson Mnkandla and Nicholas Jophat Benson. On May 13, Mnkandla was arrested outside of Back to Life following a dispute between Naty and one of two sex offenders also living there. During that incident, Mnkandla showed up at the home, located on property owned by his wife, Eva Meyers, and allegedly attempted to blame Naty for the argument.
When police officers arrived, Naty told them of a Pasadena Weekly story listing Mnkandla’s aliases. In that Feb. 7 story, “International man of mystery” the Weekly also reported Mnkandla, who goes by The Rev. Dr. Nicholas Benson at his church and ran for office under that name, did not possess a doctorate degree. Mnkandla also told the Weekly that he uses several birth dates. During a tearful interview at the newspaper office in February in which Mnkandla was asked to explain his many aliases, he said his real name is Nicholas Mnkandla. However, he was unable to remember his real birth date. “My real birth date is 1/5/1953, yes, 1/5/52.” He said at the time. The Pasadena Star-News recently listed his age as 67.
After Naty showed police the article, officers ran the names and found Mnkandla was wanted for two outstanding traffic warrants under the name Benson.
In rejecting a public defender’s request to lower Mnkandla’s $50,000 bail in the alleged terrorist threat case, Serio said, “He is not even reliable on his traffic warrants. He has been irresponsible about coming to court.”
After the hearing, Mnkandla was remanded to LA County Jail to await a pretrial hearing set for June 13.
In the latest incident, Mnkandla was arrested Tuesday afternoon under the name Nicholas Mnkandla after he allegedly threatened Naty’s life outside the courthouse.
Naty told the Weekly that she encountered Benson minutes after she had turned in the restraining order’s proof-of-service forms at the courthouse. As she was waiting for a bus on Walnut Street, Mnkandla, who was on his way inside the building, allegedly threatened Naty’s life.
According to Pasadena police Deputy Chief Darryl Qualls, Mnkandla “approached Naty on the sidewalk and said he was going to make her disappear.” Qualls said a witness corroborated Naty’s claim. “She said she was in fear for her life,” Qualls said of Naty.
According to Qualls, Naty told sheriff’s officials in the courthouse about the alleged threat. When Mnkandla came in the door behind her, he was detained by deputies, who called the Pasadena Police Department, located directly across the street from the facility.
After questioning Mnkandla, Naty and the witness, Pasadena police concluded there was enough evidence to place Mnkandla under arrest.
Two days before the March 5 election, and shortly after his other identities were listed in the Weekly, Benson bowed out of the council race, throwing his support behind John J. Kennedy, who eventually won the seat. However, Benson’s name remained on the already printed ballots. On election night, Benson came in a distant third to Kennedy and businessman Ishmael Trone, garnering 64 votes.
Intern Kayla Irby contributed to this report.