We’ve commented in the past how remarkable it is that some of Atlanta’s local news outlets have banded together to keep a close watch on one of Scientology’s more intriguing messes going on there.
Pete Combs of WSB Radio, Jodie Fleischer of WSB-TV, and Christian Boone of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution have coordinated their coverage as a wrongful death and civil racketeering lawsuit has exposed shocking improprieties at Scientology’s drug rehab center in Atlanta, known as Narconon Georgia.
With a trial looming, the case has been going terribly for Scientology, and the state has announced its intention to revoke the facility’s license and shut the place down.
And last night, Combs tweeted the latest sign that things are going to hell in a handbasket for Scientology leader David Miscavige’s side: Narconon Georgia Executive Director Mary Rieser has apparently lost her position, when she had been doing such an effective job lying like a rug.
We say that not as a matter of opinion, but as a matter of settled legal fact. Mary Rieser’s obfuscations, delaying tactics, and outright canards were so outrageous, Narconon Georgia suffered what was called a “death penalty” in the civil litigation. State Court Judge Stacey Hydrick sanctioned Narconon Georgia after determining that Rieser had lied under oath. Her decision also threw out Narconon Georgia’s answer to the original complaint in the lawsuit, and a jury would not be able to hear those arguments. It’s about as harsh a decision as a judge can make before a trial even starts.
The dogged researchers over at the Reaching for the Tipping Point Forum, meanwhile, keep digging up remarkable documents in the case, and one they posted recently may help explain why Scientology needed Rieser to skeedaddle, and why things may not go very well for Narconon when the trial starts on February 11.
First, a quick review of the background: In June 2008, Patrick Desmond, a Marine veteran and son of an Army Green Beret, died after using heroin for the first time. He had been a patient and was working at Narconon Georgia and stayed in its housing unit, some apartments at a complex called One Sovereign Place which had been leased by a Scientologist couple. Narconon Georgia was not licensed to run an in-patient facility, but that didn’t stop Narconon from running the unlicensed housing, which turned out to be rife with drug and alcohol abuse. Court testimony in the lawsuit alleges that Mary Rieser regularly lied to a Florida drug court, for example, which had sent Desmond to what it believed was a secure, in-patient rehab center.
Why did Narconon lie? Perhaps because you can charge a lot more money for an in-patient stay than you can for an out-patient center where patients go to their own homes at night.
Anyway, Jeff Harris, the Desmond family attorney, recently filed a stunning document written in 2008 by Mary Rieser in which she pretty much lays out the entire mess. Why did she do something so unwise as that? Because she appeared pissed off that it was interference by the local Church of Scientology that was exacerbating her attempt to run the unlicensed housing unit, which was being leased by church members Don and Maria Delgado.
That’s significant, because as soon as a Narconon gets in trouble, it squeals like a stuck pig that it has no connection to Scientology. (We’re seeing the same thing in Oklahoma, where three patients died in only nine months at Narconon’s flagship facility, Narconon Arrowhead, resulting in multiple lawsuits and government investigations.)
Rieser’s document is about as damning as it gets, showing that Narconon Georgia, Narconon International (which the report was delivered to), and the local “org” — Scientology church — were caught up in the farce to provide housing that, in Rieser’s own words, was riddled with drug use, leading to the night of June 10, when “a sad thing happened,” Rieser says, referring to Desmond’s death on June 11.
After that, she seems mainly concerned with controlling “entheta” — bad publicity — on YouTube and with protests by Anonymous.
It’s a devastating document, and it’s no wonder that Scientology wants Rieser out of the picture. The folks at Tipping Point have heard rumors that Rieser is now at Flag — Scientology’s spiritual mecca in Clearwater, Florida — getting sec-checked within an inch of her life.
“Sec-checking” is Scientology’s brutal form of interrogation, and it can take days and days to break down a subject — who then is handed a bill for the privilege, which can easily total in the thousands. (We recently talked to an active church member who estimated that he’d spent half a million dollars over his Scientology career just on his interrogations.)
In another sign that Scientology knows that it’s in for a shellacking, Narconon International — the entity that local drug rehab facilities have to pay for the right to use L. Ron Hubbard’s quack therapies — has asked for a separate trial. (Another nice tidbit from the court filing below — Harris points out that Narconon International is getting legal help from Kendrick Moxon, a lawyer long in the employ of the church itself and who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator way back in the Operation Snow White prosecution following the FBI’s raid of Scientology in 1977.)
For decades, Scientology has been extremely effective snowing courts and news organizations about the way its many entities actually work, and through the use of obfuscation and double-talk. What’s so remarkable in this case is that those strategies are repeatedly backfiring both in a court of law and in the local Atlanta media, which is watching this case so closely. We hope media around the rest of the country finally starts paying closer attention as well. Mary Rieser’s saga is turning into a textbook example of how Scientology really works. We hope that lesson gets learned.
So, here’s the court document. Scroll down to Exhibit A, Mary Rieser’s touching gripe session titled “Things That Shouldn’t Be.” You’ll be glad you did.
UPDATE: Pete Combs piles on even further, reporting this morning that the state is now investigating allegations of insurance fraud after evidence turned up that Narconon Georgia billed United Health Care $166,000 for doctor visits that never happened. Ay, carumba.
PS: We notice that Combs is spelling Mary’s last name as “Reiser” in his tweet and his latest story, but in that court document, Mary signs her own last name “Rieser,” and official Narconon websites also spell her name “Rieser.” So we’re going to stick with that unless we see something more convincing to the contrary.
Posted by Tony Ortega on January 30, 2013 at 07:00