Laura DeCrescenzo let us know there’s been an interesting break in her years-long lawsuit against the Church of Scientology. She’s suing because during the time she was a worker in the Sea Org — which prohibits its members from having children — she says she was forced to have an abortion, a claim that numerous other former Sea Org workers have also made. (See our previous story about her complex lawsuit.)
The church has argued back that DeCrescenzo took too long to bring her lawsuit after she left the Sea Org, and it has also fought every request to turn over her confidential “pc folders,” which contain detailed information about her time in the church.
But now Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald M. Sohigian has put the case on hold until Scientology finally forks over those files, and he’s given the church a deadline of May 6. It’s potentially a huge new development in a case that has dragged on for years.
We checked with the court file to verify that the judge had made the order, and here’s what Laura told us about it…
“Scientology has tried three times now to get out of producing the folders, but at a hearing last week the court gave them a final order that they have to produce them, period. So they have until May 6 to either appeal the order or produce the material. It should be interesting. The judge canceled the dates for trial and for hearing the statute of limitations issue because the church still hasn’t produced the folders,” she said. “Needless to say they aren’t happy about the ruling. They are between a rock and a hard place.”
We asked Laura what she thought the church might be dreading about the evidence being turned over.
“I have over 140 pc folders of sec checks spanning 15 years,” she says, referring to the brutal investigations — “sec checks” — that Sea Org members go through. “It’s solid evidence of my case.”
We asked our legal department, Manhattan attorney Scott Pilutik, to look over several recent motions to help us catch up on what’s been happening in the case. Here’s his update…
This tug of war over DeCrescenzo’s PC folders goes back to April 11, 2012, when she first served her discovery notice on CSI. Scientology simultaneously dragged its feet and loudly objected, of course. DeCrescenzo filed a motion to compel Scientology’s compliance, which led to a January 7, 2013 hearing at which the court gave CSI until January 18 to produce the sought-after documents, or, barring documents, a “coherent and focused privilege log.” Scientology then proceeded to produce a privilege log in which every document — 2,891 in total — were in fact privileged, providing a vague description to each.
DeCrescenzo then filed, on February 8, a second motion to compel, which besides being a great read is the motion which the court just granted. It details the frustrating teeth-pulling that comes with litigating against Scientology.
Scientology obviously saw the dispute differently, filing an opposition that can be read here. The church made several arguments, but probably the most interesting is that it shouldn’t have to turn over Laura’s folders because of priest-penitent privilege. (Her attorneys replied to those arguments here.)
Over at his blog Scott will go into this in more detail, but he tells us the church’s argument centers around asserting priest-penitent privilege when the penitent (Laura) has already waived that protection. In other words, if Laura wants her folders entered as evidence, then who is Scientology protecting by keeping them under wraps?
DeCrescenzo tells us that she’s very encouraged by the judge putting his foot down and ordering Scientology to turn over the folders.
“I think there is enough evidence in there to confirm the bazillion hours of brainwashing that occurred, starting at a very young age. That, hopefully, would negate any statute of limitations issue,” she says. But after all this time, she finds it hard to believe that the church will actually comply and turn over the evidence.
Three times in the last year, Scientology has caved and ponied up large amounts to make potentially embarrassing court cases go away. Could this order to produce evidence result in a similar collapse?
ANOTHER FAMILIAR FACE EMERGES FROM SCIENTOLOGY’S MECCA
For longtime Scientologists, the name Carol Nyburg Vedder is very familiar — she was someone who would sell you accommodations, check you in, and greet you when you went to the church’s “mecca” in Clearwater, Florida for upper-level training.
For 26 years she was a Sea Org fixture — a “mini Debbie Cook” was how Karen de la Carriere described Nyburg to us.
Three years ago, however, Nyburg, like so many other dedicated, longtime Scientology lifers simply couldn’t take the harsh conditions under church leader David Miscavige and she escaped with a careful plot involving a smuggled phone, a secretly-rented car, and a cross-country bus trip. It’s all detailed in a remarkable account she posted yesterday at Steve Hall’s blog. To give you a taste of it, here’s a passage that stunned us.
A lot of attention has been paid to the hell that executives went through at “the Hole” — a sort of office-prison at Scientology’s International Base east of Los Angeles. But take a look at what Nyburg says workers were going through at the same time, a few years ago, at the Flag offices in Florida…
Another really scary thing happened during this time, it was called “Boot Camp.” This was some kind of nutty ethics program that didn’t start till after you had worked all day. So at 11 pm a group of us, all registrars like myself from all over the base, not just accommodations counselors but IAS, Freewinds, Planetary Dissemination registrars, too. There were about 15 to 20 of us. First we would do exercises. I was just turning 60 at this time. This was not an easy ordeal for me. Then we would do close order drilling. If you goofed up, you had to drop and do pushups or some such thing. Then we were taken to a renovation project that was going on at the Base somewhere and made to do some horrible job till about 2 am. We were then taken to our berthings to sleep and we had to be back in at 8:30 am for more ethics handlings and special reading assignments, then on to post, then boot camp again at 11 pm. This was my most fearful time in my entire career. The reason was because it did not follow anything I had ever read about Scientology ethics and I had no idea how it would end or what to do to ensure it would end. It finally did end. At the end I had to write up how “beneficial” it was for me and how much “better” I was doing then. Of course I just did it because I would have done anything to make sure this abuse stopped.
The sheer Kafkaesque notion of workers being kept up to 2 am for calisthenics and menial jobs — for hours after their regular jobs with insane quotas — well, it’s hard to believe that this is going on in the United States. No wonder she made a run for it. How many more will follow once her account starts to filter back into the church?
Oh, and one more anecdote we couldn’t pass up. Nyburg mentions that at one point Miscavige showed up with Mike Rinder and some other executives and wanted to inspect the Fort Harrison Hotel, including its presidential suite. But Nyburg knew that the person who lived in the suite didn’t rise until noon, and she didn’t want to disturb the person. So she simply refused Miscavige’s request, which earned her a suitably insane punishment.
We asked Rinder: Who in the 1980s was living in the presidential suite of the Fort Harrison and rose at noon? He told us it was Lamia Khashoggi (previously Laura Biancolini), the wife of Adnan Khashoggi the ultra-rich arms dealer.
Adnan himself was never a Scientologist, but he was apparently happy to keep his wife ensconced at the Fort Harrison, which would have been cheaper than keeping her in Rome or New York, Rinder points out.
We have no words.
KATE BORNSTEIN IS KICKING CANCER’S ASS, BUT COULD USE A HAND
Last year, we were very pleased to write a Voice cover story about Kate Bornstein, one of New York’s most original performance artists, a well-known gender activist, and a former first mate for L. Ron Hubbard on the yacht Apollo (back when Kate was Al Bornstein).
What pleases us less is the fight that Kate has been engaged in against lung cancer. She was diagnosed in August, and after a successful surgery, the disease rallied and is giving her more trouble. The good news, however, is that her doctors tell her that it’s curable, and she’s fighting hard with a regimen of chemotherapy and diet.
In the meantime, she could use a little help. So today, she’s starting a GoFundMe site where we can all donate a little to help her out. As soon as we have the URL on that site, we’ll post it here. And please, if you haven’t yet read Kate’s amazing memoir, A Queer and Pleasant Danger, do yourself a big favor and buy a copy now.
And here’s the link to her fundraising site. Please go there!
SMERSH Madness: Sowing the Seeds of World Domination!
As we announced on March 1, we’re joining bracket fever with a tournament like no other. It’s up to you to decide who should be named the new SMERSH, the traditional nemesis of Scientology. Cast your vote for who’s doing more to propel the church down its long slide into oblivion!
Continuing with the Sweet Sixteen! We have a tough match today.
The Ex-Scientologist Message Board was founded in 2007 by Michelle “Emma” Sterling, an Australian ex-church member, as a place for people who had spent time in Scientology to find each other and compare experiences. ESMB features many fascinating people from the church’s history who talk about the good and the bad they went through, and that inviting environment allows for some mind-blowing revelations. (Previously: ESMB defeated Jamie DeWolf in the first round.)
Gerry Armstrong has paid a terrible price for a simple act: he wanted the Church of Scientology to be more honest about L. Ron Hubbard’s actual history. The former church worker was hounded by Scientology lawyers with the help of credulous courts to such a degree that he lives in Canada because he can’t set foot in the United States. All of Hubbard’s biographers, from Russell Miller to Lawrence Wright, owe a huge debt to Armstrong for finding and securing crucial original documentation of Hubbard’s life. (Previously: Armstrong defeated Jenna Miscavige Hill in the first round.)
Go to our March 1 post for the latest tournament results.
Posted by Tony Ortega on March 20, 2013 at 07:00