Today and tomorrow, at the Comal County Courthouse Annex on Seguin Avenue in downtown New Braunfels, Texas, a temporary injunction hearing is scheduled to take place in the lawsuit filed by Monique Rathbun against the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige, who is responsible for a campaign of harassment against her, Monique alleges.
Monique herself is prepared to testify today in a hearing to determine if a temporary restraining order will be converted to a temporary injunction, which will keep Miscavige and the church from surveilling and harassing her throughout the life of the lawsuit.
But will the church pull a fast one and grant the injunction, preventing any testimony today? That might be one outcome, or the church may be in for some of the most damaging testimony since Debbie Cook’s day in court in February 2012.
We were there that day when Cook, under oath, vividly described the abuses she endured while an employee of Scientology. And we’re here today to witness what happens in New Braunfels.
Yesterday afternoon, we snapped that photo of the original Comal County courthouse (built in 1898), but the hearing will be in a more drab annex building next door.
We don’t know yet how much of our equipment we’ll be able to bring in — as we said earlier, cameras have already been prohibited during testimony, but we’re hoping we’ll be able to provide live blog updates during the hearing, as we did in San Antonio last year.
We told you yesterday that Monique’s legal team had subpoenaed David Miscavige, but we have not heard yet how Miscavige’s attorney reacted. We are doubtful that the church leader will be in court today. However, late word last night was that one person who has given notice that he’ll show up is Bert Deixler, one of Scientology’s high-priced California attorneys, and the name behind the church’s petitions to the California Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court in the Laura DeCrescenzo case. That’s a big gun coming in at the last moment, and perhaps gives an indication of how seriously Miscavige takes today’s proceedings.
As we said earlier, however, we can’t help wondering if Scientology will want to prevent the debacle that happened in a very similar situation last year in the Debbie Cook lawsuit. Cook’s day on the witness stand on February 9 was a disaster for the church, as Cook’s compelling words about conditions in “The Hole” became sworn testimony and then front-page news the next day.
In order to prevent a repeat of that nightmare, could Scientology be prepared to grant Monique Rathbun a temporary injunction in order to prevent her from testifying about the harassment that she claims to have experienced?
We’ll be doing our best to find out, and our plan is to provide live-blogging updates throughout the day. For best results, set your comments to “Newest.”
Posted by Tony Ortega on September 12, 2013 at 07:00
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Still a little dark here in New Braunfels this morning, and not quite 70 degrees, but it will get over 90 later today. Last night at the Pour Haus on San Antonio Street the temperature was just right for a beer on the patio.
While trying to figure out what moves the church might make in this case, the Bunker passed on a suggestion we’d heard from an attorney, that this case was so possibly toxic, one option Scientology might actually consider is simply defaulting and walking away. In that case the judge would then assign damages. Perhaps it’s better just to write a check and be done with it, we said. But our drinking companion, a savvy journalist, thought that was unlikely because it would mean giving money to Monique Rathbun and, by extension, Marty Rathbun.
But the church recently wrote big checks to Debbie Cook and the private eyes, Marrick and Arnold. Why not to Rathbun?
Because it’s Rathbun, our friend said. Miscavige couldn’t bring himself to do that. He’ll fight this tooth and nail and make it last years and years.
What do you think, dear readers?
….AAAAAnd we’re in place! Photo of courtroom coming in a moment. Arrived at the courthouse to see seven Church of Scientology attorneys pile out of a rental van. But now the current church team appears to be TWELVE attorneys.
Photo from our position…
The gentleman in the front row is John MacCormack of the San Antonio Express-News, who just said hello (we met him at the Debbie Cook hearing). Joe Childs from the Tampa Bay Times is also in town. All of the church’s attorneys are here and ready to go. No sign of the plaintiff’s side yet, but it’s still only 8:37 am here in Texas.
The Rathbuns have arrived, with Mike Rinder. Ray Jeffrey is in place. He was just talking with one of the church’s attorneys, and we want to say that it is George Spencer, one of the local attorneys who was hired for the Debbie Cook matter. We had not heard before this that he’d been hired again for this matter.
Monique Yingling, Eric Lieberman, Warren McShane — hey the gang’s all heeeere!
KENDRICK MOXON! Oh, our old pal Kendrick is here. Haven’t seen him in person since around the year 2000. He’s looking healthy.
Michael Hertzberg is here, and I’m told he goes WAY BACK as a church attorney. He’s sitting next to Yingling.
No question: this is the A-Team, first string, varsity legal crew at the little Comal County courthouse.
Gary Soter just came over and started dressing down Joe Childs, saying he didn’t want any photographs of him taken. Other reporters politely informed the very tall attorney that he’s in a public courtroom. Drama!
Team Scientology has a hand truck with four banker’s boxes of documents. They’re loaded for bear! Court clerks getting ready now. Looks like this may actually start on time.
The bailiff has just asked for one attorney per party to go back and talk with the judge in his chambers. Ray Jeffrey goes in with about four from the Scientology side.
Still waiting while the attorneys are in chambers with Judge Waldrip. This small courtroom is pretty packed now. A couple of Bunker readers have come over to say hello. Looks like there are a couple of local photo journalists covering this. Three Sheriff’s deputies at the doors. At least four other reporters here, including MacCormack and Childs.
They’re still in chambers. As for the church’s huge legal team, keep in mind that there are multiple defendants in this case. The Church of Scientology International (CSI), the Religious Technology Center (RTC), David Miscavige, Dave Lubow and Monty Drake (church private investigators), Ed Bryan (Squirrel Buster), and Steven Gregory Sloate. And each of them is entitled to bring an attorney. Still, this is the most impressive collection of Scientology attorneys that we’ve ever seen in one place.
Wow, here’s an update on that huge team. It turns out, only one of the defendants has made an appearance in this case — the Church of Scientology International (CSI). David Miscavige and RTC have made “special appearances. But none of the other parties has official appeared in this case yet. So that 15-suit team is here for three parties! And the number of banker’s boxes is up to 16. Wow.
Ray Jeffrey emerges. One of the church attorneys asks for a conference room, and a sheriff’s deputy directs him. The entire church team files out. Ray’s going back in with Monique to judge’s chambers.
OK, just talked to Marty Rathbun. He says the issue at this point is that the Scientology side is throwing so many different issues at the judge, the judge wants them to figure out some sort of order to handle this. So we’re looking at a procedural nightmare, and Judge Waldrip has asked the church to get its act together. So Scientology is huddling in one conference room, and Ray and Mosey are meeting in another conference room.
I see questions about “special appearances.” This was the subject of our story on September 1, that David Miscavige and the Religious Technology Center (RTC) had made special appearances, asking to be let out of the lawsuit. It was at that point that Miscavige filed his declaration, saying that he has nothing to do with Texas and should not be a part of Monique’s suit.
So that’s one of the issues today, that RTC and Miscavige (or their representatives) are here under special appearances, and want Judge Waldrip to rule on their request to be dropped. OK?
The Scientology legal team has filed back into the courtroom.
As for what may be gumming up the works, keep in mind that there are numerous issues being put before the judge today. First, there is Monique’s attempt to get a temporary injunction. The church will be opposing that, we suppose. But two of the defendants — Miscavige and RTC — filed special appearances, objecting to this court having any jurisdiction over them. They want the judge to rule on that, and remember, Miscavige’s special appearance was countered on Monique’s side with Marty’s affidavit. So he’s here if he needs to testify. But then also, just two days ago, the church filed its motion to have Ray Jeffrey and his team disqualified, complaining that Marty, in his affidavit, had improperly violated the church’s privacy by revealing what went on when he worked for Miscavige.
So Waldrip is being asked to deal with all of that, and we can understand that he may be trying to bring some order to that chaos.
Monique’s team back in the courtroom, but the church’s four-member team now goes back to judge’s chambers.
Attorneys back in the courtroom. One Scientology attorney (a local one, I think), is explaining to the others what the procedure is going to be. He’s out of our earshot, however. Ray Jeffrey is also back in the courtroom now. It appears that some kind of decision about how we are going to proceed has been reached.
Here’s what I’m being told: The request for temporary injunction will be heard first. The church’s attempts to put their issues on first were rebuffed. So we may get testimony from Mosey and her other witnesses before the church can put on its own witnesses. That’s big.
Big Scientology attorney huddle going on right now, with Monique Yingling in the center. Drawing straws to see who has to break the news to Mr. Miscavige that their team goes second?
ALL RISE! We are in session!
WALDRIP: Opening statements coming in the temporary injunction hearing. Then testimony. He’s saying no recording devices during testimony.
George Spencer, for CSI, objecting to this going forward before motion to disqualify is heard tomorrow morning.
Waldrip denies. Ray’s ready to proceed.
RAY: Introduces Monique and Marty.
This case is about the harassment…by the defendants…on Monique Rathbun.
There are a couple of issues the court will be dealing with. Should the TRO be extended into a temp injunction, and are the defendants under the jurisdiction of this court. He says the answer to both is yes.
RAY: For more than three years, the defendants have shattered the privacy and tranquility of Mrs. Rathbun’s life.
She has endured a complete lack of privacy, nonstop surveillance, photographing, videoing, face-to-face confrontations…nasty, humiliating pranks…and finally an interference with her ability to make a living.
At the end of last year, Monique had reached the breaking point…
Ray now describing how the Rathbuns left Ingleside and have moved to a place with more privacy here in Comal County.
They were still followed sometimes…but at least they felt secure in the privacy of their new home. That was until recently, when a suspicious stranger showed up on the property behind them.
Steve Sloat. Former deputy US Marshal. Said he was putting an RV on that land. The Rathbuns were suspicious. Then maybe a month ago or so, on this wooded property they found hi-tech, camouflaged surveillance cameras aimed at their home.
Ray saying that Monique was distraught when she learned about the camera aimed at her house.
We’re here today because she realizes her only option is to stand and fight. That’s why we’re here to seek a temporary injunction.
And Ray points out, with all of these lawyers with the church here today, all Monique is asking in this hearing is that they stop harassing and following here. That’s all.
Ray making the point that this is not a religious case. She has never been a member of the church.
“We’re not here about their theological or religious beliefs…the court is not going to be asked to make any decisions about any of that stuff.”‘
It’s about a law-abiding Texas citizen’s right to live in peace.
Ray suggests that the issue in this case will not be that Monique is being harassed, but who is behind it.
We will show that it is one person behind it, Ray says — David Miscavige.
Ray now telling the judge that Scientology is purposefully set up to make things confusing about liability.
Corporate Scientology is a wealthy enterprise with billions of dollars…even the IRS gave up and granted tax exempt status, he pointed out.
It has a disciplined group on the business side that is in charge of scorched-earth legal strategies and dirty-tricks operations…
Scientology lawyer asks to address the bench. Bench conference! Ooh, they didn’t like Ray saying all those things about OSA!
We just noticed — if you put Colonel Sander’s mustache and goatee on Ricky Gervais, you have Judge Dib Waldrip.
Oh, now that we noticed it we can’t stop seeing it.
Bench conference over.
RAY: There’s one piece of historical evidence, cited in books, etc., that is absolutely crucial — that when OSA was known as the Guardian’s Office, it committed the largest single infiltration of the US Government. Operation Snow White.
In fact, Ray says, one official who went to federal prison was Mary Sue Hubbard.
Scientology attorney objected. Waldrip saying he understands the web and history is extensive. Ray moves on. Scientology attorney now complaining that Ray is playing to the media.
RAY: Saying the result of Operation Snow White was how do we come up with a corporate structure to keep doing what we do and reduce liability.
Scientology attorney now objecting saying the only way Ray knows this is through attorney-client privileged information. Say WHAT??
Ray points out that he’s just talking about what is in numerous books, etc. That was a bizarre objection by the church.
The point of this corporate restructuring, Ray is saying, is directly related to this case. (Ray’s setting up an argument against what the church will argue, that RTC is unrelated to OSA and CSI, etc.)
Ray is saying that the evidence will show that despite the complex corporate structure, David Miscavige actually runs things and oversees the sort of scheme that targeted Monique Rathbun.
He’s saying that Miscavige is not just chairman of the board of one little entity, but that he runs all of Scientology. He’s now introducing the Sea Org.
Ray is saying that the Sea Org operates with a military structure and discipline, that members sign billion-year contracts. Every significant corporation in this collection are all members of the Sea Org.
Waldrip trying to speed him up. Ray explaining that Miscavige is the commanding officer of the Sea Org, which actually runs Scientology.
RAY: We will show that in Miscavige’s eyes, there is no bigger enemy than Monique’s husband, Marty Rathbun.
He fled Scientology and came to Texas. Met Monique, got married, living a quiet life. But then Marty began speaking out about the church. And the harassment began.
We will show that there is no one in Scientology who could order such an operation but Captain Miscavige.
Ray finishes up, saying that his side wants Miscavige enjoined from continuing to harass Monique.
Waldrip wanting to know attorneys on church side…
Lamont Jefferson — RTC and Miscavige
Les Strieber — CSI
George Spencer — CSI
Jonathan Hull — Sloat
Bert Deixler — CSI
(Those are just the ones at the table) More back in the seats.
Lamont Jefferson now speaking for RTC and Miscavige.
Telling the judge we expected to hear about damage suffered. But we heard a diatribe, he calls it. And Mr. Rathbun has been gone from the church since before 2004.
Weird point to make: Yeah, so why are you still harassing him?
Lamont Jefferson now making a statement for the special appearance — court must decide if Monique Rathbun can present evidence about what’s happening TODAY in the church.
His argument is that Marty’s evidence is too old. Wow. So apparently, folks, David Miscavige no longer runs Scientology — or at least, the Rathbuns have no way of knowing.
Jefferson now saying that Miscavige has a limited role, and he’s quoting an old statement by Marty. Classic tactics.
So it’s the usual argument: Miscavige has a limited role, and that was certified by the IRS. And using Marty’s words when he was an employee against him.
Saying that Miscavige is only ecclesiastical leader. Those are the words of Marty Rathbun.
“Your honor, I am not a Scientologist, but I am a disciple of the first amendment, and that’s what’s really at stake in this case.”
Jefferson saying that instead of going after the people who may have harassed Monique Rathbun, Ray Jeffrey instead asked to depose David Miscavige.
Saying it’s just for leverage, to get a big settlement. But that it would be a gross violation of the first amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.
Lamont says Monique can proceed against CSI, which has plenty of money to handle a settlement. (Wow, did he really just say that? Pretty close.)
So he’s saying, go ahead, let Monique sue the church, but leave Miscavige out of it because it would just be a violation of his freedom of religion.
Lamont Jefferson continues to try to make this a religious case, talking about ecclesiastical role of Miscavige.
Now he’s giving us a slide show of Scientology! Big crowd for a New Year’s Eve celebration. Hip hip hooray!
Jefferson now doing basic Scientology PR.
This is a simple case of invasion of privacy, OK I get that. Not Miscavige: “He’s not the person behind this.”
Well, he can say that, but why not let Monique’s team try to prove it? That’s what’s going on here. Jefferson is arguing about even letting Ray’s team put on a case about Miscavige.
Jefferson’s opening statement basically boils down to Scientology PR. Miscavige is an ecclesiastical leader and should be left alone.
Jefferson restating what he’s said before. Once again, saying that Marty’s information is too old. Oh, and about Miscavige:
“He doesn’t know Marty Rathbun. He doesn’t care about Marty Rathbun. He’s busy opening churches around the world.”
Now he’s making a legal argument. Even if it were true, he says, that Miscavige, from his desk, said go get Mrs. Rathbun, that wouldn’t be enough for jurisdiction in Texas, he claims.
End of Jefferson’s statement. No Strieber rises to say something. Strieber is saying that the church would be so generous as to accept her affidavit in lieu of her testimony.
Oh, what a great guy. Hard to believe Waldrip would accept that.
Ray says no, that’s not going to happen. Mosey is going to testify about what she’s seen here in Texas, not about Scientology history.
So now Les Strieber is going to give CSI’s opening statement. Says he’s going to be brief.
Says he was retained a couple of weeks ago, and has been spending the last two weeks understanding what Scientology is.
The Church of Scientology is an established religion…It’s based on the writings and teachings of L. Ron Hubbard…who wrote Dianetics. Churches in 150 different nations. 19 million people have visited the website!
Strieber: It is a religious dispute. Marty Rathbun had high office in the church, but was asked to leave.
Raising statute of limitation question — that Monique said she was aware of surveillance four years ago.
Strieber is now quoting from Monique’s affidavit, about how Marty started speaking out in 2009, about 5 years after he’d left the church.
One of the ways he spoke out was by starting a blog. Strieber holds out his hands to show how many binders all of Marty’s blog posts fill out (and that tells us what the Sea Org has been doing) — and it’s “hate-filled” material, and he’s been on TV! He talked to Anderson Cooper! And there are blogs out there that are against the church! Someone needs to get this guy some smelling salts.
Strieber is saying that if he went out and started his own “Methodist” church, he couldn’t do so “without a visit from the actual Methodist church.”
There’s nothing wrong with attempting to hold that orthodoxy, hold those scriptures to what they’re intended to be. — this is apparently Strieber’s justification for the Squirrel Busters! He’s saying that this comes down to an orthodoxy fight. Amazing.
“The Rathbun cabal” — there’s a group that has teamed up, he says. “You’re going to hear from a Mike Rinder” The three of them are directly or indirectly involved in 15 different legal proceedings against the Church of Scientology.
“It’s become an industry for them,” he says. And every one of them is played to the media. How, he asked, did the St. Petersburg Times know about this lawsuit the day after it was filed?
By reading the Underground Bunker, is the unstated answer. Hey-O.
They don’t like the surveillance that’s been done by the church. But you have to understand that when the orthodoxy of the church is being challenged, they have to do something about it.
Wow. Les Strieber basically just admitted that Scientology is surveilling the Rathbuns, and because they are a threat to the church’s “orthodoxy.”
So the strategy of Scientology is beginning to emerge: CSI is going to fall on its sword, admit that it’s been surveilling the Rathbuns — but because it needed to defend its orthodoxy — so that RTC and Miscavige can wriggle out of it.
And here’s the funny contradiction: RTC/Miscavige (Lamont Jefferson) just said Marty’s evidence is irrelevant because he’s been out so long, but CSI (Les Strieber) is saying Marty is so important, his blog has so much power, he single-handedly threatens the orthodoxy of the church and has to be surveilled.
I sure hope the judge is taking notes.
Strieber is saying that if the church was defending its trademarks and orthodoxy, it did so without breaking laws, and without violating Monique’s privacy.
They’re not going to prove that anything was illegal or improper, Strieber claims. He says anyone would recognize that they were just doing what anyone would to protect their religious orthodoxy.
I’m hearing some “wows” said quietly by people in the audience. This is pretty stunning. Scientology’s need to protect its orthodoxy is somehow righteous behavior.
Strieber now apparently bringing up the Daniel Montalvo matter?? He says Rathbun, on his blog, had advocated people in the church stealing church property and bring it to him, and someone did that with a hard drive.
End of his statement.
Sloat’s attorney defers giving an opening statement.
Judge Waldrip saying tomorrow morning dealing with disqualification matter. This afternoon we’re going to have testimony from Monique Rathbun.
Judge Waldrip and Ray Jeffrey and Les Strieber talking about how to proceed.
Breaking for lunch. Back at 1 pm (2 pm NY time, which the Bunker is still showing.)
Having a sandwich across the street. Hey gang, the sheriff’s deputy told us we can’t have my laptop out during Monique’s testimony.
So what we’ll do is take written notes and then start a new post later this afternoon with a summary of what she said.
So we’ll just sum up so far what we’ve seen so far…
1. Ray Jeffrey stood up to a gang of Scientology lawyers to convince Judge Waldrip to make sure his side went first, and to allow the testimony of Monique Rathbun.
2. The church’s strategy is pretty obvious: CSI is getting thrown under the bus in order to protect Strategy One, which is to keep Miscavige out of the lawsuit at all costs. CSI is admitting that it surveilled the Rathbuns, and it was even said in court that CSI has enough money to satisfy any damages or settlement of Monique Rathbun.
What a morning. We hope you’re as entertained as we are!
We’re sitting with Joe Childs, talking about Lamont Jefferson’s astounding comment that Monique should sue CSI and leave Miscavige/RTC alone because CSI has plenty of money for her to go after.
We wanted to double check that’s what he said. So we checked Michael Bennitt’s camera, which recorded Jefferson. And here are Jefferson’s exact words:
After saying Monique could go after CSI, he said, “They have sufficient assets to address any damages she claims she has suffered as a result of this supposed investigation.”
Wow. CSI has plenty of money, Mosey, so go after CSI and leave poor Mr. Miscavige alone, who is just an ecclesiastical leader opening churches and should not be bothered with such matters.
See you later this afternoon after Mosey’s testimony!