A helicopter just lifted off carrying former Church of Scientology members Mike Bennitt and Mike Rinder, who are headed for downtown Clearwater to film and report on Scientology’s big Super Power Building opening today.
Bennitt’s carrying a couple of different cameras for filming and still shots, and after they touch down in a couple of hours, we’ll start posting images here that he brings back.
In the mean time, we’ve asked Rinder to send us live updates of how the shoot is going, and give us his impression of how many Scientologists are actually in the streets for this event. This should be fun!
Bennitt is a man of means who has suddenly come on the scene in the last few months. He was in New Braunfels, Texas to film a couple of the hearings in Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit, and he was with us in Tampa for the Garcia lawsuit hearing in October. And now he’s rented a helicopter to cover today’s 1 pm grand opening of the Super Power Building.
Rinder is Scientology’s top former spokesman, and he lives near Clearwater. At his blog yesterday Rinder gave us more detail about what the new “Golden Age of Technology Phase II” is about. Now that we’ve plowed through the lingo, our impression is that Scientology leader David Miscavige has done for the Bridge — Scientology’s courses and their manuals — what he did for L. Ron Hubbard’s books a few years ago. In 2007, Miscavige announced that he had republished Hubbard’s “Basics” after cleaning them up and putting them in glossy new packaging. Church members were then pressured to purchase multiple sets of the books and lectures, at $3,000 per set.
Now, according to Rinder, Miscavige has done something similar with course materials that govern Scientology’s many classes and levels that a member goes through on the “Bridge to Total Freedom,” and specifically for training to become an auditor.
“Apparently, if you tweak a checksheet and make a new course pack cover, it’s a ‘brand new’ course. Of course it also means they have to be bought. Can’t use anything ‘old.’ Every org, every student. Lot of cash going to be rolling in,” Rinder writes.
But how many people have rolled into town for today’s big event? After 15 years, the Super Power Building is finally opening up. Way back in January 2012 while at the Village Voice we leaked the full set of schematics and renderings for the entire seven-floor building. If you haven’t already taken the virtual tour there, you really should.
We’ve noticed that some newspapers are reporting Scientology’s hilarious claim that this city-block-sized monster cost $45 million to build. As the Tampa Bay Times has pointed out, they believe the church raised more like $145 million for it. And we think that’s too conservative. Our sources have convinced us that at least $200 million was raised for the Super Power Building, and that’s the figure we use.
Well, we’re looking forward to hearing from Bennitt and Rinder. And as we get reports from them, we’ll post them in the live updates below.
Posted by Tony Ortega on November 17, 2013 at 12:30
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LIVE UPDATES WILL APPEAR BELOW HERE
About our Super Bowl allegiances here in the Bunker, which is in an undisclosed location but much closer, obviously, to Baltimore, Maryland than it is to San Francisco, California.
(The cats are from Kansas City, and they just wish we wouldn’t shout things at the TV during big sporting events. They won’t be taking sides today.)
Despite our relative proximity to Baltimore, we grew up in California, and we tend to side with anything West Coast over East Coast, if for no other reason than the country’s East Coast media bias is really annoying.
On the other hand, we grew up in Southern California, which traditionally has a pretty strong rivalry with the Bay Area, whose residents always seem to look down their noses at us Angelenos.
However, we did live for several years in the Bay Area and have fond memories of it. Though during that time we did not become 49ers fans.
Complicating things is that Los Angeles has always had a somewhat disjointed relationship to football. We still love the Lakers, and although we’ve adopted the Mets in a big way, if you cut us we still bleed Dodger Blue. But football is another matter.
And when we were just forming our sports allegiances in those tender days of youth, we collected football cards. It’s hard to overstate just what an influence such things can have on a young mind. Also, the Rams sucked at the time, and the Raiders hadn’t yet come to town. So, when we opened several packages of cards after a visit to the local liquor store one day, we took it as some kind of sign that so many of them were Houston Oilers. And there was something about that oil derrick on the side of the helmets we found really inspiring.
All these many years later, we’ve stuck by that team, which now calls itself the Tennessee Titans. Make fun all you want, but we’ve lived and died by Warren Moon, Steve McNair, Eddie George, and Chris Johnson, and that bond is not something we take lightly.
For that reason, there are certain teams which, over the years, have driven stakes through our hearts. You can imagine which some of these might be. Please don’t start talking about the Buffalo Bills — after the 1993 incident which must not be discussed, we at least had some solace with The Miracle in 1999.
No, it’s 2000 that still stings, when the Titans took the best record in football into the playoffs, the season after losing in the Super Bowl, and watched a brilliant season die. For that and several similar painful memories, we loathe the Baltimore Ravens with every fiber of our being.
TV on. CBS dialed in. And that little segment about Ray Lewis’s involvement in a 2000 double-murder was highly unsatisfying.
Peter Weller on Hawaii-Five-0? Where’s my Buckaroo Banzai sequel?
Sandy Hook kids: afternoon’s first lump in the throat.
Crazies will say they’re just a government hologram designed to distract us from mass mind control, however. Truthers are a special breed.
After that rousing anthem by Alicia Keys, we’re almost ready to go. Just a note — during the AFC Championship, the Scientology ad was the first one going into the halftime break. When will it show up today?
Flaming Lips for Hyundai? Ah, why not.
Ravens strike first. It’s early.
Budweiser Black Crown. Oh, please.
M&Ms. This feels like a PETA ad.
Audi. Rich kids never made me want to buy anything.
Hyundai super kids. Meh.
Go Daddy ads are always gross, but this one is stomach-turning.
Doritos, good enough for goats.
Niners make it 7-3.
Pepsi Next. Forgettable.
Best Buy. Waste of Amy Poehler, a great comedian.
Budweiser “Black Crown.” Please, just stop.
The Wizard of Oz reboot no one has been waiting for.
Coke ad using surveillance cams: unintentionally creepy.
Oreo: Can’t help wondering if that library had Ron the Encyclopedia.
End of First Quarter
Action movie will deliver action movie tropes action movie fans expect.
Toyota wishes. Best ad so far.
Doritos ad. Men in drag means great snack product.
Calvin Klein ad feels like something out of a fascist utopia.
Cars.com wolf ad. Huh?
Ravens up 14-3
Bud Light ad set in New Orleans. Great town, OK commercial
Go Daddy tells us wives nag men around the world. What a loathsome company.
I’m looking forward to the new Star Trek movie, but I wish I hadn’t sat through like a 10-minute preview at The Hobbit. Sometimes less is more.
The Rock goes in search of milk and we yawn.
Sonata Turbo ad is a bit clever. The music reminds us of “Raising Arizona.”
Second turnover! Ravens have always been good at getting the other team to lose its cool.
Failed fake field goal! Hey, that’s unusual.
VW. Ah, nothing like ethnic humor. First draft no doubt included blackface and dreads.
Niners struggling. Time out.
Coke ad in the desert. Road Warrior riff, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert (but without pesky gays).
Subway ad with athletes. Jared has always struck us as someone you don’t really want to get to know.
Two minute warning.
Taco Bell ad with old people. I know this is supposed to be clever, but it makes me wince.
Running shoes ad with cheetah. Well, at least we got to see a cheetah.
Ravens up 21-3. Niners a second half team, but this is getting ridiculous.
Lincoln ad is too typical for a car ad, even with the jazz drummer.
Halftime is nearing. Remember, during the AFC Championship, it was the first ad after the first half ended when Scientology ran a 30-second version of its “Knowledge” ad, at least here in New York.
Kaepernick seems to be risking an interception with almost every pass. Not good.
HALFTIME, Ravens 21, Niners 6
Four CBS promos, during which several tens of millions headed for the bathroom.
Ford Fusion. Saw this one already. Zzzz.
The great thing is, the Scientology ad as immediately followed by a loopy woman who could have been the perfect example of a deluded church member. Nice placement!
So who saw the ad and in which parts of the country?
The Twitter reactions to the Scientology ad are BRUTAL.
Oprah pandering to the armed forces: Soldiers deserve better. Don’t treat them like a disease that needs commiseration.
Sorry, CBS, I’m still not going to watch your sitcom. But thanks for the Garrett Morris cameo.
This is like the Super Bowls of my youth. Blowout after blowout.
Power outage! Ha ha ha. Where are OT VIIIs when you need them?
Iron Man 3 — cool look.
Century 21. Eh.
Blackberry — very weak use of special effects
NO, THE TALKING E-TRADE BABY! Aaaagggghhh.
Let’s play the second half next week!
Oh no, DOWNTON ABBEY. We may have to start switching back and forth.
Oh, everyone’s mourning for Sybil. What’s Tom going to do?
Cora, Cora, that was a low blow.
Kaepernick runs for first down!
Mrs. Patson carps about cooking!
Niners score crucial touchdown.
Meanwhile, downstairs flirting is reaching unbearable levels.
SF defense finally showing up.
Dr. Clarkson, meanwhile, is being put on the spot.
WE HAVE A GAME. The Niners score again.
Things in prison for Mr. Bates are still grim.
Robert, Robert, you out-of-date lovable bastard.
Oh, Carson. That was uncalled for.
Niners miss a field goal. Will that deflate their comeback?
Meanwhile, Biblical parables around the table downstairs at Downton.
Both the Niners and Mr. Bates are holding on to a glimmer of hope…
The Daily Mail UK has provided a link here in a story about the Scientology ad. We’re grateful for that, but we want to clarify that the ad which aired during the Super Bowl was a 30-second spot.
There is a 1-minute version of the “Knowledge” ad online, but for the sky-high rates during the AFC Championship and Super Bowl, the church ran the shorter versions, which makes sense.
Dr. Clarkson does the noble thing. But tough for him, no doubt.
We’re into the fourth quarter, and the Ravens are trying to drive a stake into the Niners’ chances.
The Business Insider is reporting that Scientology paid about 3.8 million for the ad.
Ravens score, now lead 31-23.
Paul Harvey on farmers. Just don’t Google Harvey’s past.
Daily Mail is also wrong about cost. If it had been a national ad, would have been more than 7 million. But it only ran in certain markets, and Business Insider says they paid about 3.8 million.
Wow. Niners are really something. Will they go for two to tie it up?
Niners want to check the replay.
Tide ad. Annoying.
Soda Stream. At least it has a point to make.
Let’s look at this again. National ads are running about 3.8 million for 30 seconds. But the Scientology ad was not nationwide, so the 7.6 million (for 1 minute) and 3.8 million for 30 seconds are both too high. We’re guessing they spent less. Not sure how much, though.
Samsung. Might have been better with a script.
Oh, that might be it. The Niners couldn’t get in from only about 5 yards out.
Well, the Ravens win. But thanks to the Niners for making it a game.
Also, to recap: right where we expected it, the Church of Scientology ran a 30-second version of its “Knowledge” ad after the end of the first half. It showed up in NY and LA and SF and perhaps some other markets. National ads were running about 3.8 million for a 30-second spot, but we wonder if they paid less than that because it was in limited markets.
We thank the numerous news organizations that linked to us in regards to the ad. We did know it was coming, and we had already commented on its weak message. As L. Ron Hubbard said, it’s best to sell Scientology like a “mystery sandwich” and not give any indication of what it’s really like. For that — what the church is really up to — there is this blog and its excellent commenter community, which is made up of so many former members.
Oh, and Joe Flacco just said “Fucking awesome” on national TV. And that is fucking awesome.
Thank you and good night!
Ten minutes to go. We really wonder how this will go — Jenna seems a perfect guest for The View, but can the hosts handle such a touchy subject?
Here we go. Two guest hosts. What the hell is Jewel going to ask about Scientology?
Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Jewel, Sherri Shepherd, and Whoopi’s daughter Alex Martin. These are the co-hosts today.
How did I go through life without watching this show? Our hosts impart their wisdom about teeth, virginity, and what not.
First commercial break. Brain cell loss is palpable. We can only hope Jenna comes on soon.
Yikes. That Seth McFarlane promo for the Oscars was not funny. Doesn’t bode well. OK, back to the show.
Hanna Storm segment. She was burned in an accident with her backyard grill, talking about recovering from that.
Jenna’s next! We just have a few more commercials…
Here we go. Sherri introducing it….
Jenna looks great. She’s up there with only Whoopi, Joy, and Sherri. Where’s Jewel?
Six in 1990, went to live on ranch. How often saw her parents? Saw them for a few hours on Sunday morning only.
From when I was 12 to 18 I only saw my mom twice.
Whoopi asks about the billion-year contract. And about thetans.
Jenna is explaining thetans and how children are really little ancient beings.
Joy: I’d like to pick up a new body. Hardy har har.
Sherri gets back to the serious stuff. Scientology sent pictures of the ranch that look nice.
Jenna saying she was working four hours a day to improve ranch. But point out that she was only 7, and they also studied Scientology for 14-hour days, Jenna!
These women really seem to be taking her seriously. Now Whoopi asks, what is Scientology?
Sherri has message from the church. Saying 30 classmates contradict her.
Joy asks about what auditing is. Jenna is saying it’s like a confessional.
They’re bringing her back after the commercial break!
Second half. Here we go.
Joy asks about celebrities. Jenna says they get treated completely differently. Celebrity Centres. Only certain auditors, etc. Not as hit up for money.
Sherri: Why’d you leave in 2005?
Jenna says she couldn’t turn a blind eye to all the abuse.
Joy asks about her husband Dallas, and how hard it was to stay together.
Jenna talking about Disconnection, essentially. Nice love story.
Whoopi, are you worried?
Jenna: “I definitely don’t live in fear of the church.”
Sherri: How are you making a living?
Dallas in IT, Jenna at-home mom.
Another church statement. APOSTATE!!
Those church statements are so weak. Too afraid to face an audience or camera.
The Behar joke wasn’t inappropriate. And in general, these three really took Jenna seriously. I think Jenna got a great hearing here.
She could be a better speaker on this material, but that’s a tough situation to be in.
OK, we need to get back to the book, which we’ve nearly finished. But please hang out and discuss this appearance. We’ll be back with our review as soon as possible.
Amy Adams just made the red carpet, looking very glamorous and very un-Mary Sue. Oh, the excitement is building.
Susan: I hear a voice…It’s my father’s voice.
Wayne: Listen to the words and repeat them, please.
Susan: He is talking to my mother. The face pressure is hurting. It’s uncomfortable. It keeps going up and down and it hurts.
Wayne: Repeat his words, please.
Susan: “I don’t want to come in you now. Let’s wait.” The pressure is banging my face. Into my face. My mother is there, her voice…
Wayne: What is your mother saying? Please, if you hear her?
Susan: She saying “well get out of there then. I don’t want you in me at all if your not there to come. Get in to come.” She’s mad.
Wayne: Please return to the start of this and recount.
Susan: I wonder what they’re doing?…I hear a squishing sounds and it’s wet. Oh. Oh my.
Wayne: Recount please.
Susan: A faint rhythm…then faster. I hear my fathers voice say, “oh honey…I won’t come in you now. I’m not too sure I like children that well and I have my job to worry about…” And my mother must shove him — a sharper pain here — “THEN I DON’T IN THERE AT ALL, GET OUT…”
Wayne: Return to the beginning and recount again, please…
That’s a scene from Paul Thomas Anderson’s script for The Master that didn’t make it into the movie. It occurs on the boat, when Freddie is being shown around by Peggy Dodd. It’s Anderson’s representation of a session of Dianetics, when a woman is being encouraged to “remember” what she heard as a fetus, while her father’s appendage was apparently pressing against her while her parents were having sex.
There are many examples in the original script of Anderson portraying Scientology in wacky ways that didn’t get into the final film. We’ve written before that it’s important to remember that Anderson researched and wrote his script with a heavy focus on Scientology, but it was several years before he was able to film it. By then, we get the feeling that his passion for a Scientology expose had dissipated a bit, and the film he made became more about the performances that Joaquin Phoenix put into it. (Hoffman’s scenes tended to be a little closer to the original script.)
There’s still a lot about Scientology’s early history in the finished film, and the scene late in the movie showing Freddie touching a wall and describing a window was not only one that most clearly evoked Dianetics, it was not in the original script.
Anyway, some things to think about tonight as we watch events unfold.
THE SUPER BOWL FOR WOMEN: AN OBSERVATION FROM OUR FASHION DEPARTMENT
“Wow, they’re really going for metals this year.”
We’re only reporting what we were told.
Ah, Nicole. We’ll ask our expert sources: when she appeared on screen, was there a collective hiss from the crowd gathered around a TV at Gilman Hot Springs?
This “guess what’s under the cover” routine is really irritating.
“I like people who like me” — De Niro, looking absolutely THRILLED to be on the red carpet.
Daniel Radcliffe just used the word “enthused.” So much for Brits knowing proper English. Ffffft.
THE MASTER is offered some appetizers, he says:
MASTER: You can hear a tomato scream when you cut it…this is why I don’t eat tomatoes…
Another fine moment in Anderson’s script that cruelly didn’t get into the film. Imagine the yucks.
Here we go! Oh, what a set. Here comes Seth!
So far these jokes aren’t sucking too bad.
His delivery’s pretty good, too.
Naomi Watts: Classic reaction. This is so meta. Are their reactions planned?
Looks like the server is failing us once again. Please be patient. And hey, Seth can sing!
Here we go, Supporting Actor!
Will the Oscar go to L. Ron Hubbard?
The Master goes 0-1!
The Oscar goes to Christoph Waltz
As a consolation, we’re going to look at a Lancaster Dodd speech that Hoffman did not speak in the film, but maybe should have…
MASTER: How are any of us going to get better? More able?
We Must Process The Whole Of Time. This Life and Pre Natal Cellular processing is NOT ENOUGH. We have Lived Many, Many, Many Lives. So anybody that is not processing THE WHOLE OF TIME — is doing a disservice to man and WILL NOT GET BETTER. I cannot put it more simply.
And as for me now: I just need to find the time away from all of my writing to go back down and DO IT so I don’t walk around with the darndest limp everytime I come to town!
First shot at John Travolta and Kelly Preston. They look lovely.
Another moment from the script we wish we’d seen. In the moment when Dodd goes nuts at his critic who used the word “cult,” Dodd also shouts at a woman who has a persistent cough…
MASTER: SHUT THAT WOMAN UP. YOU WILL STOP COUGHING. THAT GRAVELY PUTRID NOISE, YOU ARE TRYING TO RUIN ME. YOU HAVEN’T BEEN DOING THE WORK. YOU WOULD NOT BE SICK IF YOU DO THE WORK. WE DON’T GET SICK.
Life of Pi for visual effects. Nice kitty, nice kitty.
Well, you hate to see someone cut off like that. But the special effects guy does need to understand, WE DON’T CARE. Shaddap already.
While the show celebrates James Bond, we’ll take a look at another excerpt of The Master’s script that really nails Scientology. We’re having a hard time remembering, but we think a small portion of this might have made it into the film itself. But in the script, the full speech is made by Clark, Lancaster Dodd’s son-in-law…
CLARK: You know…at first there were rumors going around about you…
FREDDIE: What about me…?
CLARK: Well, when you first were found on board. People were saying you were looking for Split Saber. That you were trying to steal The Split Saber if it was on board.
…it’s what started all this. Back then…in 1941, Master..he’d been in operation, in army hospital. He died on the table…gone for seven minutes…but came back:
And in a storm of vision and creative output from this experience he wrote The Split Saber aka The Darkest Cloud.
Whoever read it…either went insane or committed suicide. Twelve people read it.
Six dead, four disappeared. The last time anyone saw it…was his last publisher in New York. Master walked into the office to find out what the reaction was, the publisher called for the reader, the reader came in with the manuscript…threw It on the table…and flung himself out of the skyscraper window….
Master took the book and hid it wher no one could get to it…it’s inside this book: all the history. All the facts. All too dangerous. He re-wrote it, using what he could as the basis for what we are able to accept and learn today…that’s Book One that we all study and know…but the real stuff. The things at the center…are still too dangerous. They (kill/cure) any man who reads it. It’s passing through the jaws of resistance. It’s the truth about all this. The book is protected and hidden. No one knows where but Master.
FREDDIE: The truth about all what?
CLARK: Life on this planet.
Wow. Shirley Bassey. We remember reading somewhere that the original vinyl soundtrack album for Goldfinger is some kind of totem for audiophiles. Some kind of accident of perfection makes it one of the very best records for testing the dynamics of a great audio system. Have you heard this too?
Wow. We’re having a hard time remembering a musical moment that good on the Oscars in many years.
Doesn’t the director of the show get a credit at the end? Why does he need to be praised by name halfway through the show?
Another great speech from the script, parts of which did make it into the film. Lancaster Dodd and Freddie are in jail together, and Dodd is trying to calm Freddie down…
MASTER: This is FBI work, Russians maybe…this…too much work for the AMA…
FREDDIE: Stop talking…
MASTER: Your fear of capture and imprisonment is an implant from millions of years ago. An Invader Force played games with your spirit as it moved from one body to the next — free for a moment — it was free and the invader force captured it — spun you around in a device not unlike a grinder and hit you with waves of high wattage electrical impulses — quaver bolts to damage you. The impulse lodges and plants the push-pull instinct, dumped in scalding hot water, then freezing cold — a control mechanism — any legal action, a summons to court, the sight of a police officer, exposes a glandular reaction and anxiety wave of the highest order, triggered — the mere threat of arrest will make a psychotic breakdown. This happened to you and you are free to stop it. Their game and implants are no match for you. Laugh in their face. Laugh at it. These triggers are useless now. You created THEM so YOU can DESTROY THEM.
MASTER: I don’t have any opinions. I’m giving you facts.
FREDDIE: Just shut-your-mouth? You’re a fucking DRUNK.
Sugar Man! Yes!
Way to go, Simon.
Looking good. He’s got the long wig on.
Introducing music musicals. Struggling a little on some of these names…
Is that it? Wow, he was wasted if that’s all there was.
That seemed to be Travolta doing little more than reading his resume. Downright strange.
Check out what Lush put in the comments. Twitter was BRUTAL when Travolta appeared!
This just in from Paulette Cooper:
“When you look at John Revolting’s new facelift, you know why they call it PLASTIC surgery.”
“We have a tie”
We don’t think we’ve ever heard those words at an Oscar broadcast before. Are we wrong about that?
Let’s see how Mary Sue fares!
The Master goes 0-2!
The Oscar goes to Anne Hathaway!
Thanks to those who looked up the last tie for an Oscar, which was the 1968 awards, when Barbra Streisand tied with Katherine Hepburn.
But we are correct. WE have never heard the words “It’s a tie” while watching the Oscars. We weren’t watching them in 1969.
Checking Twitter. Whoa, there’s a lot of Anne Hathaway hate out there.
Who are they kidding. The film industry is designed to chew up and destroy kids like this.
Adele does Bond. Well, it feels like a Bond song. We actually really liked the Casino Royale theme.
Nicole: “The course of true love is far from certain…”
Take that, Tom!
Jeez, Kristen Stewart is wearing a cast. Give her a break, people.
Though, yes, she could have run a comb through her hair.
Clam Alert: Will Smith!
The Death Roll! Always a highlight.
Tony, why’d you jump off a bridge, man?
Barbra. Like butter.
How many remember she played a Commie campus organizer in this movie? Actually, we have to admit we love this film.
Lots of executives and marketers on this memorial list this year. Was there a shortage of actors biting it in 2012? Where was Hagman?
Chicago was an overrated Best Picture Win 10 years ago, and it gets celebrated TWICE tonight? Why???
Also left out of the memorial for executives and marketers: Alex Karras, Andy Griffith, Gore Vidal, Richard Dawson!
How do you leave out a clip of Andy Griffith in A Face in the Crowd? One of the greatest performances ever!
I have never seen so many “executives” celebrated in the memorial roll. What a joke. A travesty to leave off some of those names.
But hey, Adele.
Well, they have 12 minutes to give out all the main awards. We don’t think they’re going to make it.
Another server hiccup. Sorry about that. We totally missed the writer categories. And Tarantino gave the only good speech tonight.
This just in from Jonny Jacobsen…
“Finally finding time to tune in towards the end of a quiet night shift — but I still have to put up with the fatuous French commentary. It likes having someone going la-la-la-la in your ear when you’re trying to listen to someone else. Vos gueules, les gars!
A pity Seymour Hoffman didn’t win, but I must admit I liked Waltz’s turn in Django. He and DiCaprio made Foxx look pretty second-rate — but then they did get the best lines.”
Wow, Lincoln is kind of getting shut out tonight, isn’t it?
As DC pointed out, the producers of the show put on their old movie Chicago twice tonight, but also, they took bows before the show even started. We can’t remember the Award’s producers doing that.
OK, here we go for Best ACtor.
Does Joaquin have a chance?
The Master shut out at 0-3!
The Oscar goes to… Daniel Day Lewis!
JACK! We’ll never forget what he said for winning for Terms of Endearment:
“For all you rockers from the Roxie to the Rockies, rock on!”
Michelle Obama wasn’t really necessary to hammer home the point that Hollywood is a Democratic town. But what the heck! Nice dress.
Michelle gets to announce the winner…
Ben, you’re giving the epitome of a lousy Oscar speech. Get off already.
This is becoming a disaster.
Seth did fine. The self-indulgence by the producers was extremely annoying (showing themselves, celebrating Chicago twice). The memorial roll was a disgrace. And now it’s over, but it’s still going. What the hell?
As for Scientology, Travolta really didn’t rehabilitate himself with his wooden appearance. The Master got shut out, but still picked up some publicity that should help the DVD debut next week.
As for best approximation of an OT VIII graduation, that easily goes to the gibberish coming from Ben Affleck.
And this thing is still going? Ah, enough.
We have some very intriguing stories lined up for this week. We’ll see you tomorrow morning at 7 am with a fun little mystery to start things off.
Less than two hours to go now, and we sure have a great gang here already! Now, if the Mets could just score a run.
Forty minutes to go. Mole enchiladas devoured. Rum cake tasting good. Mets collapsing.
Hey, you West Coasters and other people who can’t see the broadcast — keep your eye on the live blog. We’re going to be typing up the transcript at a VERY FAST RATE so you can follow along with the show.
OK, first up, a story on adult ADHD. Stand down, crowd, stand down!
Hey, Brian Williams. Luke Catton reached out to me a hell of a long time before your August show, and Eric Tenorio first came out on Reaching for the Tipping Point Forum.
But go ahead, tell people they’re only speaking out because of your reporting if it makes you feel better.
Here we go!
HARRY SMITH: If you’re about to send one of your loved ones to Narconon Arrowhead, should you be concerned for their safety?
LUCAS CATTON: Absolutely. I would be concerned. I– I would– I personally would never recommend to anybody that they should send their loved one to Narconon.
This is Lucas Catton, the former president of Narconon Arrowhead, a drug rehabilitation center located in a remote area of Oklahoma.
Last year we reported on three young adults who died there within nine months.
SHIRLEY GILLIAM: It seems like it was just yesterday…
Shirley Gilliam’s son, Gabriel, died at Narconon in October, 2011. The cause of death could not be determined.
HARRY SMITH: Did you feel like they were completely forthcoming with you on the phone in terms of who they were and what their–
SHIRLEY GILLIAM: No.
HARRY SMITH: –what their procedures were?
SHIRLEY GILLIAM: No.
Gilliam says she is filled with sorrow and regret about sending Gabriel to Narconon.
SHIRLEY GILLIAM: I just wished that I had not taken him there. I wish that with everything inside me.
Catton and his former colleague, Eric Tenorio — both executives who cut ties with Narconon three years ago — say though no one died on their watch, they feel compelled to speak out about what they say are the program’s failings.
HARRY SMITH: We did this story last summer of three different young people who died at Arrowhead. Did you see the story?
ERIC TENORIO: I did. And I felt terrible about it. It coulda been prevented. Absolutely, every single one of those deaths. If those families
would’ve gotten the truth about what they were getting into they would have absolutely not have sent their families there, and I apologize, you know.
And what were they getting into? Catton and Tenorio say a crash course in Scientology.
Patients are called “students.” And they study a series of eight books based on the writings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
(L. Ron Hubbard film clip) “They can confront their own problems and solve their own problems and so bring themselves up by their own bootstraps.”
Narconon promotes itself as a non-medical rehabilitation program. Its methods include five hours a day in a sauna for thirty straight days and mega-doses of the vitamin Niacin, all part of a larger system of life skills training that Narconon says has helped tens of thousands lead drug-free lives.
LUCAS CATTON: You were taught in Hubbard’s language, that you are the expert in mental health.
This is Lucas Catton as a young man. He arrived at Narconon as a patient in 1998 when he was 20 years old. His parents were concerned he was drinking too much.
He got a job at Narconno as a counselor in 2000, and quickly worked his way up to president.
At the time, and for years afterwards, he believed the program was helpful and gave this 2009 testimonial to the Church of Scientology.
Lucas Catton (2009 testimonial): There is not a more comprehensive rehabilitation program available than Narconon.
HARRY SMITH: In this process, while you were at Narconon, did you become a Scientologist?
LUCAS CATTON: I did. I came a full fledged scientologist. Absolutely. I dedicated all of my time, life, money; everything was dedicated toward the purpose of advancing Scientology’s aims. That is what you’re doing at Narconon, is you’re advancing the aims of Scientology.
HARRY SMITH: From your perspective and you were the President of the Narconon Arrowhead, does the Church of Scientology use Narconon as a way to recruit new members?
LUCAS CATTON: Absolutely it does.
The other main objective of Narconon, Catton says, was to pull in millions of dollars in revenue… The three-to-six-month program, costs ,000 per patient.
LUCAS CATTON: So therefore you’re willing to either lie to them or misrepresent who you are or– take people who aren’t really qualified; anything to bring in the money to keep the facility going, week after week after week.
In a statement to NBC News, the Church of Scientology said the cost of Narconon is comparable to other addiction treatment programs.
Eric Tenorio also came to Narconon as a patient in 1996.
Upon completing the program he, like Catton, got hired on as staff. He, too, became a Scientologist and gave this 2008 testimonial to the church.
Tenorio (2008 testimonial): There’s no way that I would have got to the point where I am right now if it wasn’t for the Narconon program.
He worked his way up the ladder at Arrowhead, and in 2004, took a position as executive director at Narconon’s Freedom Center in Michigan.
HARRY SMITH: If you’re on the staff at Narconon beyond the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, is there any instruction whatsoever– in terms of– of your dealing with people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol?
ERIC TENORIO: None.
HARRY SMITH: Zero?
ERIC TENORIO: Zero.
Tenorio showed us official-looking certificates he received as a quote unquote certified alcohol and drug counselor in Michigan. They came from an organization called the PITA Group, run by a Narconon Arrowhead contractor.
HARRY SMITH: That’s the kinda thing you got–
ERIC TENORIO: That’s– that’s– yeah. It’s got a nice seal on it to make it look very official. You stick it on your wall and– any unsuspecting public will h– will be none the wiser.
HARRY SMITH: What did you do to– to– to get this?
ERIC TENORIO: Wrote ’em a check.
HARRY SMITH: That’s it?
ERIC TENORIO: That’s it.
HARRY SMITH: No course?
ERIC TENORIO: No course. No tests. No oversight.
HARRY SMITH: No curriculum?
ERIC TENORIO: No nothing.
HARRY SMITH: It feels like fraud.
ERIC TENORIO: It is fraud. It’s absolutely fraud.
The PITA Group denies Tenorio’s assertions and says it requires 20 hours of training and two years of experience to obtain a certificate.
HARRY SMITH: Do you blame Narconon for your daughter’s death?
ROBERT MURPHY: Absolutely.
Robert Murphy’s daughter Stacy died of an overdose inside Narconon Arrowhead last July. He and the families of the other deceased have sued
Narconon. The program denied wrongdoing in any of the deaths.
Murphy says the advertized success rate of 75 percent is what drew them to Narconon.
HARRY SMITH: You’re thinking, “This might be the answer?”
ROBERT MURPHY: Oh yeah. Because they tout such high– success rates.
Tenorio and Catton say that number is a complete fabrication.
LUCAS CATTON: And it’s well-known, internally, that– that they cannot produce that success rate.
HARRY SMITH: They know inside?
LUCAS CATTON: Absolutely they know.
Narconon says it stands by its statistics.
Catton stepped down as president in 2004 but stayed close to the program. For the next five years he worked as a contractor selling Narconon to desperate relatives of drug addicts from around the country… All looking for help on the Internet, with no indication the sites they werviewing might lead them to Narconon.
LUCAS CATTON: I had a series of websites that were non-branded. Like, generic websites for people to look for drug treatment and rehab help.
HARRY SMITH: So if I went on the internet looking for drug treatment I’d land on one of your sites?
LUCAS CATTON: Land on one of my sites, pick up the phone, call. Either myself or somebody who I employed would answer the phone or respond to your e-mail. And start taking down information, asking pertinent questions, listening for a few key things. Whether or not you had money, whether or not you had some type of insurance. They really teach you to listen for– and even use the term, “Listen for the money.”
HARRY SMITH: Listen for the money?
LUCAS CATTON: Listen for the money.
Catton says he referred those who could afford it Narconon. The rest he says he referred elsewhere. He made a 10 percent commission, or ,000, on every person who went to a Narconon facility.
HARRY SMITH: Did you make pretty good money doing this?
LUCAS CATTON: I did. Yeah, I used to.
HARRY SMITH: In a given year, how much?
LUCAS CATTON: Easily 0,000, 0,000.
HARRY SMITH: Do you think Narconon preys on vulnerable people?
LUCAS CATTON: I absolutely believe Narconon preys on vulnerable people. That’s part of the sales techniques. One of the techniques that they do is called, “finding your ruin.” And they teach people who are on the phone with families, find out what are the biggest problems in their lives. What is the thing that they’re most afraid of is gonna happen? And you hit that over and over and over again until they break down and go, “Oh my gosh, we have to do something.” And you’re there to tell ’em, “Well, we have the answer.”
“And where are the regulators?” you ask. Catton says as president of Narconon Arrowhead, he helped Narconon take advantage of loopholes in Oklahoma state law to avoid any kind of meaningful regulation by the state.
HARRY SMITH: Does the state have a kind of a hands-off policy when it comes to– comes to that facility?
LUCAS CATTON: Absolutely, they have a hands-off policy. They don’t know how to handle it.// 04;08;14 The state, unfortunately, has not done their job.
The state regulatory agency says Narconon Arrowhead is currently certified to provide non-medical detoxification services, and that an investigation into the deaths is ongoing.
Catton says he started to question Narconon and Scientology after he began to look into unfavorable reports about the church in 2010. He says when he started to question church authorities he was excommunicated.
Tenorio stopped working for Narconon in 2010 after tiring of what he calls fraud and poor management. And leaving Narconon essentially ended his connection with the church.
Both men say they are ashamed of their involvement with Narconon and Scientology.
ERIC TENORIO: Well, it’s definitely embarrassing. You know, I don’t– I don’t go around tellin’ people that I meet that, “Oh, yeah, I used to be in a cult.” You know? I–
HARRY SMITH: Used to be in a cult?
ERIC TENORIO: Yeah, ‘Cause I don’t like to say, “Yeah, I– you know, I wasted this time doing this activity that I thought was right, when in actual fact it’s just pseudo-science. Or, you know, it’s this guy sellin’ snake oil.”
Narconon and Church of Scientology officials declined our request for on-camera interviews. But in statements both organizations said that Narconon is not a source of recruitment for the church, and said only a very small percentage of patients join Scientology.
In an email to NBC News, Narconon Arrowhead CEO Gary Smith said “Of Narconon Arrowhead’s current staff, approximately 25 percent are Scientologists.”
He said “Narconon’s chief concern is to salvage people from the ravages of drug addiction” …and “nothing in the procedures puts money before helping the person who is suffering…”
CEO Smith also said Catton has ties to anti-Scientology activists.
HARRY SMITH: We’ll be in communication with Narconon. And the first thing we’re gonna hear: You guys are discredited. You’re out to destroy Narconon. You’re not to be trusted.
LUCAS CATTON: Right.
HARRY SMITH: To which you would say what?
LUCAS CATTON: For me, personally, I think it’s quite the opposite. Why would I incriminate myself? Why would I give up my certifications? Why would I do all these things? It’s purely so that the truth can come out, so that people can stop hurting, so that people can stop dying, and so that there can be full transparency.
ERIC TENORIO: They go to great lengths at quieting people. They’re not gonna do that with me. I’m gonna tell the truth and there’s nothin’ they can say or do to– to stop that.
Whew, my fingers are smokin’
Hey, let’s start off tonight’s live-blogging with a great new video by Karen de la Carriere!
This one’s about how tough it is to leave the church. Another fine entry filmed and edited by Angry Gay Pope…
Here’s the URL for the stream of tonight’s show.
I guess the pre-show is beginning on the stream. Oh, we’re getting excited.
Wow, this stream is bad here. How is it for you? Smooth, or glitchy?
OK, tonight’s drinking game: We’re taking a swig every time a winner says, “L. Ron Hubbard”
Oh man, we’re going to be drunk by the end of the evening.
Half hour to go…
And we just lost the Game of Thrones crowd.
Here we go, ladies and gentlemen. We can hear the crowd in the background, and we expect the interpretive dance to begin at any moment.
We’ll most likely put most of our remarks in the comments, with y’all. It’s more fun that way. Enjoy the show!
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!
We’re back in place here in Judge Waldrip’s courtroom. He’s still wrapping up some other matters. Mike Bennitt has been here for a while, and he came up to us and said he was amazed watching Waldrip handle drug cases this morning. “He’s the most compassionate judge I’ve ever seen,” Mike said, and added, “Scientology is screwed.”
Well, that remains to be seen. So far only three members of Scientology’s team in the courtroom with us.
Yesterday, Judge Waldrip indicated that he wanted to be done today by 3:30 pm, 4 pm at the latest, because he has some other matters he has to get to this afternoon. We got the feeling, particularly from Lamont Jefferson, the attorney for RTC/David Miscavige, that today’s entire session will be taken up by the disqualify motion.
Obviously, we’re running a little late. The last drug case was finally concluded a moment ago. The parties for both sides are now getting into place. The judge has gone out of the courtroom. We should be proceeding fairly soon.
Here we go… George Spencer, San Antonio attorney for CSI starting his opening statement.
Yesterday, George says, Ray Jeffrey made it clear that his purpose is to attack David Miscavige.
Now just two weeks ago, Aug 28, Miscavige’s attorney, Lamont Jefferson, filed special appearance for Miscavige, in that, Jefferson urged that while the plaintiff, Mrs. Rathbun, is of course entitled to her day in court…she must do so in California.
Spencer now says that because Lamont Jefferson’s special appearance for Miscavige was such a fine piece of lawyering, Monique Rathbun and her attorney Ray Jeffrey were desperate and filed an affidavit by Marty Rathbun.
It was a desperate move, Spencer says…In their zeal to do whatever it takes to go after Miscavige, they jumped over an ethical line.
In his affidavit, Marty Rathbun sets out under oath how intimately involved he was with my client, CSI, and our co-defendant, RTC. For 20 years, Marty said, no legal matters occurred without his knowledge.
In an attempt to keep this case in Texas, Marty described the hiring of attorneys and described the supposed substance between himself as a legal affairs employee and attorneys.
Spencer now pauses to indicate that what Marty occurred between him and the attorneys was false. But that’s not the point here.
It was impossible for Ray Jeffrey not to know that publishing that material was an unethical breach, Spencer is saying.
The course of action is clear, Spencer says — Monique’s attorneys should be dismissed.
Because of the length of his employment, Rathbun is considered to have been privy to confidential information. We would be here in a totally different situation if Monique’s attorneys had prevented Rathbun from revealing the confidential information that he had.
Spencer is well spoken, and he’s laying out this statement with strong emphasis in the right places. Judge Waldrip has his hand on his chin, and seems to be paying good attention.
Texas Supreme Court case law requires disqualification, Spencer says. Waldrip just indicated that he has read the state supreme court case that they’re referring to.
“I take no joy in bringing this motion” — Spencer, quoting the standard Scientology playbook.
Spencer just said this is the second time that he’s had to bring a motion like this against “these lawyers.”
Spencer, in other words, is trying to paint a picture that Ray Jeffrey is some kind of clown. Hey, Spence, then why did Ray clean the floor with you the last time?
Ray: “a highly offensive, dilatory tactic.”
Ooh. Ray’s got a very strong tone in his voice today. Not like yesterday.
“There’s no amusement here.” After a 30-year career, never having any accusation like this…it’s not amusing. “This motion is outrageous.”
We do intend to file a motion for sanctions, to punish them for this dilatory tactic.
Motions to disqualify attorneys are the perfect tool for someone seeking a dilatory tactic.
The single most infamous client in the country for disqualify, dilatory motions is the Church of Scientology.
You notice they never get really very specific about the confidential material supposedly released in this unethical report.
Every fact in Marty Rathbun’s affidavit — which we were forced to file — did I receive, your honor, some confidential, privileged inforation that went into that affidavit? Everything in that affidavit I already knew. Your honor, it is all already in the public record. Every single word. And what is so disrespectful is that the church side…has 27 boxes of everything Marty Rathbun has ever written.
Ray just held up Going Clear by Lawrence Wright, Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman, books by Marty Rathbun — all of the information in Marty’s affidavit was already out there.
Kendrick Moxon just scooted out of the courtroom. No idea.
Ray is saying that the crucial paragraphs in his affidavit — about the hiring of the Jenkins & Gilchrist firm — was already detailed in an affidavit that Marty gave in Ken Dandar’s case in Florida last year. The material was already on the record.
It is THEIR burden to show that this information is privileged and confidential.
All of this information was public when it came to “little old me,” Ray said. And he knew it. “I’d read Janet Reitman’s book. I’d read Lawrence Wright’s book.”
The evidence that they’re crying about is not privileged or confidential. It’s in the public domain.
Mr. Rathbun spoke out for the first time in 2009. He has spoken out in television and print interviews. He’s written three books. He was the subject of a documentary. He has been involved in other cases — including those involving George Spencer.
And not once — and they have a dozen lawyers in this courtroom, that’s how lawyered-up they are — and not once have they sued Mr. Rathbun. Not once have they tried to stop him from getting this information out into the public.
They know that Mr. Rathbun is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world about what has happened in the Church of Scientology. And they know he’s going to be a witness in cases, and yet they don’t go to courts and say, you can’t let him be a witness. They know that’s ridiculous.
They watch him like a hawk — that’s why they have 27 binders of everything he’s ever written. And that’s why they’ve never once tried to shut him up. All they have is this, this one dilatory tactic.
They have filed motions to disqualify over and over and over again. That’s the situation we’re in. And that’s why we’re going to come back and seek punishment.
Now slamming Spencer’s sweet-talking of Jefferson’s special appearance. Sue them in California? What it actually does is call the lawsuit extortion.
Ray: I am an ethical, upstanding attorney. Nothing privileged, confidential information came to me…this is information that was already public.
I knew all this stuff, your honor, he says.
For the last five years, they have made zero attempt to keep this stuff secret. Why? Because they know they can’t….So instead, their tactic is always attack the lawyer.
Spencer cites three white-horse cases that he tells you means you must throw these lawyers out of the court. You know what these cases are? A paralegal works for one firm and then goes to work for another firm on the other side of the lawsuit…That’s not the case here, Ray says.
The material is not privileged, they know it’s not privileged. If it were privileged they would have to make an effort to protect it — they have never attempted to protect it.
Your honor, this is a despicable motion. They ought to be ashamed of themselves.
As for Spencer’s previous time of trying to disqualify Ray, Ray says that he was about to destroy it, and Spencer ASKED RAY not to file it! Did he tell you that, judge?
So twice now, I have been called immoral and unethical…and this is absolutely wrong.
Spencer wants to respond, Waldrip says “I think it was tit for tat.” Spencer sits down.
OK, folks, the judge is asking for recording devices to go off. So we’ll be taking notes on paper and get them to you as soon as we can…
….AND WE’RE BACK.
We have copious notes of the uphill push that George Spencer just made with the judge, and we’ll get those spelled out a little more complete soon. But for now, we can tell you this…
Judge Waldrip is very, very skeptical of this motion. But it’s worse than that. Waldrip, near the end of the session, raised a question that should scare the crap out of the Scientology side.
In typically shortsighted fashion, George Spencer’s arguments for why the Judge should disqualify Ray Jeffrey and his co-counsel rests on the idea that while Marty Rathbun was an officer in RTC, he oversaw matters in CSI and OSA.
The judge asked, “Does that mean that CSI and RTC are the same thing?”
No, your honor, it doesn’t, Spencer said.
OH CRAP — this is what had to have been going through the minds on the Scientology side.
Judge Waldrip just stepped on the other, more important matter that Scientology is pushing here — to keep Miscavige out. THAT strategy is based on convincing the court that RTC, CSI, and the rest are all separate, and that Miscavige’s role is limited.
Oh, that was something. Scientology’s strategy in this motion might have just ruined what they are trying to do to keep Miscavige out.
We perceived it as a crucial, crucial error by Scientology. And at the end, Judge Waldrip seemed no more convinced to disqualify Monique’s attroneys than when George Spencer began his long, repetitive dissertation.
OK, heading to lunch!
Back in the courtroom. We have a few minutes before things get going. We’ll try to type up a few more notes about George Spencer’s performance on the disqualify motion, which we said earlier was a long push uphill and didn’t seem to get a lot of traction with Judge Waldrip.
Spencer started out restating what he’d said earlier in his opening statement. (And come to think of it, how is George Spencer talking for an hour about this motion “testimony” anyway? There didn’t seem to be much of a reason for us to be kept from using the laptop. Oh well.)
Spencer specifically pointed to paragraphs 25 and 26 of Marty Rathbun’s affidavit, in which Rathbun said that he oversaw every aspect of Scientology’s legal affairs under David Miscavige, and for more than 20 years, the Office of Special Affairs, a part of CSI (Spencer’s client), answered to him.
When even a non-lawyer has been directly involved in legal matters, that person has confidential information, Spencer asserted.
Spencer’s argument here is complex. He’s saying that because Marty oversaw Scientology’s legal matters, he had to keep that information confidential, and it was wrong of Ray Jeffrey to make use of it in an affidavit. But Spencer also says that to prove its case, CSI does NOT have to detail what the confidential material actually is. But he also says that what Marty said in his affidavit was false.
So: Marty’s a liar. But when he lied, he violated the church’s privacy. So therefore Ray Jeffrey should be fired from the case.
Almost right away, however, Judge Waldrip was interrupting, asking Spencer with what we could only characterize as common sense.
The case law Spencer was relying on, for example, wasn’t it really about attorneys switching sides and giving the new firm information about the old firm?
And if it were not about attorneys, but about anyone who had left a job, how would their spouse (as in this case) or their child someday ever have the right to sue that employer if they were harmed?
Spencer did his best to deal with questions like that, but it was pretty obvious that Waldrip was seeing through this motion for the exact same reasons our friend Scott Pilutik told us it was a loser.
So Spencer dug in. He referred to even more cases, saying that the Texas Supreme Court had dealt with confidentiality problems involving non-attorney employees. In one case, a CEO’s personal assistant had stolen four confidential documents and had delivered them to her new employer…
But she took some form of communique, Waldrip interrupted. Oops. Another dead end.
Spencer digs in again. He brings up another case involving someone who was not an attorney who had used confidential information. We watched Waldrip move his head from side to side, as if he were thinking, “Well, yes and no…”
One more time Spencer brought up that in this case, Marty Rathbun had said false things in his affidavit, and had violated the confidentiality of the church.
And then, the best interruption so far…
“How is something that is false confidential?” Judge Waldrip asked.
Oh, it gets better. Because it’s at about this point when George Spencer took a shot at Monique Rathbun for having so many attorneys in the courtroom.
We are not kidding.
At one point, during his opening statement, Ray Jeffrey had pointed out that Scientology had 12 attorneys in the courtroom. (This morning’s full team was 16 people in suits, but a few of them may have been witnesses — like Warren McShane — or legal assistants.)
Now, the issue of a new attorney for Monique came up (if Waldrip granted the church’s disqualify motion), and Spencer said, and we’re paraphrasing, that since Monique could afford THREE attorneys in the courtroom, then…
Oh, he did not go there.
Sorry about that. We got shut down again as Monique’s request to depose Miscavige was argued. We’re not sure why. But now Judge Waldrip is back in his chambers, reading some cases, and implied that he’s going to come back to us and announce a decision on that soon.
So we’ll go back to where we were and continue the tale.
Getting back to the disqualify motion we were talking about earlier. After George Spencer had been pushing uphill for about an hour, trying to convince Judge Waldrip that Ray Jeffrey and Elliott Cappuccio and Marc Wiegand (Monique’s attorneys) should essentially be called immoral and be fired because of some rather arcane notion about Marty Rathbun’s relationship to Scientology.
Said Waldrip: “I’m having a hard time getting as far as you want me to go.”
But Spencer kept trying, even though his arguments sounded less and less likely. You could feel the air going out of his balloon. And when he said, “This is a serious issue, judge,” it was a dead giveaway that very few people in the courtroom agreed with him.
Waldrip, for example, pointed out that the case law on this issue — confidential information — invariably was about an attorney or paralegal sharing information on a particular case, not about their general knowledge.
Spencer disagreed. “Judge, I know you are reluctant to disqualify any counsel. But it really needs to be done in this case.”
Then came the biggest gaffe of the morning, which we hinted at earlier. As Spencer continued to harp on Marty Rathbun’s affidavit, and his assertion that he had overseen CSI’s legal matters, Judge Waldrip interrupted…
If Rathbun was working for RTC, but overseeing CSI’s legal matters, are they all the same?
“No, your honor,” Spencer quickly responded, but we figured his colleagues had to be worried. Because Waldrip was now clearly seeing that there didn’t seem to be much difference between the entities, when their separate nature is the essence of Scientology’s strategy to keep David Miscavige out of this lawsuit.
So by the end of the morning session, it appeared from the back benches like George Spencer’s arguments about disqualifying Ray Jeffrey and his team was basically in tatters, and had actually harmed Scientology’s other major strategy.
And now, in the afternoon session, it was time to take up that argument. Now it was Elliott Cappuccio, Ray Jeffrey’s colleague, explaining why Monique’s side was entitled to depose David Miscavige to establish jurisdiction over him.
Cappuccio cited case law to suggest that Scientology was pulling another fast one, referring to cases that really would not justify keeping Miscavige out. He was brief and well spoken.
Now it was Lamont Jefferson’s turn, representing David Miscavige and RTC.
This is the guy whose job it is to throw CSI under the bus in order to keep Miscavige out of the lawsuit. He said that Monique’s reasons for including Miscavige in the lawsuit was only a form of “leverage” to get a bigger settlement, and not because there was any actual evidence that Miscavige had anything to do with her alleged harassment.
Lamont Jefferson is an excellent speaker, and an impressive looking person. He actually looks good in his expensive suit, unlike some of the other attorneys. But his major fault seems to be that he’s talking to Waldrip like the guy is a naive yokel.
He quotes something Marty Rathbun said in his affidavit, for example — about how when he was in the church, they basically lied to the public about Miscavige’s true role — and acts as if it were the only thing he needed to say. Rathbun himself, Jefferson said, impeaches himself, and there’s no other evidence about Miscavige in this lawsuit.
“That statement can be read two different ways,” Waldrip then said, and Jefferson seemed thrown for a loop.
But he kept pushing. “There’s no competent, plausible pleading or evidence” about Miscavige that would justify subjecting him to a deposition, Jefferson said.
And then it was time to throw CSI under the bus again.
Let Monique sue CSI and you won’t run afoul of the First Amendment, Jefferson told the judge.
This is a religious dispute, and Marty Rathbun was setting up his own knock-off version of Scientology, Jefferson complained.
But what about the Squirrel Busters, Waldrip asked — is he saying that CSI sent them?
My suspicion is that those were people faithful to CSI who were exercising their religious freedoms, Jefferson answered.
Jefferson cited case law about church members who had sued over the way they were treated by a church, but it was held that the church’s behavior was protected by the first amendment.
“But would that be true of a former member of the church? And forevermore?” Waldrip asked. And he appeared to be losing some patience.
One more time Jefferson said that CSI had submitted to jurisdiction in the case and should be the aim of the lawsuit.
“The last thing this court should do is subject an ecclesiastical leader to a deposition,” Jefferson said.
The court shouldn’t be relying on old information from Marty Rathbun.
“Mr. Rathbun has no knowledge of what’s happened inside the church since he left it in 2004.”
At this point, Les Strieber had the brilliant idea of standing up to clarify a few things.
Oh, Les. Bad idea.
First, Les explained that the Squirrel Busters were not agents of CSI or any church entity.
But as for the surveillance of the Rathbuns, “The church is concerned when their orthodoxy has been challenged or corrupted.”
So CSI is admitting to the surveillance, and that it was done by its division the Office of Special Affairs. As Jefferson had said, “I think CSI is going to admit to a connection to the private investigators.”
But now Strieber makes things as clear as mud as to CSI’s actual role. When Waldrip asks him, just what does CSI do, Strieber says that it is “an administrative, business entity.”
“So it’s not really a church?” Waldrip asks.
“They call it the mother church,” Strieber answered.
So what does RTC do?
“If I may, your honor. RTC holds the intellectual property,” Jefferson interjected.
Oh, this was going south, fast.
“So someone else holds the licenses that you do business with?” Waldrip asked.
Clearly, it was making no sense to Waldrip, and Scientology had somehow managed to make a hash of things.
So the judge said he wanted to go back and read several cases that had been cited, and would be back to us with some sort of decision soon.
In the meantime, we had a couple of Texas sheriff’s deputies come over to us, and they were not happy.
It seems that after the break, the morning’s “testimony” was over, and we were onto the new subject — the deposition. So we pulled out our laptop and started typing away. A deputy came over to us and asked us to put it away. We said we hadn’t heard anything from the judge, could we ask him?
“If you have the guts, ask him yourself,” the deputy said.
OK. So we stood up, and said, “Your honor, the morning’s testimony is over. Can we use a laptop now? We didn’t hear an instruction?” He said not now, he’d address it later. OK. So we put the laptop away and took out the note pad again.
Well, at recess, two deputies came over to us, and they were not happy. Apparently, “If you have the guts, ask him yourself” was Texan for “You disobey my authority and you’re going to spend the night in jail hog-tied,” or something.
Whew. These guys were shaking. And we were stupid enough to keep arguing with them.
Well, fair readers, after trying to explain that we had just done what we were told — ask the judge if we had the guts, which we did, we put it away. OK, judge back.
Judge Waldrip said he wasn’t able to get through everything. He said he’s leaning toward granting a continuance on the hearing, but wanted to see if there’s a middle road on discovery.
Ray Jeffrey and Lamont Jefferson are now sparring a little, politely, and the Judge seems stymied. Is he going to decide nothing today?
“I want to completely read these affidavits…It would probably be Monday before I could rule on this deposition of Mr. Miscavige. Would written questions work, or does it have to be oral?” Judge Waldrip asked.
Waldrip is trying to talk Ray into allowing Miscavige to submit written responses. Ray is trying to say that it wouldn’t be satisfactory. Now Ray is offering maybe to depose someone else first.
Waldrip is going to let the two parties try to work out a reasonable plan. (Yeah, right.) Now he’s talking calendar.
So the special appearance issue (whether RTC/David Miscavige should be part of the lawsuit) has been continued to October 18.
Meanwhile, he’s made no decision yet on the motion to disqualify.
Neither side really got anything at all today. And Waldrip made one utterance that suggests he is concerned about appeals.
It appears that he’s being very careful, and wants to think things over before making decisions. Good for him. Not so good for us. OK, heading to the bar.
Good morning, Bunkerites. First piece of news this morning. When we landed in Tampa yesterday, we got the news that Judge James Whittemore had denied Scientology’s motion for a continuance. So we will have a hearing today.
Also, we’ve been told that at the federal level, judges tend to take charge of these things, so we may see Whittemore putting witnesses on the stand, questioning them, and getting things done. A member of his staff tipped us off that the man is not a big fan of breaks in the action. That’s bad for us, but it means more gets accomplished, we suppose. We’re on our way now to get our equipment set up across the street from the courthouse.
And we’re in place. We’re about to walk over to the courthouse and go upstairs. We’ll only have a pad of paper and a pen with us. As soon as we can get a break, we’ll run back to our mini-Bunker setup to get you some updates. Until then, please be patient.
We’re now out on lunch break after what appeared to be a pretty disastrous morning session for the Church of Scientology in its attempt to get the attorneys for Luis and Rocio Garcia disqualified.
Judge James Whittemore is not amused. OK, we have an hour to get back into the courtroom. So we’ll start at the beginning…
Courtroom 13B of the Tampa federal courthouse is a very large space, but with only a small portion for observers. Once again as in Texas, the defendant’s side of the room is filled with folks in dark suits.
We count 15 suits, just like in Texas (not all are attorneys). Michael Hertzberg is here, Monique Yingling, Eric Lieberman, Kendrick Moxon. And their lead attorney here today, Wallace Pope.
On the plaintiffs’ side, Luis and Rocio Garcia are here, who we are meeting for the first time. Their attorneys Ted Babbitt and Ron Weil are here, with two associates. Also Robert Johnson, the attorney at the center of the dispute is here. And Mike Rinder.
And hey, it’s Brian Culkin! Wow, we wish we could squeeze into a suit that stylish. The yoga instructor is looking quite fit. It’s nice to finally meet him.
Judge James Whittemore has entered the courtroom, and he lets us all know right away that he is all business this morning.
“I have read everything you have submitted,” he says to both sides. “I don’t want a bunch of rhetoric. Keep your case succinct.”
At this point, before he starts to present the church’s case, Wally Pope asks to “invoke the rule” — in other words, ask potential witnesses to leave the room. A simple request, you’d think. But Whittemore challenges Pope on it. Which authority is he appealing to in order to remove witnesses?
Pope appears stunned. He indicates that he thought it was an assumed power.
Whittemore: “Well, we learn something every day.”
Pope explains that he doesn’t want Mike Rinder and Robert Johnson — who have worked together on the Garcia team — to be in the room at the same time when they are testifying.
Whittemore is getting increasingly impatient. “What in the world do they not know about each other at this point?” he asks.
But Babbitt indicates that he has no objection, and the judge relents, allowing the witnesses to leave.
But the Judge isn’t through setting a “tone,” as he calls it…
“Let me set a tone,” Whittemore says to both sides. “The burden on the defense is high,” he continues, and again says he wants no rhetoric. This isn’t a trial. There’s no jury to play to.
We’re only about five minutes into this thing and the situation seems pretty plain to us: Whittemore thinks the church’s case for kicking out these attorneys is a joke, but he’s going through the motions of an evidentiary hearing in order to fend off an appeal. And he’s ready for this thing to be over before it’s already begun.
If we were Wally Pope, we’d be sweating bullets. And we would not want to waste a second with the time the judge has allotted him — which is only an hour and a half.
So what does Pope do? Squander time like it’s going out of style.
Wally Pope calls his first witness: former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder.
Hey, this should be exciting, right? Mike Rinder, formerly one of the top members of the church, and one of its biggest critics in the last few years, and now the church has him on the witness stand and under oath? Fireworks, right?!
After asking Mike some basic information about himself, Pope begins to read from documents in a giant binder of exhibits. Do you remember this document? Did you sign this? Did you refer to yourself as the senior official over the church’s litigation?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
With excruciating detail and a glacially slow pace, Pope establishes that Rinder was in a position to know a lot of the church’s legal secrets over many years. Really, there was only one thing that Rinder disputed…
Church attorney Wally Pope wants Mike Rinder to admit that the reason people are hiring him to consult on legal cases is that he was privy to attorney-client conversations in the years he oversaw Scientology litigation.
But Rinder says he’s in demand for his total knowledge of Scientology, something he got into as a kid. Attorneys, like the rest of us, have a hard time negotiating Scientology’s lingo and policies, and he can help them get through it.
Clearly, Pope is trying to establish that Rinder was a sort of quasi-lawyer, and was privy to secret info that could help the Garcias unfairly. And in particular, Rinder was involved with an attorney who helped him develop an enrollment form that Scientologists sign, and that is an issue in this case.
By introducing what he knew about that enrollment form — that it was a sham which was designed to keep Scientologists from being able to get a refund — Rinder was violating the attorney-client confidentiality he had with the lawyer who helped him develop the form, wasn’t he?
Was it privileged communication? I guess so, Rinder said. But then he explained that he and the attorneys weren’t the only ones who knew about it — it was David Miscavige who also was included in those talks.
We see what you did there, Rinder. He managed to get into the record that David Miscavige was well aware that Scientology’s enrollment form is designed to keep members from getting refunds.
You were a dedicated Scientologist, weren’t you? Yes. And you protected the information of the church? As a Scientologist I did, yes, Rinder answered.
So now Pope began bringing up non-disclosure agreements that Mike Rinder had signed as a Sea Org member as early as 1980. Rinder and Marty Rathbun have each told us that they signed such agreements over the course of their careers, but it hasn’t stopped them from speaking out since they left the church. And the church, they both point out, has done nothing about it.
But now Pope painstakingly went through decades-old agreements that Rinder signed.
The agreements required that Rinder would never disclose information about the church. “You would agree that ‘never’ has not yet expired?”
“I agree,” Rinder answered.
And now, an interruption by Judge Whittemore:
“Why are we reading from documents? Let’s get to the heart of the matter, please.”
What are the relevance of these old agreements, the judge asks, and it’s pretty obvious that well into the hearing now, Pope hasn’t really scored a single substantive point yet. MIKE RINDER ISN’T A LAWYER. It just doesn’t matter what information he brings to the Garcia team, our friend Scott Pilutik had pointed out to us earlier.
“Gentleman, this is about disqualifying attorneys…That’s why I tried to set the tone at the start,” Whittemore said.
I will move on, your honor, Pope said.
Whittemore: “I don’t mean to be sharp, but this is a very delicate matter.”
Yeah, that’s true judge. But you have to understand, SCIENTOLOGY TRIES THIS TACTIC EVERY SINGLE TIME. Oops. Sorry for the interruption. OK, back to the action…
At this point, even Wally Pope has to acknowledge how bad things are going, and he was reduced to this…
“Your honor, I was sincere in filing this motion.”
And even Whittemore has to take pity on him: “I don’t have a problem with the filing. But I want to get to what’s important.”
So Wally Pope then does the right thing and…
…pulls out another document to read from.
Amazingly, Pope goes right back to wasting time reading from documents, and plodding along with Mike Rinder on the stand.
He now focuses on what Mike Rinder has been getting paid. As a consultant, he’s been getting 175 an hour, not to exceed 5,000 a month to help Babbitt and Weil in the Garcia case.
Did you reveal to them that you had signed non-disclosure agreements with the church? Rinder said it had probably come up, but he’s been talking publicly about the church for years, and Scientology has done nothing about it. And the church had never given him copies of the agreements he had signed.
Pope now tries to score points against Rinder, which might have been really cool if Rinder was actually on trial or something: “So your attorneys were willing to pay you 175 an hour for information you’d already put on line?”
Rinder: “Oh, absolutely,” he says, and explains that the Scientology lingo, the policies of the church, these are things attorneys are happy to pay him to help them understand.
And if Pope wanted to make it look like Rinder was somehow fleecing attorneys at a huge rate, he really flops when Rinder then explains that since the disqualify motion had been filed in May. The case has been at a standstill since then, and he hasn’t made a dime from the Garcia case in the last four months.
And you prepared for this hearing. Will you be compensated for that? Pope asks.
No, Rinder answers.
And for some reason, Pope again takes us into Rinder’s billing and not being paid. WHY, WALLY, WHY? WHAT IS THE FREAKING POINT?
Adding up all of Rinder’s billing from August 2012, it comes to 21,450, is that right? Yes, Rinder says.
Is Wally trying to figure out who’s buying lunch?
When Pope begins boring into another document, Whittmore interrupts again.
I don’t think there’s any dispute that he’s worked for this lawyer for months, Whittemore says. I will remind you that you have an hour and a half. You need to show the confidential information that went from him to the lawyers, and you haven’t even begun to do that.
OK, Pope says, and he goes back, once again, to the document. It’s a privilege log, which describes emails that Rinder sent to the attorneys. BUT THE DOCUMENT DOESN’T CONTAIN THE INFORMATION IN THE EMAILS THEMSELVES.
Wally Pope is apparently expecting Judge Whittemore to ASSUME that the emails contain confidential information based merely on their subject titles.
Rinder: “You don’t want me to tell you what they are?” he says, with an unbelieving smirk.
Pope: “Well, they’ve been alleged to have been confidential.”
And that’s it! That’s the end of the Church of Scientology’s opportunity to question Mike Rinder under oath in a court of law! Oh my.
Ted Babbitt then had a chance to cross-examine Rinder, and you can imagine how it went. Did you give us confidential info. No. Did you talk to the press about these things before you talked to us. Yes. Has there been any enforcement of the non-disclosure agreements that you signed. No.
Tell us about that enrollment form that you exposed in a previous case. Why did you do that?
I didn’t think anyone would actually try to sue over it, but when they did, I felt I had to speak up about what I knew, Rinder answered.
Babbitt himself ran into the Whittemore buzzsaw when he tried to bring up the disqualify motion in the Monique Rathbun case getting denied.
“Doesn’t matter. I don’t care what’s in the past,” the judge said, interrupting Babbitt.
After a brief redirect, from Pope (Are you saying you’ve decided what is attorney-client privileged information and what isn’t? Yes.) then Mike Rinder stepped down.
Now it was time for Robert Johnson to take the stand.
Robert Johnson worked as an attorney for the church from 1982 to 1998, he said in his affidavit. But that wily Wally Pope now has billing records which shows he was still getting paid into the summer of 2000!
And didn’t the Garcias give 144,000 to the Super Power project between 1998 and 2000? J’accuse!!
Mr. Johnson you are now representing the Garcias in their attempt to get money back that they donated to CSRT [a church trust] while YOU represented CSRT, is that correct?
GET THE LEG CHAINS!
Yeah, sure, Johnson admitted. But he denied that he’d made the 1.8 million the church said he billed over his career as an attorney.
Johnson and Pope then spar for a while over what he really made versus what his firm made.
And again, we are wondering, when David Miscavige is paying for 15 suits over there, is no one able to clue Pope in to stick to the point?
Pope also tried to get Johnson to say that he’d worked refund cases. And that while he worked on the purchase of land for Super Power, there had been delays.
And isn’t the Garcia case about refunds, and about the delay of the Super Power Building!
BRING IN THE IRON MAIDEN!
Well, no. Robert Johnson had a very laconic, drawn-out way of answering questions, and for everything that Pope tried to stick him on, he gave lengthy responses that really, the truth was more complicated than Pope was making it out to be.
Much of the attention during Johnson’s testimony was about the biggest refund case he handled, Williams v. Scientology, but here, Johnson scored serious points. In Williams, the case was about a dentist who was hoodwinked by WISE — a Scientology front group that preys on dentists and chiropractors — and he and his wife were suing because they felt they’d been targeted and defrauded and had never wanted to be part of Scientology. (At least that was what we took from the testimony.)
The Garcia case is so completely different, we can’t believe Pope was getting into Williams at all. The Garcias were loyal, longtime Scientologists who had given hundreds of thousands in donations, but eventually realized that the unfinished Super Power Building was being used as a shill to get their money.
And that’s the point, Johnson and Babbitt said on Johnson’s cross — Just because Johnson used to work for Scientology back in the day, and even though he’s switched sides, the Garcia case is so totally different on the facts than anything he ever worked on in the past, it was clearly not a violation of Florida rule 4.19 for him to work on the Garcia case. (Hey, that’s what Scott Pilutik told us!)
We’re running out of time and we need to get back to court. We’ll just tell you about our favorite moment during Johnson’s testimony.
Pope had tried to make the parallel that Johnson had represented the church when there were delays purchasing the land for the Super Power building, and delays in Super Power are also involved, somewhat in the Garcia case. Babbitt had denied that, saying that the Garcias don’t want their money back because the building is delayed, but because the building was used fraudulently to take their money.
“The Garcia case is about the building as a shill,” Babbitt said.
And Whittemore asked: “When you say a ‘building,’ do you mean a building?”
Oh judge, if you only knew.
OK, out of time. Have to get back to court. Back as soon as we can!
We’re back! OK, lots to get to. Where were we?
Oh yes, Wally Pope was questioning Robert Johnson, the attorney at the center of the controversy. Scientology attorney Wally Pope was trying to advance the line that because Johnson had worked for Scientology entities from 1982 to 2000, he had surely been told secrets that he shouldn’t reveal because of attorney-client privilege. But Johnson continued to say that the knowledge he had used for the Garcia case was purely general.
After a ten minute break, it was Ted Babbitt’s turn to cross-examine Johnson. Again, the issue of a big case that Johnson had handled for Scientology, involving the dentist Williams, became the focus. Babbitt and Johnson talked about how different the facts were there than they were in the Garcia case.
They then talked about the Super Power Building. Wally Pope seemed to be making the case that when Robert Johnson represented the church in the purchase of the land for the building, there had been delays. And weren’t delays to the SP Building central to the Garcia case? Well, after Johnson stopped representing the church, it was Wally Pope who took over representing Scientology in matters related to the Super Power Building. And Babbitt used that for a fun little jab…
“If the delay to the building became an issue in this case, who would be a more likely material witness — you, or Mr. Pope?”
Hardy har har. But we wondered if Babbitt should keep in mind Judge Whittemore’s impatience for rhetoric. Watch it, dude!
Babbitt and Johnson then discussed the Florida Bar rule that is central to this motion — rule 4-19. Johnson said that he had reviewed it before getting involved in the case.
He and Babbitt then discussed how he never went near violating the rule. He hadn’t disclosed anything confidential to the other attorneys. He was only referring to information that is available widely.
“Information that Mr. Ortega has widely published,” he said as an example.
Oops! There we go again, getting the Bunker prime time exposure. Yowza.
On re-direct of Johnson, Wally Pope asked a question that he apparently didn’t know the answer to. (Isn’t that a lawyer no-no?)
He asked a question that was apparently supposed to get Johnson to admit that he’d only switched sides against one client — Scientology.
“Were there any other clients that you’ve taken an adverse position to?” Pope asked.
Johnson thought about it for a moment, and then said yes, there were. “Government entities.”
Of course! Jeez, what else is the point of representing government agencies except for later litigating against them in court! Pope should have known that.
Well, that was the end of Robert Johnson’s tenure on the witness stand, and now Pope was running out of time. Who was he going to call? Are you ready?
No, it wasn’t Brian Culkin. Wally Pope called Peter Mansell, an executive at Flag, so he could answer a few questions to authenticate some documentation of Johnson’s billing history.
The only interesting moment with Mansell on the stand was when Babbitt, on cross-examination, asked him about the photo of the Anon that was included in Mansell’s affidavit — you know the one, where an Anon is holding up a sign asking people to call Ted Babbitt to become part of the lawsuit. Babbitt got Mansell to admit that he had no way of knowing if Lynn, the Anon, had ever talked to Babbitt, or if Babbitt had anything to do with that promotion of the lawsuit (which he said he didn’t). Otherwise, Mansell was a bust.
And then we broke for lunch.
When we came back, it was the Garcia team’s turn.
So with the church’s case finished — and yes, they never called Brian Culkin, whose declaration seemed central to their motion when it was first filed — it was now Babbitt and Weil’s turn to defend themselves from disqualification.
Babbitt initially asked the judge if they needed to present testimony at all. Perhaps their affidavits would speak for themselves. But then Babbitt took a hint from Whittemore and took the stand himself, with Weil asking the questions.
Babbitt briefly described his 48-year career, and that he’d never been the subject of a disciplinary action. That he would never allow someone like Johnson or Rinder to share attorney-client information with him. Rinder has merely helped him locate documents that are helpful. Johnson has just interviewed potential new clients.
One interesting tidbit: Babbitt says he was involved with the case because a previous attorney had pulled out, worried that taking on the church and its litigation tactics would subject him to harassment.
Not everyone, in other words, is willing to take on a case like this, Babbitt was saying. Yeah, and look where it got him!
Wally Pope then cross-examined Ted Babbitt, and tried to get him to admit that with so much confidential information that Robert Johnson and Mike Rinder were exposed to, didn’t it make it difficult for him not to receive some of it? No, Babbitt said, and he explained how he worked, and again, what he was using these people for.
Ron Weil then took the stand and largely went over the same ground that Ted Babbitt did.
And that was it. Their side of the case was over.
And then Judge Whittemore said, “Let’s discuss this.”
Then he pointed out something rather interesting. Ted Babbitt and Ron Weil are the Garcia attorneys of record, and Scientology’s motion is asking Whittemore to remove them from the case. But the REASON for doing so is based on what Robert Johnson, another Garcia attorney, had done previously for the church.
But if he agrees to the motion, and removes Babbitt and Weil, that won’t affect Robert Johnson. I can’t remove him from the case, Whittemore pointed out.
Um, hey judge, you have a point there!
Your honor, you could enjoin Mr. Johnson from the case, Wally Pope helpfully suggested.
I don’t know of any authority that would let me do that, the judge answered.
It was an interesting technicality, and Whittemore explained that it had only dawned on him this morning.
He then asked Pope to sum up his argument for the motion. He largely went over the same ground, that Johnson and Rinder had served the church for so long, they had to have detailed, confidential information that would be imputed to Babbitt and Weil. And even if they hadn’t divulged that information yet, there was an “appearance of impropriety,” Pope said.
For all those reasons, Wally wrapped up, they should be disqualified.
It was then Babbitt’s turn, and he smartly reminded the judge what Whittemore had said earlier — that there was a high burden of proof for something as serious as a disqualification motion.
And Babbitt pointed out that Rule 4-19 required two things. First, that the lawyer switching sides had to be involved in a case that was the same, or “substantially similar” to the case he’d previously handled. And if that was the case, then the second test was that he had actually imparted confidential info.
But the work Johnson did for the church more than a decade ago was NOT substantially the same, Babbitt said. And he hadn’t imparted confidential info.
“They have failed to meet their burden,” he said.
This matter has been an extraordinary distraction, involving hundreds of hours of work and a day in court, Babbitt pointed out. “This is why most attorneys don’t take on clients like this,” he said to finish up.
Then Pope came back with a real howler.
Even though Scientology had just spent six months trying to get Ted Babbitt and Ron Weil kicked out of a case for unethical behavior, here’s what Pope said as his final word…
It was never our contention that Weil and Babbitt conspired to do something wrong. Our position is that Rinder and Johnson know so much, they couldn’t help but give confidential information to two really fine attorneys.
Oh sure, NOW you kiss their asses, Wally, after costing Luis and Rocio Garcia untold thousands in legal fees. Keerist almighty.
And that was it. Now, it was Judge James Whittemore’s turn.
And he sat there, thinking. And thinking.
For like five minutes.
“I’ll make some general observations,” Whittemore began.
If it were not for the professionalism and civility of the lawyers and their reputations involved here, I would not have conducted this hearing, he began.
You have done what you should do in this situation, he told them, and I appreciate that. Mr. Pope, Mr. Potter, Mr. Babbitt, Mr. Weil. Mr. Fugate, these are good lawyers. I heard an appeal one time by Mr. Pope and he seriously whipped my fanny, he added. He and Mr. Fugate, he pointed out, had shared clients or something.
Anyway, the point he seemed to be making, at least for this observer was, listen, Wally, I know you work for a complete dickweed who wants you to file bogus crap like this, but I appreciate that you did what you had to do, and you all conducted yourselves properly in my courtroom.
That was our reading, anyway..
The words Whittemore actually used were that the motion was an “unpleasant and distracting matter.”
In the course of this hearing, no one has mentioned Mr. and Mrs. Garcia. It is their case. They chose their lawyers to represent them. I didn’t want it to be overlooked that that’s where this case starts, he pointed out.
A disqualification motion is a drastic remedy which should be resorted to sparingly, he added.
He then pointed out that there was no dispute that Robert Johnson had represented the Church of Scientology for a long time, from 1982 to 2000. But the real bulk of that work ended earlier, in 1998. And of course, as an attorney, he would have received confidential information.
“That does not necessarily mean that years and years later that information was used to the disadvantage of a former client,” he said.
So the judge then took a look at rule 4-19 to see if Johnson violated it.
“I’m deliberating out loud,” he said, and every person in the room was on the edge of their seat.
First, he pointed out, Johnson had clearly represented a client he was now adverse to. But was the current case “substantially similar” to the cases he’d handled for the church?
“Clearly it is not,” the judge said.
The Garcia case and the earlier case involving the dentist were just not the same at all, he pointed out.
“There’s been no evidence presented that these prior representations have anything to do with the Garcia case.”
“This is not a case of a lawyer simply changing sides.”
We couldn’t help taking a peek over at Monique Yingling. Nope. No indication that this thing was going down the tubes…
The judge continued: There was no evidence that Robert Johnson had breached confidentiality. There was no evidence that confidential information is being used to the disadvantage of a former client.
Scott Pilutik had previously told us he was interested to see if the judge would consider the Morgan Stanley v. Solomon case, and Whittemore did refer to it, again saying it helped show that Johnson acted properly. And he went through another precedent case, Hernandez.
But now, Whittemore smartly cushions the blow for Wally Pope, saying that he believed that Wally filed the motion in good faith.
“Whatever skepticism I may have had when I first read the motion has dissipated. I can understand a former client’s concern.” Well, if he thinks that’s going to please Miscavige…
There’s been no evidence of disclosing confidential information presented. There is no smoking gun. I don’t see conflict.
Whittemore said he didn’t even see an appearance of impropriety.
“A closer question arises about Mr. Rinder,” he said.
Rinder, he pointed out, had been in such a long relationship with the church, more than 25 years.
But it seems to me, the judge said, his acrimonious departure indicates that there’s no impropriety. He’s adverse to them, and he’s been adverse to them for years. He’s being paid as a consultant, not as a material witness.
Certainly Rinder had access to confidential information, but there was no evidence that Robert Johnson, Ron Weil, or Ted Babbitt had engaged in a conflict. And THEY’RE the lawyers. It’s up to them to take steps that privilege is not violated. And he is satisfied that they took the proper steps to make sure that such a violation did not occur.
Mr. Pope, are there any legal arguments that I left out?
Wally: “Your honor, your oral pronouncements sound pretty thorough to me.”
Yes, the man knew when he was beaten.
And then, from the judge, came the words…
“MOTION WILL BE DENIED”
And it was over.
That was about as different as possible from our experience in New Braunfels, Texas. But in each case, we watched judges who took these disqualification matters seriously, and in both cases knocked them down.
By the time Judge Whittemore had announced his ruling, Brian Culkin had already left the courtroom. He had made the trip for nothing.
No, it was not for nothing. We give him credit for showing up. And it is also to his credit that he was now so averse to the church, it didn’t even call him to the stand.
As for the Garcias, they looked relieved.
And now, we need a drink. We hope you enjoyed our reporting from the court here in Tampa, and we’ll see you tomorrow.
Hey, we’re in place in Sohigian’s courtroom, and we’re sitting next to Allison Hope Weiner. Judge Sohigian is dealing with another matter right now. So far we have a somewhat jackleg Internet connection, so we’ll just see how long we can go.
There are about 40 seats in the courtroom here, and most of them are taken with folks in fancy suits. We recognize several of them, but this time Scientology’s attorneys are all over the place and not just in one group.
Sohigian now calling up another preliminary case.
Judge Ronald Sohigian has a few wisps of grey hair on his balding pate. He wears glasses, and has a fine roman nose. He’s a little George C. Scott and a little Uncle Junior in appearance, but he’s got a stern, baritone voice that says, “don’t even think about questioning what I’m about to say.” He’s tapping away at a computer right now, fashioning a written order, he said. So far, we’ve gotten the impression that he likes to get things done, done fast, and doesn’t put up with nonsense.
We saw that this morning some of our readers looked around online and found some negative reviews of the judge.
Right now, he seems to be making a very reasonable schedule change for a couple of attorneys. So who knows.
Yet another preliminary case. Both the plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys are on the phone.
Oh, we see that Bert Deixler is here. We didn’t see him when we first came in.
He’s schooling an attorney for showing up (telephonically) in a lawsuit that centers around a lease dispute, and the attorney doesn’t have a copy of the lease to refer to. Gotta side with Sohigian on this one. You don’t want to come to this guy’s courtroom unprepared.
And Sohigian calls yet another preliminary matter. Bert Deixler goes out for a break. Heck, we wish we could join him.
Some kind of insurance case is before him, and Sohigian is taking the opportunity to describe his entire judicial philosophy and how his court works like no other.
We might appreciate his lengthy dissertation more if we hadn’t just experienced the pleasure of LA freeways and missed breakfast to get here on time.
There’s definitely a smaller Scientology team here than there was in Texas. No Gary Soter, no Moxon, no Yingling. Warren McShane is here along with about six attorneys.
Not sure what to make of it, that a case that’s gone to the US Supreme Court and involves allegations of a 17-year-old girl being forced to have an abortion would call for a legal team less than half of what showed up for a harassment suit in Texas.
Of course the answer is, David Miscavige is personally a defendant there, but he isn’t here.
Sohigian’s tap-tap-tapping away at another order, this one apparently in a case where no one bothered to show up.
There’s more and more squirming going on in the peanut gallery. We’re getting the sense that observers and lawyers alike are in some astonishment that Sohigian is typing away at some preliminary matter that could clearly be done at some other time.
The dude is in no rush.
Oh, wait, Gary Soter is here. He was sitting right behind me. I just didn’t see him. He just went out to stretch his legs or something.
Sohigian continues to write the Great American Novel at his computer.
Yet another preliminary matter. Parties here this time, at least. Some kind of bankruptcy case with a dispute over a lawyer’s fees.
Going to yet another preliminary matter. Allison is keeping us both alive with candy Lifesavers.
Judge Sohigian now explaining to yet another attorney how things work differently in his courtroom. “We do not reserve dates here,” he says, and once again talks about the calendars posted on his “westerly wall.”
Not being familiar with the ways of Judge Sohigian, we’re certain that we’re missing some great judicial leap forward here, but can only stand in awe as he soldiers on from the bench.
Judge Sohigian working out some trial dates with some attorneys. We’re still waiting.
Just based on what we’ve seen so far and how some very experienced attorneys seemed a little lost in front of Sohigian, we get the impression that he has come up with a very different way of handling his calendar, and of typing up orders as he goes along. He obviously considers it a superior system, and assuming that his court is as swamped as any other, we really can’t blame him for trying out a logistical framework of his own design.
We’re keeping in mind: It was Sohigian who ordered that Scientology turn over Laura’s pc files to her, and he wasn’t swayed by the church’s insistence that those records were protected by clergy-penitent privilege.
So the big question is, now that Sohigian has seen what’s in those files, will he be persuaded that Laura had reason to file her lawsuit in June 2009 and not earlier?
And we’re on!!! Here we go. Attorneys getting into place.
John Blumberg and Kathryn Saldana for Laura. Robert Mengells for RTC, Bert Deixler for CSI.
Judge seems surprised that so many people are here to watch. He asks if he forgot another case or something.
Deixler going first. We’re here to resolve two very narrow issues…did evidence dissuade her from filing her lawsuit…
Bert Deixler: The evidence in the case is I think undisputed that there were no representations by defendants that she should not file a lawsuit.
(Scientology never told her not to file her suit, he’s saying.)
As Deixler goes on like he’s arguing over a broken lease or something, we can’t help remember that this is the guy who went to the California and US Supreme Courts to say the material in Laura’s pc files was “deeply religious” material. And that material turned out to be things like her homesick letters about missing her mom — at 12 years old.
Bert Deixler now criticizing Laura based on what she said in depositions.
Now he’s bringing up the issue of threats or intimidation, which would be a reason that would allow her to file late. But he says what she describes in her declaration are “protected free speech” and things that aren’t threats or intimidation.
Bert is saying that Laura is relying on Laura being solicited for Scientology books after she left he Sea Org.
Now he’s getting to the freeloader debt. “It is a religious obligation that one meets after departing the Sea Organization.” Wow! A religious obligation!
Bert says he’s basically pretty unimpressed by Laura’s declaration. Well, golly. Who could have seen that coming.
He’s saying that what she’s submitted does not meet the test that the appeals court set for this hurdle.
Sohigian: Will you please flesh out the argument that some of this are constitutionally protected speech, and that they wouldn’t qualify? Can you say how these wouldn’t be applicable to the time bar?
Bert now referring to the Headley case. Saying that the Headleys argued that they were worried that they’d be banished if they criticized the church or something. And Bert said that the court found that a church can do that, banish someone.
Sohigian: That’s not what I’m asking. Is it your contention that the only excuse for the time bar is the commission by the defendant of actionable behavior? And that behavior that is not actionable can not be the basis for an exception?
Bert Deixler: Yes, the behavior that a previous case said could affect the time bar can’t be constitutionally protected behavior, and I thin that’s the case here.
Now it’s Laura’s side’s turn.
Blumberg: The way we read the court of appeal opinion is that Laura’s association with Scientology during her formative years and as a young adult, and in that context, her participation while a member in the Sea Org — basically, if you brought action against the church you’ll never see your parents again, you’ll be harassed — these are the things she believed would happen if she filed a lawsuit.
Blumberg: Secondly, I think there is a clear difference between Constitutionally protected activity and activity that could be applied to an equitable estoppel.
Sohigian: Let me just ask you about the first leg, the early experience point. Your contention is that experiences she had before she left were so powerful that they themselves constituted an estoppel?
Sohigian: While she was in the organization, she was told that if she leaves or contemplates actions adverse to the organization…dire consequences would ensue. That’s your contention?
Blumberg: Yes, but also the things that happened between 2004 and 2009.
Sohigian: What is it that you’re saying about those 2004-2009 events? Are you saying those things subjectively so weakened her that she was subjectively incapable earlier filing of the lawsuit? Or are you saying those events objectively … had so much weight their effects lasted after she left the denomination and that constitutes the estoppel? Or are you saying something else? … What the defense saying is that it’s not inequitable behavior if it’s constitutionally protected or non-actionable. Let’s get back to the parameters for estoppel….
Now they’re looking at the appeals court ruling again, still trying to define terms.
Laura’s attorney now citing some case law.
Blumberg: That is our position, the constitutionally-protected activity is not the shelter behind which they can hide.
Sohigian is taking apart the case law he just cited. Doesn’t think it really applies in Laura’s case.
Sohigian: I’m asking you about a case in which a potential defendant tries to persuade someone not to sue by assurances of compliance…and tries to say, don’t sue me now. In our case, your theory is that Ms. DeCrescenzo was forced to abort hat would have been a viable infant, she was, you’re going to say in trial, in essence enslaved. You’re going to say to trial she was forced to have abortion because pregnant women have a reduced work capacity, and they want her to work like an automaton and wouldn’t have time to care for herself during pregnancy or to take time off to care for an infant for breastfeeding. That would all have been known to Ms. DeCrescenzo that that was what she was subjected to. So what was it that keeps the other side from saying that we didn’t do anything to keep her from suing since she knew all that?
Sohigian: Threats to excommunicate, to disassociate, the church can do that as free speech. What’s your argument against that?
Blumberg: Our argument is that Laura was brought up with the idea that if she filed a complaint against the church she would be spied on, her family would be broken apart … and even if those are constitutionally protected activities, that still shouldn’t allow them keep her from filing sooner.
He points out that after she leaves the Sea Org, they got her a job and that conveniently keeps her under the influence of the church…
Sohigian: Whose convenience is that?
Blumberg fends that off. And keeps going. Will the church have been successful in keeping people from acting because of their influence, he asks. If that works then they will practically forever be immune.
Sohigian: You used the word ‘never’ or something like that, in other words you impute to the defense conduct that they would dissuade a member for all time.
Sohigian saying that Laura seems to be taking the position that she could any time file a lawsuit, forever, because of this lawsuit, and that there is no time bar at all. (Sohigian saying that’s what the church side could complain about.)
Sohigian seems to be arguing that the way Laura’s side is arguing this, it goes too far the other way — that there would never be a time bar against filing a lawsuit.
Blumberg: Calls that a straw man argument, an extreme position, and something the court could decide was reasonable or not.
Sohigian: How would the court decide that?
Blumberg: Motion for summary judgment, your honor.
Sohigian: Well, here we are!
Blumberg now referring to the court of appeal ruling, that it said in the court of appeal’s mind, this may constitute an estoppel which is allowable by law, and up to trial judge to decide if Laura’s argument is reasonable.
So Blumberg saying look, you have the facts to make a decision about this case. But Sohigian punking him a little, saying that if he decides this, what would keep someone else from arguing an even longer delay.
Blumberg again is explaining that the appeals court has asked the trial judge, Sohigian, to make this decision based on the facts in the case.
Sohigian now reading from appeals ruling, which refers to Laura being “brainwashed,” and the influence that the church had over her even after she left the Sea Org.
Sohigian still reading from the appellate ruling. Now asking for Blumberg to address when the effects she was under came to an END.
Blumberg seems a bit mystified about this. Laura’s team is trying to make the point that in 2008 Laura was still under the influence of Scientology, explaining why she filed her lawsuit late. They just want Sohigian to agree with that.
But Sohigian is saying, well, when did that influence stop? Could she have filed in 2010? 2011? How is he supposed to judge when she was no longer under that influence?
They’re now looking through Laura’s recent filings. Sohigian wants Blumberg to find something in the appeals ruling that answers question.
Kathryn Saldana finds the passage that they were looking for, and Sohigian now reading from it. They’re now looking over the ruling.
He’s helping the court reporter get some of that language down properly.
Every time Sohigian reads from the appellate ruling, it seems to bolster Laura’s argument. But then Sohigian keeps asking Blumberg to answer questions about it and how the law fits this case.
We’re a little confused about what he’s doing. Bert Deixler, on the church side, is just waiting patiently. Hard to tell what he thinks of all this.
Sohigian: He’s asking again, when did the influence END. Laura’s case has been that the influence hadn’t ended when left Scientology, and then only a few months later filed her lawsuit. But Sohigian wants to know how much longer could she have waited?
That seems like a weird question. But now Blumberg steps up.
Blumberg: July, 2008.
Sohigian: What happened then?
Blumberg: The realization that her parents would support her and not abandon her if she filed a lawsuit against the church. That’s when the clock actually started, he’s saying essentially.
Sohigian: Well, if that’s the case, what kept Laura from asking her parents earlier if they still loved her — we’re paraphrasing.
I think what Sohigian’s saying is that if he rules that the influence ended when she stumbled on her parents’ computer and saw ESMB, what would keep the defendants (the church) from deposing her and asking why she didn’t ask earlier how they felt about her?
Is Sohigian asking that Laura’s mistake was not being more curious about her parents earlier?
He’s complaining that this would be a result based purely on effects and not a rule. Blumberg now trying to deal with that.
Blumberg says Sohigian’s question seems to be, was Laura unreasonable not to ask her questions earlier? And he’s saying that falls under the same influence — that Scientology taught her not to ask questions like that.
Sohigian has them go back to the appeal ruling again. He’s reading from it.
Sohigian is back to asking Blumberg to explain and justify the appeal ruling.
Deixler has an outburst about the appeals court already deciding something. Sohigian asks him to hold on, but seems to agree with Deixler.
Blumberg: If the court believes on the evidence submitted that it needs no more than to rely on what’s on paper, then the court has the authority to make that determination now.
Sohigian: I’ll hear you for a little more then come back after lunch.
Sohigian: Your view is, because action accrued in 2004, that absent estoppel, the limitation period would have begun to run in that year, but there is at least a triable issue regarding the existence of the estoppel, but the argument does not make an argument that this is unlimited or that the time never begins to run in which to file a lawsuit, because the dates of expiration of the effects of the intimidation would have been around July 2008. And Ms. DeCrescenzo was actually filed in April 2009. That’s the way you organize your arguments that you are not promoting an unlimited period to file.
Then what Blumberg is now addressing and what Deixler had pointed out earlier appears to be a bit of a flub in the appeals order.
BREAK FOR LUNCH
Thanks for the suggestion, Spackle. The 9th floor cafeteria made a decent burrito.
Back in session.
Blumberg now talking again. Says he had a chance at lunch to reconsider what the judge had been asking him.
Blumberg: I guess it comes down to whether someone’s reasonable belief can be adduced from reading paper rather than through testimony, etc. And having considered that question I’m leaning very strongly that perhaps it needs to be a live proceeding.
Hm. interesting suggestion by Blumberg.
Back to Bert Deixler: It is in our judgment an issue that can be decided right now because of the lack of evidence.
There is no evidence that she ever considered a lawsuit before the time that she filed one.
Bert refers to case law, and Sohigian does think it’s important, so he’d gone to chambers to retrieve it. (That’s where his printer is, apparently.)
We’re looking at Lori Mills v. Forestex. Some people who owned a house sued a siding contractor. Similar issue of a time-barred complaint.
We’re hearing about a woman’s attempts to get her siding fixed.
Sohigian is still reading from this Mills case.
Sohigian: Is the Mills case one of those continuing reassurance cases, false sense of security cases, as distinguished from a case where the contention is, there was such an intense coercive or influential environment…that it is not that the plaintiff was lulled into a false sense of security, but that she was virtually paralyzed and didn’t recognize that legal rights could be asserted?
Hm, that’s putting Bert on the spot.
Deixler: The court of appeal has asked to focus on whether there were representations to her not to file suit… and therefore Mills case applies.
Sohigian: Why do you say “representations”?
This seems to throw Deixler off a bit.
We have to hand it to Sohigian that he’s gone after attorneys on both sides on their arguments. On Laura’s side, he’s implied that they’ve asked for something too open-ended. On the church’s side, he says they’re relying on case law which is about a person not filing earlier because they were lulled into a false sense of security, which really doesn’t seem to describe Laura D.
Bert Deixler: The representations point is addressed by Mills. Bert goes on trying to equate the elements in the Mills case with Laura’s.
He’s saying again that there was nothing in the period 2004-2008 that was “untoward.” Freeloader debt, not “untoward”? Wow.
Anything further, judge asks.
I’ve heard all the argument. I need to make a decision, he says.
First he’s going to make a ruling on evidentiary questions.
Evidentiary objection documents, he’s referring to.
Sohigian: Is there a way I can deal with the objections you really want ruled on…or do you want me to go through each objection?
For example, plaintiff’s set of objections is 37 pages. (I’m assuming these are on depositions that were previously done?)
Sohigian seems to be asking a strange question that has all of the lawyers befuddled.
While they’re waiting for him to rule on the summary judgment ruling, he’s asking them if they want him to go over every objection that was made in evidentiary matters (depositions, we’re assuming). But how can they answer that before a ruling?
It’s really seemed to throw them.
They’re taking a short break to deal with it.
Answer to a reader question: No, Laura D. is not in the courtroom today. Just her attorneys.
Lawyers back in the courtroom. Allison tells me she thinks Sohigian is going to rule against Laura, but he expects it to immediately go on appeal.
Waiting for the judge to come back in.
Still waiting for Sohigian.
At the break, we saw him in the hall. He’s a short guy. Hard to tell that when he’s up there behind the bench.
Here we go. Sohigian back in the courtroom.
Blumberg saying they waive oral argument. Same for defense side. But Sohigian says that’s not what he’s asking.
He’s asking if they want him to RULE on all the objections in the evidence.
I’ll just rule on the objections, he says. What, are we going to be here all day before his ruling on the summary judgment?
Starting with plaintiff’s evidentiary objections.
Gary Soter just got up and left. We don’t blame him.
“Objection one. Overruled.”
“Objection two. Overruled.”
“Objections three. Overruled.”
Just shoot me.
Objections 11 through 14 involve words…
“Thetan. Engram. Clearing the Planet. OT Data.”
I do wish to say that I examined the material and recognize that these are special terms.
He’s overruled every objection so far, so we’re not sure why he’s taking the time to remark on these at this point. But hey, a little funny.
“23 overruled. 24 overruled. 25 overruled.”
This was apparently a deposition of Laura taken by Bert Deixler. Her attorney had been objecting about Bert’s use of Scientology terms? Hard for us to know without the deposition in front of us.
Tikk points out that these are objections that Laura’s attorneys made in the Warren McShane deposition. OK.
We’d like our lawyer readers to tell us, is this customary for a judge to sit and go over these, one by one, in court? Especially when we’re all waiting for a ruling?
50, overruled, 51 overruled, 52, overruled…
Sohigian: I think what I’ve done is overruled every objection made by the plaintiff.
We think you’re right, judge.
Now, defense evidentiary objections.
Objections to Shannon Kimoto and Christie Collbran declarations. Then another set of objections to Robert D. Levine. Then third one, objections to Laura’s declaration.
Objection to entirety of Kimoto and Collbran declarations.
Now to DeCrescenzo.
Objection one. Overruled.
Objection two. Overruled.
Objection three. Overruled…
We’ll say this — Sohigian does seem pretty familiar with the material. He’s definitely read these declarations in detail.
He’s overruled every objection to Laura’s declaration so far.
He’s giving us another law lesson.
Now, the last set of objections, to Levine — he’s the expert who wrote on mind control.
“Mr. Levine has not been a stranger to Metzger law firm disputes with Scientology,” Sohigian says.
He says a federal judge (Headley case?) called a Levine declaration one of the most worthless she’d ever seen and struck it.
In the Headley case, what had happened was that professor Levine had reviewed some deposition transcripts, and Judge Fisher felt that was … what did he say? Not sure.
Sohigian: The main thrust of Mr. Levine’s testimony was that the plaintiff was shaped or manipulated by the Scientology group so she couldn’t make decisions, couldn’t decide what reality was. Levine says she was in the grip of this organization.
It looks from the record as if Levine has not examined the plaintiff. The record appears to indicate that he hasn’t had a conversation with the plaintiff, and so the defense position is, you just can’t treat that as an adequately founded expert opinion for a number of reasons.
Defense is asking to exclude Levine. Now he asks Blumberg to comment.
(Sohigian notes that objections to Levine go on for 54 pages. But maybe he shouldn’t accept it at all.)
Blumberg says Levine’s declaration was made as a hypothetical argument, based on what Laura had said in her declaration.
But Sohigian says if you read Levine’s words, he doesn’t sound like he’s discussing a hypothetical situation.
(OK, the Bunker here wants to insert an editorial comment: Now you see why we never get bogged down in arguments about “mind control” or “brainwashing.” It’s a waste of time. We notice that Ray Jeffrey and Ted Babbitt haven’t bothered with so-called mind control experts. We found Levine’s declaration fascinating, but we tend to stay away from that stuff. OK, back on the record.)
Sohigian and Blumberg now sparring over the word “hypothetical.” This is such a waste of time. Just punt on the Levine declaration and get to the ruling, Blumberg.
Blumberg still trying to save the Levine declaration. Well, what else can he do. So Sohigian starts to drill down into it.
Warren McShane can’t take it. He goes outside for a break. Damn, we wish we could go with him.
OK, judge, we get it. You weren’t impressed by Robert D. Levine’s declaration. So instead of arguing with Blumberg about whether it was a “hypothetical” exercise or not, why don’t you just strike it from the record? What are your problems with the way some professor wrote his analysis of the evidence worth spending all this time on? Scientology turned over 18,000 PAGES of evidence that showed how a 12-year-old girl was manipulated to work 98-hour week at pennies an hour so that she would ignore her homesickness and her mother’s desire to see her. That’s what you’ve been asked to rule on.
Tory Christman just walked in. She’s in for a treat.
What would be your response to Levine’s declaration in Judge Fisher’s case, Sohigian asks.
Blumberg says he didn’t read it because it was a case with a different set of facts.
Well, apparently Blumberg argued well enough that Sohigian is not going to throw out the Levine declaration entirely. But now he’s going to rule an the 54 pages of objections. Oh joy!
As he goes through and overrules objections in the Levine declaration…
A summing up: Both sides have made their arguments about the church’s motion for summary judgment. Sohigian has apparently made up his mind about it. But he is not going to tell us his ruling until he first deals with hundreds of pages of objections to specific pieces of evidence that had previously been entered into the record.
He knows that however he rules on the church’s motion, it will be appealed, and so he wants to get the evidentiary issues done while we’re all here.
So we wait and wait as he says “overruled, overruled, overruled…”
And after all that, he overruled every single objection to Levine.
Now, on to the substantive ruling.
Sohigian: This case was filed in 2009. It has been to the appellate course once, and it’s back here. Something he ruled was reversed. When that happens sometimes counsel files to take off the judge, but that didn’t happen. He still has it.
Plaintiff alleges that she was employed by the Church of Scientology and lived and worked at the facility here in Los Angeles. Became pregnant, was forced to have an abortion through threat of her job, housing, and husband. She alleges she was told she would be subjected to freeloader debt, she claims that she was told she was owed that because she got Scientology training and services. She alleges CSI had a policy of forcing female employees to have abortions if they became pregnant. One of the reasons was to get more work out of them. She says she was under the influence of the defendants’ organizations. And either she or the lawyers or both use this term “brainwashing.” I think what she’s referring to is a comprehensive high-pressure indoctrination and coercion so as to dominate an individual…
Sohigian: She says that she was taken from her family. In her second amended complaint a host of legal theories. Action based on forced abortion, common law forced abortion, third cause is for deprivation of liberty, fourth cause is for false imprisonment, fifth for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Sixth is for labor violations. Seventh is for violation of business code.
Moving papers filed a year ago (Scientology’s motion for summary judgment). Oct 25, 2012. The delays that have ensued since then are not pertinent to this case. They stem from evidentiary concerns, extraordinary appeals to CA Supreme Court, US Supreme Court.
Church moving on theory that Laura’s claims are time-barred.
Says he’s gone through every objection item by item. Comprehensive objections and individual objections. I think I’ve discharged my obligations with respect to that.
Sohigian: I’m going to talk briefly now about the methods that I used to reach a decision.
Our law is that the movants (church) has to prove that there is no disputable triable issue of material fact for a summary judgment…
In the first place, I’m required to use a three-step process. Discussed in a large number of cases on appellate level.
1. Identify issues framed by pleadings. 2. Movants have reached burden. 3. Opposing party has shown that a triable issue of material fact exists.
Obviously, if step two is not carried out, you don’t have to go to step three. But i got to all three steps in this case.
Sohigian: Aguilar 2001 case he’s citing now. Also Selzor (?) case in the same volume.
I’m denying the motion for summary judgment.
Based on declaration and deposition of DeCrescenzo, there is a triable issue of material fact.
W O W
Sohigian: The central issue is, with respect to the time-bar issue, is the triable issue of material fact in regards to an estoppel.
I find that there is a triable issue of material fact, he says.
What a poker player. Sohigian was hammering Laura’s case all day. And now he’s found for her based on HER testimony.
Sohigian: There is a foundation in this record in which there are triable issues of material fact concerning… plaintiff was, in effect, a child in this Scientology. She started out by volunteering at only six or seven years old — and there may be question whether that’s really volunteering when she’s so young. She got involved at 12 in Sea Org, she moved away from her family. She lived in the Scientology facility in Los Angeles. This Sea Org is evidently a kind of a missionary activity or an office for a propagation for the faith, or something like that. This leaving and going with this organization, at that time she was just about beginning junior high school student. What they got her to do was sign some kind of a paper saying she would work for them basically indefinitely. There’s a number on the paper, a billion years. And that’s when she was 12. When she was 25 she left. When she went into that organization, she didn’t communicate in the standard way with her parents and other family members. Her mail was opened. There was someone present when she communicated with her family members. They did this evidently to make sure she didn’t say anything negative about the organization. She has given testimony that she was apprehensive about whether she was going to be punished. Part of the training was that she wouldn’t say anything negative about the Sea Org or Scientology, and if she did do that, she’d be declared treasonous. Then she’d be given base duties, extra duty. She was also told that she had to report anything that came out of the family, statements or behaviors, that was contrary to Scientology…
Sohigian: So here you have a 12-year-old youngster who didn’t regularly interact with her family. And she would have to undergo a “check,” apparently a set of interrogations. (He’s talking about a “sec-check.”) And there’s evidence that you sort of had to pass this test to be able to leave. And the persons that give this test have to be sure that you’re not going to leave permanently. So in this time, middle and late adolescence, there is evidence to show that she went a couple of years without seeing her parents. And this period of time elapsed because she wasn’t let out.
(Clearly, the judge was deeply impressed by Laura’s description of her life in the Sea Org. He’s trying to sound neutral about it, but he was evidently impressed by what she described and how the evidence supported her story.)
When she was in this Sea Org, she had to make out a questionnaire — a life history questionnaire. He goes through some questions…
Sohigian is bringing up specifically the question about asking the Sea Org member to admit to homosexual acts and detail them. Yeah, great questionnaire, Scientology.
Now he’s talking about her incredible hours. And even when she wasn’t on the clock, she had to stay around the Scientology facilities, or go with an escort.
In 2001, she went to the RPF. He explains to the court reporter that it stands for “Rehabilitation Project Force.” Damn right, judge.
How her hours got even worse then, with lights out at 10:30. He’s relating it to his own days in the service! Wow.
Sohigian talking about Laura’s sleep deprivation, and little time for hygiene or changing clothes.
Paid only 10 to 50 dollars a week. And during this time no formal schooling. She did take a high school proficiency exam. But didn’t get any other schooling.
She could not freely come and go. (He’s really taking his time. This has got to be torture for Deixler, et al.)
Sohigian: She observed when people would escape, they would do a “drill” (a “blow drill”) that would rely on credit card records, etc. So if she tried to leave, she would be tracked down and brought back involuntarily.
Well, she did try to leave and was in essence detained. Then was watched 24 hours. Interrogated. And not just interrogation, but that she was told what to say.
During RPF, about three or four years, she left the facility fewer than 20 times. She did not have access to her identification or money. Never allowed to have more than 20 dollars on her. Her passport was locked up.
Sohigian’s recitation is going so long, Katie Saldana has asked for a short break!
So Sohigian asks Bert Deixler if he wants to waive the rest of the recitation. Bert says no! “It’s useful to us, your honor.”
Oh, that had to hurt.
Blumberg telling another reporter what the decision was about: That Sohigian has found that he can’t make a ruling today about the truth or falsity of the facts in this case — that’s for a jury to decide at trial.
And after he recites the facts in the record, the judge will then explain to us about the time-bar. So we’re sticking for the bitter end. May be a little while before the judge is back.
OMG. Wise Beard Man just walked in and sat down behind us.
THE BUNKER FINALLY MEETS MR. BUNKER
Sohigian back in the courtroom. He now is talking about Laura finally leaving the RPF and the Sea Org. She was upset, she was unstable. But she was counseled that she should stay. She was afraid that if she left, bad things would happen. So in April 2004, she wanted to get out of RPF, but SO put her on hard labor ten hours a day. So she drank some bleach as quasi-suicidal behavior.
Now he’s referring to an affidavit she signed when she left the Sea Org, saying at the time that she benefited from the SO.
He points out that when Laura was seven years old, she picketed this courtroom! “Picketing a courthouse doesn’t usually affect judges, but I think it’s meant to affect the public,” he says.
Sohigian: Laura believed that the penalties for speaking out against the church would cost her millions of dollars. And she was asked to periodically sign forms about her loyalty to the church. This was an act of surveillance, she says. She also claimed that she was trained to report anybody who took a negative action against the church. So she claims that she was trying to weave her way through this thicket of fears and apprehensions. And this disabled her from acting more promptly, and that all of this was the fault of the defendants.
She claims she remained active in this organization (Scientology) and she was doing that because she was scared, that she would be cut off from her family, declared a “suppressive person.” Her apprehension was that the Scientology organization and its members would smear her. And that she’d seen that happen to other people. She did get a freeloader bill of 0,000, she got calls about it, and she actually paid ,000. This led her to believe that the organization was keeping its eyes on her. She actually went to work for a Scientologist-owned business in order to pay her freeloader bill. You could say this was an indication that she was not as scared as she says she was, but there’s another potential implication, that it’s circumstantial evidence that she was under continuing surveillance.
Sohigian saying that Laura, between 2004 to 2008, continued to get calls from church members, which indicated to her that she was being observed and snooped on.
It was in 2008 that she first began to consult information critical of Scientology. She thought if she gave her identity, Scientology would send someone to “handle” her — keep her from speaking out. But in autumn of 2008, she contacted another former Sea Org member, and started to talk about a lawsuit. Then she was visited in January 2009 by church members asking her about ESMB. This was indication in her mind that Scientology was monitoring her online communications. After they left, she found a piece of paper with instructions on how to “handle” her.
She was contacted by a lawyer and then filed a lawsuit in 2009. So my view is, this creates a triable issue of material fact concerning the time-bar defense. It is not conclusive in either direction. I think that under the circumstances I have an obligation to deny the motion for summary judgment in all respects.
Asks Blumberg to write an order for it tomorrow.
Sohigian: As has been customary in this case, the lawyers have done a good job. I don’t want anything I’ve said to be interpreted as a criticism of the lawyers on either side.
And that’s it. Wow. What a stunning result.
November 12 status hearing will be the next thing.
Now, will Scientology appeal?
Just heard from Mark Bunker, who is on the scene — he sees the helicopter! He had no idea it had Rinder and Bennitt in it.
Rinder: “Crowd looks to me to be about 2,500 to 3,000. Ain’t 10,000 by any measure, unless you’re guzzling Kool-Aid. More people are arriving, though. Another chopper just showed up.”
Just heard from Brandon Ogborn. He pointed out that Bert Fields not only showed up and enjoyed The TomKat Project, but he led the standing ovation at the end!
Just heard from Bunker. He says the two helicopters are LOUD. Is Miscavige going to have a hard time being heard?
Rinder: “The other chopper is the ‘official’ one for church photographers, and they’re telling us that speakers are going to be talking at 1:00 pm. We are ‘advised’ to pull off for 15 minutes. We will then have unimpeded airspace.”
Rinder: “At 12:55 my estimate is no more than 5,000 people, but someone can more accurately estimate when our high-definition zoom shots are available.”
I asked Rinder if they were going to pull away as the church asked: “No way. New chopper now added.”
Rinder: “Miscavige is talking.”
Says Rinder: “Ribbon just cut. Nobody appears injured by falling bunting.”
Rinder: “Front row whales being let in. Everyone else has to wait.”
Rinder: “Plebes now being let in.”
Rinder: “Sea Org members heading back to the salt mines.”
The guys are heading back. Once Mike Bennitt has a chance, he’ll be sending us hi-def photos and VIDEO. We’ll get those up as soon as we can!
Woo-hoo! Thank you Mike Bennitt and Mike Rinder!
We asked Rinder if the extreme brevity of the ceremony had something to do with the noise from the helicopters. “I hope so.
Hey, I just noticed something looking at the photos again — did the church pull down the street signals after all? UPDATE: No, it looks like all signal poles are accounted for.
Here’s the corner I’m talking about, the SE corner of Ft. Harrison and Pierce. You can see the air bridge below. This is a Google satellite view. So it looks like they took out a palm tree, but I’m wondering about the light pole as well. I don’t see it in our helicopter shots. Just wondering. May not be a big deal.
Childs and Frago are saying Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kelly Preston were there today.
The funny thing is, shouldn’t the Tampa Bay Times also report that former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder flew in a helicopter today to take photos of the event, and that his presence and the noise it created might have shortened the event? I mean, isn’t that news, guys?
VIDEO COMING SOON…
Ha. Rinder just pointed out something to me from the TB Times lede today: “Actors Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Kelly Preston joined hundreds of other Scientologists today as a massive building church members call their ‘cathedral’ was dedicated in downtown Clearwater.”
I want to put Jefferson Hawkins’ comment here so everyone can see it. Hawkins was once the top marketing man for Scientology and knows what he’s talking about, especially about events.
Epic Fail doesn’t even begin to cover it. That the “fastest growing religion in the world” with “millions of members” was only able to muster up 3000 people for “the most important event in the history of the galaxy” says it all. And probably half of those are staff and student trainees who were already there. They have been claiming for years that there are “10,000 Scientologists in Clearwater.” Guess they all stayed home.
Then, Mike Rinder shows up in a freakin’ helicopter! The pathetic turnout is going to be filmed for all to see! So Miscavige panics. He cuts short what was probably going to be a one hour Dan Sherman special, axes any other speakers, cuts to the ribbon ceremony, and rabbits out of there in eight minutes flat!
Now you can bet he’s hunkered down in his office, screaming at everyone, RPFing a number of people, and beating on others. His big moment, opening the Superpower building after a 15-year buildup, has turned into a stinking disaster! I would really hate to be anywhere in his vicinity right now, and I’m sure his staff are thinking the same thing about now.
There is no way it was planned to be only eight minutes. No way.
Some more details from Rinder: we asked if he’d felt all right with all that activity in the chopper. He said he’d felt fine — he’s been on a lot of helicopter rides.
He said that when the second helicopter showed up, his pilot had radioed to ask what its plans were. And got no response. He tried again. Nothing. Finally, the other helicopter radioed back, saying that it was working for the church, would circle at 750 feet, and wanted Rinder’s pilot to know that speakers were talking at 1 pm. They asked Rinder’s pilot to move away for 15 minutes.
Rinder’s pilot asked, “Are we moving anywhere?”
Rinder then answered with a choice Anglo-Saxon curse word. They didn’t budge.
Just heard from Bennitt. Hopefully getting that video link soon, plus high-resolution photos.
And here’s the video.
And until something clearer emerges, here’s what it sounded like from the position of one of our tipsters on the ground. You can hear the helicopters!
Mike Bennitt has his photos up at his Flickr account, you can see them here.
Mike Bennitt is in place! Fortified by a double shot of espresso, he has positioned himself in the Comal County courthouse.
He says things are about to start, and the judge has already given the indication that electronics are going to have to go off.
Bennitt reports that the usual Scientology gang is present, including Kendrick Moxon, Monique Yingling, Warren McShane, and plenty more lawyers.
Bennitt says that Ray Jeffrey has just finished his opening statement, and Miscavige/RTC attorney Lamont Jefferson is now responding.
Mike says that Ray’s opening included references to the Lawrence Wollersheim saga (which we wrote about at length back in 2002/2008), and get this, Jefferson is countering with slides from last week’s IAS gala! See judge, this is a thriving religion and Miscavige is like the Dalai Lama (or something).
First bad sign for Monique: Bennitt says Judge Waldrip mentioned being in court all week. That sounds like a continuance is unlikely.
If that means that Miscavige has slithered out of a deposition for this (set of) hearing(s), you can bet that Monique’s side will continue to push for a Miscavige deposition in other discovery — assuming the lawsuit survives these motions.
Bennitt’s out on break. He says they’re still arguing about deposing Miscavige, and Mike says it’s getting contentious and argumentative. Judge Waldrip has had to admonish attorneys four or five times.
Bennitt says Waldrip really seemed to take notice when Ray Jeffrey brought up a 2009 issue of Freedom magazine.
Jeffrey had told us this was coming. In that issue Miscavige is clearly described as defender of the faith.
The Freedom mag included an e-mail from Miscavige to Tobin and Childs about their “Truth Rundown” series. The issue also included a reference to Miscavige opening up the Ideal Org in Dallas.
After Freedom mag was introduced, Lamont Jefferson rose to speak about it, but Waldrip hit him with this…
“Mr. Jefferson how does somebody personally oversee the matters of the church without having any personal involvement?”
The Freedom issue had talked about Miscavige personally overseeing Scientology’s operations.
So they are still arguing about the motion for continuance, Mike says. And just like last time, Scientology has a contingent of about 14 lawyers.
After lunch, Cedillo (CSI’s attorney) wants to rebut all of the sworn declarations filed by Monique’s side.
Bennitt says that Jefferson was again making pains to keep separate CSI, RTC, etc. And Mike says that the Judge interrupted at one point and said, Remind me again what the purpose of the separation of entities is?
So once again, it’s alphabet soup.
In the last half hour, Elliott Cappuccio rebutted Jefferson in a very animated and coherent style, Mike says. Elliott was effective citing case law, he says.
Hey, we found that 2009 letter that Miscavige wrote to Tobin and Childs which was in the issue of Freedom that Ray Jeffrey put into evidence today. And yes, we can see why it’s a problem for Miscavige. Here’s the text…
20 June 2009
Dear Mr. Childs and Mr. Tobin,
I have been advised that you have decided to move forward with your story without my interview. This, despite the fact confirmed more than three weeks ago that I would make myself available on a date certain (6 July), after you spoke to other relevant Church personnel and toured Church facilities, and that I would provide information annihilating the credibility of your sources including the fundamental crimes against the Scientology religion that were the reasons for their removal from post. You were advised that information would include addressing the extraordinary “admissions” of one of your sources regarding a long-settled legal matter.
I was advised Thursday that you would only interview me on Friday, although you well knew it would be impossible for me to meet with you this week because of a long-standing commitment to be aboard the SMV Freewinds for a week of religious events at the Church’s annual OT Summit. I am at a loss to comprehend how the St. Petersburg Times can publish a story about me and the religion I lead without accepting the offer to speak with me, on the pretense that you cannot wait until after I have fulfilled my religious commitments.
While you have already received unequivocal statements frmo more than a score of witnesses, along with documentary evidence, providing incontrovertible proof that your sources are lying, I remain ready to sit down for the requested interview on the date previously confirmed. If you decide not to avail yourself of this opportunity, I insist you do not misrepresent the fact that the decision was yours, not mine.
So, to review. What’s at stake today is that Scientology leader David Miscavige wants out of this lawsuit through the filing of a “special appearence.” His lawyer, Lamont Jefferson, has been arguing that Miscavige is too busy being the “ecclesiastical” leader of a worldwide religion to get his hands dirty with the harassment campaign against the Rathbuns that a separate entity, the Church of Scientology International, has admitted to. (They’re throwing CSI under the bus in an attempt to get Miscavige out of the lawsuit, in other words.)
Also, Jefferson has said that Miscavige is so unencumbered by the activities of the Rathbuns, he doesn’t even know Marty.
And that’s why this 2009 letter from Freedom is so possibly devastating. It shows Miscavige chewing out the St. Petersburg Times for not waiting for him to personally explain to them why Marty Rathbun and the other high-ranking defectors are all liars — he should know, since he runs the joint.
Monique is arguing that it clearly shows there’s one person who can really answer the question about David Miscavige’s involvement in the Rathbun harassment campaign in Texas — and that’s Miscavige himself. And that’s why she’s asking for a continuance, a delay, in order to take his testimony before the question of his motion to be dismissed from the lawsuit can be decided.
Here’s some video from Mike Bennitt…
Did you catch that? That was George Spencer (local attorney for the Church of Scientology International) accusing Marty Rathbun of “frankly, cultish agenda.”
Only David Miscavige would think that an effective jab, and we can guarantee you, it was Miscavige who ordered Spencer to use that language in court today.
It was just brought to our attention that we had the wrong document linked in the main body of the story above. The correct motion from Monique asking for a continuance on the anti-SLAPP matter is now linked correctly.
Bennitt’s back out. Another contentious session in the afternoon, he says. Jeffrey’s voice was literally shaking at times, he says.
Still no decision yet on anything.
The hearing will be resuming on Friday morning. In the meantime, Waldrip will be reading declarations and the church’s objections to them.
Mike says Friday they’ll take up the jurisdictional issue again, so that means the anti-SLAPP matter gets pushed back, but Waldrip noted that the 60-day limit on the anti-SLAPP motion occurs on December 17.
When Ricardo Cedillo (CSI’s attorney) brought up the deadline on the anti-SLAPP motion (Dec. 17), the attorney for defendant Monty Drake suddenly spoke up, saying that he was going to Dallas tomorrow and needed to know if he’d have to rush back to New Braunfels on Friday.
Drake said he needed to argue the anti-SLAPP matter and asked to start arguing it this afternoon. But Waldrip told him he needed to “compartmentalize” material and was focused on the jurisdictional issue first.
So 9 am Friday, the hearing on Monique’s motion for a continuance on the jurisdictional question will continue.
Our great thanks to Mike Bennitt for being on the scene and giving us these updates.
Getting a statement from Monique’s team soon…
Just talked to Ray Jeffrey, who didn’t sound like he’d been through a contentious day at all.
We asked him for the upshot of today’s hearing.
“The beauty of it is, they launched all these paragraph-long objections to our declarations. Binders of them. That’s going to force the judge to read it all, line by line. And when he finishes it, I think it will have a powerful effect on him,” Ray says. But obviously, not the effect Scientology is looking for.
We asked about Lamont Jefferson showing images on the big screen from the IAS gala a couple of weeks ago. “They are making the point that Miscavige is the ecclesiastical leader, he’s busy. And they brought up the decision in England, about marriage, which Marty had predicted they would do. But it doesn’t look good for them,” he says.
We think we know what he means. When we were in the courtroom in October, the Scientology team showed similar images that just came off plastic and fake. And this judge is no dummy. One wonders if these attorneys would try such an approach if Miscavige wasn’t such a micromanager of their work.
We asked what else Jeffrey was telling the judge.
“I was just pointing out how the church is stonewalling and giving us witnesses who are not with Miscavige for any appreciable amount of time. We need the deposition of David Miscavige. We also need documents. They’ve given us some documents, but it’s just stuff they want us to see. Like their corporate papers,” he says. “They haven’t given us one operational document. Not one e-mail or text message — there’s nothing from the surveillance operation itself. And we know they’re a record-intensive organization. There have to be documents.”
Scientology argued that enough evidence had been submitted to show that Miscavige had no connection to the surveillance operation of the Rathbuns.
“We’ve presented evidence which shows they’re not telling the truth. So we’re at least entitled to take the deposition of Miscavige,” Jeffrey says.
Just learned that there was another article in the 2009 Freedom magazine that was even more crucial and may have been what really impressed Judge Waldrip.
Stand by and we’ll soon have some excerpts from it posted here.
From “The Story They Refused to Tell: David Miscavige and the Scientology Renaissance” (Freedom, 2009)…
Conspicuously missing from the 16 pages of the S.P. Times “Special Report” on Scientology is the true face of the Church’s ecclesiastical leader, Mr. David Miscavige, the driving force behind Scientology’s explosive expansion…
Mr. Miscavige has been the driving force behind the worldwide program to expand all of the Churches of Scientology to better serve their communities—to not only become islands of sanity and succor where all are welcome, but to also serve as central points of emanation for the Church’s many social betterment programs aimed at eradicating the crippling plagues of illiteracy, immorality, drug abuse and intolerance.
Mr. Miscavige redefines the term “religious leader” to fit the tasks necessary to direct a truly unique contemporary religion—the only major religion to emerge in the 20th century. And now the religion’s growth has continued at a phenomenal rate in this century, with the number of individuals completing Scientology counseling and course services doubling in just the last two years, as but one example. This is being accomplished through his extraordinary vision in every major aspect, including:
— Personally driving the international dissemination of Scientology;
— Ensuring that the Scriptures of the Scientology religion are pure and true to the Founder’s original writings;
— Establishing units to see to the translation of millions of pages of the Scientology Scriptures into 71 languages;
— Restoring Mr. Hubbard’s written works, recorded lectures and films of his lectures;
— Providing the guidance for the acquisition, construction and creation of ideal Scientology organizations;
— Supplying the direction for the creation of two state-of-the-art digital publishing houses capable of producing 500,000 books and 925,000 CDs per week;
— Providing the vision for crafting, refining and broadening core Scientology social betterment programs in drug education and rehabilitation, education, criminal rehabilitation and human rights;
— Providing support and guidance to the Volunteer Minister Program, the largest independent relief force in the free world, with more than 195,000 Volunteer Ministers who traveled more than 174,000 miles this past year to help an estimated 1.5 million people;
— Personally seeing to the successful outcome of critical external affairs issues, including official recognitions of the religion; and
— Planning, creating, producing and presiding over nine annual globally broadcast events that serve as briefings for Scientologists on strategic programs, campaigns, expansion, dissemination and major breakthroughs.
So there it is, in Scientology’s own publication — David Miscavige is fully in charge, including external affairs, and he’s the reason Scientology is booming.
But somehow he had nothing to do with a four-year surveillance campaign of Marty Rathbun? And says he shouldn’t be deposed about it because he has no knowledge of it?
Oops. Hoisted by his own publication.
Mike Bennitt and Derek Bloch are in position at the courtroom, and it sounds like things are going to begin shortly.
Derek says that there’s a delay this morning because Judge Dib Waldrip is still taking care of some matters in drug court this morning.
WALDRIP: MISCAVIGE WILL BE DEPOSED
RAY JEFFREY ASKS FOR THE DEPOSITION OF SHELLY MISCAVIGE
BOTH SIDES AGREE TO A “LIVE WRITTEN” DEPOSITION OF DAVID MISCAVIGE. TIMING TO BE WORKED OUT
Would have got those updates in a little earlier, but we were walking the dog when Derek’s texts started coming in. Whew. Still out of breath after the run back to the bunker.
So apparently Judge Waldrip did agree that there was enough evidence to convince him that David Miscavige could be deposed for the jurisdictional question.
The church then threatened to appeal — but would drop that notion if Monique’s side would agree to a written deposition. Make it a LIVE written deposition and you’re on, Ray answered.
We’re waiting to get details on what that means, exactly. Also, some timing will be worked out after the recess. As soon as we know more, we’ll post something.
Mike Bennitt: Ray Jeffrey enters motion to depose Shelly Miscavige
Derek now saying that Ray did not actually submit a motion to depose Shelly Miscavige. Also, it sounds like the church is pushing back on the David Miscavige deposition now…
The church is asking for a stay of deposition for an appeal, but Waldrip is only giving them a single week. Trying to get clearer information.
Derek says that Waldrip is giving Scientology until 5 pm next Friday to appeal the order for a deposition.
Derek: Heated exchange between Ray Jeffrey and Miscavige’s attorney over Miscavige’s schedule, which the church had submitted.
Derek: Ricardo Cedillo (CSI’s attorney) had given David Miscavige’s schedule through March 31 to Lamont Jefferson (Miscavige’s attorney) and they decided to put it on the record. (Probably to make it look like Miscavige was too busy to be deposed.) But then, after they came back from the recess, after they had talked over the deposition order, they asked for Miscavige’s schedule back (right after Monique Yingling had passed them a note).
Lamont stood up: My client requests that we withdraw the schedule because it’s a security risk.
When Waldrip asked if that was all right, Jeffrey said he didn’t even have a copy. Give me a copy and then withdraw it. But then Cedillo got in Ray’s face and it got really heated.
Ultimately, Derek says, the church caved and agreed to give Ray a copy of the schedule but withdraw it from the court record.
Derek. On the subject of deposing Shelly Miscavige — Ray was dangling a written document, but hadn’t submitted it yet.
Lamont Jefferson then agreed to have David Miscavige deposed as long as it wasn’t too intrusive, Derek says.
So it looks like Ray used the threat of a Shelly Miscavige deposition to make the church roll over on having DM deposed. Wow.
Derek: The judge asked, anything else for today? Court half emptied out, THEN Lamont Jefferson asked for a stay to get an appeal. Ray looked surprise, and so did the Judge, because they’d just said they wouldn’t appeal.
Can we get a stay from you, Jefferson asked. Waldrip gave them only a week.
Since the church went back on the agreement to have a written deposition in return for no appeal, we are waiting to hear from Ray what kind of deposition he’s asking for now.
Derek, you were awesome. Thank you for this information.
OK, we’ve talked to Ray Jeffrey. He’s cleared up some things that apparently our court observers perceived incorrectly.
We’re going to start a new story with the latest information in a few minutes.
New story is up.
Key point: Miscavige has been ordered to give a normal deposition, not only written.
We’ve heard from Nick Rogers and Mike Bennitt, who are getting into position at the courthouse. Bennitt tells us that Joe Childs of the Tampa Bay Times is also on the scene, as well as TV reporters. Bennitt hopes to get us some photos before too long.
Nick says there’s a line to get into the building, but the reason quickly became clear — one of the two elevators is out. Meanwhile, Mike Bennitt tells us he has spotted Wallace Jefferson, who recently stepped down as the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. He’s joined his brother, Lamont, as a member of Scientology’s huge team of expensive lawyers.
Judge Dib Waldrip is now in the courtroom, but Nick tells us he’s dealing with other matters first.
Yesterday, we asked Ray Jeffrey if Scientology had filed a response to Monique’s motion for sanctions. He said they hadn’t. But this morning, Nick tells us he spoke to Ray, who told him the church has filed an answer — but did not question the validity of the 2007 texts submitted by Mike Rinder. We’ll try to get our hands on that filing by the church as soon as we can!
Some side drama developing: Monique apparently pulled “Lone Star” — a local ex-Scientologist — aside to witness for her that a local OSA member was keeping watch on her. When Monique said there was a temporary restraining order preventing surveillance, the female OSA member reportedly said they were in a public place. Trying to get more detail about this.
Nick reports that Judge Waldrip has cleared his morning docket, and after a break, we’ll finally be getting to the matter at hand.
From Lone Star over at ESMB: [Scientology attorney Ricardo] Cedillo is saying [Ray] Jeffrey’s motion to continue the anti SLAPP motion by the CSI is defective. Ray got pretty hot. Ray wants more discovery. Cedillo says requested discovery is not warranted for anti-SLAPP…Cedillo is bulldogging his way around the court today. Trying to filibuster and at times succeeding. CSI and RTC still haven’t produced documents.
Getting an update from Nick by phone right now. Details coming soon…
Just talked to Nick Rogers, who was out of the courtroom on the lunch break.
He says that Scientology lawyer Ricardo Cedillo and Monique’s attorney Ray Jeffrey really battled back and forth this morning, and once again things got heated.
At issue: Cedillo wanted to present his opening statement and arguments for the church’s anti-SLAPP motion. Jeffrey wanted a delay so Monique can get more discovery — the same request for information that she has for the jurisdictional question that Waldrip has already granted.
So Waldrip at this point has come up with an interesting way to address both requests…
Judge Waldrip decided that Cedillo could make his opening statement and arguments, and at the end of the day, the Judge will then decide whether to recess until February 16 so Monique’s side could continue to get discovery before they present their side.
So this morning, Cedillo made his big play for how this lawsuit is really all about Marty Rathbun trying to destroy David Miscavige, which is essentially a religious argument, and therefore protected by the First Amendment and not a matter for the courts.
Nick tells us that Cedillo’s argument was that Marty Rathbun has declared himself a new Martin Luther, and he’s out to get the church. It was a religious argument and so should be thrown out on First Amendment grounds.
And we’re hearing from several people that the highlight of Cedillo’s morning presentation was an ostentatious video showing what a colossal big deal David Miscavige is. Nick thought it was put together just for this hearing, and recently — it had footage of the recent New Year’s Eve event.
Once again, Miscavige has found a way to get his testimony directly into court, not trusting his attorneys to make his arguments for him — and, without allowing himself to be cross-examined.
Those who saw it, however, are telling us the video was par for the course for Scientology and actually gives the opposite effect than it’s going for.
Nick says that for his part, Ray Jeffrey has been in a feisty mood. He called the Church of Scientology filing an anti-SLAPP motion — which is usually used by outgunned opponents against big bullies who sue to silence critics — like something out of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’
Nick said that a lot of what Cedillo presented in his opening was what we already saw in the church’s filing. That it’s a religious dispute that the court shouldn’t be involved in. That it’s protected by First Amendment.
Cedillo showed numerous video clips of Marty, and they were generally the same YouTube videos we’d seen before in the courtroom.
Ray Jeffrey pointed out that the lawsuit was filed by Monique Rathbun, not her husband Marty.
Cedillo said he’d show her role this afternoon.
Cedillo on Marty: “He used his blog to impugn the reputation of the leader of the church, Mr. Miscavige.”
Also, Cedillo denied that Marty was the second in command of the church.
At one point, Nick said, Cedillo showed an image of L. Ron Hubbard’s books and said that Marty was trying to “bust” their copyrights.
“I could see Marty laughing during the video,” Nick said.
A short video of Ray Jeffrey shot by Mike Bennitt
Maybe it’s not all Cedillo this afternoon. Nick just texted that Ray Jeffrey is now arguing that what he wants in discovery are texts, e-mails and phone records about the harassment operations against Monique and Marty.
While we’re waiting for the next update, we’ll just put in another plug here for Jason Beghe’s show, Chicago PD, which starts tonight on NBC at 10 pm. Check your local listings.
Still waiting to hear from Nick or Bennitt. It’s almost 5:30 in New Braunfels, and pretty late for them still to be in the courtroom…
They’re out! Nick Rogers calling me in a moment…
The upshot: No decision tonight. Tomorrow Ray will file a request for more discovery. Then Scientology can respond by noon Friday and Waldrip will then decide whether they can proceed with that discovery.
Details in a minute.
Nick says that Ricardo Cedillo presented a decent case during the early part of the afternoon, trying to convince Judge Waldrip that the case should be thrown out because this was a religious dispute. Then other attorneys began chiming in. The attorney for private investigator Monty Drake chimed in, for example, saying that the Rathbuns had to prove that Drake had actually harmed the Rathbuns.
But the most interesting thing that emerged about Monty Drake (the Dallas PI), Nick says, was that we found out he had been sent to Marty’s house in 2007 to make sure he was still alive.
(Marty had defected in 2004, but by 2007 he was so underground there were rumors online that he had died. He didn’t resurface until he began seeing other former members in 2008, and then started blogging in 2009. Only then, we thought, did the surveillance begin. Now we learn it started two years earlier.)
Nick said that numerous times, Judge Waldrip made it clear he was fed up with Scientology’s delaying tactics and refusal to turn over evidence.
At one point, when Monty Drake’s attorney started talking about being in court tomorrow, and Ricardo Cedillo complained that he’d in court next week, Waldrip said that made his decision pretty easy, “because I’m not going to play gotcha with dates.”
“At that point, they backed off,” Nick says about the Scientology attorneys.
Another interesting exchange, Nick says, occurred when Ray Jeffrey said one of the discovery requests he was making were for all of the photos that Scientology had taken of the Rathbuns from 2009 to 2013.
Waldrip said that seemed like a very broad request, and asked Ray if he might narrow it down.
So Ray said they definitely wanted the photos that Monty Drake had taken of the Rathbun home. If you remember from our previous reporting, Marty and Monique discovered in September 2012 that a house down the block from the Ingleside home was set up with cameras to watch them. Marty eventually learned that the house had been leased by Drake.
Ray said he believed those cameras had taken photos of what was going on INSIDE the Rathbun home.
Ricardo Cedillo then objected, saying there were no photos of inside the Rathbun home, just the outside and the driveway area.
Jeffrey then said he wanted Cedillo to go on the record and say that he had looked at every photo taken by the private investigators.
“Then they started haggling over photos that Monique was entitled to,” Nick says. And it was then the biggest mistake of the day was made.
“Lamont Jefferson stood up to speak.”
Lamont Jefferson represents David Miscavige and RTC, the entity that Miscavige is the chairman of. It’s been their contention that the court has no jurisdiction over Miscavige and RTC because they are separate from the Church of Scientology International, which has admitted to doing the surveillance.
(Former church officials assure us that this is just a legal tactic, and Miscavige actually runs all of Scientology through the Sea Org.)
Anyway, Lamont Jefferson began objecting to the request for photographs, but then Waldrip interrupted him.
Waldrip: What I don’t understand is why RTC is making objections in a court that they say has no jurisdiction over them.
Nick says Lamont fumbled out an answer, saying something about his client having a vested interest in the photos.
“So Waldrip said it looks like the jurisdictional and First Amendment issues seem to be overlapping, so you better get your client ready to be deposed next week then.”
Then Lamont backed off. “No, I’m just talking about the photos,” Jefferson said, perhaps understanding that once again he’d walked into a trap of his own making.
Jefferson then brought up the motion for reconsideration that the church had filed, hoping to get Waldrip to change his mind about deposing Miscavige.
Nick says a hearing on that motion — and on Monique’s motion for sanctions — has been scheduled for January 24.
We asked Nick about Cedillo’s statement that he was going to talk about Monique’s involvement with Marty’s “religious battle” in the afternoon.
“Cedillo just said the same thing as always — that Monique edits his blog, that she made comments on his blog,” Nick said.
Then, at some point, Cedillo began to show a video which was designed to show how Marty and Monique had been waging a war on Scientology — and it was obvious that it was a full-blown documentary, complete with narration!
Ray Jeffrey rose and objected, and Waldrip sustained! No, he was not going to allow that, Waldrip said.
So an entire documentary prepared by Scientology went down in flames. Oh my.
It gets even better.
Waldrip did allow the church to show a collection of videos of Marty’s altercations with the Squirrel Busters. But then Ray Jeffrey asked, do you have DATES for these altercations? Did they happen on day 9 or day 90 of the 199-day Squirrel Busters action? In other words, were these altercations happening right after the intimidation squad showed up, or months later after they’d been following the Rathbuns wherever they went for weeks and weeks?
Waldrip agreed and sustained the objection. Cedillo said they would get the dates.
And more: Cedillo responded to the objection by saying that the videos were useful because they reflected what was in the depositions taken so far.
Nick says Waldrip then warned him: He would allow the videos of the altercations, but he said it opened the door to allowing the plaintiffs more evidence, including extra discovery.
In other words, Waldrip was telling them they were giving him the justification to grant Monique’s continuance for additional discovery. Was showing this video footage really worth that?
But Cedillo wanted to show the footage (and we can guess why, because a certain client wants it shown), and so Cedillo went ahead even after that warning from the judge.
So at this point, we think tomorrow Ray will file a list of discovery that he wants before his side can be given to counter Cedillo. The church then has until Friday at noon to answer it, and then Judge Waldrip will make his decision Friday afternoon.
But after what Nick told us Waldrip said in court today, we’d be very surprised if he didn’t grant Monique the ability to gather that evidence, and then give her answer to the anti-SLAPP on February 16.
On January 24, the church’s motion for reconsideration (to convince Waldrip not to order Miscavige’s deposition) and Monique’s motion for sanctions will be heard.
And while Waldrip threatened Lamont Jefferson that Miscavige better be ready to be deposed next week, we think it was just a way of delivering the message that Lamont’s argument was really stupid.
Now we’ll call Ray Jeffrey and see if we can get his version of what happened. We may or may not start up a separate story.
Another thing from Nick: After Waldrip was telling Jefferson he better have his client Miscavige ready next week, Jefferson then brought up the motion to reconsider.
Nick says at that point Waldrip said that “unless there’s something new, I don’t need to hear it.” (Meaning the motion.) “These competing First Amendment and jurisdictional issues are bogging down the litigation.”
Spoke with Ray. It’s worth a story on its own. Look for a new post in another half hour or so.
We’ve heard from Nick Rogers and Mike Bennitt, who are in the courtroom and ready to go. Nick tells us it looks like there’s going to be another morning of waiting as Judge Waldrip clears his docket of other matters first.
Mike Bennitt: “Still haven’t started yet. This is going to be a long day. We’re not going to start for another half hour. A hearing is starting now and the judge asked the lawyers to vacate the tables.”
Nick says that a hearing on a child support case is wrapping up, and he thinks Monique’s suit may be up soon.
A reminder of what’s happening today. We believe that Judge Waldrip will take up Monique’s motion for sanctions, during which there may be some interesting argument about Mike Rinder’s 2007 texts (which John Sweeney discussed above). Scientology will also be fighting over Judge Waldrip’s order that Monique could depose Scientology leader David Miscavige for jurisdictional issues. (Miscavige filed a ‘special appearance’ and asked to be released from the lawsuit because he says he’s never done any business in Texas.) Monique filed notice to depose Miscavige on January 29, but then Scientology filed a motion to quash it. Scientology also filed a motion to reconsider, asking Judge Waldrip to rethink his order allowing Monique to depose Miscavige.
What won’t be discussed today is Scientology’s anti-SLAPP motion. Scientology presented its argument for that motion on January 8, and Monique has been granted a continuance to gather more evidence for her response. Scientology has until Monday to turn over the evidence she’s asking for. Then, on February 3 and 4, Monique will present her answer to the anti-SLAPP motion, and Judge Waldrip will decide whether this lawsuit can continue. Those will be big days in court.
HERE WE GO…
NICK ROGERS: Ray Jeffrey now giving his opening argument for sanctions.
Nick says they’re out on lunch break after an initial session that mostly featured arguing about statutes and case law.
“It’s really detailed stuff,” Nick says.
Ray Jeffrey, Monique Rathbun’s attorney, is seeking sanctions against Scientology for not producing any records. But Scientology is arguing that Monique’s team didn’t follow the proper procedures.
The Scientology team tried to convince Judge Dib Waldrip that Jeffrey had to file a motion to compel (to force them to turn over documents) before he could file a motion for sanctions.
Jeffrey said that the rules were clear — he could have filed either a motion to compel or a motion for sanctions.
Waldrip looked through the rules, and said he would do a more complete study of that point during the lunch break.
Nick says one of the best lines of the morning belonged to Scientology attorney Ricardo Cedillo, who complained about the media attention to the lawsuit.
“He accused Ray of trying to create a media circus so the rules of law would be ignored,” Nick says.
Um, yeah. Media circus.
He points out that besides himself and Mike Bennitt, ESMB’s “Lone Star” is present, as well as San Antonio reporter John McCormack, who has a photographer with him.
And that’s it.
Some media circus.
But then, Nick said, Cedillo outdid himself with yet another great observation…
We’re wondering what kind of intestinal fortitude it required of Cedillo to say this with a straight face, but Nick tells us at one point the Scientology attorney made this complaint about Monique’s legal team…
“Every time it’s going against them, they want to try something else.”
Oh no he didn’t.
Cedillo really must think Judge Waldrip is a drooling, mouth-breathing moron.
We told Nick that is sounds like to us that Ray is complaining that the church hasn’t turned over any evidence, but the church is saying they haven’t been asked properly.
Yep, that’s about it, Nick said.
He tells us that Lamont Jefferson, lawyer for David Miscavige, also made a complaint about the way Ray Jeffrey is handling things, saying that Ray’s requests for evidence have been overbroad and improperly asked for, and Ray also ‘broke the lawyer’s code’ by asking for sanctions.
But Nick says that Scientology’s main complaint — that Ray could not file a motion for sanctions without first filing a motion to compel — didn’t seem to be gaining traction with Judge Waldrip.
“He said he couldn’t find anything in the case law the church had brought up that said Jeffrey couldn’t do this. But he said he’s going to look at it more thoroughly,” Nick said. “Almost the whole first 30 minutes was arguing over statutes and case law.”
Finally, Nick pointed out one other rather strange occurrence from the morning session.
He said that Jonathan Hull, who represents hired would-be spy Steven Gregory Sloat and Squirrel Buster Ed Bryan, filed his own motion to quash the deposition of Scientology leader David Miscavige.
Nick said he found it curious that Sloat (who claimed he never talked to anyone in Scientology) and Bryan (who the Church of Scientology International admits to sending to protest at the home of the Rathbuns) would try to quash the deposition of a person who is supposedly not in charge of them.
A short video from Mike Bennitt of Ray Jeffrey making his opening statement.
Sorry for the lack of updates. If you remember, last time, Waldrip kept everyone in the courtroom until about 5:30 pm Texas time, and without allowing electronic communications.
We may be in for a lengthy wait.
They’re out! Bennitt says Nick is getting a clarification from Ray Jeffrey on today’s outcome…
DEPOSITION NOT QUASHED
JUDGE WALDRIP SUGGESTS MISCAVIGE DEPOSITION TAKE PLACE IN COURTROOM
Not sure yet if that was just a suggestion or an order, still getting info…
Miscavige deposition date still to be set. Waldrip wants evidence matters settled first. Could be months before deposition is taken…
OK, off the phone with Nick. As we said, Judge Waldrip, after listening to the arguments of David Miscavige’s attorney, Lamont Jefferson, did not quash Miscavige’s deposition.
Nick says that Waldrip told Jefferson that he was not persuaded, though he appreciated all his hard work.
Lamont kept arguing, saying that all Monique’s team wants is Miscavige’s deposition, and there would be nothing gained from it.
But Waldrip was firm: He said the evidence in the lawsuit is contradictory, so he doesn’t see anything wrong with deposing Miscavige for his version of events.
Lamont then complained about Jeffrey asking Miscavige open-ended questions.
Waldrip said he understood there would be objections, maybe to every question Miscavige would be asked, so maybe the deposition should take place in the courtroom in Waldrip’s presence.
Oh my. We’re not sure if he was just thinking out loud again, but we’ll check later with Ray Jeffrey on that.
We asked Nick about Monique’s motion for sanctions. “He didn’t go with sanctions yet,” Nick told us. Nick said that Waldrip told Ray Jeffrey that he needed to clarify his motion, that there were levels of sanctions.
Waldrip suggested that they could confer over the next seven days, and if Scientology didn’t cough up documents that he’s already ordered them to turn over, then Ray could come back with a more detailed motion for sanctions or a motion to compel.
Nick says that Lamont Jefferson kept asking for a hearing on Miscavige’s “special appearance” — saying that it should happen before Miscavige is deposed.
(Sneaky. If Waldrip were to grant the special appearance, then Miscavige is out of the case and no deposition.)
But Walddrip said they need evidence before a hearing can be held. That’s the point of the deposition.
Nice try, Lamont.
Waldrip deflected Jefferson’s arguments by pointing out that there were contradictions in the evidence so far, which a deposition of Miscavige might clear up. Specifically, he pointed to the testimony of RTC employee Warren McShane.
In a declaration, McShane testified that 25 years of travel records showed that except for one trip to Dallas to open an “Ideal Org,” David Miscavige had spent no time in Texas. But when he was deposed, under questioning by Ray Jeffrey, McShane admitted that he hadn’t actually gone through any of Miscavige’s travel records himself.
Waldrip pointed out that it suggested McShane was just saying what Miscavige told him — so what’s wrong with asking Miscavige directly?
Also, Waldrip brought up the 2009 issue of Freedom magazine which had described Miscavige as being in control of “external affairs” for the church. Well, wouldn’t that put him in control of surveillance operations in Texas? Again, it was something that could be clarified in a deposition.
Lamont Jefferson then took another argument. (He must have known the 2009 Freedom article was bad.) He tried to argue that any CEO would take control of any threat against his company. But Miscavige taking an interest in a threat is not proof that he ordered the investigation in Texas.
But Waldrip again pointed to the Freedom article, saying that it suggested there was a question about Miscavige’s role that it brought up. So again, another reason why Miscavige could speak for himself.
At that point, Jefferson tried to make a religious argument, about Miscavige being a religious leader, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere.
A couple more Lamont Jefferson gems…
Nick says Jefferson was making the argument that the depositions made in the case so far were made under oath, so they have to be treated as the truth.
But then Waldrip pointed out that McShane changed his story under questioning, so that wasn’t necessarily the case.
At another point, Lamont was apparently trying to ridicule Monique’s assertion that Miscavige was actually behind the Texas surveillance by saying that the church leader couldn’t, for example, have made a secret trip to Texas — he’d be recognized by millions.
But Waldrip said, until you showed a picture of him to me, I’d never heard of him.
Oh, that Judge Waldrip.
Nick says that at one point, Lamont Jefferson showed a page with pictures of all the 16 people who have filed declarations in favor of Monique’s case arguing that Miscavige is in control of everything in Scientology.
Nick could see that the title on the page was “Rathbun’s Posse”
Ray Jeffrey objected to the use of the word. But Waldrip said it was no different than him using “Captain” or “Pope.” Jeffrey pointed out, however, that those were Scientology’s own words.
Nick said he had to keep from laughing.
Nick also pointed out that at one point Lamont Jefferson referred to John Brousseau as a maintenance man.
That “maintenance man,” Jeffrey pointed out, was at one time L. Ron Hubbard’s personal driver. (And, we’ll add, he was also David Miscavige’s brother-in-law for 16 years!)
Finally, we asked Nick if the 2007 Mike Rinder texts ever came up, and he said Ray Jeffrey only mentioned them briefly.
Now talking to Lone Star, more in a minute…
We met Lone Star when we attended the first court hearing in Monique’s case.
He had a few more observations to make after looking at what Nick told us.
He said that when Lamont Jefferson was going on about how David Miscavige was like the CEO of a major international business, he actually said that like other CEO’s, it was his job to “crush the competition,” because that’s what CEOs do.
And yet, not much longer after that, Lamont was on again about how Miscavige was an ecclesiastical leader with more rarefied tasks.
Lone Star made it sound like Lamont didn’t seem to understand what a nonsensical contrast that was.
And here’s one of the best.
Lone Star says that at another point when Lamont was talking about Miscavige the CEO, he actually said that as part of his job, Miscavige “smashes squirrels.”
“Lamont will be briliant, and then he’ll fire a few foot-bullets that are just unbelievable,” Lone Star says.
Lone Star adds that Jefferson was repeatedly warning Judge Waldrip about “setting a dangerous precedent.” He suggested that subjecting a major CEO and religious leader to a deposition would be something that would have grave consequences or something.
“The whole world is watching” Lone Star said Jefferson said, “and you don’t want to set a dangerous precedent.”
And there was another strategy Lamont Jefferson used, Lone Star added. He kept referring to the special appearance (Miscavige’s attempt to get out of the lawsuit) and the idea of bringing in a CEO from another state to testify, and he said it was all part of “evolving law.”
He said there were several recent cases that applied, and which showed that the law was changing, Lone Star said.
“I think he was taking things out of context, and I think Ray Jeffrey did a good job knocking that down.”
Finally, and most ominously, Lone Star said at one point about Waldrip ordering Miscavige’s deposition to be taken, Lamont said, “I think a Texas appeals court will take a different view of that.”
Lone Star said the unstated second half of that utterance was, “My brother is right here behind me taking notes to make sure of that.”
“That’s what he does, is take notes. Constantly,” Lone Star said about Wallace Jefferson.
Nick Rogers called back with a couple of additional notes: Judge Waldrip was really starting to get visibly angry when they were arguing about sanctions. Cedillo was talking about getting the motion tossed, and Waldrip was trying to get everyone on the same page about the seven days limit.
Cedillo motored on, and Waldrip actually whistled to get Cedillo to shut up. He called Cedillo “obstructive.” And when Cedillo said he was arguing so vociferously because Jeffrey had raised the issue of criminal perjury charges in the sanctions motion, Waldrip said, “No one’s asking you to defend that today, Mr. Cedillo.” He was very perturbed, Nick says.
Waldrip had also wondered out loud about so much money being spent on a simple thing like MIscavige’s deposition.
We want to thank Nick Rogers, Mike Bennitt, and Lone Star for being our eyes and ears today.
We’re going to have a bite to eat and then interview Ray Jeffery. If we do another story, it will be a new post. Thanks, everyone!
BONUS VIDEO from Mike Bennitt: Scientology lawyer Ricardo Cedillo complains about the “media circus” that he blames on Ray Jeffrey.
Looks like Ray Jeffrey wanted the night off. I’ll try and get an update from him tomorrow.
Thanks again to our great correspondents. And the comments were particularly clever and fun today. Glad everyone had a great time.
Tomorrow morning we’ve got another really good conversation with Jefferson Hawkins, and we also got an update from Arlene Cordova that you’re going to want to see.
Next big dates in Monique’s case: By January 27, Scientology is supposed to have turned over evidence required for Monique’s anti-SLAPP response. Then on February 3 and 4, she’ll present her argument, and Waldrip will need to make a decision about that motion.
We’ve heard from both Nick Rogers and Mike Bennitt, who are in the courtroom this morning. And now we can reveal that we have another special correspondent in Comal County — Jeffrey Augustine, a/k/a J. Swift and OTVIIIisgrrr8!
Mike Bennitt reports — John Allender and Ed Bryan are in the courtroom. THE SQUIRREL BUSTERS ARE IN THE HOUSE!
Marty and Monique have arrived. Still waiting for Judge Waldrip to come in.
Kendrick Moxon in the house. Also, Mike Bennitt says there’s an Austin DSA in the back row of the courtroom. That would be a local representative of the Office of Special Affairs, Scientology’s intelligence and spying wing. We’ve been meaning to ask Ray Jeffrey when he’s going to bring up to Judge Waldrip that there have been increasing signs of Scientology surveilling the lawsuit that is supposedly preventing them from doing an surveilling.
This morning’s bombshell: Ray Jeffrey has filed a new motion accusing Scientology of submitting video evidence that is “incomplete and defective.”
You remember that last week, we told you that Scientology had turned over evidence it was required to submit, but marked it “attorney’s eyes only.” What was that evidence? A terabyte of video. It was supposedly all of the footage that the Squirrel Busters and other Scientology operatives had shot of the Rathbuns in their surveillance operation.
But even though Monique’s attorneys couldn’t share that video with Monique and Marty, the attorneys themselves discovered that what Scientology had turned over was incomplete and misleading.
How did they do that? We can explain.
Back in October, we told you about the crazy chance meeting between Marty Rathbun and Israel Cardoza, a videographer who had worked for Scientology to film the Rathbuns before the Squirrel Busters operation. Well, Mr. Cardoza had footage to share with Monique’s legal team, and it shows that the evidence Scientology turned over last week is missing key moments that tend to show Scientology in a bad light.
In other words, busted.
As we said, Jeff/Swift/OTVIII is in Comal County, but he’s not in the courtroom. We don’t know WHAT that guy’s up to.
Judge Waldrip has entered the courtroom. And hold onto yer butts — Mike Bennitt thinks he may have spotted Joanne Wheaton!
J. Swift is out of the courtroom, and he says Ray Jeffrey showed the one minute, no audio video that the church had supplied, which showed Monique pulling up to her house. Then Jeffrey showed the complete 10-minute clip with sound.
Monique pulls up, sheriff’s deputy arrives, asks the videographer who he is and what he’s doing. He says that he’s working for Eliot Abelson and Monty Drake.
It’s very damaging, J. Swift is saying.
It was a shock in the courtroom, he says. Ray asked if he found any other discrepancies, could he submit those, and Judge Waldrip replied, if you find any other time bombs, you can.
The judge said very sharply to Cedillo that there was no reason to parse that video.
Cedillo didn’t respond, Swift says.
Swift says there was a back and forth fight about Ray even showing those videos, but Waldrip allowed it. He’s now going to head back into court.
He also says that Jeffrey Riffer is in the room. Remember Riffer’s over-the-top letter describing David Miscavige as “one of the greatest individuals of our time”? Amazing.
Swift: “Devastating L. Ron Hubbard ‘Fair Game’ policies just quoted.”
Already out for the day. Starting up again tomorrow. Getting an update from Swift and Nick…
So after talking to Swift and Nick, we’ve learned that the morning was taken up with fights over the video evidence, as we mentioned. Then, attorney Marc Wiegand began presenting Monique’s arguments against the anti-SLAPP motion. Then, the hearing recessed for the day as Judge Waldrip had other matters scheduled for the afternoon. So they’ll reconvene in the morning and continue with Wiegand’s presentation.
So now, on to some pretty juicy details…
It was an extremely contentious day, Nick tells us. “Judge Waldrip got pissed. He actually went silent for a few moments to compose himself. I haven’t seen that before.”
The day started with Ray Jeffrey arguing about so much material being labeled “attorney’s eyes only. But Scientology attorney Ricardo Cedillo complained that if they didn’t do that, “They’re only going to put that stuff on the Internet.”
But Judge Waldrip asked, how is a photo of the Rathbuns confidential? It’s not proprietary.
Nick said that Ray suggested labeling them confidential instead.
When Waldrip seemed amenable to allowing Monique see the videos, Cedillo still didn’t want Marty to have access to them — because he was the target of the investigation.
Nick says Judge Waldrip said, “There has to be a pretty compelling reason for me to invade the sanctity of marriage.”
So both of the Rathbuns get to see the material, and it will be labeled “confidential.”
Then, Ray wanted to show video in court, and things really got contentious.
As we said before, Ray showed what the church turned over — a 1-minute, no-audio video segment, versus the original material, which was a 10-minute video with sound.
But Nick says Judge Waldrip was very resistant to Ray about the presentation. How did it address the anti-SLAPP motion?
But he was equally unhappy with the editing job by Scientology.
Nick says Ricardo Cedillo tried to justify it by saying they had people working 18 hours a day to produce this information for the court.
Waldrip’s answer, Nick says, was cutting: “What you’re telling me is that you have people 18 hours a day cutting stuff.”
Nick says Cedillo responded to the judge by asking him if he wanted the church to give him the full terabyte of video.
Judge Waldrip: No, I want you to give it to them.
And he added: “This just keeps going on and on. If you cut stuff you’re just picking a fight.”
Cedillo claimed that he was just following the letter of Waldrip’s order, and Nick says that seemed to really anger Judge Waldrip.
Waldrip said, We’re spending time doing nothing except burning money and wasting resources. I’m about up to the limit of your tilting at windmills, he said to Cedillo.
But Nick says that Waldrip seemed almost as upset at Ray Jeffrey.
Put yourself in our place, Ray said to the judge.
Judge Waldrip was apparently not convinced that playing the videos was relevant to the anti-SLAPP motion, which is about trying to decide if Scientology’s surveillance operation was protected free speech.
Ray explained that it did pertain to the motion because it undercut Scientology’s argument that what they were doing had a religious purpose.
Nick said it wasn’t until Leslie Hyman, an attorney who works with Elliott Cappuccio, told the judge that the video cuts bring up relevant questions about Scientology’s true motive in the operation that it seemed to placate the judge.
But Nick says the judge was clearly unhappy about the cuts to the video, saying to Cedillo, “That’s the problem with taking a paring knife to discovery. Take your paring knife and dull it.”
As we pointed out earlier, Nick said that Judge Waldrip used the words ‘time bomb’ when he referred to the differences in the two videos played, and it seemed to alarm Cedillo.
“Do you call that a time bomb, your honor?” he asked.
“Call it whatever you want. There was no reason to parse that video,” Waldrip responded.
Nick said Marc Wiegand began his presentation arguing against Scientology’s anti-SLAPP motion. One thing he was trying to do was make the judge understand what it was like to be followed, photographed, and protested for day after day — until it stretched into four years. This was not just some free speech protest, but surveillance that was intended to create “soul-crushing despair.”
He quoted L. Ron Hubbard policies about Fair Game which direct Scientologists to “ruin utterly” their enemeies. And when Cedillo objected, Judge Waldrip overruled him.
Weigand’s presentation will pick up again tomorrow.
Nick called back to tell us about another moment he thought was important: Judge Waldrip said to the Scientology team that at some point, he was going to need an explanation for what these different entities — CSI, RTC, etc. — actually do.
Yeah, we’d like an explanation too, judge.
Here’s a short video segment from today’s action from Mike Bennitt.
That’s the extent of our updates here.
We’ll try to talk to Ray Jeffrey later on, and if we do we’ll save it for tomorrow morning’s post to start day two of this hearing.
Thanks again to our great team — Nick Rogers, J. Swift, and Mike Bennitt!
Talked to Ray Jeffrey this morning. He tells me that Marc Wiegand and Leslie Hyman will be arguing against the anti-SLAPP motion today starting at 11 am Eastern.
But he thinks it’s likely that things won’t wrap up today. He explained that the arguing over anti-SLAPP can keep going all the way until February 18 or even longer, and Judge Waldrip will then have 30 more days to issue a decision once the hearing is completed.
Scientology’s attorneys have repeatedly brought up dates by which time things should be completed, but Judge Waldrip has questioned those readings of the statute. So this may take longer than we initially believed. Hey, it’s his court.
Just talked to Nick, who’s going back in after a lunch break.
He says Wiegand and Hyman spent the morning laying out all the personal harassment that the Rathbuns experienced, including being followed, photographed, and disrupted in their daily lives. Monique’s co-workers and family members were contacted.
These activities have nothing to do with the church’s free speech rights. They emphasized that the lawsuit is not about the right of the Squirrel Busters to protest or make films. It’s about the day to day surveillance that the Rathbuns had to endure.
Nick said that Leslie Hyman really seemed to score some points when she took on Scientology’s argument about trademarks.
Scientology says it has a right to surveil Marty Rathbun because it needs to protect its copyrights and trademarks, and when Marty was counseling outside the church, he was in violation of that.
But Leslie pointed out that if that were true, why didn’t the church sue Marty over trademark infringement? They didn’t do that when they had the chance, and the statute of limitations on that ran out and the church was still surveilling him.
Nick said it seemed like a very impressive argument.
From J. Swift on the morning’s proceedings: “Marc Wiegand is arguing that the Squirrel Busters did not engage in protected free speech. They rather engaged in intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy while attempting to justify it as making a documentary.
“Wiegand showed a photo of the Squirrel Busters in the paddle boat in the canal behind the Rathbun home, and Lamont Jefferson visibly cringed.”
Just heard from Mike Rinder, who sent along this message. (He’s not in Texas at the hearing.)
I just learned that the SLAPP statute in Texas allows for an appeal, so now I understand why the church brought this clearly foolish motion. They know it will be denied and the case is stayed pending appeal. It is merely an attrition tactic.
I think Judge Waldrip will write another pretty lengthy opinion, knowing it will be appealed. His last one was written like an appellate opinion, I predict this one will be too. I was not aware that this was an element of the statute, and it suddenly made sense.
The church knows it won’t win this motion. But it will delay the Miscavige deposition and cost more time and money to fight what was a silly motion in the first place. But it’s only silly if you aren’t looking at it from Miscavige’s perspective.
Next they will file a motion to dismiss on First Amendment grounds that will make virtually the same arguments again.
This is how you game the system when you have unlimited funds. Pity we don’t have the same system here as in a lot of countries — loser pays the other side’s fees and costs. This case could end up with $ 20 million in attorney billable hours by the time it is over.
Nick out on a short recess. Some notes coming in a moment…
Nick tells us that Marc Wiegand and Leslie Hyman concluded their presentation, and Ricardo Cedillo was given his opportunity to present Scientology’s response. (That means we’re farther along today than Ray Jeffrey told us he thought we’d get to when we talked to him this morning.)
“Cedillo went over the same territory he’s gone over before,” Nick says. The Scientology attorney said that the church had the right to investigate Marty Rathbun because Rathbun was violating Scientology’s copyrights and trademarks. (Rathbun had left the church in 2004, and by 2009 was writing publicly about being an independent Scientologist, offering counseling services outside the church organization.)
Cedillo also said Monique’s lawsuit was really all about the Squirrel Buster protest, regardless of what they say.
(Wiegand and Hyman had said that Monique is not suing over the Squirrel Busters holding protests and filming, but about the constant surveillance and harassment that disrupted their lives for four solid years.)
Nick said that Cedillo also talked about the ten-minute video that was shown yesterday. It was made on May 4, 2010, and predated the Squirrel Busters by nearly a full year. But Cedillo now says that the 2010 video wasn’t part of an investigation of the Rathbuns, but part of another documentary — a documentary that the church was making about John Sweeney.
Who’s John Sweeney, asked Judge Waldrip.
Cedillo’s answer was so precious.
Asked by Waldrip who John Sweeney was, Nick says that Cedillo answered…
“He’s an avowed anti-Scientologist who works for a British media outlet.”
Oh, that’s a good one, Ricardo.
What strikes us is that Scientology has already admitted that it sent Monty Drake to try to find Rathbun in Texas in 2007. But now Cedillo wants the court to believe that it had sent private eyes and videographers to film the Rathbuns at their home in Ingleside on the Bay in 2010 because they were making a film about a BBC journalist? (Sweeney was in Florida and California for his 2007 film, “Scientology and Me,” but it’s our recollection that he flew Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder over to London for his 2010 follow-up, “The Secrets of Scientology.” If Sweeney went to Texas for either of those films, please remind us, but it isn’t coming up in our memory banks.)
Anyway, Nick points out the most damaging line from the 10-minute video, as far as Cedillo’s story. When the person filming spots Monique, he’s heard to say, “Is that her?”
Yeah, a Sweeney documentary.
Anyway, Nick says that most of the afternoon has been taken up with detailed battles over case law.
“Cedillo laid out a very long, solid case. But so did Wiegand and Hyman,” Nick says. “It’s an interesting First Amendment argument all the way around.”
But Nick says he’s left with the question: If the Squirrel Busters was an exercise in free speech, what were they hoping to achieve? That hasn’t really been explained very well by Scientology.
Nick says that Cedillo took the time to give a detailed timeline of the entire operation against the Rathbuns. Judge Waldrip asked him, So everything on the timeline is about protecting trademarks?
Nick felt that Cedillo’s answer to that turned out to be unwise.
He said that Cedillo explained that the timeline reflected efforts by the church to find out what Marty Rathbun was doing, and to find out who was meeting with him and what they were up to.
Nick said it really came off looking bad. “It made the church look like Big Brother, keeping tabs on its members,” he says.
Another observation by Nick: During their presentation, Wiegand and Hyman were going through all of the things that Monique had put up with during years of being followed and interfered with. At one point, one of the Squirrel Busters called her a “bitch.”
Nick says it was clearly just an example that Monique’s team included to show the cumulative effect of what she went through. But Cedillo, for some reason, acted like the case turned on that utterance.
“Cedillo went on and on about free speech,” Nick said. Cedillo spent a lot of energy arguing that Scientology had the First Amendment right to call Monique Rathbun a bitch, but Nick says that Cedillo was acting like it was one of the causes of action in the suit, not just an example of what Monique had to put up with.
Nick says that the attorneys for Dave Lubow (Scientology’s chief private eye) and Ed Bryan (one of the Squirrel Busters) indicated that they also wanted to respond this afternoon.
We will be curious to see what they have to add to Cedillo’s arguments. We’ve thought of them as being largely along for the ride on this.
So now we wait for the final break. Thank you for your patience.
Just tweeted by John Sweeney: “In 2010 I did go to Texas to meet Marty, we were filmed and harassed by Church of #Scientology PIs.”
Also, heard from Nick — they’re out. Should get some updates in a few minutes.
J. Swift has an observation for us. He said that Leslie Hyman had a stunning moment near day’s end.
Scientology attorney Ricardo Cedillo had been arguing that because Marty and Monique Rathbun had been operating a business from their home — offering independent Scientology counseling and writing about it on Marty’s blog — then they had no expectation of privacy. This was another justification for the years of surveillance they experienced.
But Leslie Hyman said to Judge Waldrip, if the Rathbuns were running a business, then Scientology is running a business as well, and the anti-SLAPP motion doesn’t apply.
You can’t have it both ways, she explained. This is either a business dispute — and anti-SLAPP does not apply to business disputes — or the Rathbuns’ privacy was invaded.
Is it a business dispute, or did you invade their privacy? Which is it? she asked.
Swift says the Scientology side looked stunned, and the judge really sat up and took notice.
Reports from Nick coming soon…
Nick Rogers tells us that late in the day, the court heard from attorneys for some of the defendants who have been pretty quiet so far.
First up was O. Paul Dunagan, who represents Dallas private eye Monty Drake. (Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder have said that Drake has been used by the church for operations in Texas for many years.)
Dunagan complained to the judge that no one had showed any real evidence about Monty Drake so far.
And Dunagan apparently wanted to make explain what a private investigator like Monty Drake does. No one has an expectation of privacy, he explained, if that person is outside, or if that person is doing naked jumping jacks in front of a window inside their house.
Dunagan admitted that he was using hyperbole, but Nick he couldn’t help wonder if he was preparing the judge for evidence turning up that pictures of Marty and Monique inside their house turned up in evidence.
Nick said the court also heard from Stephanie Bascon, who is representing Scientology private eye Dave Lubow.
She spent some time trashing Bert Leahy, the videographer who had left the Squirrel Busters after a few days, and blew the whistle on what they were actually doing — trying to make life for the Rathbuns “a living hell.” That’s what Bert says were the instructions given them by Lubow.
But Bascon tried to impeach Leahy’s credibility, saying that at one point Leahy had called Lubow, asking him for ,000 to keep his mouth shut, and that he was running down Marty Rathbun in the same call.
Bascon said it showed that Leahy wasn’t a reliable witness.
We told Nick we weren’t sure why either of these objections by Dunagan and Bascon had much to do with the matter at hand — Scientology’s anti-SLAPP motion.
And Waldrip, Nick said, responded to Bascon’s assertions about Leahy by asking, Can’t the court look at the motive of the surveillance and its end result?
Nick said the court also heard from Jonathan Hull, who is representing both Ed Bryan (one of the Squirrel Busters) and Steven Gregory Sloat, the former race car driver who admitted he was hired to spy on the Rathbuns in their new home in Bulverde, Texas.
But Nick says Hull asked why Steve is being sued, and said that unlike Dave Lubow or Monty Drake (“And I’m not picking on them,” he said), Sloat had very little involvement.
Ed Bryan, meanwhile, was also just along for the ride, in this case in a golf cart.
Oh, pity the poor would-be spies and righteous religious warriors who got into bed with David Miscavige and the Church of Scientology. Woe is them.
Nick said that Leslie Hyman had several more amazing moments than the one J. Swift told us about earlier.
At one point, she objected to the way Scientology was characterizing Monique’s arguments about the Squirrel Busters.
Waldrip asked, are you complaining about the videotaping or aren’t you?
We are, Hyman said, as part of the whole campaign, the whole picture. “What they did was so outrageous, it demands remedy,” she said.
And then, she really went in for the kill in regards to the trademarks argument that Scientology is continually pushing.
Nick says she told the judge, “If I’m investigating you about trademarks, I don’t have to talk to your wife about your mother.”
Whoa. That was a reference to private investigators trying to upset Monique by telling her about Marty’s mother, who suffered from mental illness and ultimately killed herself. Monique says they were clearly trying to intimidate her about her own husband, trying to convince her that he was unstable.
“If it’s a trademark question, why do I have to go talk to your family members about your husband?” Hyman asked.
Monique has said that Dave Lubow would show up to her father’s house with a binder of information about Marty, again to try and upset her family about the man Monique married.
It seemed a devastating argument, Nick says.
Nick tells us that Judge Waldrip told both sides that the hearing on the anti-SLAPP motion is technically still open until February 14, and he’ll be accepting additional objections and response until that day.
But it sounds like most of what needed to get done did get done today. Ray Jeffrey had told us that Waldrip will have an additional 30 days to rule after the hearing is finished.
We’ll check with him later for further details, but we’re probably done for today. Check back with us in the morning for any updates.
Thanks again to our correspondents, Nick Rogers and Jeff Augustine. If we get a video from Mike Bennitt, we’ll add it here.
Two hours to go! ID network is showing something about a Hare Krishna murder. Spooky!
Less than an hour to go. Chinese takeout in place.
30 MINUTES. We remember being interviewed down at the South Street Seaport, and the questions went well over the time they had scheduled. It was an interesting day.
We’re finally in place and online — and we want to thank Jens Tingleff for letting us piggyback on his hotspot! The room is filling up, and things are about to start.
The contellation of stars in this room is pretty stunning. We just spotted Nan McLean and we haven’t had a chance to say hello to her yet.
This morning we had breakfast with Hana Whitfield and Spanky Taylor, and across the room we spotted Nibs! Well, one of his sons, who is such a Hubbard you’d never miss it. We’ll be talking with him later.
And suddenly the place is packed. Hana is hugging Jonny Jacobsen. I see Len Zinberg here. And Panoptea. And Andreas Heldal Lund is sitting two chairs over from me.
Jim Beverley is at the podium.
Jon Atack is on stage now, brooding, as he usually does. Ha. Plenty of video cameras here, but it’s all for recording purposes — NO LIVESTREAM.
I just confirmed that with Beverley.
Beverley is welcoming us. Atack is also on the stage, “my fellow conference-creator.”
People here from Australia, Russia, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, etc. “So we’ve done pretty well.”
Beverley said Scientologists were welcome, and also asked for speakers not to be interrupted. Good call.
Telling us how after he saw all the people arriving yesterday, he told his wife he felt like he was in heaven.
And she said, just think, you’ll get to talk about Scientology all week, and then maybe you’ll stop.
Now talking about how he reached out to Atack and went to meet him and how this grew into this conference.
And, now Jon Atack.
He’s having some laptop issues. OK, here we go. Jon is showing us a photo of him in 1975. He was 19 when he got into Scientology at a time he was going through a bad breakup.
An utterly believing member for 9 years. Never doubted Hubbard. But he says he was fortunate that he never joined staff.
Those who did were humiliated and abused.
Telling us about how he would do a level in Scientology and he wouldn’t get the promised results — and when he brought that up, he was always told, you need the next level.
And then he heard about Mary Sue Hubbard going to prison. That there was a purge going on in the movement. With 600 people being named suppressive, including a friend of his.
When Atack complained, he got nowhere.
Jon started seeking out people who had been named suppressive. Met hundreds. I found that most of them were kind, considerate, and intelligent people.
“I decided to stand up against Scientology.” First public meeting of ex-members in 1983 in East Grinstead.
Captain Bill Robinson was there. “He was bananas.” Ha.
About 60 people at that first meeting in 1983. And there was an awful feeling of betrayal in the room, he said.
Outside the door were two church members with clipboards taking down names. Over the years, he says, that kind of surveillance and harassment became a normal part of his life.
Followed by Eugene Ingram wherever he went, all over the world.
They spread rumors that he was a heroin addict, a drug dealer, a rapist, a molester. He was sued in the US and the UK. About ten lawsuits.
Jon running through some slides. He’s showing a protestor who carried a sign outside Jon’s house.
A 20-year Sea Org member. “Support your own family instead of destroying ours” was the sign he carried outside Jon’s house.
He learned that the man hadn’t talked to his family in seven years.
Now he’s put up a slide of L. Ron Hubbard in Queens, taken by Jim Dincalci. They were hiding out in Queens from Dec 1972 to Sept 1973.
Points out the sebaceous cyst on his forehead. Hubbard was so terrified of doctors.
Atack puts up a quote from the famous Judge Breckenridge decision, which came in a lawsuit against Gerry Armstrong.
Atack mentions that Gerry is here and gets a round of applause.
So now Atack is going to run through a biography of LRH.
Just running through one point from Hubbard’s biography: that he claimed to a blood brother of an Indian tribe, and he’s thoroughly ripping it apart.
Now he’s pulling out a gem from the What is Scientology? book, about Ron in China, “watching monks meditate for weeks on end contemplating higher truths.”
Hubbard did visit Asia, and kept journals. Atack points out that there were multiple copies of his journals — Hubbard edited them. But in his own handwriting…
“The people worshipping have voices like bull-frongs. The entire place was shabby and too cold…The trouble with China is, there are too many chinks there.”
Now he’s talking about the ill-fated Caribbean expedition in 1932.
And now we get to his college grades. He claimed to be one of the country’s early nuclear physicists.
Molecular and Atomic Physics, he failed. But he told people he was a scientist.
Now he’s showing the notorious 1938 letter that he wrote his wife, saying that he was going to smash his name into history.
Now we’re up to Hubbard’s navy experience in the war.
Ooh, he just said that academic J. Gordon Melton, in his book, says it was true that Hubbard sank two Japanese submarines off the coast of Oregon, without any proof.
I wonder if that will be the only mention of Melton this week.
Atack says that the church spent 0,000 on a mission to try to find the sunk submarines, and found nothing.
Going through some of Hubbard’s naval records. Hubbard claimed to have been blinded and injured, and had been permanently disabled.
But his actual navy records don’t indicate this.
And anyway, as Jon points out, Hubbard himself wrote about getting into a fistfight on the streets of LA at the same time that he was supposed to be blinded and disabled. Oops.
As for California’s caveat, yes, Jim Beverley is an academic who has worked with Melton.
So what does California think is going to happen? I’m sitting here with Andreas Heldal-Lund, Gerry Armstrong, Jon Atack, and Hana Whitfield.
If Beverley thinks he’s going to get away with any apologism, do you think it would get past that crowd.
Also, California is a loon.
I’ve wanted to say that for years.
Atack on to the Parsons stuff. Photo of Parsons and Marjorie Cameron.
Talking about the Empress card from the Tarot deck. What it meant to Hubbard. Saw her on the wing of his glider when he was a young man.
Now it’s 1947, and Hubbard has hit rock-bottom, emotionally. Wrote to the VA asking for mental health care.
Ooh, Atack mentioned your proprietor. Feel like the kid in class who got mentioned by the teacher.
He’s talking about how we’ve been putting out the full interviews from the “Secret Lives” documentary on the Bunker.
The Barbara Klowden interview, which you can see at our site. But he says Klowden also talked about how Hubbard, drinking a bottle of scotch a day, would be morose for days, unable to do anything — and this was AFTER he claimed he’d discovered the secrets of the human mind.
Jim Dincalci backed that up, saying that Hubbard was majorly depressed.
Ooh, Jon holds up a 1947 book by Hubbard which, on the back cover, talks about his dedication to studying hypnotism.
Now it’s 1950 and Dianetics has come out.
He’s talking about putting on a video of Russell Miller. We’re ahead on time, apparently.
Russell Miller reached out to Atack in 1985. Offered to pay him to help with research. 2,000 pounds. Nice.
He did incredible work, Jon says. Atack had tried to get his book published and had had no luck. So he decided to let Russell have his manuscript to use for research.
Russell did interviews, got documents, and did an amazing job. And just last year his book, Bare-Faced Messiah, was republished (by Silvertail Books!)
Now we’re watching a video interview with Russell Miller.
Russell says he was often in the US in the early 1980s for his work. He suggested to his editor, let’s try to find Hubbard and what happened to him.
I knew he was in California, I knew he was north of LA, and I calculated that he was somewhere near San Luis Obispo.
Then heard that Hubbard had died in 1986. So he had so much material, he decided to put together the book.
“Almost everything the church said about L. Ron Hubbard was a lie.”
Russell: “He [Hubbard] was a complete stranger to the truth.”
He’s running through Hubbard’s lies about his biography, and it’s quite funny. Russell is so fun to listen to.
Even the simplest things, like saying that Hubbard claimed to be born on “Friday the 13th.” But March 13, 1911 was a Monday!
Says it was clear from Hubbard’s Navy record that he was a “malingering coward.” That got a laugh from the crowd.
After publication of Russell’s book, the church claimed that he had been fooled by navy records that had been “sheep-dipped” and that Hubbard was secretly a hero.
In fact, Hubbard’s record is filled with problems, and hardly the kind of thing that was an anodyne record to cover up something else.
And anyway, where are these “real” records of his actual war activities? The church has never come up with them.
Post war, how Hubbard was always on the take, trying to get payment for wounds that never existed.
“I was left with some admiration of Hubbard,” Russell says, if only because Hubbard could carry on in this manner for so long.
He’s asked about harassment, and Russell talks about being followed in his car every day. That rumors about him were bring spread.
“They started accusing me of being responsible for unsolved crimes.”
A murder. An arson attack. They’d tell the police that it was Russell.
So Russell’s book was sued all over the world by Scientology, but he prevailed everywhere — except the US.
In the US, a well-heeled plaintiff can keep something like that go on forever if they try hard enough. And Russell’s publisher couldn’t keep it up.
Private eyes tracked down virtually everyone he knew in the US. (It was Eugene Ingram.)
Russell called Ingram. “what precisely are you trying to prove.” “Well, we’re pretty sure you killed Dean Reed, and we’re trying to prove it.”
I wrote about this at the Bunker earlier. Reed was an American singer in Germany. Russell had gone to interview him when Reed committed suicide. And so Scientology was trying to prove that he had been responsible for Reed’s death.
“I stand by the book. It was the most deeply researched book I’d ever done” — Russell
The church never questioned what he’d written, they just harassed and followed him, and sued him over things like copyright.
He holds up what he calls a very rare American edition of the book — Hey, that’s the same version I have! I can’t remember who I stole it from. Graham Berry, probably.
Jon pointing out a couple of corrections to what Russell said in the video.
Russell had said that Gerry Armstrong was the church’s official biographer of Hubbard — actually, Gerry had secured a huge amount of Hubbard documents, and he helped copy them for the man who was actually hired to write the official church biography, Omar Garrison.
Gerry’s story is really complex, and we all make mistakes like that in his story. I know it drives him nuts, but Gerry, we do our best!
Gerry pointing out that the photo of Hubbard is in Queens was in 1973, not 1972. (I noticed that too.) And he wants to correct the notion that he took documents from the church.
(See our previous comment. Gerry is sensitive about how those particulars tend to get misrepresented.)
Jim Beverley now talking, saying how church officials recently gave him some dead agent packs. He says one of them was bout your proprietor. Interesting.
David Pike asks Atack if Hubbard ever got a disability pension from the Navy. Yes he did, Atack, says, but it was very small.
So that’s end of the first session. Time for a 20 minute break. Time for me to say hi to the people I didn’t get a chance to greet yet.
The guy next to me is about to pour water over my smoking fingers. Aaaaah.
I took some photos at the break. Check out these pairs I snagged!
First, from one of my favorite stories of all time, Tory Christman and Andreas Heldal-Lund!
Just the other day we featured a moving essay by Len Zinberg, who was a surprise in our book. Forty years ago, he was tasked by the Guardian’s Office with trailing Paulette Cooper — but he never got the chance.
Now, for the first time, they meet! Wow.
OK, we’re starting the second session, and Jon Atack is on stage with Gerry Armstrong.
Gerry’s starting to talk. Mentions his wife Caroline Letkeman. She’s apparently made cards for everyone. Ooh, tchotchkes!
Gerry’s telling us his story, about growing up in Chilliwack, BC, and ending up in the Sea Org. Joining the Apollo in 1971 and was on it for four years.
Telling us about his various posts on the ship.
Gerry is telling us that part of his responsibilities had to do with tracking down people who blew.
He also worked directly with Hubbard a lot. His later posts involved intelligence.
“The Sea Org was an incredible experience. In a way it was terrifying. I believe I was in a state of fear virtually the entire time.”
Gerry is saying that he’s critical of New Religious Movement scholars, who often consider former members to be “apostates” and shouldn’t be listened to.
In fact, he says, those are the people who are telling the truth.
Couldn’t agree more, Gerry.
Gerry talks about being locked up on the fifth or sixth floor of Fifield Manor circa 1976. (The chateau that is today the Hollywood Celebrity Centre.)
Gerry has us laughing over the wedding (most of you have seen the photo) when, after the ceremony, the gifts all went to Hubbard rather than to the brides and grooms.
Now he’s talking about the deprivations of the Rehabilitation Project Force. Ended up sleeping in a parking garage at the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater (same as what Nancy Many went through when she was five months pregnant!).
Interrogations. Whatever you said was written down and recorded and could be used against you.
Gerry is running through OT 3, and once again, it’s the spaceships in the form of DC-8s that always gets the biggest laugh.
Oh, El Ron.
Atack interjects about how the Scientologists who met with Beverley made the usual points, such as that “Christianity is completely compatible with Scientology,” Atack said.
And Gerry, totally straight-faced, quickly added…
“The same way Satanism is.”
Gerry says the getting rid of his body thetans helped him leave Scientology, because he had love for his BTs and didn’t want to cast them out.
That got a good laugh.
Gerry says that your body is supposed to be actually composed of body thetans, and Atack points out the problem with driving them away if that’s true.
These jokers ought to take their act on the road.
After the FBI raid, and after Hubbard hid out in Nevada for a while, LRH came back to the California desert and started making training films.
Gerry says he was Props I/C and Sets I/C.
Then later was at the Gilman Hot Springs, setting up another operation. A raid threat. One of Gerry’s underlings, the LRH Gear I/C, brought a box of material and said, what should I do with this?
They were trying to find stuff to destroy that might incriminate Hubbard. But this was a pile of documents from Hubbard’s childhood and entire history. No, don’t destroy these, they have value.
He went to where they were stored, and took 20 or 21 boxes of old material. Gerry thought that it might form material for a library or archive and for public relations purposes.
Gerry says his last communication with Hubbard was in February 1980, when LRH went into permanent hiding.
Fun moment: He said he had money to purchase a car because he had an unlimited budget in a project to get Hubbard a Nobel Prize for the sauna program (Purification Rundown).
Talking about working with Omar Garrison, the writer who was hired by Scientology to write an official biography.
Interesting: Gerry said that having access to the actual Hubbard documentation helped him deprogram himself.
Gerry says Omar’s nickname for Hubbard was “Johnny Goodbugger.”
Ha. The hero of Battlefield Earth is Johnny Goodboy Tyler, and Gerry says there was data in the documents that in his youth about buggery. Wow.
Beverley cutting in now, as we’re running into lunch. Wow, time is flying. That’s a good sign.
OK, we’ve broken for lunch. See you back in about an hour.
OK, starting the afternoon session.
Jon begins, “What is Scientology?”
Hey, if you don’t know no one does, Jon.
Ah, he’s reading from the Latey decision. Yeah, that one left a mark.
“[Scientology] is dangerous because it is out to capture people, especially children and impressionable young people, and indoctrinate them”
Jon’s doing an archaelogical dig of Dianetics now. What was the base material that Hubbard was influenced by when he dreamed it up?
He tells us about a book named “Men Under Stress” that Hubbard might have run across at Oak Knoll Hospital after the war.
Also how Hubbard co-opted Freudian terms, and added pheno-barbital to the mix.
In Dianetics, Hubbard made various promises for Clear, including raised IQ and imperviousness to certain ailments.
Dianetics sold 150,000 copies in 1950, probably reaching something like 370,000 people. But then things fell apart.
The publisher withdrew the book, and all but one of his chief initial followers abandoned Hubbard.
His second wife, Sara Northrup, accused Hubbard of torture.
Now he’s talking about Hubbard and hypnosis. And Science of Survival — which he says Hubbard didn’t write.
“This is the primary textbook of the Church of Scientology,” Jon says as shows the cover of “Magick: The Master Therion” by Aleister Crowley
Atack says he traced 120 different ideas Hubbard plagiarized for Scientology, and 60 of them come from this book — which Hubbard actually recommended that his followers read (but they never do).
Jon is telling us what fun it was when he finally realized that “thetan” is how a lisping person says Satan.
He’s describing how much Hubbard’s ideas about Body Satans comes from Crowley.
“He’s torturing a tomato!”
Well, you can imagine which slide he just put up.
Jon just put up the handwritten notes to OT 3 on the screen, and now everyone around me has pneumonia.
He’s put up a copy of the Sea Org contract, and he’s asked Hana Whitfield to come up to the stage.
They rearranged the chairs and now Atack is on stage with Gerry Armstrong and Hana Whitfield.
Hana was the second person to sign a Sea Org contract.
She’s telling her history. From Johannesburg, and how the title of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health grabbed her.
She had seen someone electroshocked in a hospital and it traumatized her.
She got to Saint Hill, and attended LRH speeches that became part of the Special Briefing Course.
She’s describing what it was like to watch Hubbard bound to the speaker’s podium. And what it was like to hear him speak.
How Hubbard would go into a reverie and take off on a tangent, then get back to the main point and shake off that reverie.
Did anyone else notice there was something wrong the guy? But the others were staring adorably at him. She decided she better keep her mouth shut.
Hey, troopers, your proprietor needs a break before the evening activities begin. We have an interview with Steve Cannane and then our book appearance in town, and we don’t want to be drained.
We hate to interrupt the live-blog, but perhaps some of the other people here can provide some play-by-play in the comments.
We’ll show up in the comments later on.
Good morning, campers. We hope you had a swell Independence Day in the former colonies. Or just a nice July 4 elsewhere.
While we wait for things to heat up in Bogotá, we’ll go over a few numbers.
First, it’s not really going to heat up in Bogotá today. The city is four degrees north of the equator, so it’s summer there, but it’s only reaching about 68 Fahrenheit today, or 20 Celsius, and rain is on the menu.
And here are some numbers to chew on. According to El Tiempo, a major newspaper in Bogotá, the renovation of the Ideal Org building cost about 5 million US, and will serve the country’s 40,000 Scientologists — a figure they got from a local church representative.
As if. Well, let’s apply the usual modifier. In England, Scientology claims it has about 120,000 members, but the most recent Census said the number was just over 2,000. So using the same Scientology math, we’d expect there to be only about 600 Scientologists in Colombia, and even that sounds rather optimistic. So if there’s a crowd of about 2,000 today, as there tend to be at these events, we have a feeling there’s been some busy busses from Venezuela, as well as some Americans who have flown down.
Our correspondent: “Not too wet. But Bogotá’s weather is unpredictable. Two blocks are closed to traffic, and they planted some logistics people close. I can see some Sea Orgs and people with suits walking around.”
Hey, girl. Scientologist Eduardo Galan penned this poem on his way to Bogotá…
Being a poet airport
It is to write off the stewardess
It is to inspire among suitcases
And write in the clouds
Is no fear of turbulence understand many lives
Is an unknown
They are children crying
dilute a sunset in words
write on a napkin
It is to hate the food booth
have everything and lose it in days
Not finishing a film
And mourn with a song
It is surprising and again music
It is back and back at the same time
It is to love many kilometers per hour
It is wrong suitcase
Understand that the rear seat
He’s an idiot
And seeing the person in your life …
And then out of the bathroom to see her husband
It is created in the midst of heaven and earth
And see the sea
watch the sea
And see the sea
Our man: “I’m right now at Subway shop nearby, where they’re preparing a huge shipment of sandwiches ‘for a big event later,’ according to the lady.
“The other customers in the shop are Scientologists. Peruvian, judging by their accents. They’re wearing blazers with a shield that has a globe. IAS.
“They couldn’t pick a better day to have this event. This is a business neighborhood, surrounded by office buildings and not crowded on Sundays. The only people around are the Scientology workers, some policemen, and civil defense officers.”
Our man: “Sound rehearsal is going on now.
“Judging by the number of chairs, they’re expecting between 300 to 500 people.”
“A neighbor is complaining to a policeman. She told me the event will last until 7 pm.”
A note on time: Bogotá is one hour behind Eastern time. So it’s noon in New York City now, but only 11 am in Bogotá.
“1 pm to 7 pm is quite long. And the residents are complaining a lot, and so is the manager of a Carulla nearby — Carulla is the biggest supermarket chain in Colombia.
“The road closing was not revealed to the community and they’re complaining to the cops and the media.”
Our correspondent just dodged a dicey situation. Give him a few minutes to get back into position.
“The crowd is getting bigger and people are seating in the stage area. There are an unusual number of suits and dresses for the day, and you can hear many English speakers and non-Colombian Spanish accents. Many people are taking selfies outside the stage area because they are not supposed to take them inside.”
Our correspondent had to reposition himself out of the prying vision of some Scientology guards. He can actually hear what’s being said on stage better now, but he’ll have to move again to get images when Miscavige makes his appearance.
“As I told you earlier, no more than 600 people. Saying 1,000 would be too optimistic.”
“The host greets visitors from Venezuela, Costa Rica, Peru, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador, and the United States. He refers to the ‘incarnation of LRH politics.’ And says, ‘Scientology has arrived to Colombia!’ to the cheering of the crowd. He now introduces the first speaker: a woman politician and consultant for Bogotá’s Secretary of Equality, Sandra Rincón. She seems to be speaking on behalf of Bogotá’s mayoral office.”
Rincón: “We can work together to build a better future for our beloved Colombia. You are devoted to build the best city.”
Rincón: “This is a beacon of peace in an ocean of confusion. You have arrived to our city in the best possible timing.”
Rincón: “The more organizations like yours coming to Bogotá, the better for the city.”
“And now, a policeman from the Narcotics Division. I bet you’ll hear a lot about Narconon. This is Lt. Col. Carlos Peña…
“Peña: ‘This is the beginning of a new era for Colombia and Colombians. Drugs are the biggest enemy of our nation,’ and now he’s quoting Meyers and Poehler. Really?? ‘Education is the biggest weapon in the battle against this danger.’ Talking about the Truth About Drugs campaign, huge cheering. ‘Armed with the truth, they choose not to take drugs.’
“‘I recommend its use and application. The work of Scientology opens the eyes of people about the danger of drugs. And with every action, WE SAVE ANOTHER LIFE!’
“Now they’re talking about a ship docked in Cartagena, the Freewinds. He talks about LRH, lots of expected praise. ‘He gave mankind all necessary tools for a better life.’
Our correspondent assures us, David Miscavige has NOT made an appearance yet.
Peña: “We need Ideal Orgs all over Colombia.”
Our correspondent is now shifting position. A new person has come to the podium, he is John Alexander Vega, a rescue specialist.
Our correspondent says all of the speakers are relative unknowns so far. “Expect them to get lots of praise at Scientology’s website.”
Our correspondent had to dodge some interference. He says another policeman offered some words.
Yet another military/police figure addressing the crowd: Armstrong Polanía Ducuara
Our correspondent has run into more interference. He’s doing his best to use deflect tech and shatter suppression.
Our correspondent has been asked about Tony Ortega.
David Miscavige is now on stage.
“Miscavige is spouting cliches praising Bogotá and Colombia.”
“A dude with sunglasses and a guy from LA (Humberto Fontana) are looking at me. I’m moving again.”
“Miscavige is now praising Colombian Scientologists.”
“Miscavige drops some famous Colombian names: María Lara, Andrés López, Ruddy Rodríguez”
Miscavige has finished.
“Said a homeless person nearby, ‘A drink and the party is over.’ After the ribbon comes down, the crowd moves silently into the building. Show over.”
Unless they’re keeping Tom Cruise inside the building for the whales to meet, he didn’t take part in the ceremony.
Our correspondent was amazingly brave, and although his transmitting is done, we’re going to check that he gets home all right.
Our thanks to him and his courage.
Tom Cruise was in Nashville last night…
Which doesn’t mean anything as far as Scientology goes. Cruise hasn’t been at an Ideal Org opening since 2004, and you wouldn’t expect him in Colombia. If you missed our earlier tweet, we pointed out that the Star magazine story claiming that Cruise is leaving the organization offers up almost no proof whatsoever, and the only hard fact it thinks it knows — that Cruise skipped the last Scientology anniversary event (we assume they mean IAS gala) — is just dead wrong, as we showed last October.
We’re in place here at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles, Department 58 on the fifth floor.
And the gang’s all here! Bert Deixler, Gary Soter, Warren McShane, Eric Lieberman and about five other suits for the Church of Scientology.
We have a power outlet and some wi-fi, and so we’re set for today’s fireworks.
I see 17 people in total in the gallery. “I thought it was going to be much more packed,” said the Bunker reader sitting behind us.
We’re way over on the left side next to the wall (because of the power outlet). Two clerks and a court reporter are doing paperwork and waiting for the judge.
We’re not sure, but when we walked up, Deixler and Soter and the others made the “Oh, not this asshole again” look.
The clerk just asked us to silence our phones.
We were traveling most of yesterday, so we missed out on a big day. Wow, it was nice to see how many outlets picked up the story about the threat letter and gave us a link.
We hope that means there are some new people with us today. Court live blog days are usually a treat.
The last time we were in the courthouse for a Laura DeCrescenzo hearing, we were able to stay live-blogging throughout it. (At other hearings, electronic devices were prohibited for some or all of the proceedings, and we had to take notes and then catch everyone up later.) Hopefully that will be the case today as well and we can post updates throughout.
Here comes da judge.
Honorable Judge John P. Doyle presiding.
He’s called up another matter and they’re getting right to work.