We’re expecting another eventful day in New Braunfels, Texas, where Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit against the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige is back in the Comal County courthouse for another hearing this morning.
On January 8, Scientology’s attorneys presented their arguments supporting an ‘anti-SLAPP’ motion against Monique’s lawsuit, accusing her of filing a harassing suit that infringes on the church’s free speech rights. After the church turned over new evidence last week, Monique is scheduled today to present her argument against the motion.
But as we indicated last week, we expect Monique’s attorney, Ray Jeffrey, to object to the way the church turned over that evidence, which the church designated as “attorney’s eyes only.” Jeffrey complained that it prevents him from sharing the evidence — a huge number of videos — with his own client. He’s going to start out the day asking Judge Waldrip to take that designation off the evidence and then give him more time to share the videos with Monique and her husband Mark ‘Marty’ Rathbun so they can properly prepare to argue the motion.
If he succeeds, this may be a short day in court. But over the last few hearings, little has unfolded as we expected it to, and long days in court have been the rule.
Once again, Nick Rogers and Mike Bennitt will be in the court as our eyes and ears, and we’ll post live updates to this article as we get them.
Monique filed her lawsuit in August, alleging that Scientology had subjected her to years of surveillance and harassment because her husband, Marty, had once been a high-level employee of the church who left Scientology in 2004 and began publicly criticizing Miscavige in 2009. Monique is suing a couple of different Scientology corporate entities, as well as Miscavige and some of the private investigators and operatives who carried out the years of surveillance. She was granted a temporary restraining order against the defendants which prevents them from any additional surveillance of her. That TRO is still in effect while other motions have prevented a hearing on converting it to a temporary injunction from being completed.
Miscavige filed a “special appearance,” denying that the court has jurisdiction over him because, he said in a sworn declaration, he had nothing to do with the surveillance operation and has never done business in the state of Texas. Monique then had her husband file his own declaration which essentially called Miscavige a liar, so the church then filed a motion trying to disqualify Monique’s attorneys, saying that they had acted unethically by submitting Marty’s sworn statement. That motion eventually failed. Scientology then filed its anti-SLAPP motion, admitting that one of its entities was behind the years-long surveillance of the Rathbuns, but arguing that such surveillance was protected free speech and Monique’s lawsuit should be thrown out of court.
As for Miscavige’s “special appearance” denying that the court has jurisdiction over him, Judge Waldrip was convinced by Monique’s arguments that in order to settle whether the church leader really has had nothing to do with the numerous spying and surveillance operations in Texas going back many years, he should sit for a deposition. Miscavige’s attorney, Lamont Jefferson, has offered numerous arguments why the judge should change his mind about Miscavige being deposed, so far to no avail. But the deposition itself may take some months to schedule. In the meantime, Monique was able to depose former Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis, and she has stated her intention to depose actress Leah Remini in the future.
So, to review, the case has proceeded on several different fronts.
1. A temporary restraining order that Monique is trying to turn into a temporary injunction. This is on hold for now.
2. Scientology’s attempt to get Monique’s attorneys disqualified for supposedly violating ethical rules. This motion was unsuccessful.
3. Miscavige’s “special appearance” to get him out of the suit: Judge Waldrip granted Monique the right to depose Miscavige to decide this matter, but Ray Jeffrey told us he expects Scientology to petition a higher Texas court for a writ of mandamus to reverse Waldrip’s decision.
4. Scientology’s ‘anti-SLAPP’ motion labeling the lawsuit a harassing action and asking Judge Waldrip to dismiss it entirely. On January 8 the church presented its arguments for the motion, and on January 27 turned over video evidence as ordered by the court. Monique is scheduled to argue her side of the motion today, but she’ll be asking for more time to review the video evidence.
We know this case is complex. But it’s also turning into one of the biggest legal challenges David Miscavige and Scientology have ever faced, and so it’s important to get it right. We’re encouraged to see more media beginning to pay attention to it. We hope they can do all of its complexities justice.
While we wait for matters to get underway at the courthouse, we have a couple of videos to tide you over…
The gang’s all here
Karen de la Carriere explains Scientology’s predilection for ganging up on vulnerable members in a new video…
Meanwhile, a tipster alerted us that Scientologist actor and impressionist Jim Meskimen posted a short video of himself performing Hamlet’s soliloquy in the style of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died yesterday in an apparent heroin overdose. At the end of the clip, Meskimen plugs “a link below” for anyone who is also facing drug problems, and he’s provided a link to Scientology’s embattled drug rehab network Narconon. Just yesterday we reported on yet another lawsuit that was filed against a Narconon facility for a litany of deceptive practices. Nice plug, Jim.
Posted by Tony Ortega on February 3, 2014 at 07:00
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[Live updates will appear below this line]
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!