SEE ALSO: ‘LET HIM DIE’: Our initial post on the Powells, with Dwayne Powell’s indictment and court docket
SEE ALSO: Read the police report on the spies who kept tabs on the father of Scientology’s leader
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reported the news that spies allegedly hired by Scientology leader David Miscavige to follow his own father, Ron Miscavige Sr., were arrested in 2013 and, facing a felony over an illegal silencer, spilled their guts about their assignment.
Dwayne Scott Powell told West Allis, Wisc. police that at one time, while he and his son were being paid $10,000 a week to follow Ron Sr., the 79-year-old man was in a Walmart parking lot when he clutched his chest like he was having a heart attack. Calling in for instructions, Powell said David Miscavige himself got on the line. “David told him that if it was Ron’s time to die, to let him die and not intervene in any way,” the police report states.
That stunning callousness is lighting up the media, and we thought it would be interesting to hear from David Miscavige’s niece, Jenna Miscavige Hill. In 2013, Jenna wrote an explosive account of her years in the church, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape. Here’s what we said about it at the time: “Behind it all is one rather diminutive man, David Miscavige, who comes off as a meddling, tyrannical, but ultimately cowardly man who Jenna and other ex-Scientologists are determined to expose.”
We asked Jenna, what does she think about this new astonishing story, with her uncle spending so much money to surveil her grandfather, who escaped from Scientology’s secretive International Base in the summer of 2012?
Jenna tells us she knew about the arrest and what was in the police report, but hasn’t talked publicly about it — until now. Here’s what she sent us…
I heard about this when it was happening, but didn’t talk about it at the request of my family. When people leave the church it often takes time to organize their thoughts and reexamine their lives and everything they have been through. The Church has an uncanny knack for antagonizing people who just want to live in peace.
The arrogance it takes to pull off a scheme like this is astonishing, especially after all of the books that have been written, suits that have been filed, and the media exposes that have blasted the church in recent years.
I seriously cannot fathom the mindset of someone who could do this type of thing to his own father. How big must the skeletons in his closet be to cause this level of paranoia on my uncle’s part? Especially since we already know about the beatings, the imprisonment, child abuse, destruction of families and the list goes on.
This recklessness will continue to be the church’s downfall.
Years ago when I first spoke out, I couldn’t speak to my grandpa, my in-laws were being forced to disconnect from us, and stories that I spent hours recounting to reporters would rarely be heard.
Years later things have completely changed. I can now call my Grandpa whenever I feel like it, I have a wonderful relationship with my in-laws, 1.7 million viewers just watched Going Clear on HBO and my own book is on the New York Times bestseller list this week.
That change lies squarely on the back of those who have been brave enough to speak out about their experiences and those who have given them a platform to do so.
Thank you for that, Jenna. Please visit our earlier story about the private investigators, which includes the indictment of Powell for the illegal silencer, an image of the weapon type he was carrying, and more information about his background.
UPDATE: Great report just now on the Today show this morning. They have audio of Dwayne Scott Powell and his son taken by the West Allis, Wisc. police and you can hear in their own words how they were told by David Miscavige not to intervene if Ron was having a heart attack. And Scientology’s flat-out denials sound really bad after hearing these PIs in their own words. No question who sounds more credible.
UPDATE: We asked attorney Scott Pilutik for some initial thoughts about the legal ramifications of this stunning story. Could David Miscavige face charges? Could this incident threaten Scientology’s tax exempt status as a church? Here’s what he sent us…
For the sake of the IRS exemption, I’m not sure this is any more or less of a threat than the hundred or so other instances they’ve been caught employing PIs to ends seemingly at odds with the IRS’s “religious purpose” requirement. Maybe it’s different this time? Well, there’s a police report, which renders Scientology’s plausible deniability response somewhat sillier than usual. But the criminal conduct alleged in the report falls short, I think, of directly connecting to the scope of his employment by Scientology. He claimed the guns were for sport, and I’m having difficulty imagining a scenario whereby Scientology leaves a paper trail between itself and a contract killer doubling as its PI. Granted, the PI would be an idiot to compound his culpability by admitting the guns were related to his Scientology assignment, but he’d hardly be the first ex-cop PI with a gun fetish, and I think that’s the more sensible interpretation.
Certainly there’s a moral repugnancy to all this, but the law imposes no duty on anyone to intervene on behalf of a person having a heart attack, nor does it distinguish between family members and non-members. It should go without saying that where a religious nonprofit spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to investigate its perceived enemies, their exemption should be revoked. Perhaps this revelation occurring so near the tidal wave of publicity triggered by Going Clear shames the IRS to take a closer look at the havoc they wrought.
UPDATE: We want to draw a distinction about Scientology surveillance tactics that we learned about when we talked to two of the church’s master spies for a story in 2012. Paul Marrick helped us understand that Scientology has two very different ways of following people.
On the one hand, Scientology is notorious for “noisy investigations.” The chief figure for this kind of operation right now is an investigator named David Lubow. When Lubow is following you, you know it. That’s his job. He starts calling everyone you’ve ever worked with, he targets the people you work for, he looks up your relatives, and he starts showing up at their places of work or at their homes. It was Lubow who showed up a couple of times at my mother’s house, which I revealed in Alex Gibney’s film, Going Clear. And it was Lubow who ran the “Squirrel Busters” operation against Marty Rathbun in Texas. The point of a Lubow noisy investigation is psychological. His intrusive, harassing method is intended to make you paranoid and worry that your life will become untenable, that your world will fall apart. Lubow and others employ teams of private investigators to follow and swarm people like Mike Rinder and Tom DeVocht, and again the point is, they want to be seen. They want you worried about being followed.
But Marrick explained to me that Scientology has an entirely different kind of approach to surveillance that is the diametrical opposite to a Dave Lubow noisy investigation. Marrick and his partner Greg Arnold were paid to be ghosts. For 24 years they trailed Pat Broeker, a former Scientology executive, all over the world. They would rent houses next door to Broeker, using a woman to make it look like a couple lived there. In other places they planted themselves far away with telephoto lenses to watch Broeker from a great distance so that he didn’t know he was being watched. And every day, sometimes hourly, they would call in to their handler to report Broeker’s movements. Marrick and Arnold would sometimes get very close to Broeker — at one point, Arnold told me, he got crucial information by sitting at the next table at an Applebee’s restaurant and eavesdropping on Broeker. But always, they did not want to be recognized, and they did not want Broeker to realize that they were following him.
Clearly, it seems to us, the Powell operation on Ron Miscavige Sr was of this second type. Powell and his son were probably told to keep an eye on Ron and do their best not for Ron to realize what was going on. And that’s why, when Ron clutched at his chest one day, Powell faced a dilemma. If he called 911 or rushed over to help Ron, it would blow that cover that he was told to protect. So he called his handler asking for instructions. Then, he told police, David Miscavige himself called him back and told him not to interfere, to “let him die” even if Ron was in cardiac arrest. We think this is the situation, and we’ll be looking to get more information soon.
Great report this morning on the Today show, with audio of the private investigators…
UPDATE: TMZ has posted a portion of the audiotaped interview of private investigators Dwayne Powell and his son Daniel with the West Allis, Wisc. police. In this portion, Daniel says that they joke about their $10,000 a week salary being funded by Tom Cruise. And that when his latest movie bombed (in 2013? Oblivion?) they joked that they needed to tell people how great it was so they’d go see it so Tom could get paid and then the PIs could get paid…
Bonus photos from our tipsters
Is this the fabulous Meghan Fialkoff, pedding L. Ron Hubbard technology to School Safety Agents with the NYPD? What patsies.
Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!
Posted by Tony Ortega on April 09, 2015 at 01:50
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield