The latest twist in the Luis and Rocio Garcia federal fraud case against the Church of Scientology is a new court motion asking for a deposition to take place after the Garcias say they caught the church lying to the court and to Judge James Whittemore.
If you’ve kept up on the 2013 lawsuit with us, you know that Judge Whittemore ordered the Garcias to honor the contracts they had signed while members of the church and take their dispute over several hundred thousand dollars in donations to Scientology’s internal “arbitration.” The Garcias would rather have their allegations hashed out in court, but Whittemore said he couldn’t dispute Scientology contracts without violating Scientology’s First Amendment rights of religious expression.
But the problem with forcing the Garcias to submit to Scientology’s internal arbitration is that the church has set up kafkaesque rules about it. For one thing, the Garcias need to select an arbitrator who is a Scientologist “in good standing” — but the church is exceedingly opaque about just who is in good standing or not. Every time the Garcias have selected someone, the church’s “International Justice Chief,” Mike Ellis, says that they’re not in good standing.
One of those they chose recently was a Scientologist named Brandon Orlando. When the Garcias submitted his name, this is what the church said to the Garcias:
You have submitted the name of Brandon Orlando. According to the Church records, he last took any Church service in 2013, and was subsequently officially recorded as not in good standing as he chose to remain affiliated with declared Suppressive Persons. Mr. Orlando has continued to ally himself with individuals who are hostile to the Church. This is a matter of public record, as it was for almost all of the other individuals whom you previously suggested as potential arbitrators.
And to the court…
Orlando last participated in auditing no later than 2007, and has not participated in other Scientology services since 2009. He was dead filed in 2014. In June, 2016, he told a Church staff member that he has no interest in attending Church services or advancing his studies of Scientology, thus disavowing the religion. Based on these facts, in August, 2016, the IJC informed plaintiffs that Orlando was not in good standing.
If Orlando was “dead filed” in 2014, then the church would have stopped all communication with him.
But that just isn’t true, the Garcias contend. And they have an affidavit from Aaron Smith-Levin that they’re hoping will convince Judge Whittemore that he’s been lied to.
You remember Aaron. He made a huge impression in an episode of A&E’s Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath talking about his twin brother Collin. About how the two of them had been brought up in Scientology and joined its Sea Org.
And one person Aaron met in the Sea Org was Brandon Orlando. They were still friends last year, and that’s why Smith-Levin says in an affidavit for the Garcias that much of what Scientology is saying about Orlando doesn’t comport with what he knows.
At the same time that the church says Orlando was supposedly “not in good standing” and had been “dead filed,” Smith-Levin says Orlando was actually getting called daily by the Tampa Org, urging him to come down and take courses. And he was called down for a meeting with an ethics officer which Orlando told him about, Smith-Levin says.
In this interview the MAA [ethics officer]…mentioned that Luis Garcia had submitted Brandon’s name as a possible arbitrator. The MAA wanted to know why Luis Garcia had submitted Brandon’s name. Brandon said he had no idea what that was all about. Brandon was interrogated at some length to determine if he had been in touch with Luis Garcia. He had not….Over the next many weeks Brandon was called in several more times to be interrogated about his connection with me. Brandon said that he didn’t want to disconnect from me, but that if they were giving him no choice, if it was either he disconnect from me or he would be declared a Suppressive Person then he would disconnect from me.
Then, in January, Orlando told Smith-Levin that the church asked him to sign an affidavit saying that he had known that he was not in good standing with the church. But Orlando refused to sign it, Smith-Levin says, because it wasn’t true.
In other words, the church had lied to the Garcias and to the court, saying that Orlando had been not in good standing, when actually he had been. (Orlando did agree to sign a statement that he was ineligible for taking courses at the Flag Land Base, which is not the same thing.) And Smith-Levin’s testimony suggests that Scientology was trying to cover its tracks, having Orlando sign an affidavit to make the false claim that he was not in good standing in order to back up what the church had told the court.
“Part of the problem is that the church has lied to the court about what it means to be not in good standing. In truth, L. Ron Hubbard never really defined what that is — it’s only that you can be in good standing or you can be declared a suppressive person. There’s no middle ground. And Brandon was never declared,” Smith-Levin says.
So the Garcias are asking to be allowed to depose Orlando to see if his testimony will match Smith-Levin’s and further prove that Scientology is playing word games in order to keep the Garcias from selecting an arbitrator of their choice.
What the Garcias really want, which has been made clear in previous filings, is for Judge Whittemore to agree that Scientology’s “internal arbitration” is a sham, and to re-activate the lawsuit.
But even with evidence suggesting that the court is being lied to, is it enough to convince Whittemore to take the case back and give up on Scientology’s arbitration scheme? So far, he’s shown no sign of doing that.
So here’s the document for you to see for yourself, with Smith-Levin’s affidavit attached.
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder
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The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. 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
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | 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 | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | 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