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Marty Rathbun: Scientology’s Secret Agreement With Joan Wood to Change Lisa McPherson’s Cause of Death

Mark Bunker has uploaded to YouTube a 16-minute interview he did with former high-ranking Scientology executive Marty Rathbun for his movie Knowledge Report. It contains more details of the news that rocked Scientology this week: In attorney Ken Dandar’s federal lawsuit, Rathbun is alleging that the church spent $30 million fighting the criminal investigation of Lisa McPherson’s death, including an operation to improperly influence county medical examiner Joan Wood.

McPherson was a troubled church member who had a mental breakdown in 1995 and then was taken to be cared for at Scientology’s headquarters at the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, Florida. Seventeen days later, she was rushed to the hospital and died on the way. Scientology was then the subject of a criminal investigation which relied in part on the death certificate that Wood issued. Wood later changed the cause of McPherson’s death from “undetermined” to “accident” in 2000, which stopped the state’s criminal investigation of Scientology in its tracks. In Bunker’s interview, Rathbun talks about how the church applied pressure to convince Wood to make that change.

We’ve made a decision at The Underground Bunker not to post Bunker’s video at this time. Unlike Rathbun’s explosive deposition, the YouTube video is not a privileged court document. However, you can easily find the video yourself at, and we encourage you to watch it and discuss it here.

In his deposition for Ken Dandar’s federal lawsuit, Rathbun said that the church had spent millions to influence judges who were handling the McPherson family lawsuit against the church. Rathbun also alleged that Scientology had tried to sway Wood through her attorney, Jeffrey Goodis. (Goodis denied the allegation.)

Our legal advisor, Scott Pilutik, noted that Rathbun’s deposition was somewhat scattered. But in his video interview with Mark Bunker, Rathbun goes into more detail and seems more methodical about laying out the church operation to convince Wood to change the cause of death.


Near the end of the segment, Rathbun says, “She agrees she’s going to do it, but she wants a release in exchange, and that’s the smoking gun. And [Scientology leader] Dave Miscavige had to sign it himself, I’m pretty sure. He certainly delivered it himself…Only then did she make the change on the death certificate.”

Rathbun appears to be alleging that in a quid pro quo, Wood agreed to change the cause of death in return for a guarantee from the church that it would not hold her legally liable. It’s a shocking allegation of impropriety. (Wood died in 2011.)

Meanwhile, Scientology’s attorneys who are being sued by Dandar filed a motion on Friday which you can see below. It accuses Dandar of extortion, and asks the court to strike Rathbun’s deposition from the record, saying that it was irrelevant to what the federal lawsuit is about.

As we wrote when Dandar first filed his lawsuit, the facts behind it are dauntingly complex. But in a nutshell, Dandar is complaining that his civil rights have been trampled by the way Scientology, he claims, has manipulated Florida’s state court system. Dandar filed suit against Scientology and two of its attorneys, Wally Pope and Robert V. Potter Jr., and those attorneys are now complaining that Dandar improperly tried to widen the scope of his suit by submitting Marty Rathbun’s deposition.

“The ‘reply’ brief is not a reply brief at all, but seeks to introduce new factual allegations, new theories, and new legal arguments not made or addressed in either the moving papers or even the complaint,” Pope and Potter argue. At the end of their motion, they attach an e-mail in which Dandar notified them on Wednesday that he would be filing Rathbun’s deposition and offered to settle the case (on favorable terms to Dandar). Pope and Potter characterize this as an extortion attempt.

On Monday, a hearing will be held in the court of Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington, and we’ll be interested to see if Rathbun’s testimony is allowed to remain in the court file. Dandar has confirmed to us that he has also deposed another former Scientology executive, Mike Rinder, and that testimony contains further explosive allegations about Scientology’s cover-up of the McPherson matter.

With major media now paying attention to this strange lawsuit, the action only seems to be starting to heat up.

Here’s the motion to strike from Scientology’s attorneys:

Wally Pope Motion to Strike



On Sundays, we love to reveal to you the latest Scientology fundraising mailers that have reached us from our tipsters. This week, we start to get our holiday cheer on!

But first, we have one of the strangest fliers we’ve seen in a while. We are looking forward to your thoughts on exactly what is going on here…

The church continues its series looking at the people still hanging in there as Scientology limps through its latest crises…

We’re always amazed that Scientology promotes Christmas in such a big way. After all, when your founder is known for saying “There was no Christ,” you’d think it would make the church a little more shy about jumping on the Jesus-Birthday industry…

And where better to celebrate the birthday of nonexistent JC than on the cruise ship Freewinds!

Thanks once again to our great tipsters. Keep those mailers coming!

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