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Fox 25 in Oklahoma City Keeps Up the Pressure on Scientology’s Drug Rehab Deaths

The lack of any new developments in the ongoing investigation of deaths at Scientology’s flagship Narconon drug rehab center in Oklahoma didn’t prevent the Fox affiliate in Oklahoma City from putting together this lengthy and hard-hitting two-part series, which aired last night.

A lesson for other media: This is how you keep a story in the public consciousness, even as you’re waiting for the next news peg.

Fox 25’s Marisa Mendelson does a terrific job in this package, bringing out the family anguish left in the wake of the deaths of three patients at the rehab facility. And we get to see Gary Richardson, attorney for the families who have filed lawsuits. He looks like a formidable litigant.

Another interesting effort by local television showed up in South Texas last night, as the CBS affiliate there, KZTV, began a series of its own with interviews of Marty Rathbun and the Headleys.


And if that weren’t enough, Karen Pressley made a fine appearance on CBS’s national Saturday morning program this past weekend, and took some swings at Tom Cruise. Fascinating!

(We’d love to embed these latter videos, if someone were to upload YouTube versions of them. Hint, hint.)

Meanwhile, Joe Childs and Tom Tobin wade into the Ken Dandar federal lawsuit this morning with a story in the Tampa Bay Times. Dandar’s suit was filed on October 31, but it became the subject of national news stories this week when former Scientology official Marty Rathbun provided testimony to bolster Dandar’s claims that Scientology has attempted to manipulate Florida’s courts in unethical ways. In particular, Rathbun accused attorney Jeffrey Goodis of accepting gifts from the church and in return influenced his client, county medical examiner Joan Wood, to change the cause of Lisa McPherson’s death from “undetermined” to “accidental.” When Wood did that in 2000, it stopped a state criminal investigation of Scientology in its tracks.

But Tobin and Childs talked with Goodis and checked Rathbun’s claims, and they point out that the gifts Goodis accepted — Super Bowl tickets and expensive cufflinks — were given to him by the church several years after Wood made the change to the death certificate.

Rathbun’s deposition remains on file in Dandar’s lawsuit, but Dandar was unable to convince a federal judge yesterday to grant him an injunction to prevent a state hearing on Monday. In that closed hearing, Dandar expects a retired state judge to award Scientology about a million dollars in court fees, an award that Dandar says will ruin him.

Dandar says he is planning to file an amended complaint in his federal suit, even though he cannot halt the closed state hearing. Dandar also deposed former church official Mike Rinder, but Dandar has not said when or if he plans to file that testimony, which also contains allegations that the church improperly tried to sway Florida’s courts.

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