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David Miscavige Tried to Meet with Judge in Lisa McPherson Case: Affidavit

“Hey, I was just in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by…”

Ken Dandar continues on his quest to convince federal Judge Virginia Covington that he was the victim of a conspiracy by the Church of Scientology to corrupt Florida’s state court system.

On Sunday, Dandar filed an affidavit by Sue Rudd, the former clerk of the late Susan Schaeffer, a Florida state judge who presided for two years over the contentious Lisa McPherson wrongful death civil lawsuit, from 2001 to 2003. (The case was settled in 2004.)

While the case was still before Schaeffer, Rudd says in the affidavit, she remembers getting an unusual visitor.

“To my surprise, David Miscavige, head of the Church of Scientology, appeared at my office at the courthouse located in St. Petersburg, Florida, and requested to see Judge Schaeffer,” she says. But Schaeffer was in Tallahassee. “I further advised Mr. Miscavige that it would be improper for him to meet with Judge Schaeffer without the presence of opposing counsel.”

Rudd says that Miscavige stuck around for a while, and followed her outside.

The affidavit tends to support the allegations in Dandar’s federal lawsuit, that Scientology spent millions over several years in an attempt to corrupt the judicial process during the criminal and then civil litigation arising from the 1995 death of McPherson.

Previously, Dandar had deposed former high-ranking church official Marty Rathbun, who testified that Scientology held numerous ex parte meetings with judges in order to influence them that the McPherson estate’s lawsuit was frivolous and its attorney, Dandar, an ambulance chaser.

Now, Rudd’s affidavit shows that church leader Miscavige himself attempted to have an ex parte meeting with Schaeffer, which tends to support Rathbun’s testimony.

Dandar has also deposed former church official Mike Rinder, and each of them tells us that Rinder’s testimony also supports Rathbun’s allegations of a years-long church conspiracy to corrupt Florida’s courts.

But even with public interest in these court filings — Rathbun’s deposition made international news — there’s still no guarantee that the picture of judicial corruption that Dandar is attempting to paint will have an effect on Judge Covington, who rejected his request for a temporary injunction on November 19.

Dandar had asked Covington to halt an extremely unusual secret hearing at a state court that was scheduled for November 26, during which Scientology’s attorneys would request more than $1.1 million in sanctions against Dandar. But Covington told Dandar that he had not proved to her that Scientology’s lawyers were acting as “state actors,” and she could not intervene.

The closed state hearing did occur, and Scientology presented evidence for why it deserves so much in sanctions against Dandar. Retired state Judge Crockett Farnell has asked both sides to submit written closing arguments to him by December 27.

Dandar filed an amended complaint in his federal lawsuit, and Covington scheduled another hearing for December 7 — at that point, Dandar will get another chance to prove that Scientology’s attorneys are “state actors” and ask Covington to step in and prevent the state court from sanctioning him, which Dandar says is a violation of his civil rights.

McPherson was a troubled church member who had a mental breakdown and then died in 1995 after 17 days being cared for by Scientologists at the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, Florida. In 1997, Ken Dandar filed the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of her estate.

In June 2001, state Judge Susan Schaeffer received the case. Dandar at that time moved to recuse her because of positive statements she’d made about the church in the past.

Less than a year later, the case nearly blew up when Bob Minton, the wealthy businessman who had been financing the lawsuit, suddenly turned on Dandar in a related case. (When Dandar and the McPherson estate added Scientology leader David Miscavige to the wrongful death suit, Scientology sued them claiming breach of contract. It was in that case that Minton — who had been turned by Scientology’s relentless harassment of him — faced off against his former allies.)

Judge Schaeffer, however, said she didn’t care about the sideshow consuming Dandar and Minton, and still planned to hold a trial in the wrongful death suit in June 2002. Delay after delay pushed it back, and a jury was actually seated in August, 2003.

But then Minton turned his attacks on Schaeffer herself, aiming to get her removed from the case. That attempt was successful. (Minton died in 2010.)

In his recent filings, Dandar is alleging that Judge Robert Beach, who eventually took over the case, campaigned to do so, and then conspired with Scientology to make sure the case never went to trial.

Judge Beach has denied that he conspired with the church.

Here’s Sue Rudd’s affidavit…

Sue Rudd affidavit

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