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Scientology Turns Over Documents, Laura DeCrescenzo Begins Process to Review Them

InspectingDocsAfter failing with multiple appeals to the California and U.S. Supreme Courts to prevent it, today the Church of Scientology complied with a lower court order and turned over 18,000 pages of documents to former church employee Laura DeCrescenzo.

She will now begin a process of reviewing the electronic files to see if they’re complete. The church, meanwhile, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review the court order, but that may take many months and odds are against the court even considering it.

DeCrescenzo first filed suit against Scientology in 2009 after working as a member of its “Sea Org” for twelve years. She’s alleging that she suffered a number of abuses during that time, including a forced abortion when she was only 17. She has now been handed a huge trove of documents from her confessional “pc files” which may help bolster her case.

For weeks, as we’ve been covering the drama of the church fighting tooth and nail not to turn over this evidence, we’ve heard from readers who say they assume the evidence will have been tampered with or will be missing large amounts of information if the church ever turned it over.

We wanted to point out something about Laura DeCrescenzo’s job as a Sea Org employee: For six years, she was an Investigations and Evaluations Director, and it was her job to inspect such files for their completeness.

If anyone can tell if there’s something missing from Laura DeCrescenzo’s files, it’s Laura DeCrescenzo.

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As DeCrescenzo begins the process of inspecting the documents, we have to admit to being very surprised that the church actually turned them over.

Especially, it turns out, when there was an offer for settlement on the table.

We’ve learned that during a June 13 status hearing in the case, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Sohigian asked both sides if a settlement was possible, and suggested that he could appoint a “settlement judge” to conclude the case. (This hearing occurred after the California Supreme Court had refused to consider Scientology’s appeal, but before the church applied to the U.S. Supreme Court for an emergency stay, which was denied.) DeCrescenzo’s attorney told Sohigian that her side had made a settlement offer, but it had been rejected by the church. The church’s attorney did not take up Sohigian’s offer for a settlement judge.

After four years of litigation, and after the expense of failed petitions to California’s appellate and supreme courts, the church still didn’t want to cut a check to make the case go away. And now, it has turned over the evidence that it fought so hard to suppress.

In October, Sohigian has scheduled a hearing on Scientology’s motion for summary judgment. Is the church so confident that it will have the case dismissed then that it believes it can endure whatever publicity results from what is in those 18,000 pages of evidence it turned over today?

For an opinion on that, we turned to a man who once helped oversee Scientology’s legal strategies, former church official Mike Rinder. We asked him first about Laura’s ability to spot tampered folders, and then about the church’s outlook.

The thing about pc folders is it is very difficult to “lose” pages. There are so many things that cross-reference. Every session has to be recorded on a “folder summary” in the front of the folder, and these are all handwritten in sequence. You cannot just erase reference to one without it being noticed. Every page of each session is sequentially numbered. Every session has an auditor report form on the front of it that says how long the session was and what was done within it. Every session has a “C/S.” There is a “program” for every auditing action done and that is on another piece of paper. There are “Folder Error Summaries” that note specific points within specific sessions. A trained person can spot the inconsistencies — and remember it is all handwritten. When you erase something there is a space on the page where it should have been.

They are making it harder by turning this over on CD rather than hard copy. Laura is probably going to have to print everything out and reconstruct the folders so they can be properly reviewed.

As to what the church is thinking — they have a lot more to lose in this case than just the pc folders. They have another horrible precedent in the Court of Appeals concerning equitable tolling and the utter worthlessness of all the “agreements” they get people to sign when they leave the church. I suspect they believe their only hope of salvaging this case is to wear Laura and her lawyers out. Right now Laura is kicking their butts every time they turn around — it is not a good time for the church to settle. They are hoping they can outlast her. I am sure they do not believe she will agree to a confidentiality agreement, so a settlement is worthless to them. They would rather keep spending money with the hope of winning a war of attrition than give in and have things remain with the rulings that have already come out of this case. In fact, as I consider this, I think they would probably ask as part of a settlement for some weird thing like a joint motion to the California Supreme Court to make the equitable tolling decision unpublished and somehow limited to apply only to this case. And with Laura on top there is no hope of even considering such a thing. So they will keep fighting. Miscavige will never admit defeat. If he cannot get what he wants, he will just keep going beyond all reason until there is no other option (see Wollersheim).

What Rinder is referring to as “equitable tolling” was an earlier ruling in DeCrescenzo’s case regarding the statute of limitations. DeCrescenzo had left the Sea Org in 2004, but didn’t bring her lawsuit until 2009. The church argued that because she didn’t bring the lawsuit within four years, it should be dismissed — and Judge Sohigian agreed. But DeCrescenzo’s team appealed, pointing out that after she left the Sea Org she was still a Scientologist and was led to believe that she could suffer dire circumstances if she sued the church.

We asked Scott Pilutik to help explain: “Scientology originally filed a motion to dismiss based on statute of limitations, with which the trial court agreed; but the court of appeals reversed, reasoning correctly that Laura did sufficiently make that claim in her complaint. The trial court could ultimately find that Scientology didn’t cause the delay, but that’s what all these documents are about — so that both sides can argue that point based on this new evidence.”

 
Technology Update: We are told that the church delivered the evidence on a flash drive.

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on July 2, 2013 at 19:00

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