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Scientology Legal Roundup: Per Wickstrom’s Fine Whine, And More!

Per_Wickstrom2As our readers can probably imagine, we’re pretty excited here in the Underground Bunker after getting yesterday’s news about Monique Rathbun’s hearing date for a temporary injunction on September 12. Scientology legal matters are definitely heating up, and so we thought it was time for a general roundup of the major cases being litigated around the country.

We’re starting in Michigan, where we revealed recently that Per Wickstrom, who runs a number of Scientology-style drug rehab centers, has filed suit against the Pennfield Township (near Battle Creek) because it has repeatedly turned down his requests to expand one of his facilities, called “A Forever Recovery.”

The Township removed the case to federal court and filed a motion to dismiss it. And now, Wickstrom is battling back: by whining.

Says an attorney who looked over the briefing prepared by Per’s lawyers, “This motion basically whines about how unfair it will be to get dismissed in federal court when they were doing OK in state court. And it whines that they should be allowed to amend their complaint. Since the federal court has a liberal policy of allowing amendment to complaints, it makes no sense that A Forever Recovery didn’t just ask the court for leave to amend in the event the court decides the complaint is inadequate. I think Wickstrom’s lawyers are among the whiniest, and I am sure that the judge will be very irritated with them by the time this case is over.”

THE NARCONON GEORGIA CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT: Recently, attorney Jeff Harris, acting for the plaintiffs, filed a motion asking the court to order the state of Georgia to preserve the evidence it seized in a recent raid of Narconon Georgia. (The state is investigating evidence of insurance and credit card fraud.) If the state does not file charges as a result of the raid, it would, by law, be required to return the evidence it seized to Narconon, which could then make it difficult for the class-action plaintiffs to get their hands on it.


Now, Narconon has responded, and with careful wording. The attorneys make clear they “of course” favor the preservation of evidence, but they argue this court lacks jurisdiction to order the state to preserve this evidence if no charges are filed. (Of course, it’s a little hard to imagine the state not filing any charges after the raid it put on, so this may all be moot soon.)

Meanwhile, we’re still waiting to see how Judge Steve C. Jones rules on the motions to dismiss filed by all four of the defendants in this case (Narconon Georgia, Narconon International, the Association for Better Living and Education, and the Religious Technology Center).

THE GARCIA FEDERAL FRAUD LAWSUIT: Two important dates coming up in Tampa. On September 5, Magistrate Judge Thomas B. McCoun III will consider a dispute over the scope of some subpoenas issued by Scientology that Garcia attorney Ted Babbitt called overbroad. Then, on October 3, Brian Culkin will testify in an evidentiary hearing in regards to a Scientology motion to disqualify the Garcia attorneys, Babbitt and Ronald Weil.

THE LAURA DECRESCENZO FORCED-ABORTION LAWSUIT: September 30 is the big day when the U.S. Supreme Court will sift through more than 850 petitions in a conference and select only a small percentage to move on to the next level. Scientology is hoping that its petition for a writ of certiorari is among those chosen. The church wants SCOTUS to rule that California’s “priest-penitent” law is unconstitutional so it can prevent Laura DeCrescenzo from making use of some 18,000 pages of evidence the church was forced to turn over.



Will_Jada_SmithThe Smiths and Their Former Calabasas School

Back on July 3, we broke the news that the school started by Will and Jada Smith in Calabasas, California — the New Village Leadership Academy — had closed its doors after five years of existence.

Now, Roger Friedman has a fun new interview with a parent of a child who had attended the school, Hollywood producer Jeff Wald, who says the school couldn’t raise enough money because of the stigma of Scientology. (The Smiths had founded the school with intentions of using L. Ron Hubbard’s “Study Technology,” a key component of any Scientologist’s training.)

He makes a good point — it may have been tough to raise funds with the bad publicity the school garnered.

But we have to object to something Wald claimed about the money pumped into the school by the Smiths: “The Smiths were putting in $2 million of their own each year. They couldn’t keep supporting it.”

Um, not even close.

Records show that Will and Jada made a one-time, single payment of $1,235,000 to get the school going when it opened in 2008. Reportedly, about $900,000 of that was used to lease the building for the first three years.

For the last two years, the school was on its own, and was ultimately unable to raise enough money to keep going — not surprising, considering the economic climate. While the Smiths had initially put up a lot of money to get the Academy going, in its final two years they had much less to do with it.


John Travolta Makes a Totally Unplanned Speech, You Guys!

Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon, may be struggling with multiple deaths, numerous criminal investigations and civil lawsuits, and a whole lot of bad press, but JT wants you to think about the artists! The artists, for crissakes!





Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Times revealed that the Church of Scientology had cut down two healthy live-oak trees in Clearwater, Florida after the city had denied the church permission to do so. Scientology cut down the oaks in order to make way for a huge permanent tent being erected for its November International Association of Scientologists gala, which is normally held in England. Fortunately, we were able to catch up with one of the two trees before it was hauled away to be turned into cat litter.

THE BUNKER: So this sucks.

FELLED TREE: Tell me about it.

THE BUNKER: We understand that you were standing in a parking lot island south of the Super Power Building.

FELLED TREE: Parking lot island, he calls it. Don’t you live in a hole in the ground?

THE BUNKER: Fair enough. How long had you stood there before you were cut down?

FELLED TREE: I’ve lost count. Bette Orsini was just a sapling when I was already a ten-footer.

THE BUNKER: Apparently the Church of Scientology had relocated large trees in the past at great expense, but they’re doing things rather last-minute for this Super Power Building opening October 6 and the IAS gala November 8. They say they just didn’t have time to uproot you.

FELLED TREE: Yeah, everything’s in a big hurry, just like the Super Power Building itself. It’s only taken 15 years to open the thing. And I’ve watched every day of it. Like, I literally watched the paint dry. That’s not a metaphor.

THE BUNKER: You must have witnessed some interesting things in that time.

FELLED TREE: You think watching OT’s compete for parking spots is some kind of tree nirvana?

THE BUNKER: Well, you’re in Florida, the weather must be interesting. And the other flora and fauna?

FELLED TREE: You really know how to hurt a plant. You know how many living things called me home?

THE BUNKER: That didn’t really occur to us.

FELLED TREE: Well, at least I was cut down for a good cause.

THE BUNKER: You were?

FELLED TREE: Yeah, wouldn’t you like to be sliced in half so some dingbats can put up a tent for a fundraiser? “Clear the planet,” they say. Sure, but they left off the rest of it: Clear the planet, of vegetation.

THE BUNKER: To Serve Man.

FELLED TREE: Hey, I got that.

THE BUNKER: We hear the city fined the church $2,000 for cutting you down. What do you think Clearwater will do with that money?

FELLED TREE: Purchase a backbone?

THE BUNKER: So what will you do now?

FELLED TREE: Well, my last wish is to be pulped and turned into an issue of the Tampa Bay Times with a big, fat expose by Tom Tobin and Joe Childs about how David Miscavige has abdicated the leadership of the Church of Scientology to his male masseur, who is actually an FBI informant who has turned over the copyrights and trademarks of L. Ron Hubbard to a psychiatric hospital. But actually, I think I’m going to be made into cat litter.

THE BUNKER: That really, really sucks.

FELLED TREE: Tell me about it.


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 28, 2013 at 07:00

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