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TEXAS SKIRMISH: Mike Bennitt is on the scene as Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit is back in court

Monique_Rathbun_Court
We couldn’t leave the Bunker today for the big hearing in New Braunfels, Texas, but our man Mike Bennitt is on the scene, and we expect to get numerous dispatches from him, as well as video.

On the docket today are two big issues in Monique Rathbun’s harassment lawsuit against Scientology leader David Miscavige. Issue one: Miscavige wants out of the lawsuit, arguing that this Texas court has no jurisdiction over him. Issue two: Scientology has filed an anti-SLAPP motion, arguing that Monique Rathbun’s action is a cynical one intended to stifle Scientology’s free speech rights.

For both issues, Monique’s attorneys have filed motions for continuances, hoping to delay both matters. Monique’s attorney Ray Jeffrey will be making the argument this morning that these matters cannot be settled, and should be delayed, until Miscavige himself can be deposed under oath.

We told you last week about the motion for continuance that Monique filed regarding the jurisdictional issue. This morning, we have the motion for continuance that Monique filed regarding Scientology’s anti-SLAPP motion.

Here’s the section where Monique gets down to what is really going on in Scientology’s vigorous defense of this lawsuit…

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In a cynical, if predictable ploy, the Defendants have moved to dismiss Mrs. Rathbun’s suit by claiming they were merely exercising their rights of free speech and free association, rather than carrying out a premeditated operation to destroy and silence her husband and her. In view of the evidence that the Defendants’ routine, intentional, practice and procedure is to hide the true nature of their civil and criminal misdeeds, including their tortious activities against Mrs. Rathbun, good cause exists to allow specific and limited discover to test the pretext on which they are seeking dismissal of Mrs. Rathbun’s suit…Mrs. Rathbun requests discovery…including:

a. Deposition and documents from Capt. David Miscavige…

b. Deposition and documents from Linda Hamel…

e. Written, recorded and electronic communications with and about the Squirrel Busters

Jeffrey filed a huge package of affidavits and declarations last week to support Monique’s position that David Miscavige micromanages Scientology. And in advance of today’s hearing, Jeffrey filed another voluminous set of papers to support Monique’s desire for a continuance on the anti-SLAPP matter.

Also, last week Ray Jeffrey deposed former Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis in Austin, but Jeffrey was tight-lipped about what occurred during that testimony.

Monique is also hoping to have actress Leah Remini give a deposition in coming days — that is, if Judge Dib Waldrip doesn’t end the lawsuit today by finding for Scientology’s anti-SLAPP motion or by allowing David Miscavige to leave the lawsuit.

On the one hand, if Judge Waldrip grants the continuances, it could be a short day. But if he hears both issues fully — jurisdiction and anti-SLAPP — it could be a long session.

We’ll post updates as quickly as we can.

 
——————–

Neil Gaiman’s nephew will get his Scientology wedding after all

Read all about it here, but now English Scientologists will get the same privileges they have here.

As we’ve written before, this was more about outdated English marriage law than it was about Scientology, which is dwindling fast in the UK. Here’s what we said back in July…

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In the U.S., our government would never concern itself with these distinctions. We’re only raising these issues because the English government has to decide if Scientology is “worship.”

But even though Scientology orgs pretty clearly aren’t “places of worship,” we really don’t see why Scientologist couples shouldn’t get married there. Even with the Marriage Act 1994, it seems to us that England is still way too uptight about where people exchange rings and get shitfaced afterwards. But what do we know.

Anyway, we have a feeling that Hodkin and Calcioli will end up winning this case, Scientology will briefly get some positive publicity out of it, but then the church’s troubles in the UK will continue.

 
——————–

Posted by Tony Ortega on December 11, 2013 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94@gmail.com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

 

(Live updates will appear below this line.)

10:06 am

Mike Bennitt is in place! Fortified by a double shot of espresso, he has positioned himself in the Comal County courthouse.

He says things are about to start, and the judge has already given the indication that electronics are going to have to go off.

Bennitt reports that the usual Scientology gang is present, including Kendrick Moxon, Monique Yingling, Warren McShane, and plenty more lawyers.
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10:24 am

Bennitt says that Ray Jeffrey has just finished his opening statement, and Miscavige/RTC attorney Lamont Jefferson is now responding.
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10:28 am

Mike says that Ray’s opening included references to the Lawrence Wollersheim saga (which we wrote about at length back in 2002/2008), and get this, Jefferson is countering with slides from last week’s IAS gala! See judge, this is a thriving religion and Miscavige is like the Dalai Lama (or something).
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10:40 am

First bad sign for Monique: Bennitt says Judge Waldrip mentioned being in court all week. That sounds like a continuance is unlikely.

If that means that Miscavige has slithered out of a deposition for this (set of) hearing(s), you can bet that Monique’s side will continue to push for a Miscavige deposition in other discovery — assuming the lawsuit survives these motions.
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1:11 pm

Bennitt’s out on break. He says they’re still arguing about deposing Miscavige, and Mike says it’s getting contentious and argumentative. Judge Waldrip has had to admonish attorneys four or five times.
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1:12 pm

Bennitt says Waldrip really seemed to take notice when Ray Jeffrey brought up a 2009 issue of Freedom magazine.

Jeffrey had told us this was coming. In that issue Miscavige is clearly described as defender of the faith.
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1:13 pm

The Freedom mag included an e-mail from Miscavige to Tobin and Childs about their “Truth Rundown” series. The issue also included a reference to Miscavige opening up the Ideal Org in Dallas.
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1:15 pm

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After Freedom mag was introduced, Lamont Jefferson rose to speak about it, but Waldrip hit him with this…

“Mr. Jefferson how does somebody personally oversee the matters of the church without having any personal involvement?”

The Freedom issue had talked about Miscavige personally overseeing Scientology’s operations.
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1:17 pm

So they are still arguing about the motion for continuance, Mike says. And just like last time, Scientology has a contingent of about 14 lawyers.

After lunch, Cedillo (CSI’s attorney) wants to rebut all of the sworn declarations filed by Monique’s side.
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1:19 pm

Bennitt says that Jefferson was again making pains to keep separate CSI, RTC, etc. And Mike says that the Judge interrupted at one point and said, Remind me again what the purpose of the separation of entities is?

So once again, it’s alphabet soup.
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1:20 pm

In the last half hour, Elliott Cappuccio rebutted Jefferson in a very animated and coherent style, Mike says. Elliott was effective citing case law, he says.
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1:43 pm

Hey, we found that 2009 letter that Miscavige wrote to Tobin and Childs which was in the issue of Freedom that Ray Jeffrey put into evidence today. And yes, we can see why it’s a problem for Miscavige. Here’s the text…

20 June 2009

Dear Mr. Childs and Mr. Tobin,

I have been advised that you have decided to move forward with your story without my interview. This, despite the fact confirmed more than three weeks ago that I would make myself available on a date certain (6 July), after you spoke to other relevant Church personnel and toured Church facilities, and that I would provide information annihilating the credibility of your sources including the fundamental crimes against the Scientology religion that were the reasons for their removal from post. You were advised that information would include addressing the extraordinary “admissions” of one of your sources regarding a long-settled legal matter.

I was advised Thursday that you would only interview me on Friday, although you well knew it would be impossible for me to meet with you this week because of a long-standing commitment to be aboard the SMV Freewinds for a week of religious events at the Church’s annual OT Summit. I am at a loss to comprehend how the St. Petersburg Times can publish a story about me and the religion I lead without accepting the offer to speak with me, on the pretense that you cannot wait until after I have fulfilled my religious commitments.

While you have already received unequivocal statements frmo more than a score of witnesses, along with documentary evidence, providing incontrovertible proof that your sources are lying, I remain ready to sit down for the requested interview on the date previously confirmed. If you decide not to avail yourself of this opportunity, I insist you do not misrepresent the fact that the decision was yours, not mine.

Kind regards.

Sincerely,

David Miscavige
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1:54 pm

So, to review. What’s at stake today is that Scientology leader David Miscavige wants out of this lawsuit through the filing of a “special appearence.” His lawyer, Lamont Jefferson, has been arguing that Miscavige is too busy being the “ecclesiastical” leader of a worldwide religion to get his hands dirty with the harassment campaign against the Rathbuns that a separate entity, the Church of Scientology International, has admitted to. (They’re throwing CSI under the bus in an attempt to get Miscavige out of the lawsuit, in other words.)

Also, Jefferson has said that Miscavige is so unencumbered by the activities of the Rathbuns, he doesn’t even know Marty.

And that’s why this 2009 letter from Freedom is so possibly devastating. It shows Miscavige chewing out the St. Petersburg Times for not waiting for him to personally explain to them why Marty Rathbun and the other high-ranking defectors are all liars — he should know, since he runs the joint.

Monique is arguing that it clearly shows there’s one person who can really answer the question about David Miscavige’s involvement in the Rathbun harassment campaign in Texas — and that’s Miscavige himself. And that’s why she’s asking for a continuance, a delay, in order to take his testimony before the question of his motion to be dismissed from the lawsuit can be decided.
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2:02 pm

Here’s some video from Mike Bennitt…

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2:08 pm

Did you catch that? That was George Spencer (local attorney for the Church of Scientology International) accusing Marty Rathbun of “frankly, cultish agenda.”

Only David Miscavige would think that an effective jab, and we can guarantee you, it was Miscavige who ordered Spencer to use that language in court today.
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3:06 pm

It was just brought to our attention that we had the wrong document linked in the main body of the story above. The correct motion from Monique asking for a continuance on the anti-SLAPP matter is now linked correctly.
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4:03 pm

Bennitt’s back out. Another contentious session in the afternoon, he says. Jeffrey’s voice was literally shaking at times, he says.

Still no decision yet on anything.

The hearing will be resuming on Friday morning. In the meantime, Waldrip will be reading declarations and the church’s objections to them.
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4:05 pm

Mike says Friday they’ll take up the jurisdictional issue again, so that means the anti-SLAPP matter gets pushed back, but Waldrip noted that the 60-day limit on the anti-SLAPP motion occurs on December 17.
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4:08 pm

When Ricardo Cedillo (CSI’s attorney) brought up the deadline on the anti-SLAPP motion (Dec. 17), the attorney for defendant Monty Drake suddenly spoke up, saying that he was going to Dallas tomorrow and needed to know if he’d have to rush back to New Braunfels on Friday.

Drake said he needed to argue the anti-SLAPP matter and asked to start arguing it this afternoon. But Waldrip told him he needed to “compartmentalize” material and was focused on the jurisdictional issue first.
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4:09 pm

So 9 am Friday, the hearing on Monique’s motion for a continuance on the jurisdictional question will continue.

Our great thanks to Mike Bennitt for being on the scene and giving us these updates.
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4:15 pm

Getting a statement from Monique’s team soon…
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4:28 pm

Just talked to Ray Jeffrey, who didn’t sound like he’d been through a contentious day at all.

We asked him for the upshot of today’s hearing.

“The beauty of it is, they launched all these paragraph-long objections to our declarations. Binders of them. That’s going to force the judge to read it all, line by line. And when he finishes it, I think it will have a powerful effect on him,” Ray says. But obviously, not the effect Scientology is looking for.

We asked about Lamont Jefferson showing images on the big screen from the IAS gala a couple of weeks ago. “They are making the point that Miscavige is the ecclesiastical leader, he’s busy. And they brought up the decision in England, about marriage, which Marty had predicted they would do. But it doesn’t look good for them,” he says.

We think we know what he means. When we were in the courtroom in October, the Scientology team showed similar images that just came off plastic and fake. And this judge is no dummy. One wonders if these attorneys would try such an approach if Miscavige wasn’t such a micromanager of their work.

We asked what else Jeffrey was telling the judge.

“I was just pointing out how the church is stonewalling and giving us witnesses who are not with Miscavige for any appreciable amount of time. We need the deposition of David Miscavige. We also need documents. They’ve given us some documents, but it’s just stuff they want us to see. Like their corporate papers,” he says. “They haven’t given us one operational document. Not one e-mail or text message — there’s nothing from the surveillance operation itself. And we know they’re a record-intensive organization. There have to be documents.”

Scientology argued that enough evidence had been submitted to show that Miscavige had no connection to the surveillance operation of the Rathbuns.

“We’ve presented evidence which shows they’re not telling the truth. So we’re at least entitled to take the deposition of Miscavige,” Jeffrey says.
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6:22 pm

Just learned that there was another article in the 2009 Freedom magazine that was even more crucial and may have been what really impressed Judge Waldrip.

Stand by and we’ll soon have some excerpts from it posted here.
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6:26 pm

From “The Story They Refused to Tell: David Miscavige and the Scientology Renaissance” (Freedom, 2009)…

Conspicuously missing from the 16 pages of the S.P. Times “Special Report” on Scientology is the true face of the Church’s ecclesiastical leader, Mr. David Miscavige, the driving force behind Scientology’s explosive expansion…

Mr. Miscavige has been the driving force behind the worldwide program to expand all of the Churches of Scientology to better serve their communities—to not only become islands of sanity and succor where all are welcome, but to also serve as central points of emanation for the Church’s many social betterment programs aimed at eradicating the crippling plagues of illiteracy, immorality, drug abuse and intolerance.

Mr. Miscavige redefines the term “religious leader” to fit the tasks necessary to direct a truly unique contemporary religion—the only major religion to emerge in the 20th century. And now the religion’s growth has continued at a phenomenal rate in this century, with the number of individuals completing Scientology counseling and course services doubling in just the last two years, as but one example. This is being accomplished through his extraordinary vision in every major aspect, including:

— Personally driving the international dissemination of Scientology;
— Ensuring that the Scriptures of the Scientology religion are pure and true to the Founder’s original writings;
— Establishing units to see to the translation of millions of pages of the Scientology Scriptures into 71 languages;
— Restoring Mr. Hubbard’s written works, recorded lectures and films of his lectures;
— Providing the guidance for the acquisition, construction and creation of ideal Scientology organizations;
— Supplying the direction for the creation of two state-of-the-art digital publishing houses capable of producing 500,000 books and 925,000 CDs per week;
— Providing the vision for crafting, refining and broadening core Scientology social betterment programs in drug education and rehabilitation, education, criminal rehabilitation and human rights;
— Providing support and guidance to the Volunteer Minister Program, the largest independent relief force in the free world, with more than 195,000 Volunteer Ministers who traveled more than 174,000 miles this past year to help an estimated 1.5 million people;
— Personally seeing to the successful outcome of critical external affairs issues, including official recognitions of the religion; and
— Planning, creating, producing and presiding over nine annual globally broadcast events that serve as briefings for Scientologists on strategic programs, campaigns, expansion, dissemination and major breakthroughs.
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6:33 pm

So there it is, in Scientology’s own publication — David Miscavige is fully in charge, including external affairs, and he’s the reason Scientology is booming.

But somehow he had nothing to do with a four-year surveillance campaign of Marty Rathbun? And says he shouldn’t be deposed about it because he has no knowledge of it?

Oops. Hoisted by his own publication.

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