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Scientology’s 2013 in review: Courtroom antics reported live and on the spot!

ComalCourthouseWe’re continuing our year in review here at the Underground Bunker and we’ve reached September and October, when legal matters really came to the fore — and sent your proprietor around the country for some eyewitness dramatics!

September started out with yet another surprise: Scientology leader David Miscavige filed a personal declaration in an attempt to get himself removed as a defendant in Monique Rathbun’s harassment lawsuit. It had been about 20 years since the last time Miscavige made a similar filing, and it gave us an indication of just how seriously Monique’s lawsuit was being taken by the church. A few days later Monique fired back with a declaration by her husband Marty Rathbun, making it clear that they believed Miscavige had lied in his sworn statement.

On September 2, we published one of our longer pieces here at the Bunker this year, an emotional tale about a young Australian couple torn apart by Scientology. Yannus Sufandi asked for the help of several ex-Scientologists to hold an intervention at the home of Tiziano Lugli for his girlfriend, Manuela Oliveira, and we just happened to be there. Last we heard, Manuela was still in Scientology’s Sea Org, but had moved to Sydney.

A week later, another major development in Monique’s lawsuit which came right out of Scientology’s litigation playbook. The church filed a motion to disqualify Monique’s attorneys, arguing that by submitting a declaration from Marty Rathbun, they had somehow acted unethically. It was plainly just a delaying tactic, the kind of thing that makes it so costly to tangle with Scientology in court, but would it work with a county judge?

On September 12, we surprised our readers by showing up in New Braunfels, Texas in order to live-blog the temporary injunction hearing in Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit. We had loads of fun typing up our impressions as a gaggle of Scientology attorneys filled the little Comal County courthouse of Judge Dib Waldrip. Much of the action happened while a ban on electronic devices was in effect, so we typed up our summary of the afternoon’s events in a second post. The next day’s proceedings were even more exciting, and we set a single-post record for comments. Thank you!

On the 18th, we learned from the Tampa Bay Times that David Miscavige had postponed the opening of the Super Power Building, which the city had been told was happening on October 6. We speculated that the postponement was related to the chaos not only with scheduling multiple big events that had been in the works for years, but also with the lawsuit going so badly in Texas.

On September 22, we posted excerpts from a fascinating Scientology manual for spamming Craigslist that had been leaked to us. That sparked a new effort at WhyWeProtest.net to flag Scientology’s ads, a project that had been going on for several years.

And more fun late in September: Jason Beghe agreed with Leah Remini that Scientology wanted her to fail on Dancing with the Stars, Scientology’s drug rehab facility in the Atlanta area shut down in order to avoid criminal prosecution, we proposed an unusual theory for an odd real estate purchase by the church in Florida, and our discussion with Jon Atack about L. Ron Hubbard’s fascination for the occult generated more angry reaction than usual as the Bunker celebrated its first anniversary.

October began with another big event in Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit: Judge Waldrip denied Scientology’s motion to disqualify Monique’s attorneys, which ended up being a big waste of time (and probably that was mostly the point of it, to waste time and money).

The next day, we broke two more big stories from the lawsuit — Tommy Davis, Scientology’s former spokesman, would be deposed for the suit, and even more shocking, so would actress Leah Remini.

On October 3, we live-blogged from a courtroom again, this time in Tampa at the federal fraud lawsuit against Scientology filed by Luis and Rocio Garcia. At issue was yet another attempt to disqualify attorneys, a move that is quite rare outside the world of Scientology litigation. In this instance, Judge James Whittemore denied Scientology’s motion at the end of a dramatic day of testimony.

On the 4th, we premiered another great video by Tiziano Lugli featuring former Scientologists. This was his best yet, and packed an emotional punch.

On October 7, more bad legal news for the church: The U.S. Supreme Court denied Scientology’s petition in yet another attempt to keep Laura DeCrescenzo from using crucial documents in her forced-abortion lawsuit. Now, Scientology’s final appeal was cleared away, and Laura could make use of the 18,000 pages of evidence the church was forced to turn over to her.

Four days later, Laura described what was in that evidence in a powerful new filing in her lawsuit. We revealed those details in one of the biggest stories the Bunker covered this year.

More highlights from October: We broke down Leah Remini’s interpretive dance about leaving Scientology, France reaffirmed that Scientology is a fraudulent business in that country and not a religion, Jefferson Hawkins began an eye-opening series on Scientology “ethics,” and the Dutch handed Scientology a rare legal victory.

Then, on October 19, we reported another bombshell in Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit: Scientology filed an anti-SLAPP motion, portraying itself as a victim of Monique’s bullying attempts to stifle the church’s free speech rights. It was a bold, if cynical, attempt to have the lawsuit thrown out of court, and we have yet to see how it’s going to play out. We had some fun pointing out one of the flaws in Scientology’s strategy.

On October 23, we were in a courtroom live-blogging again, this time in Los Angeles for the summary judgment hearing in Laura DeCrescenzo’s forced-abortion lawsuit. After a lengthy day that seemed to be going badly for Laura, Judge Ronald Sohigian surprised us by completely destroying Scientology’s motion, clearing the way for a trial to happen early in 2015.

And finally, late in the month Scientology filed a surprising motion to have the Garcia fraud lawsuit thrown out of court based on something called “diversity jurisdiction.” It turned out that for ten months, the church had not mentioned that some of its trustees were in California, which could result in some of the case being dismissed.

We sure enjoyed those days in court, and appreciated all the great comments of support we heard from readers.

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on December 30, 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.

 

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