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Scientology’s anti-SLAPP motion in harassment suit being heard today: Rathbun seeks delay

Monique_Rathbun2Monique Rathbun’s harassment lawsuit against Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige, resumes today at the Comal County courthouse in New Braunfels, Texas, and we have someone on the scene.

Local reporter Nick Rogers, who has done fine work for the Texas Citizen, will be sending us updates as today’s events unfold.

At issue this time is Scientology’s anti-SLAPP motion, which is trying to portray Monique’s lawsuit as a cynical and groundless effort that is actually intended to shut down the church’s free speech rights. Monique’s attorneys have filed for a continuance, and hope to get Judge Dib Waldrip to delay Scientology’s motion so she can gather more evidence in discovery.

If Waldrip doesn’t grant the continuance, Ray Jeffrey says his side is prepared to argue the anti-SLAPP motion itself.

We had earlier pointed out some of the flaws in Scientology’s motion, which is attempting to cast one of the most litigious, bullying organizations in human history as an outgunned underdog.

We’ll be looking to see if Monique’s motion for sanctions also comes up, as well as wrestling over setting up a deposition of Miscavige.

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Ray Jeffrey tells us that yesterday he entered a formal notice for Miscavige’s deposition, but we have to assume the church is going to continue to do what it can to keep a deposition from happening.

We’ll post updates as soon as we can get them.

 
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The Scientology-Mormonism moment

One of our readers has put together a really interesting video which suggests that as each is hitting hard times, Scientology and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a/k/a Mormons) have each turned to very similar methods to stave off irrelevancy. It’s a hoot!

 

 
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Karen de la Carriere on the RPF’s RPF

Another interesting video from Karen de la Carriere, J. Swift, and Angry Gay Pope…

 

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Posted by Tony Ortega on January 8, 2014 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.

 

(New posts will appear below this line.)

9:44 am

We’ve heard from Nick Rogers and Mike Bennitt, who are getting into position at the courthouse. Bennitt tells us that Joe Childs of the Tampa Bay Times is also on the scene, as well as TV reporters. Bennitt hopes to get us some photos before too long.
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9:59 am

Nick says there’s a line to get into the building, but the reason quickly became clear — one of the two elevators is out. Meanwhile, Mike Bennitt tells us he has spotted Wallace Jefferson, who recently stepped down as the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. He’s joined his brother, Lamont, as a member of Scientology’s huge team of expensive lawyers.
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10:06 am

JoeChildsComal

Joe Childs has his seat in the front row — he’s set! (Photo by Mike Bennitt)

Nick tells us Judge Waldrip is handling other cases as well — we may be in for some breaks during the day.
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10:36 am

Judge Dib Waldrip is now in the courtroom, but Nick tells us he’s dealing with other matters first.
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10:51 am

Yesterday, we asked Ray Jeffrey if Scientology had filed a response to Monique’s motion for sanctions. He said they hadn’t. But this morning, Nick tells us he spoke to Ray, who told him the church has filed an answer — but did not question the validity of the 2007 texts submitted by Mike Rinder. We’ll try to get our hands on that filing by the church as soon as we can!
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11:01 am

Some side drama developing: Monique apparently pulled “Lone Star” — a local ex-Scientologist — aside to witness for her that a local OSA member was keeping watch on her. When Monique said there was a temporary restraining order preventing surveillance, the female OSA member reportedly said they were in a public place. Trying to get more detail about this.
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11:44 am

Nick reports that Judge Waldrip has cleared his morning docket, and after a break, we’ll finally be getting to the matter at hand.
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1:13 pm

From Lone Star over at ESMB: [Scientology attorney Ricardo] Cedillo is saying [Ray] Jeffrey’s motion to continue the anti SLAPP motion by the CSI is defective. Ray got pretty hot. Ray wants more discovery. Cedillo says requested discovery is not warranted for anti-SLAPP…Cedillo is bulldogging his way around the court today. Trying to filibuster and at times succeeding. CSI and RTC still haven’t produced documents.
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1:52 pm

Getting an update from Nick by phone right now. Details coming soon…

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2:07 pm

Just talked to Nick Rogers, who was out of the courtroom on the lunch break.

He says that Scientology lawyer Ricardo Cedillo and Monique’s attorney Ray Jeffrey really battled back and forth this morning, and once again things got heated.

At issue: Cedillo wanted to present his opening statement and arguments for the church’s anti-SLAPP motion. Jeffrey wanted a delay so Monique can get more discovery — the same request for information that she has for the jurisdictional question that Waldrip has already granted.

So Waldrip at this point has come up with an interesting way to address both requests…
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2:12 pm

Judge Waldrip decided that Cedillo could make his opening statement and arguments, and at the end of the day, the Judge will then decide whether to recess until February 16 so Monique’s side could continue to get discovery before they present their side.

So this morning, Cedillo made his big play for how this lawsuit is really all about Marty Rathbun trying to destroy David Miscavige, which is essentially a religious argument, and therefore protected by the First Amendment and not a matter for the courts.
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2:19 pm

Nick tells us that Cedillo’s argument was that Marty Rathbun has declared himself a new Martin Luther, and he’s out to get the church. It was a religious argument and so should be thrown out on First Amendment grounds.

And we’re hearing from several people that the highlight of Cedillo’s morning presentation was an ostentatious video showing what a colossal big deal David Miscavige is. Nick thought it was put together just for this hearing, and recently — it had footage of the recent New Year’s Eve event.

Once again, Miscavige has found a way to get his testimony directly into court, not trusting his attorneys to make his arguments for him — and, without allowing himself to be cross-examined.

Those who saw it, however, are telling us the video was par for the course for Scientology and actually gives the opposite effect than it’s going for.
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2:20 pm

Nick says that for his part, Ray Jeffrey has been in a feisty mood. He called the Church of Scientology filing an anti-SLAPP motion — which is usually used by outgunned opponents against big bullies who sue to silence critics — like something out of ‘Alice in Wonderland.’
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2:23 pm

Nick said that a lot of what Cedillo presented in his opening was what we already saw in the church’s filing. That it’s a religious dispute that the court shouldn’t be involved in. That it’s protected by First Amendment.

Cedillo showed numerous video clips of Marty, and they were generally the same YouTube videos we’d seen before in the courtroom.

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Ray Jeffrey pointed out that the lawsuit was filed by Monique Rathbun, not her husband Marty.

Cedillo said he’d show her role this afternoon.

Cedillo on Marty: “He used his blog to impugn the reputation of the leader of the church, Mr. Miscavige.”

Also, Cedillo denied that Marty was the second in command of the church.

At one point, Nick said, Cedillo showed an image of L. Ron Hubbard’s books and said that Marty was trying to “bust” their copyrights.

“I could see Marty laughing during the video,” Nick said.
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2:24 pm

A short video of Ray Jeffrey shot by Mike Bennitt
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3:09 pm

Maybe it’s not all Cedillo this afternoon. Nick just texted that Ray Jeffrey is now arguing that what he wants in discovery are texts, e-mails and phone records about the harassment operations against Monique and Marty.

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3:54 pm

Wallace_Jefferson

Photo by Mike Bennitt of Wallace Jefferson, former chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, sitting with the Scientology team.

His brother Lamont has been representing David Miscavige and the Religious Technology Center as they attempt to get out of Monique’s lawsuit. What will Wallace’s role be?
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4:13 pm

While we’re waiting for the next update, we’ll just put in another plug here for Jason Beghe’s show, Chicago PD, which starts tonight on NBC at 10 pm. Check your local listings.
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6:28 pm

Still waiting to hear from Nick or Bennitt. It’s almost 5:30 in New Braunfels, and pretty late for them still to be in the courtroom…
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6:42 pm

They’re out! Nick Rogers calling me in a moment…
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7:00 pm

The upshot: No decision tonight. Tomorrow Ray will file a request for more discovery. Then Scientology can respond by noon Friday and Waldrip will then decide whether they can proceed with that discovery.

Details in a minute.
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7:16 pm

Nick says that Ricardo Cedillo presented a decent case during the early part of the afternoon, trying to convince Judge Waldrip that the case should be thrown out because this was a religious dispute. Then other attorneys began chiming in. The attorney for private investigator Monty Drake chimed in, for example, saying that the Rathbuns had to prove that Drake had actually harmed the Rathbuns.

But the most interesting thing that emerged about Monty Drake (the Dallas PI), Nick says, was that we found out he had been sent to Marty’s house in 2007 to make sure he was still alive.

(Marty had defected in 2004, but by 2007 he was so underground there were rumors online that he had died. He didn’t resurface until he began seeing other former members in 2008, and then started blogging in 2009. Only then, we thought, did the surveillance begin. Now we learn it started two years earlier.)
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7:18 pm

Nick said that numerous times, Judge Waldrip made it clear he was fed up with Scientology’s delaying tactics and refusal to turn over evidence.

At one point, when Monty Drake’s attorney started talking about being in court tomorrow, and Ricardo Cedillo complained that he’d in court next week, Waldrip said that made his decision pretty easy, “because I’m not going to play gotcha with dates.”

“At that point, they backed off,” Nick says about the Scientology attorneys.
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7:23 pm

Another interesting exchange, Nick says, occurred when Ray Jeffrey said one of the discovery requests he was making were for all of the photos that Scientology had taken of the Rathbuns from 2009 to 2013.

Waldrip said that seemed like a very broad request, and asked Ray if he might narrow it down.

So Ray said they definitely wanted the photos that Monty Drake had taken of the Rathbun home. If you remember from our previous reporting, Marty and Monique discovered in September 2012 that a house down the block from the Ingleside home was set up with cameras to watch them. Marty eventually learned that the house had been leased by Drake.

Ray said he believed those cameras had taken photos of what was going on INSIDE the Rathbun home.

Ricardo Cedillo then objected, saying there were no photos of inside the Rathbun home, just the outside and the driveway area.

Jeffrey then said he wanted Cedillo to go on the record and say that he had looked at every photo taken by the private investigators.

“Then they started haggling over photos that Monique was entitled to,” Nick says. And it was then the biggest mistake of the day was made.

“Lamont Jefferson stood up to speak.”
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7:27 pm

Lamont Jefferson represents David Miscavige and RTC, the entity that Miscavige is the chairman of. It’s been their contention that the court has no jurisdiction over Miscavige and RTC because they are separate from the Church of Scientology International, which has admitted to doing the surveillance.

(Former church officials assure us that this is just a legal tactic, and Miscavige actually runs all of Scientology through the Sea Org.)

Anyway, Lamont Jefferson began objecting to the request for photographs, but then Waldrip interrupted him.

Waldrip: What I don’t understand is why RTC is making objections in a court that they say has no jurisdiction over them.

KaZAAAM!!

Nick says Lamont fumbled out an answer, saying something about his client having a vested interest in the photos.

“So Waldrip said it looks like the jurisdictional and First Amendment issues seem to be overlapping, so you better get your client ready to be deposed next week then.”

BOOOM!!

Then Lamont backed off. “No, I’m just talking about the photos,” Jefferson said, perhaps understanding that once again he’d walked into a trap of his own making.
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7:32 pm

Jefferson then brought up the motion for reconsideration that the church had filed, hoping to get Waldrip to change his mind about deposing Miscavige.

Nick says a hearing on that motion — and on Monique’s motion for sanctions — has been scheduled for January 24.

We asked Nick about Cedillo’s statement that he was going to talk about Monique’s involvement with Marty’s “religious battle” in the afternoon.

“Cedillo just said the same thing as always — that Monique edits his blog, that she made comments on his blog,” Nick said.

Then, at some point, Cedillo began to show a video which was designed to show how Marty and Monique had been waging a war on Scientology — and it was obvious that it was a full-blown documentary, complete with narration!

Ray Jeffrey rose and objected, and Waldrip sustained! No, he was not going to allow that, Waldrip said.

So an entire documentary prepared by Scientology went down in flames. Oh my.
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7:37 pm

It gets even better.

Waldrip did allow the church to show a collection of videos of Marty’s altercations with the Squirrel Busters. But then Ray Jeffrey asked, do you have DATES for these altercations? Did they happen on day 9 or day 90 of the 199-day Squirrel Busters action? In other words, were these altercations happening right after the intimidation squad showed up, or months later after they’d been following the Rathbuns wherever they went for weeks and weeks?

Waldrip agreed and sustained the objection. Cedillo said they would get the dates.

And more: Cedillo responded to the objection by saying that the videos were useful because they reflected what was in the depositions taken so far.

Nick says Waldrip then warned him: He would allow the videos of the altercations, but he said it opened the door to allowing the plaintiffs more evidence, including extra discovery.

In other words, Waldrip was telling them they were giving him the justification to grant Monique’s continuance for additional discovery. Was showing this video footage really worth that?

But Cedillo wanted to show the footage (and we can guess why, because a certain client wants it shown), and so Cedillo went ahead even after that warning from the judge.
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7:41 pm

So at this point, we think tomorrow Ray will file a list of discovery that he wants before his side can be given to counter Cedillo. The church then has until Friday at noon to answer it, and then Judge Waldrip will make his decision Friday afternoon.

But after what Nick told us Waldrip said in court today, we’d be very surprised if he didn’t grant Monique the ability to gather that evidence, and then give her answer to the anti-SLAPP on February 16.

On January 24, the church’s motion for reconsideration (to convince Waldrip not to order Miscavige’s deposition) and Monique’s motion for sanctions will be heard.

And while Waldrip threatened Lamont Jefferson that Miscavige better be ready to be deposed next week, we think it was just a way of delivering the message that Lamont’s argument was really stupid.

Now we’ll call Ray Jeffrey and see if we can get his version of what happened. We may or may not start up a separate story.
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7:56 pm

Another thing from Nick: After Waldrip was telling Jefferson he better have his client Miscavige ready next week, Jefferson then brought up the motion to reconsider.

Nick says at that point Waldrip said that “unless there’s something new, I don’t need to hear it.” (Meaning the motion.) “These competing First Amendment and jurisdictional issues are bogging down the litigation.”
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9:16 pm

Spoke with Ray. It’s worth a story on its own. Look for a new post in another half hour or so.
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