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LIVE FROM SAN ANTONIO: Will a former Scientology enforcer be compelled to testify?

[Marc Wiegand and Marty Rathbun in court when they were on the same side. Photo: Jennifer Whitney]

Although half of Texas is underwater, your proprietor managed to get himself to the Lone Star State in time for this morning’s portentous court hearing in San Antonio, where we hope to be providing live updates direct from the courtroom.

Later this morning attorneys Ray Jeffrey, Marc Wiegand, and Elliott Cappuccio will be arguing their petition to the Bexar County court, asking that a judge order their former clients, Monique and Mark “Marty” Rathbun, to turn over financial records and sit for sworn depositions to get to the bottom of what’s been more than a year of puzzling behavior.

We’re excited to be here for what might be a pretty fascinating hearing, and we want to take a moment to thank our readers who chip in their hard earned cash to help us keep up this online endeavor. Those donations allow us to make reporting trips like this one, so we can bring you coverage on the spot. So again, we thank you most sincerely.

It’s been five years since we were in the Bexar County courthouse. We were here in February 2012 for an epic day of testimony by Debbie Cook. One thing we learned that morning is that a case like Debbie’s — as well as today’s petition — isn’t assigned to a judge until the morning it’s heard. So the first thing we’ll be trying to learn this morning is which judge gets to hear Ray Jeffrey’s filing.

For their part, the Rathbuns have hired a highly-regarded San Antonio attorney, Rich Reynolds. Reynolds had told us he planned to file a response to the petition, but as of yesterday he still hadn’t done so.

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Ingleside, the Texas coastal town where the Rathbuns live, was hammered by Hurricane Harvey on Friday night, and we hope their home came through it all right. We don’t know if that makes it less likely that the Rathbuns will actually appear in court with their attorney Reynolds this morning.

If you’re new to the Rathbun matter, we’ll post this recap of how we got here…

Monique hired the three attorneys to represent her in a harassment lawsuit she filed against the Church of Scientology in August 2013. Monique alleged that she had suffered outrageous abuse because her husband, a former top Scientology official, had decided in 2009 to begin publicly criticizing his former boss, church leader David Miscavige. (Monique herself was never a member of the church.) In retaliation for Marty’s statements at his website, Miscavige had the Rathbuns followed, photographed, and harassed with pranks and intimidation, Monique alleged. She believed the church went so far as to have an adult toy mailed to her place of work, and had flowers sent to her female co-worker with a romantic message that was supposedly from Monique. On smear websites operated by Scientology, she said in her legal complaint, “They have even alleged that I am not even a woman, but a man who has had a secret sex-change operation. So, I have even had my womanhood questioned as part of this sick campaign to inflict maximum emotional distress on me.”

Characteristically, the church pursued an aggressive strategy in court, throwing up roadblocks against the lawsuit including petitioning to have Monique’s attorneys disqualified. “Miscavige is not only attempting to deprive Monique of representation, in his inimitable style he is attempting to destroy her lawyers by having a court of law brand them as ‘unethical and immoral’,” Marty Rathbun wrote at his blog about the disqualification motion. “We hope we can direct a measure of your good wishes, intentions and prayers toward the only three lawyers in the state of Texas who are willing to put their careers on the line to right wrongs they just won’t cotton to happening in their great state.”

“Hot, Blue, and Righteous,” he called them.

Monique’s attorneys won that round and several more that came later, including a huge victory at the Texas Third Court of Appeals in November 2015. At that point, one of our legal experts told us, the Rathbuns were really in the driver’s seat and within a year might be “inflicting real pain” on the Church of Scientology — and perhaps could get David Miscavige into a witness chair. But then, just two months later, Monique Rathbun mysteriously fired her entire legal team “without cause,” suggesting that they had done nothing wrong. Later, however, she complained in a court pleading that the attorneys had disregarded her intentions, had written the original complaint poorly, and had advised her that there was little money in the lawsuit. Ray Jeffrey and Elliott Cappuccio each denied those allegations in public statements.

A few months after firing her attorneys, Monique dropped the lawsuit entirely, and again blamed her former attorneys. At his website, Marty Rathbun responded to speculation about why his wife had dropped the lawsuit by denying that a settlement had been worked out with the church. (If some kind of agreement involving compensation had been reached, Monique’s former attorneys would be entitled to a percentage.)

Four months later, in September 2016, Marty Rathbun began a series of attacks at his website — not against David Miscavige, but now against a fellow former church member (David’s father Ron Miscavige) and against filmmaker Louis Theroux, who had included Marty in his 2015 documentary, My Scientology Movie. Rathbun also attacked this website and former church members Chris Shelton and Karen de la Carriere. In January, a Scientology attorney in Israel said in open court that Rathbun had supplied the church with a private email by another former church member, Dani Lemberger, for use in litigation against Lemberger. Then, in June, Rathbun began putting out a series of videos attacking other former friends who had criticized David Miscavige, including Mike Rinder, Tom DeVocht, Amy Scobee, John Brousseau, and also Paul Haggis and Leah Remini.

Marty Rathbun’s shocking U-turn — and Monique’s complete silence — has fueled a lot of speculation online, with many people wondering what was motivating Rathbun to turn on his former friends.

In order to get some answers, Jeffrey, Wiegand, and Cappuccio filed what’s knows as a Rule 202 petition, which would allow them to question the Rathbuns without having to file a lawsuit. Our Texas law expert, TX Lawyer, told us that Rule 202 petitions like this one tend to be granted pretty easily, but he expects that Reynolds will argue for the judge to at least narrow the scope of the financial disclosures that Jeffrey is asking for.

We don’t think today’s hearing will last long, but it could be pretty interesting. Now, if we can just figure out this new live-blogging software that Scott Pilutik installed, and if we can get a good seat at the courtroom, we’ll be all set.

SEE BELOW FOR LIVE BLOG UPDATES.

 
UPDATE: Well, that was an interesting morning in court. Ray Jeffrey, Marc Wiegand, Elliott Cappuccio, and Leslie Hyman showed up to support the Rule 202 petition, and on the other side, Rich Reynolds was representing the Rathbuns, who did not appear. In the gallery, it was just your proprietor and our old Phoenix New Times colleague, Gilbert Garcia, who now writes a column for the San Antonio News-Express.

The first remarkable thing that took place was that Judge Karen H. Pozza allowed Ray Jeffrey to speak uninterrupted as he told the entire tale of Marty Rathbun in Scientology, his defection, his blog, the harassment he and Monique went through from the Scientology goon squad, and then the lawsuit that Monique filed. They were winning that lawsuit until the Rathbuns suddenly fired them, and then Marty went on the attack against Scientology’s critics at his website. So for that reason, they suspect that there’s an agreement between the Rathbuns and the church, and the attorneys want to get evidence of it by having the Rathbuns submit financial information and sit for depositions.

That was a lengthy tale to tell, and Jeffrey was able to tell it without interruptions from either Reynolds or the judge. But then Reynolds brought up a good point about the Rule 202 law. You can use the rule in two different ways, and Reynolds accused Jeffrey of saying he was using method 1 (Rule 202.1a), while really using method 2 (Rule 202.1b). Why does that matter? Well, Jeffrey had submitted the petition in Bexar County because that’s where the Rathbuns had signed their contingency fee contract with the attorneys. But if they are really pursuing method two (Rule 202.1b), the proper place to file the petition is in the county of residence for the defendant, and the Rathbuns live in San Patricio County, down by the coast.

The difference between the two methods has to do with whether the attorneys are hoping to get testimony as they anticipate filing a lawsuit (Rule 202.1a) or they are gathering facts because they are investigating whether or not to file a claim (Rule 202.1b). Reynolds accused Jeffrey of saying he was doing the former, when he was really doing the latter.

The judge did understand this difference, and she quizzed Jeffrey about it. She seemed to agree with Reynolds that Jeffrey was mixing the language of the two rules. But rather than agree with Reynolds and deny the petition, she asked Jeffrey to write a new proposed order, adding language that would settle the 1a/1b matter, and then she would make a decision by Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, another interesting moment was when Jeffrey said he believed Reynolds was being paid by the Church of Scientology. “That’s my hunch,” he said in court. Reynolds ignored it, which we found kind of interesting.

Before the hearing, we had a chance to ask Reynolds if the Rathbuns had come through the hurricane all right. “As far as I know. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary,” he said.

So we’ll wait to see whether Judge Pozza will sign Jeffrey’s new proposed order, and whether the Rathbuns will then try to get a writ of mandamus to overturn it. We’ll get some answers Thursday morning.

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,857 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,840 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,614 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,960 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,454 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,494 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,206 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 732 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,821 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,961 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,281 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,256 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 612 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 4,914 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,021 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,423 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,296 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 877 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,382 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,626 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,735 days.

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on August 29, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield

 

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