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Scientology scrambles to keep Miscavige out of forced-abortion trial

[Laura D and her attorney, John Blumberg]
One month from today, Laura DeCrescenzo is finally scheduled to get the trial against Scientology that she first asked for more than eight years ago — and the church is scrambling to keep leader David Miscavige out of it.

Today, the court will hear a request by the church to expedite consideration of a motion it is filing to keep Miscavige out after he was served with a notice to appear by Laura’s legal team. As we’ve seen in previous cases, particularly one in Texas, the church will go to enormous lengths to keep Miscavige out of a witness chair, and it seems pretty clever for Laura to demand his presence so close to her trial.

Laura joined the Sea Org at twelve, alleges she was forced to have an abortion at seventeen, and was so desperate to leave the Sea Org she drank bleach. She also believes she was intimidated by the church from filing her lawsuit sooner, which is a central issue in this first of two trials, scheduled for August 13 at Los Angeles Superior Court.

To help us understand what’s at stake in this first trial, and how bad it portends to be for Scientology, we asked attorney Scott Pilutik to explain what’s about to happen…

 

For every tort claim there is a statute of limitation — a time period in which you must file — and should you fail to timely file your claim, as was the case with Laura, you must have a good excuse, or your claim will be dismissed. Laura’s excuse is called “equitable estoppel,” which, as applied here, is an argument that Scientology cannot rely on the statute of limitations having run out because it was their own conduct that prevented Laura from filing on time. That is, Scientology can’t take advantage of a rule that would otherwise benefit them if they effectively prevented Laura from becoming aware of it. Reduced even further, Scientology can’t profit from its own misdeeds.

Laura alleges she didn’t comprehend her legal rights enough to timely file a complaint because (1) Scientology falsely represented to her that the documents she’d signed released Scientology from liability; and (2) Scientology threatened and intimidated Laura. The legal standard at trial will be whether Laura’s reliance on Scientology’s misrepresentations and threats was reasonable, which will take into account Scientology’s particular influence over Laura, given that she was raised in the Sea Org as a child and continued in service as an adult.

Now, Scientology has already sort of won the argument about whether Laura’s delay was reasonable, twice even — once in federal court and again in state court — though the circumstances and facts at issue were slightly different each time, and on neither occasion was there a trial, both were successful motions to dismiss (meaning that as a matter of law even crediting Laura’s claims as true, the courts found that Laura’s excuse for not filing on time wasn’t good enough).

The reason Laura’s day in court is finally approaching is because in 2011 the Second District Court of Appeal in California reversed the state court, finding that the reasonability of Laura’s delay in filing was a factual matter to be resolved at a trial. And yes, you’re right, 2011 was long time ago. The intervening years found Scientology throwing spaghetti at the wall hoping some would stick, and that they’d emotionally and/or financially exhaust Laura to force a settlement. But none stuck and we’re finally here.

At this trial, the task for Laura’s attorneys will be to connect Scientology’s conduct to the impact it had on Laura’s mindset between the time the claims occurred and the statute of limitations ran out, which will cover Laura’s time in Scientology and a short period of time after she left. When you consider that Scientology’s handling of Laura was more or less standard operating procedure, it should be obvious why their wall-spaghetti budget was so high since 2011. Because if Laura can show that it was reasonable for one ex-cult member to exist in a period of legally incapable limbo, it undermines any release or waiver signed by ex-cult members and provides them with extra years to consider suing.

The ramifications for Scientology are huge because not only would a loss broaden the time window during which ex-cult members could sue (providing they could show similar harms as Laura), it would damn the practice of Scientology itself by recognizing that not only is Scientology not helping the “able to become more able,” as they like to claim, they’re literally rendering their members unable to comprehend their legal rights.

Scientology, whose goal at trial will be to show that Laura’s delay was *unreasonable* will attempt to undermine Laura’s credibility by making a hundred versions of the same argument: If it was so bad, why did you stay so long? They’ll say she was fine, that she didn’t suffer at all, and her suit is entirely motivated by greed (as if waiting a decade for a trial to commence is a viable financial strategy).

Postscript: It’s important to remember that this is only the trial before the trial on Laura’s main claims (forced abortion, false imprisonment, violation of liberty under California Constitution, wage violations, unfair business practices). Laura needs to win this in order to get a hearing on those issues. That said, the trials would naturally cover the same terrain and proceed somewhat similarly. For Scientology, goal number one has always been to prevent any trial where the types of grisly abuses alleged by Laura are made public. It’s for the reason that I wouldn’t be shocked by an eleventh-hour settlement, probably one much higher than might have already been offered, since they’re all out of wall-spaghetti.

— Scott Pilutik

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Peter Nyiri, part two

Jeffrey Augustine continues the conversation. Says Jeffrey: “Peter Nyiri shares an inside view of the Sea Org culture within: How does the Sea Org act towards each other? For example, Peter had several bosses who constantly gave him multiple and conflicting orders — and this while expecting him to get all orders done all at once. Peter also talks about the constant screaming and endless mental abuse inflicted upon Sea Org members by Sea Org managers. Peter also discusses Scientology TV; the inefficiency of Scientology’s in-house printing factory called Bridge Publications; and the psychologically cruel event that caused him and his wife to escape from the Sea Org.”

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Scientology disconnection, a reminder
Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,174 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,777 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 320 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 208 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,383 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,157 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,931 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,277 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,843 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,511 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,771 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,811 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,523 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,049 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,138 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,278 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,598 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,573 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 929 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,231 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,337 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,740 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,612 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,194 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,699 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,943 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,052 days.

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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on July 13, 2018 at 06:45

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, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), 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 | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news

 

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