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Jesse Prince, witness to Scientology’s ugliest behavior, spills it all in new book

About halfway through Jesse Prince’s book, The Expert Witness: My Life at the Top of Scientology, it suddenly dawned on us why we were enjoying it so much — this, we realized, was the book Marty Rathbun should have written years ago.

In 2013, Rathbun, who was once the second-highest ranking official in Scientology and was known as David Miscavige’s scary enforcer, published a book he called Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior. In that book, Rathbun described his efforts in the 1980s as part of the “All-Clear Program,” which worked to clear away the legal problems keeping Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard from emerging from seclusion.

The problem, as we saw it, was that thirty years later Rathbun still saw himself as the hero of that narrative. His book tried to convince readers that he and others were doing righteous work as they tried to destroy Scientology’s enemies.

It was a disaster.


Now, in The Expert Witness, Jesse Prince goes over some of the same material in his book, but he comes about it from a significantly different angle. Prince, too, was high up in Scientology’s hierarchy, and at one time was the third-highest ranking official in the 1980s. Like Rathbun, he also talks about working on operations to destroy Scientology’s enemies, but he does so while expressing an emotion Rathbun had difficulty wrapping his head around: regret.

Jesse goes into depth, for example, about how it was his job, and Rathbun’s, to deal with the challenge that David Mayo presented when the former top technical expert founded his own offshoot of Scientology, the Advanced Ability Center in Santa Barbara in 1983. Jesse describes multiple spying and dirty tricks operations that were thrown at the AAC, and how successful they were. And unlike Rathbun, Jesse isn’t trying to make that work seem heroic.

It was fascinating to see descriptions of those operations against Mayo and other church rebels like Jon Zegel and Robin Scott, who posed such a challenge to Scientology in the mid-1980s. Zegel was a former church member who had started, in 1982, making cassette recordings of himself describing the inner workings of Scientology’s upper management — facts we take for granted now about L. Ron Hubbard’s orders at sea and the development of the Sea Org and Guardian’s Office, but that was a revelation to many Scientologists in a pre-Internet age. Complicating things further, Jesse writes, is that Zegel was stepfather to Marc Yager, one of David Miscavige’s most trusted aides. Robin Scott, meanwhile, was a former member in Scotland at the time who was making some clever excursions to the Copenhagen headquarters in order to smuggle out copies of Scientology’s most upper-level secrets for use by independent Scientologists. All three of them — Mayo, Zegel, and Scott, posed huge problems for the secretive church, but they were all trying to preserve Scientology in their own way outside the organization. All three had to be stopped, and Jesse supplies a fascinating look at the dirty tricks used to shut them down or, in Scott’s case, get him arrested.

Like other Scientology memoirs, it’s also interesting to read how Jesse got into the organization and then how difficult it was for him to leave — like others, it took multiple escapes before he was finally gone for good in 1992.

Along the way, Jesse provides a fascinating look at how L. Ron Hubbard, while in total seclusion, still had total control of the organization through the “advices” that he sent through the late-night meetings between his lieutenants Pat Broeker and David Miscavige. Jesse saw those advices, and confirms what has long been suspected, that through at least 1984, Hubbard was still fully in control even as he was in hiding.

Jesse also goes through what he observed, from a distance, as Hubbard’s health failed in 1985 and then, after two strokes, Hubbard died on January 24, 1986. He reveals that Ray Mithoff, another high-ranking official, was sent to Hubbard’s hiding place to run Scientology processes on Hubbard that would prepare him for the end of his life. Otherwise, there’s not really any new information about Hubbard’s death here, but Jesse provides his own perspective on it — he believes that Broeker and Miscavige conspired to neglect Hubbard in his final months because otherwise Hubbard would have demoted or kicked out both of them. By keeping Hubbard from proper medical care and letting him die, they made sure that they would end up in control — and then Miscavige pushed Broeker out of the way to take sole position as Scientology’s dictator.

Well, perhaps. But we were disappointed that Jesse makes no real reference to the things that Steve “Sarge” Pfauth said to Lawrence Wright and Marty Rathbun in extensive interviews before he died in 2016. Pfauth was actually with Hubbard in his final years, and he portrayed a Hubbard who was delusional and defeated, and who wanted to commit suicide in late 1985, weeks before he actually died. Hubbard was seemingly in no shape to be running Scientology in those final weeks, and we figure that should be taken into account before speculating about who he might have fired or demoted if he had the chance. On the other hand, we agree with Jesse that in his final days, Hubbard could not have signed a new will with any conscious agency. (In that will, Hubbard provided essentially nothing for his wife and children, and left his fortune — about half a billion dollars — to Scientology itself.)

A ruthless megalomaniac who ran a vicious, totalitarian organization and who never prepared for a succession died and was replaced by another ruthless megalomaniac who runs a vicious, totalitarian organization today. We sympathize with former Scientologists who expend a lot of energy trying to convince the world that it shouldn’t have been this way and that David Miscavige should not have been allowed to take over. But Hubbard didn’t exactly leave behind a democratic or even rational organization.

Jesse left Scientology six years after Hubbard’s death, and from 1992 to 1998 he was preoccupied with making a living. But then, everything changed when he met Boston businessman Bob Minton.

We were fascinated to read Jesse’s chapters about Minton and his organization, the Lisa McPherson Trust, as Minton fought Scientology with his millions in an epic battle that doesn’t get a lot of media attention these days.

Minton was financially backing a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Lisa McPherson’s family, and Jesse Prince was going to be one of its key witnesses. McPherson was a Dallas Scientologist who had moved to Florida but then suffered a series of nervous breakdowns in the fall of 1995. After a bizarre incident following a minor car accident, she was taken by Scientologists to the church’s most holy site, the Fort Harrison Hotel, where she was kept in isolation. Seventeen days later she died on the way to the hospital of extreme dehydration. The church was indicted criminally and the family filed its lawsuit, which was going to bring up in court Scientology’s internal policies that could lead to such a terrible incident. One of the reasons that Jesse was such a dangerous witness, from Scientology’s perspective, was that in the 1980s, Jesse had been made an “expert witness” for Scientology itself as it was battling Mayo’s AAC. (That’s where the title of Jesse’s book comes from.) Who better to testify against Scientology in the McPherson lawsuit than one of Scientology’s own certified experts?

And that’s the reason Scientology went after Jesse so hard, with vicious “Fair Game” tactics that at one point had him facing jail time.

And who was running those operations? Jesse tells us it was none other than Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder.

For us, this is one of the reasons why Jesse’s book is important today: It provides what seems to us a healthy challenge to Rinder, who has become such a recognizable television figure.

Rinder himself has repeatedly said on camera that he was in charge of some pretty awful things as a Sea Org enforcer. In the second season of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, he admitted that he was a bad father to his children because that’s what was expected of a top Sea Org official. We’ve given Rinder a lot of credit for speaking up that way about his past.

But Jesse’s book reminds us that Rinder really hasn’t gone into some of the specifics of the operations he ran while overseeing Scientology’s “Office of Special Affairs.” How great would it be for Aftermath to have on Jesse Prince so he and Rinder could talk about the way Jesse was targeted by OSA operations during the Lisa McPherson lawsuit?

Jesse’s calling out of Rinder also struck us as the thing that made The Expert Witness most relevant to this moment. If the names Mayo, Zegel, and Scott have somewhat faded into the past, Jesse’s account of being targeted by Rinder makes his book absolutely current.


Scientology’s celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs’ — our new project

[Catherine Bell and the San Diego Ideal Org]

We started a new project this week, building landing pages about two of David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, his celebrities and his ‘Ideal Orgs.’ For the next several weeks, we’ll post a couple of pages each day, and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about each of them, in order to build a record and maintain a watch as Scientology continues its inexorable decline.

Tuesday, we put up Anne Archer and Portland, Oregon. Yesterday it was Beck Hansen and Sydney, Australia.

Today it’s Catherine Bell and San Diego, California!




Please join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,237 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,840 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 383 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 271 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,446 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,220 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,994 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,340 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,906 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,574 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,834 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,874 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,586 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,112 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,201 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,341 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,661 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,517 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,636 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 992 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,294 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,400 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,803 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,674 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,257 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,762 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,006 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,115 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on September 14, 2018 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, 1995-2017 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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