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How Scientology is likely going to come back at the explosive new lawsuits

[A Scientology lawyer scrum]

The Jane Doe lawsuit filed by a powerhouse legal team on Tuesday, accusing the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige of false imprisonment, kidnapping, stalking, libel, slander, human trafficking, labor violations, and negligence, has naturally produced a big media reaction and cheers from ex-Scientologists and longtime Scientology watchers.

More lawsuits are promised, and we know about some of the plaintiffs the team is also representing — and we can say that the media and public reaction to what’s coming will likely be even more explosive.

But headlines aside, these are civil lawsuits that are being filed, not criminal charges, and after an initial thrill when such actions are filed, they tend to settle down into a long and somewhat predictable legal slog.

In the case of the Jane Doe lawsuit, as explosive as it is, we’ve actually seen most of these allegations in other recent court actions involving Scientology, some of which have not succeeded.

In particular, the Jane Doe lawsuit reminds us of lawsuits filed against Scientology and/or David Miscavige by Laura DeCrescenzo (2009), Marc and Claire Headley (2009), Luis and Rocio Garcia (2013), and Monique Rathbun (2013). And that’s helpful, because what happened with those lawsuits can help us predict how Scientology is likely to proceed with these new actions.


First, let’s review what’s really interesting and unique about this lawsuit. The eight named attorneys on the complaint include a former Cosby prosecutor (M. Stewart Ryan) as well as other former prosecutors who specialized in child abuse and other sexual abuse claims. It also includes constitutional scholar Marci Hamilton of the University of Pennsylvania, a nationally-known advocate for survivors of child abuse.

This is a formidable legal team, and they have not only promised numerous additional lawsuits still to come, but they are prepared for an extended fight. Speaking about Scientology’s history of abuse, attorney Brian Kent told NBC, “This is just the beginning, and we are not going to stop until they do.”

As for the plaintiff in this first suit, the legal team made the decision to shield her identity and refer to her as Jane Doe: “Plaintiff, Jane Doe, is an adult female whose name and address are not contained in this Complaint so as to protect her privacy and identity as she incurred injuries and damages of a sensitive nature as a result of the negligent and intentional acts of Defendants outlined below,” the complaint reads. “Information which could identify Jane Doe is not contained herein.”

But then the complaint does just that, providing more than enough information that clearly identifies the plaintiff as Valerie Haney, Leah Remini’s assistant who appeared on the A&E series Scientology and the Aftermath as the focus of the third season’s premiere episode in November. (Her name even appears in a footnote on page 22 of the complaint.) Because Haney made such a public appearance on a nationally-televised broadcast about her daring escape in the back of a car from Int Base, and because this lawsuit is not alleging that she is a victim of sexual assault, we have made the decision that we are not going to pretend that we don’t know the identity of Jane Doe.

In fact, we interviewed Valerie shortly after the Aftermath episode aired — the only interview she has given — and there’s a lot in that interview that is reflected in the lawsuit.

Valerie told us she grew up in Scientology and joined the Sea Org — signing its billion-year contract — at only 15.

She eventually was moved to Scientology’s secretive international management base — known as Int Base or Gold Base — near Hemet, California, and became steward to Scientology leader David Miscavige and his wife Shelly. That put Valerie in the personal quarters of the Miscaviges, day and night, 365 days a year.

It was her personal knowledge of their private lives, she believed, that was the reason Scientology made it nearly impossible for her to leave her life at the base, and was the reason for the ensuing “Fair Game” slanderous attacks on her once she got away in her daring escape.

What, we asked her, was the private information she knew that Miscavige didn’t want the rest of the world to know?

— “That he drank. Every night. It kind of got worse as the Hole was forming in 2004. And I knew how much he drank. I gave him his meals, I made his bed. I woke him up in the morning. I knew everything about their private lives.”

— “Like that they maybe had sex once a year, if that. I worked for them for three years, and I recognized twice that they had had sex. And Shelly was just fucked up about it.”

— “Even in closed quarters he wasn’t showing her affection. I’m in the living room and I’m the only one standing there with them, and it’s Christmas, and there’s no warm embrace, there’s no kiss….She had a separate room. They had a bedroom, but she had a dressing room where she could unwind and smoke. and she would talk with me, about Dave. Sometimes for hours. She was jealous of Laurisse [Laurisse Henley-Smith, Miscavige’s ‘personal communicator,’ also known as ‘Lou’]. She would ask me, ‘Are they fucking? Can you find out?’ But they weren’t. It would be impossible for me not to know.”

— “The other thing Dave doesn’t want you to know: His extravagance and his finances. And his schedule — how much differently he spent his day than everyone around him…There were expensive trips to the ship. To Disney World. Or diving excursions, which the Sea Org paid for. I mean, the finances were incredible. The whole Tom Cruise 2004 birthday on the Freewinds. The Sea Org paid for all of that. They flew in chefs from Nobu. They flew chefs in from Tom’s favorite Paris restaurant. They ordered in lobsters. It was so extravagant.”

— About Shelly overseeing auditions of women to become Tom Cruise’s next girlfriend in 2004: “She thought it was ridiculous. She was just doing what Dave asked her to do. But it absolutely happened.”


— About the deteriorating state of the Miscavige marriage in the summer of 2004: “Shelly was getting sick of Dave’s lack of response to her, and of his arrogance and the way he was mistreating other people.” She was also perturbed by Miscavige’s all-consuming “bromance” with Cruise that summer. “Is it just me?” Shelly asked her, wondering if she was the only one put off by Miscavige’s obsession with Cruise.

— Things got even worse in 2005, to the point that Dave went to spend time in Los Angeles, and the two were apart, which was very unusual. Also, Valerie and others were “busted” to lower-level jobs and were questioned about Shelly. While Dave was gone, Shelly handed out some job assignments at the base in Dave’s absence, and also crated up his belongings for a renovation of their quarters. When Dave returned, he blew his stack. He then went back to LA, and Valerie confirmed something we’d heard from others: Shelly made a final attempt to reconcile with him, taking a car and driving to LA to see him. But she soon returned. Then, she was escorted from the base: “I saw her walk to the car, get in on the passenger side, and then drive away. It was two and a half months after I’d been busted,” Valerie told us.

In the lawsuit’s complaint, that scene is a bit more dramatic: “Jane Doe witnessed a dark-colored tinted vehicle pull up to the main building. Thereafter, unidentified men dragged Shelly Miscavige, who was crying and visibly distraught, out of the building and put her in the car. Shelly Miscavige has never been seen or heard from again.”

(The complaint doesn’t date this incident, but it seems to imply that it happened in 2006. Valerie also said it took place in 2006 on her ‘Aftermath’ appearance.’ But we verified with her what other eyewitnesses told us: Shelly disappeared at the end of August or early September 2005.)

— Valerie also agreed with our other sources that since her disappearance in 2005, Shelly has been held at Scientology’s super-secret Church of Spiritual Technology headquarters near Lake Arrowhead, and that it’s unlikely that she’s been moved to another location, even after many press reports about this location since 2012. “I don’t think there’s any other place where Dave can control her like at that place. It’s super secret, and the CST workers take that seriously,” Valerie told us.

Because of her close proximity to both David and Shelly Miscavige, and because she can allege that David Miscavige was directly involved in her mistreatment (something that was more difficult in previous cases), it seems pretty obvious that one of the most explosive results of the Jane Doe lawsuit is that the legal team will likely move that David Miscavige be deposed.

And, that Shelly Miscavige also testify.

We already know how much this will freak out Scientology, because we have the example of the Rathbun lawsuit in 2013. In that case, Monique Rathbun was alleging that David Miscavige was in control of Scientology’s yearslong harassment campaign against her and her husband. And at one point, the judge in her case did rule that she could depose the church leader. But Miscavige’s attorney appealed that, and a Texas appellate court ruled that Miscavige didn’t have to submit to questions. Meanwhile, the Church of Scientology International, another defendant in that case, took the very unusual step of admitting to harassing the Rathbuns and offered to be responsible for whatever settlement or judgment might be coming in the case.

In other words, CSI offered to fall on its sword to save Miscavige from being involved in the lawsuit.

So that’s something we might also expect in the Jane Doe lawsuit, since both CSI and Miscavige are named as defendants. Get ready for a show of humility from CSI as it tries to protect Dear Leader from questioning.

As we said, Valerie’s grounds for deposing her former boss are a lot more direct than Monique Rathbun’s, so Scientology may have a much more difficult time keeping him out.

As for Shelly, it’s going to be extremely entertaining to see what legal arguments Bert Deixler or Monique Yingling come up with for trying to keep the church from having to produce her.

In regards to the allegations that Valerie was abused, kidnapped, and labor trafficked, we have a pretty good idea of how Scientology will answer those claims in the lawsuits brought by DeCrescenzo, the Headleys, and the Garcias.

In each of those cases, the church argued that these were Scientologists who had signed contracts and were subject to church policies, policies that were part of a religious organization protected by First Amendment religious rights.

Valerie alleges that she was only a child when she worked insanely long hours for the church without time off or even minimum wages. But Scientology answered that in the DeCrescenzo case: It considers children in its Sea Org to be religious workers who are not subject to labor law, and the church can treat them however it wants. This passage, for example, comes from a church brief in the DeCrescenzo case:

For better or worse, plaintiff, like the Headleys, was raised as a committed Scientologist and committed her life to the Sea Org. In this respect, plaintiff is no different than young people throughout history who, raised in a devout religious tradition, commit themselves to a lifetime of religious service as monks, nuns, priests, etc., often in isolated abbeys, convents, and monasteries, and pursuant to vows of poverty, abstinence, abnegation, isolation, and/or even silence. All such individuals face the possibility that their commitment will not remain steady and firm, and that they may become disillusioned or disappointed by their church. If they change their minds, they risk being cast into a secular world with which they are unfamiliar, for which they are untrained, and in which, perhaps, they may be alone…The clear lesson of the various cases discussed above is that the First Amendment not only prohibits the state from interfering with such a religious commitment directly, but also from creating liability or punishment for it after the fact if the religious life does not work out to the satisfaction of the person who made the commitment.

This argument was never tested in trial. Just days before her trial was scheduled to begin last year, Laura won a huge settlement from Scientology. But it took nine years of expensive litigation before she got to that point.

In the case of the Headleys, like Valerie they alleged that they had been trafficked by an organization that kept them confined to Int Base and worked them around the clock. But Scientology argued that the Headleys were religious workers who had signed up for a tough existence. And a federal appeals judge ruled that although it was obvious the Headleys had been terribly mistreated, they hadn’t been technically trafficked because they did have the ability to leave the base. Their lawsuit was dismissed.

We are already getting an indication that the church will pursue the same strategy it did in the Headley case. “Federal courts have already determined that service in the Church of Scientology’s religious order is voluntary and protected by the First Amendment,” Scientology lawyer Rebecca N. Kaufman told NBC this week. “Moreover, the evidence will establish that while serving the church, plaintiff came and went freely, traveled the world, and lived in comfortable surroundings. The church will vigorously defend itself against these unfounded allegations.”

In their lawsuit, the Garcias argued that Scientology’s religious rights shouldn’t protect a church that had literally committed a crime: namely, fraud. The Garcias alleged that the church had lied to them in order to convince them to make huge donations. Their argument echoed something said by Marci Hamilton in the press release for the Jane Doe lawsuit: “There is no religious liberty defense for harming others.”

But the judge in the Garcia case didn’t agree. He ruled that he didn’t have the right to review Scientology’s methods that the Garcias claimed were fraudulent, because it would require him to examine the inner workings of a church, something the First Amendment prevents him from doing. He ordered the lawsuit stayed, and forced the Garcias to submit to Scientology’s internal arbitration. (The Garcias are appealing that ruling.)

We expect that all of these previous moves Scientology made in recent litigation will show up again as the church fights the Jane Doe lawsuit and the other new ones that are coming soon. Scientology will file motions to have attorneys disqualified. They will file motions to dismiss cases based on First Amendment grounds, and then spend years appealing those rulings if they go against them. They will argue First Amendment exceptions to keep Miscavige from testifying. They will argue First Amendment protection to keep from turning over files.

It’s going to be a scorched-earth strategy from the Scientology side. But what’s new this time is that a legal team loaded for bear will try to overwhelm Scientology with multiple lawsuits and expensive litigation and what is likely to be a huge media response.

However it goes, we’ll be watching every step of it.


Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Erika Christensen, Ethan Suplee, and Juliette Lewis]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] Why we think nutty Las Vegas councilwoman Michele Fiore might be a Scientologist
[THREE years ago] CLEARWATER DONE DEAL — Couple seeks big crowd for Scientology ‘disconnection’ billboard
[FOUR years ago] LIVE-BLOGGING: The Toronto conference on Scientology kicks off and we’re on the scene
[FIVE years ago] Sunday Funnies: The desperation in Scientology fliers is getting worse. Much worse.
[SIX years ago] Meet the Man Behind WWP, the Web Home of Anonymous and Project Chanology
[SEVEN years ago] How Hooters — Yes, Hooters — Could Mess Up Scientology’s Refund Scam
[TEN years ago] Tom Cruise Lured Back Into Scientology By Man The Church Now Says Was “Demoted” And A “Lunatic”


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,485 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,614 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,118 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,638 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 658 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 549 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,856 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,724 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,498 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,272 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,618 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,184 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,103 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,271 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,852 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,113 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,152 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,864 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,390 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,479 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,619 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,939 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,795 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,914 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,269 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,572 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,678 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,080 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,952 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,535 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,030 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,284 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,393 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 22, 2019 at 07:00

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The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | 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

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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 | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


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