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Judge in Danny Masterson case quashes ‘fishing expedition’ done for Scientology’s benefit

[Judge Olmedo, and Danny Masterson at a September appearance]

Our readers might remember that after the preliminary hearing in Danny Masterson’s rape case that happened in May, we made the observation that the missteps in the hearing by defense attorney Tom Mesereau sure looked to us that they were either dictated by Scientology or they were done with church leader David Miscavige’s encouragement.

That impression was certainly bolstered yesterday when Judge Charlaine Olmedo knocked down a number of subpoenas that Mesereau had served on people (including your proprietor) that were asking for documents not only related to Masterson’s rape case but also for information that was directly related to a separate civil lawsuit against the Church of Scientology.

Mesereau’s co-counsel Sharon Appelbaum admitted as much in the three-hour hearing yesterday, arguing that Masterson’s ability to defend himself in a trial that might send him to prison for life justified asking for material that was also related to the civil case.

Judge Olmedo was clearly not pleased, saying that it was obvious that Masterson and the Church of Scientology were attempting to use the power of her criminal court in order to gain material that they would never be entitled to in the civil case.

“This is a fishing expedition which is more about gathering evidence for the civil case than the criminal case here,” she said.

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Olmedo quashed every one of the subpoenas, not only in our regards, but also the requests for information that were aimed at the production companies that filmed Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, as well as the three alleged victims themselves, Leah Remini’s personal production company, the LAPD, and two other witnesses. Only a subpoena served personally on Leah Remini was not adjudicated, and will be dealt with at a later date (more on that later in the story).

Although we were not in California, we appeared in the court virtually, and got to see our attorney Scott Pilutik argue that this website and its proprietor are covered under California’s reporter’s shield law, and that Masterson wasn’t entitled to our private communications and documents.

Judge Olmedo, in her thorough ruling, explained that the Underground Bunker is entitled to the same protection as other news sources.

“We couldn’t be more pleased that the judge took the time to understand not only the case law, but the danger the defendant’s subpoena would have posed to journalists and journalism, if granted, and she properly quashed. As Judge Olmedo’s decision implicitly recognized, this wasn’t a close question, but we’re nevertheless grateful for the court’s attentiveness,” says Pilutik.

There is other news from the proceeding. It began with the judge revealing that the Masterson team had in fact filed a “995” motion to dismiss — that’s an attempt to have the case thrown out of court based on the claim that not enough evidence was presented at the preliminary hearing — but they had only filed it this past Friday. Because of that, the motion won’t be heard until November 10, and Judge Olmedo made that date “zero of 90,” meaning that the criminal trial itself won’t begin in November but will now be moved back to at least February. (Attorney Graham Berry, who was in the courtroom also on our benefit, tells us after speaking with the prosecution that he thinks the trial will get pushed back even further, perhaps to May.)

The judge then began hearing arguments on the subpoenas and we were up first. Judge Olmedo told Pilutik (who was also attending virtually) that her preference was to take each individual subpoena and hear their arguments on both sides, and then she would issue rulings at the end.

Pilutik cited case law, but he also explained how this kind of subpoena attacks the way a journalist works. And we appreciated something he said about the specific reporting we do here at the Bunker: “Because Ortega writes about Scientology, his concern about his sources being harassed is not hypothetical.”

After Judge Olmedo heard Pilutik and Sharon Appelbaum on our subpoena, she then turned to the subpoenas served on IPC and Slauson Productions, the companies that had produced Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.

They were represented by attorney Kelli L. Sager of Davis Wright Tremaine, who made an excellent observation right off the bat: That Mesereau should know better.

She said that Mesereau is very familiar with the shield law and that “he and I have argued this in other cases. And yet they served these overbroad subpoenas.”

Again, we can’t help wondering if it was really Mesereau who came up with the idea for these subpoenas.

Sager echoed Pilutik’s case law arguments regarding the shield law and its history, saying that IPC and Slauson also deserved that protection, especially for the footage they have that was never aired.

The court then turned to subpoenas that had been served on the LAPD and one of its former detectives, Kevin Becker, who is a friend to Leah Remini. One of the main strategies for the Masterson team is to make this case not about Danny Masterson and the rape allegations but about their theory that Remini was behind the allegations and was orchestrating the case.

Things got really interesting when Judge Olmedo began questioning Sharon Appelbaum about how wildly far afield the requests on Becker extended, even to asking him about any communications or documents he might have about Scientology leader David Miscavige and his wife Shelly Miscavige. (The justification for this was that Becker had helped Remini file a missing-person report about Shelly Miscavige with the LAPD in 2013. We first broke the news about the missing-person report here at the Underground Bunker that August a month after we had broken the news that Remini had broken away from the church itself.)

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Olmedo, who spent much of the hearing asking Appelbaum pointed questions about the subpoenas, suggested that instead of looking for LAPD information about David Miscavige, they could bring him in as an expert witness to testify on Scientology’s policies.

This judge is not playing around.

And how is Shelly Miscavige relevant to this criminal case, she asked Appelbaum multiple times, to our utter astonishment. (Shelly was vanished by Scientology in the summer of 2005 and is being held, we believe, at a small mountain compound above Los Angeles. We have been reporting extensively on her whereabouts for nearly a decade.)

Eventually, after multiple tries, Olmedo got Appelbaum to respond that asking Becker for records about Shelly Miscavige might elicit information that would impeach Becker on the witness stand.

But hang on, Olmedo pointed out, weren’t they planning to put Becker on as an impeachment witness against the rape victims? So in the subpoena, they were actually trying to get evidence that would impeach their own impeachment witness?

Again, Olmedo had to ask Appelbaum this question multiple times before she finally got a response from the defense attorney: “Probably, your honor.”

It was as farcical a courtroom moment as we’ve witnessed so far in this case.

And Judge Olmedo wasn’t having it. “I’m sure that Danny Masterson and the Church of Scientology would love to know everything that the LAPD has about them in their files. But you haven’t explained how that is relevant to this case,” she said.

She later moved on to the subpoenas that were served on the three alleged victims in this case, who were also asked for any communications with your proprietor, as well as any they had with Leah Remini and Mike Rinder and other people. In this situation, the reporter’s shield law isn’t relevant, but the women had another kind of shield: Marsy’s Law, that protects victims of crime. Similar subpoenas were also served on Damian Perkins, a former Scientologist who was instrumental in helping the women become aware that they were not alone in their allegations against Masterson, and on Leah Remini’s personal company No Seriously Productions.

Appelbaum argued that Danny Masterson’s rights to a defense outweighed the privacy rights of the women and the others. But again, Judge Olmedo said the requests being made in the subpoenas were simply too vast in scope.

Pointing out that the women were no longer Scientologists and might now be involved in other faiths, she said, “What if they emailed a Catholic priest asking for help dealing with what’s going on? How are you entitled to that? And that’s what this subpoena is asking for.”

At this point, a couple of hours into the hearing, Tom Mesereau spoke up for the first time. He pointed out that Leah Remini herself, and not just her production company, had been served a subpoena, but she had not responded and was not in court. He then accused Reinhold Mueller, the prosecutor, of a conflict of interest, saying that Remini’s personal attorney had told Mesereau that Remini was ill and they were having Mueller speak for them in the case.

Mueller reacted angrily to this, saying that it “couldn’t be further from the truth” and accused Mesereau of mischaracterizing the situation. He was not representing Remini in court, and in fact he didn’t even know that she’d been personally served.

Appelbaum produced a document that convinced Judge Olmedo that Remini has been served, and that left the question, what to do about it since she was the only one who had not responded and did not have an attorney in court?

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Judge Olmedo said she was inclined to be lenient if someone was ill and considering the situation of the pandemic and the restrictions it had produced at the courthouse. She granted Mesereau a “body attachment” on Remini, which is equivalent to an arrest warrant, but “held” it, and said they should resolve her subpoena at the November court date, expecting that she might file her own motion to quash by then.

Hey, Leah, get well, and get that motion in!

Judge Olmedo then summarized the subpoenas, starting with our own, and went through each of them, discussing the case law and how overbroad the subpoenas were. She quashed them all, going into great detail about prior testimony, prior legal decisions, and how in each case the defense had failed to meet basic requirements about limiting the scope of their requests.

She seemed particularly unpleased that in some cases, the subpoenas appeared to be designed to get around rulings she has already made in prior discovery hearings.

We’re glad she paid such close attention to all of the motions, and on a personal note, it was thrilling to see our media attorney in action after the years of help Scott Pilutik has given us which has made this website possible.

 
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Source Code

“The results with psychotics at the present time are pretty fair. Of course, psychotics are definitely in the hands of psychiatry — they are actually wards of the state — and we are trying very hard to keep those psychotics in the hands of psychiatry where they belong. After all, psychiatry is organized to handle that problem. Psychiatrists have been open-minded about Dianetics for quite a while, but recently I was over at the state institution in St. Louis and the chief of the institution was running a young lady. I pitched in and gave him a hand. She had been schizophrenic for a number of years and she lay down on the couch insane; we worked on her for about two hours, hit the key engram in the case and she got off the couch sane. So the psychiatrists are no longer open-minded at Missouri State.” — L. Ron Hubbard, August 10, 1950

 
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Avast, Ye Mateys

“I don’t think anyone believed the FAO had delivered that many training and processing hours in the last few months. Over 147,600 hours of training and over 12,000 hours of Class X auditing! On FEBCs alone. 91 fired to the US. 31 to other areas. This pgm is only a few months old. Astonishing stats! We work.” — The Commodore, August 10, 1971

 

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Overheard in the FreeZone

“There are accounts of people under the Philadelphia Experiment that went to the future to 500 and 700 years into the future of Earth. Their accounts are that the government was run by an Artificial Intelligence Computer created by a North American tribe with ET connections. So, apparently the independent field and Ron’s Orgs should be working on verifying this data and incorporate computers into management. Computers have already been incorporated into Scientology Tech anyway. The fact remains that the world government of this planet is going to have a computerized management system. Better it be run by Scientologists than wogs.”

 
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Past is Prologue

1995: Jeff Jacobsen reported on the status of the Snow White criminals in Scientology. Contrary to claims that they have all left the church: “Then how come Duke Snider is listed in Source issue 91 as completing the Flag Executive Briefing Course? Why is Henning Heldt listed in Source issue 60 as completing level B of the Saint Hill Briefing Course and in Source issue 67 as completing New OTV?”

 
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Random Howdy

“People spend years, decades, stuck on OT 7. It drives them insane, like George Baillie or poor Biggi Reichert.”

 
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Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

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Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Next hearing set for November 10. Trial tentatively scheduled for February.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Pretrial conference August 21 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for Sept 9.

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Oral arguments were heard on July 30, 2020 at the Eleventh Circuit
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Petition to US Supreme Court submitted on May 26. Scientology responded on June 25.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: California Supreme Court granted review on May 26 and asked the Second Appellate Division to direct Judge Steven Kleifield to show cause why he granted Scientology’s motion for arbitration. Oral arguments scheduled for Oct 5.
Matt and Kathy Feschbach tax debt: Eleventh Circuit ruled on Sept 9 that Feshbachs can’t discharge IRS debt in bankruptcy. Dec 17: Feshbachs sign court judgment obliging them to pay entire $3.674 million tax debt, plus interest from Nov 19.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for Nov 9, 2021.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: Trial concluded, Cannane victorious, awarded court costs. Case appealed on Dec 23. Appeal hearing scheduled for Aug 23-27.

Concluded litigation:
Dennis Nobbe, Medicare fraud, PPP loan fraud: Charged July 29. Bond revoked Sep 14. Nobbe dead, Sep 14.
Jane Doe v. Scientology (in Miami): Jane Doe dismissed the lawsuit on May 15 after the Clearwater Police dropped their criminal investigation of her allegations.

 
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THE PROSECUTION OF DANNY MASTERSON

We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links, including our four days in Los Angeles covering the preliminary hearing and its ruling, which has Danny facing trial and the potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison.

SCIENTOLOGY: FAIR GAME

After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.

LEAH REMINI: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE AFTERMATH

An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.

SCIENTOLOGY’S CELEBRITIES, from A to Z

Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

 
Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. 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 a weekly series. How many have you read?

 
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THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] The Top 25 People Enabling Scientology, No. 24: Rebecca Dobkin and other low-level PI grunts
[TWO years ago] Scientology in a nutshell: The lights are on, but nobody’s home
[THREE years ago] Colombian senator asks defense minister to investigate Scientology over medal scandal
[FOUR years ago] Bogus court documents, compliant search engines, and Scientology-style rehabs
[FIVE years ago] Scientology’s richest couple buys ‘Holy City,’ a California ghost town and former cult site
[SIX years ago] EXCLUSIVE: Tom Cruise Scientology video shows the actor praising the church — in Spanish!
[SEVEN years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: The Sea Org full regalia edition!
[EIGHT years ago] Jon Atack and a Special Guest Wrestle with Gerry Armstrong’s Legal Scientology Nightmare
[NINE years ago] Scientology’s Idea of a Rollicking Sermon: Watch This Gem From 1984
[TEN years ago] Londoners See a Disaster, But Scientology Sees an Opportunity!

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 2,388 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,893 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,413 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,433 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,324 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,631 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,499 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,273 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,603 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,077 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,393 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,959 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,878 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,046 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,627 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,888 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,926 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,639 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,164 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 519 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,694 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,245 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,394 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,714 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,569 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,688 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,044 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,347 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,453 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,851 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,727 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,310 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,805 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,059 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,168 days.

——————–

Posted by Tony Ortega on August 10, 2021 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, 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, 1995-2020 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2020), 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, 15 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

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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