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Scientology will be central in tomorrow’s Danny Masterson rape case hearing

[Chrissie Carnell-Bixler and Danny Masterson]

We’re stuck in chilly New York, so we won’t get a chance to attend the next important hearing in Danny Masterson’s criminal prosecution in Los Angeles like we did at his preliminary hearing last May.

However, the Bunker will have a correspondent there, and we hope to hear from them after proceedings wrap up. In the meantime, we thought we’d take a look at what’s scheduled to happen tomorrow, and what we can glean from filings that suggest what’s going to go down.

First, we shall once again do our best to help you understand that there are multiple court cases unfolding around Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson, and it’s not easy to keep it all straight. In August 2019, Chrissie Carnell-Bixler, her husband Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Bobette Riales, and two women going by Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2 sued Masterson, the Church of Scientology, and church leader David Miscavige, alleging that they had been harassed and stalked since the women had gone to the LAPD in late 2016 with allegations that Masterson had raped them in incidents between 2001 and 2003.

Three weeks ago we learned that the accusers had scored a huge legal victory in this civil lawsuit when an appeals court overturned a lower court ruling that had derailed the case and forced it into Scientology’s own brand of “religious arbitration.” Scientology is asking for a rehearing, but for now this lawsuit is back on and will avoid arbitration.

Meanwhile, in June 2020 the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office filed criminal charges against Masterson for violently raping Carnell-Bixler and the two Jane Does. He’s been charged under California’s strict “One Strike” sexual assault law, and if he’s convicted at trial, he’s facing 45 years to life in prison.

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Last May, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo held a four-day preliminary hearing at which the three women testified for the first time. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Olmedo ruled that enough evidence had been presented to justify a criminal trial, and she later set a date of August 29 for the trial’s start.

But in the meantime, Masterson’s legal team filed a “995” motion to dismiss, arguing that Judge Olmedo erred because not enough evidence was presented at the prelim to justify a trial.

It’s essentially a mini-appeal of what went down last May, and so Olmedo can’t hear it. Instead, tomorrow morning the 995 hearing will be held in the courtroom of Judge Ronald S. Coen, which is also on the ninth floor at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center downtown.

Based on what’s in court papers, Masterson’s legal team, which has grown to four attorneys — Tom Mesereau, Sharon Appelbaum, Shawn Holley and Philip Cohen — will re-argue much of what they did last May. It’s the usual stuff: The women accusing Masterson are unreliable, are embellishing their accounts, and have tried to coordinate their testimony in order to bring Masterson down.

Mesereau will argue that the potential life sentence of the “One Strike” charge created “ample motive to lie,” and cites some of the same alleged discrepancies that he and Appelbaum raised at the prelim.

Prosecutor Reinhold Mueller, in his response, criticizes the defense team for trying to re-do the prelim by bringing in arguments they didn’t make last May. All that is in question at a 995 hearing, he points out, is whether what was presented at the preliminary hearing was sufficient to establish “probable cause” of a crime in order to justify a trial.

In other words, “a 995 motion is not a second preliminary hearing,” Mueller says. Mesereau can’t use the occasion to simply re-argue the facts of the case or bring in new arguments he didn’t make last spring. He’ll have plenty of time to do that at the trial in August.

In his response brief, Mueller says that Mesereau is simply misrepresenting the transcript of the May hearing, and he goes through several examples for each of the three women.

But for us, the really interesting battle in court tomorrow may be over Scientology. In their motion Masterson’s lawyers are arguing that his religion should never have been an issue in the preliminary hearing, but that “the prosecution repeatedly raised” it.

Scientology has nothing to do with the case, Mesereau argues (as he did before the preliminary hearing). And the prosecution, he says, will try to prejudice a jury against the church.

Mueller’s response is fascinating, and we are going to quote it at some length here.

Prior to commencing the hearing, defense counsel filed a Preliminary Hearing Brief. Upon the Court’s inquiry, defense counsel indicated they are requesting the Court to keep out any reference to Scientology based on their claim of having no relevance to the case. The Court noted that throughout defendant’s 29-page brief, they bring up the civil suit, the anti-Scientology perspective, and use the word “Scientology,” or a related term, a total of 88 times and then conclude that Scientology has nothing to do with the case. The Court found this “interesting.” The Court then ruled on the limited extent to which testimony would be allowed relating to the victim’s fear of Scientology and/or harassment as it goes to both their then existing state of mind and as to their credibility now. The Court cited several cases regarding the victims’ current fear and/or harassment by third parties for being relevant to credibility. Further, several times during the presentation of testimony, the Court interjected to remind both counsel of the limitation allowing Scientology issues to come in as it relates to the witness’s then existing state of mind to expain why the victim might have delayed reporting to law enforcement, and/or bearing on the victims’ credibility both then and now. The testimony elicited from the victims by the prosecution was within the limitations imposed by the Court and not a product of a “religious bias” as asserted by the defendant.

We were there last May and can certainly attest to Mueller’s assertion: Judge Olmedo definitely admonished both sides about limiting the references to Scientology to what was relevant to why the women had feared coming forward earlier. She made it clear that she was not going to allow an examination of Scientology beliefs for its own sake.

But Danny’s legal team argues that when Judge Olmedo examined the ways that Scientology doctrine had prevented the women from coming forward earlier, she was actually interpreting Scientology’s doctrine itself, which is a violation of the church’s First Amendment rights.

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Again, we’re going to quote Mueller’s response at some length because we find it really interesting. (And Judges Kleifield, Burdge, and Whittemore might want to take note.)

The ecclesiastical abstention doctrine is a subset of First Amendment religious freedom jurisprudence directed primarily at preventing a secular court from making religious adjudications about matters of faith in place of the denomination’s governing body…In practice, [it] has served as a means for secular courts to avoid or resolve church disputes over property, polity, and church administration when those questions turn upon religious doctrine and practice, our of deference to religious determinations….

An implicit concept within the abstention doctrine is the necessity for there to be an interchurch dispute — namely, one that is confined to a local church body or a hierarchically structured religious organization. The string of cases cited in support of the defendant’s motion illustrates this as well. Each involves a civil court’s excessive entanglement in an inter-church dispute where a secular court made religious adjudications about matters of faith in place of the denomination’s governing body. Such an interchurch dispute does not exist here.

Further, ecclesiastical abstention doctrine cannot apply in the instant case as this Court did not engage in determining the orthodoxy or truth of Scientology doctrines, the religious validity of their application, or who is “right” in an intra-religious dispute. The ecclesiastical abstention doctrine is one of non-entanglement, not of quarantine…

Moreover, the civil courts may adjudicate a church-related dispute when the dispute can be resolved by applying “neutral principles of law” without inquiry into religious doctrine. The United States Constitution permits courts to inquire into matters involving churches and religious issues when crimes or torts have occurred…The First Amendment does not excuse individuals or religious groups from complying with neutral laws….

Here, the Court’s finding of credibility of the testifying witnesses at preliminary hearing did not demand a certain theological result, nor did it say whether the Church’s policies were correct or incorrect under the tenets of Scientology. The Court did not need to judge something to be heresy, support a dogma, or acknowledge beliefs or practices of any sect to be the law…

The Court routinely limited the admission of testimony regarding Scientology issues and policy to as it relates to the victims’ then existing state of mind and to explain why they might or might not have reported to law enforcement at an earlier stage. Here, the Court employed neutral principles of law to adjudicate the credibility of the witnesses based on their testimony on particular Church policies, and the effect those policies had on their state of mind then and now. Such a finding simply cannot raise an ecclesiastical abstention issue as a matter of law.

[Emphasis in the original.]

Wow. That’s language that anyone seeking justice for Scientology’s abuses should have with them when they seek out the help of an attorney, right?

Anyway, we’ve said before that we think what we’re really seeing in this “995” motion is Danny’s future appeal strategy beginning to coalesce. If he’s convicted at trial, we expect that he’ll appeal on the notion that Judge Olmedo put his religion on trial, and he’ll hope that an appeals judge somewhere, unfamiliar with Scientology, will go along with it.

Another point that the defense will apparently raise tomorrow is that Mesereau believes that Judge Olmedo prevented him from a sufficient cross-examination. That certainly rings a bell. If you remember, some weeks before the preliminary hearing, we found that Mesereau had given an interview and talked about how he had stretched out the Robert Blake preliminary hearing with days and days of cross-examination, and he so thoroughly destroyed the case he wasn’t even needed at trial and Blake was acquitted. We wondered if he was planning on the same approach to the Masterson prelim. And we can tell you from our vantage point on the first day of the hearing he did appear to be heading into a plodding and lengthy cross-examination style. But after letting him waste an hour or so, Judge Olmedo then made it clear she wasn’t going to allow him to turn the prelim into a trial, and she admonished him numerous times to keep him on track.

Now he wants the case dismissed because Olmedo didn’t let him stretch out and take command of things, apparently. Mueller’s response: “Whatever additional cross-examination defense counsel could have engaged in regarding impeachment evidence would have little bearing on whether the magistrate [Olmedo] would hold the defendant to the charges based on the entirety of the evidence presented.”

Well, Judge Coen will certainly have a lot to think about, and we only wish we could be there to hear these issues hashed out in his courtroom. The hearing is scheduled to be completed in about two hours.

If Judge Coen denies the 995 motion, the case will then move back to Judge Olmedo’s courtroom for an pretrial conference on the case. We believe they will then hash out some issues about motions that will precede the August 29 trial date.

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It’s going to be an interesting day.

 
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Did you know you can get an email every morning when we post our daily Scientology story? We know some of the folks who come to the Underground Bunker aren’t here to talk about the politics of the day, and that’s why we created a daily politics feature over at our other blog, The Lowdown, and we ask readers to take their political discussions over there. And if you drop us a line at tonyo94 AT gmail, we’ll put you on the list so you get a morning reminder that a new Scientology story has been posted — and only for our Scientology stories.

 
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Source Code

“Evidently, it’s practically an affront not to be able to find out about something. Any time you want to go around wearing a bath towel with a Woolworth diamond on it and be a swami reading people’s minds, also take out a large insurance policy and get your burial arrangements straight. It’s probably why they hung Christ, if they did. That’s right. That’s right. If he was the Son of God, he should have been able to find out about all the orthodox malpractices. And he didn’t. And they hung him. They didn’t hung him. They crucified him. Common practice of the day. If he existed. It isn’t true that he led a good life, so they crucified him. You see, that wouldn’t be the right story. He should have found out about ’em and he didn’t, so you see they had to crucify him and that’s just about the way it would be. Now, if you go around telling everybody you can read their minds — I know this might get you lots of PCs for a little while — be sure at the same time that you go down to the Bide-a-Wee Cemetery and get yourself a nice quiet lot because probably you won’t have time a little while later. It’s very hard to buy a lot when you haven’t got a body to pull money out of the pockets of. But that’s about how it is, you see?” — L. Ron Hubbard, February 7, 1962

 
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Avast, Ye Mateys

“The rule that blown SO members may not work in orgs is now being fully enforced. This affects Durban and Asho. CS-1 should advise these and other orgs. Franchises employing them are instantly indebted $5000 to the SO for VIIIs and other sums for other training. One special permission exists for Chris Stevens on petition to work in Tech only in JBG org. SO members who do not return from leave are classified as blown. It is interesting that freeloader org and SO billings are paid when billed. It gives an avenue of conscience money. It is actually very cruel not to provide an avenue for redress of wrongs. But freeloader billings have to be billed regularly.” — The Commodore, February 7, 1971

 

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Overheard in the FreeZone

“Given the current athmosphere in the world against the family and the push for the sodomite agenda, it is not hard to predict that some people might discard or ban from LRH books any reference to homosexuality, including the descriptions of the 1.1 tone level in ‘Science of Survival’ as regards ‘sexuality’ and ‘procreation.’ My intention is to demonstrate how those quotes (the dangerousness of the 1.1 tone level as regards to sexuality and procreation) are more valid today than any time in human history.”

 
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Past is Prologue

2002: The St. Petersburg Times reported that Scientology is placing billboards to advertise their Volunteer Ministers program. “For Americans troubled by economic uncertainty, fear and grief, 1,100 Church of Scientology billboards going up in major U.S. cities claim to have an answer. ‘No matter how bad it is … SOMETHING CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT.’ The billboards are part of an unprecedented national media campaign by Scientology to reach what it calls ‘a nation still troubled by the Sept. 11 attacks.’ But the blitz disturbs some mental health experts who express concern about both the church’s motive and its expertise in treating emotional distress. The advertisements promote the services of Scientology’s volunteer ministers, parishioners trained in basic Scientology principles that the church says can solve problems ranging from grief to marital difficulties to drug addiction. The Church of Scientology is spending $1.1-million on the billboards, which have gone up in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, Cincinnati and this week in Clearwater. More are slated for Atlanta, Boston, Miami, Washington, D.C., Chicago and St. Louis. In New York alone, there are 1,000 billboards, many mounted in the subway system. Clearwater, the spiritual headquarters of Scientology, is getting eight, and some of those will rotate to Tampa.”

 
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Random Howdy

“The 49ers sucked so bad I was forced to turn to punk rock and hard drugs for entertainment. It’s all John Brodie and Scientology’s fault.”

 
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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 February 8. Trial scheduled for August 29.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Last hearing was on January 18, referred to grand jury.
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 March 25 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for February 11.
Joseph ‘Ben’ Barton, Medicare fraud: Pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing.
Yanti Mike Greene, Scientology private eye accused of contempt of court: Next hearing February 15.

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Eleventh Circuit affirmed ruling granting Scientology’s motion for arbitration. Garcias considering next move.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ US Supreme Court denied Valerie’s petition Oct 4.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Scientology has said it will file an anti-SLAPP motion.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for June 28.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: Trial concluded, Cannane victorious, awarded court costs. Appeal hearing held Aug 23-27. Awaiting a ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.

 
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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] Here’s Scientology’s 2021 Super Bowl ad: A pandemic-flavored ‘mystery sandwich’
[TWO years ago] Scientology will try to force Jane Doe in Miami child abuse case into ‘religious arbitration’
[THREE years ago] Scientology’s social media effort tries so hard to distract you from what’s really going on
[FOUR years ago] Scientology officials from around the globe called to Florida for news of ‘Scientology TV’
[FIVE years ago] Great moments in Scientology journalism: When Alex Mitchell blew the lid off ‘Babalon Working’
[SIX years ago] Yes, that was a Scientology ad you saw during the Super Bowl. Here’s what’s in it.
[SEVEN years ago] An L. Ron Hubbard island fantasy: The Scientology daydream you haven’t heard
[EIGHT years ago] REPORT: Man was hired to keep Shelly Miscavige from escaping Scientology base near L.A.
[NINE years ago] Jenna Miscavige Hill Continues Her Media Blitz; More Scientology News in Thursday Roundup
[TEN years ago] 5 Biggest Lies in Scientology’s 2-Minute TV Ad
[ELEVEN years ago] Scientology in The New Yorker: Lawrence Wright Buries L. Ron Hubbard For Good

 
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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 2,568 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,073 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,593 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,613 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,504 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,811 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,679 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,453 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,784 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,257 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,573 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,139 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,058 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,226 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,807 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,068 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,104 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,819 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,344 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 699 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,874 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,425 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,574 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,894 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,749 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,868 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,224 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,527 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,633 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,031 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,907 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,490 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,985 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,239 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,348 days.

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Posted by Tony Ortega on February 7, 2022 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, 1995-2021 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2021), 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

 

Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast

 

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