Mark Rathbun: The Juggernaut (May 28, 2013)

 

Chapter Twenty-One

THE JUGGERNAUT  1 2

Juggernaut:   in colloquial English usage is a literal or metaphorical force regarded as mercilessly destructive and unstoppable.   – Wikipedia

For all of his alleged faults, L. Ron Hubbard was a keen observer and writer on the human condition. He once noted that “the bank follows the line of attack.”   “Bank” is Scientologese for the reactive mind, the stimulus-response portion of the mind that seeks destruction of others for survival of self.   With the devastating strike upon Ron and Scientology delivered in Los Angeles, all roads to L. Ron Hubbard’s bunker led through Flynn and Armstrong. It seemed that anyone with a score to settle was drawn like a magnet to the duo. Those combined forces took on the appearance of an overwhelming juggernaut.

The DOJ duplicated Flynn’s latest legal tactic: ask courts in Scientology litigation to order the church to produce L. Ron Hubbard as the “managing agent” of the mother church. Flynn assisted the DOJ to procure sworn declarations from his growing stable of former high-level official witnesses in support of the move.

David Mayo, the expelled former auditor to L. Ron Hubbard and erstwhile top technical authority in Scientology, had created a thriving Scientology splinter operation in Santa Barbara, California. Former high-level messengers – including two former Commanding Officers of CMO Int (Commodore’s Messenger Organization International) served as executives of his operation.   Until the Armstrong affair, they had steered clear of the L. Ron Hubbard-bashing Flynn/ FAMCO circles. But by 1984 they were supplying declarations to the DOJ and Flynn in support of their motions to compel Hubbard into depositions in lawsuits across the country.

Breckenridge’s Armstrong case decision, bolstered by a dozen declarations by former Hubbard messengers and aides, made the allegation of Hubbard’s “managing agent” status virtually uncontestable. Miscavige and Broeker were clearly established as the last links to Hubbard, but they could not provide countering declarations because it would subject them to depositions – which would lead Hubbard’s enemies directly to him.

Worse, the Breckenridge decision destroyed any chance of winning, in courts across the U.S., our vast array of pending motions to dismiss Flynn’s lawsuits on the basis of First Amendment rights to freedom of religion. The twenty-one-page Breckenridge indictment was devastating to our three years of expensive efforts at positioning much of the Flynn litigation for pre-trial dismissal.

Worse still, the decision pumped new life into what we thought by then to be criminal investigations losing steam. The Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) had been actively investigating the church, as well as LRH, Pat and Ann Broeker, David Miscavige and other church officials as named targets for criminal charges. Until the Breckenridge decision we had kept the CID somewhat at bay through litigation combatting their summons power, and a team of lawyers attempting to negotiate with IRS counsel and DOJ officials. But our intelligence lines were reporting that the LA-based CID group was once again gearing up to indict Hubbard and his aides.

The Ontario Provincial Police had, after their March, 1983 raid, steered clear of targeting Hubbard. Now they were reconsidering, in light of the outcome of the Armstrong case.

Our intelligence network reported that Gerry Armstrong was feeling drunk with power, given the sudden attention he’d received and his new importance in the anti-Scientology community. It seemed Armstrong and Flynn had worked their way up to being the axle to which all anti-Scientology spokes were linked. Per reports, Armstrong was talking of bringing all Scientology’s enemies together in a concerted effort to take over the church. The man who had prevailed in his case because of his alleged “fear for his life” was beating his chest and promising to take the very life of our church, and convert all its assets to outside control.

Our only shot at staving off indictments against LRH across North America, and of keeping him out of the couple of dozen pending lawsuits was to take out the axle and so depower its spokes. It was this desperate state of affairs that drew me directly into the shadowy world of intelligence. Throughout his litigation Armstrong had remained in periodic communication with a Scientologist who knew a thing or two about intelligence. Dan Sherman had published a number of spy novels, and had struck up an acquaintance with Armstrong. Armstrong looked up to Sherman and envied his literary success and intelligence acumen. Armstrong believed that Sherman – like so many other Scientologists during the tumultuous early eighties – was disaffected with the church and no longer considered himself a member. In fact, Sherman was cultivating a friendship with Armstrong in order to glean intelligence from him about the enemy camp. Up through the trial their communications were infrequent and mundane.   All that changed when Armstrong became an overnight anti-Scientology sensation. Because of Armstrong’s newly won stardom, Sherman began giving him more face time. Armstrong began sharing some of the details of his activities as a coordination point for all camps inimical to the church, from the Ontario Provincial Police, to the IRS CID, to the DOJ, to the Mayo splinter movement. Armstrong asked Sherman to see whether he could locate some church insiders who might aid in a take-over coup inside the church.

Gene Ingram and I concocted a rather elaborate game plan.   Gene would tap one of his old LAPD comrades to obtain written permission to covertly video record conversations with Gerry Armstrong. Technically, it was a lawfully given permission since we had a witness attesting that Armstrong was suggesting taking over and destroying the church by questionable means.

Gene obtained a recreational vehicle which had a wide rear window with reflective coating, making it one-way vision. A high-powered camera could record what was going on outside without being seen. We planned to record meetings with Armstrong to obtain evidence showing that not only was he not afraid for his life, he in fact was a well-backed aggressor and an operative of government agencies out to get Scientology. After taking circuitous routes to lose any possible tails, Sherman and I met Ingram in the RV in Long Beach. We worked out every detail of Sherman’s cover. We would bring in a former GO operative and have Sherman introduce him to Armstrong as a church insider, plotting the overthrow of the Miscavige regime and willing to play ball with Armstrong, Flynn and their government allies. That would hopefully prompt Armstrong to repeat and elaborate on some of the provocative takeover and take-down ideas he had alluded to in earlier conversations.

The chosen venue for the meetings was Griffith Park, inside LAPD jurisdiction and with plenty of opportunities for positioning the RV to capture the action. Sherman met with Armstrong and whetted his appetite. He told him he had made contact with an ally who had a number of well-placed contacts, currently on staff in the church. He told Armstrong he could only be identified by his first name, Joey, for security purposes. Joey was formerly of the Guardian’s Office and was connected to a number of former GO people who were bitter about being ousted by Miscavige, and sympathetic to Armstrong and the Mayo splinter movement.   Armstrong was visibly overjoyed at this opportunity gratuitously falling into his lap.

Sherman arranged a meeting between Armstrong and Joey to take place on a park bench in Griffith Park. Joey wore an audio wire which transmitted the conversation back to the RV, parked a hundred yards away and video recording the event. Armstrong and Joey both wore sunglasses; both attempted to look as nonchalant as could be, as they introduced themselves.

Joey explained that there was serious disaffection within the church, and a forming cabal of veteran staff ready to take out Miscavige and the current management. He called this cell the Loyalists. Armstrong was clearly excited, and believed Joey’s cover – no doubt because of Sherman’s story-telling skills and credibility with Armstrong.

Armstrong shared with Joey the master plan, which he represented as his brainchild, along with Michael Flynn. He explained that the plan was backed by the Ontario Provincial Police, the DOJ and the IRS. Flynn would prepare a lawsuit on behalf of the Loyalists, asking the Attorney General of California to take the church into receivership on their behalf. The DOJ, FBI, and IRS would conduct a raid on church premises to get fresh evidence of illegalities, in support of the Loyalist action. The raid would be coordinated to coincide with the filing of the receivership action.   The public relations fallout and the possible arrests of leaders would all but cripple the church.

Joey played his role well, feigning fear and nervousness that Armstrong could make good on the government back-up. In order to prove his representations, Armstrong opened a notebook and started naming his government contacts, representing that each was briefed, coordinated and ready to roll with the plan. He cited the following agents as close personal friends and in constant contact and coordination with him and with Flynn:

Al Ristuccia – Los Angeles office of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division

Al Lipkin –  Los Angeles office of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division

Richard Greenberg – U.S. Department of Justice, lead counsel in defending civil litigation brought by the church against DOJ, FBI and IRS

Tom Doughty – DOJ associate of Greenberg

Al Ciampini – Ontario Provincial Police

Armstrong provided Joey with phone numbers for each, including home numbers for some – and urged Joey to get in touch with his team members from these agencies.

Over time, Armstrong told Joey that the IRS CID was the most active government participant, and served as the main coordination point between agencies. He told Joey the CID agents had been briefed about Joey and the Loyalists, and were excited and supportive. The CID would grant them informant status, offer immunity for any crimes they might commit in assisting the government, and had even talked of providing safe houses for insiders. Armstrong then asked   Joey to get his contacts to go into church files and find evidence of illegalities, so that the IRS and DOJ would know where to search. Joey then brought into the mix someone whom Gerry had known from his Sea Org days.   Mike Rinder was a Commodore’s Messenger who had once worked directly with Ron.   He was then heading up the U.S. branch of the Office of Special Affairs.   Joey introduced Mike to Gerry.   Mike reported to Gerry that the files were relatively clean – there were no big smoking-gun documents being created after the 1977 FBI raids. At this point Armstrong’s macho bravado provided what would be our greatest defense against the indictments being issued against Hubbard, Miscavige, et al.   Armstrong suggested that the Loyalists create evidence of illegalities and plant them in church files for the IRS and DOJ to find in a raid, and use against church officials.

All of Armstrong’s representations about government conspiracies to take down church leadership and close down the operation were duly recorded.

David Miscavige was ecstatic with the results. He had me make a presentation of the evidence to a team of criminal lawyers, assembled to represent L. Ron Hubbard, Miscavige, Pat Broker and Lyman Spurlock (Hubbard’s accountant at ASI) to prevent IRS CID indictments and convictions – the potential charges we took most seriously. These attorneys – most from white-shoe Washington, D.C. law firms – were scaring the hell out of Miscavige. They were suggesting the IRS CID case was so serious that they recommended working a deal with the IRS for Miscavige and Spurlock to do time in halfway houses, so as to prevent indictment of Hubbard.   At the root of the IRS CID case was the evidence of millions of dollars of church monies being funneled to Hubbard through fraudulent means. And at the heart of the case would be the infamous MCCS taped conference in which church attorneys and staff acknowledged the fraudulent nature of the transfers.

My presentation horrified the team of criminal attorneys. They were hired because of their conservative, Reagan administration contacts. They did not want anything to do with such an aggressive investigative move.   They were concerned about the propriety of the means Ingram and I had utilized to obtain the evidence, and thought it would reflect badly on their own reputations. One attorney who represented Miscavige personally took me aside, though. He said he did not know how to use it at the moment, but that the evidence I had obtained would ultimately save the day for Hubbard, Miscavige and the church.   Gerald Feffer was the former Assistant Deputy Attorney General for taxation during the Carter administration. He was becoming a dean of white-collar criminal case dismissal prior to indictment. He would become a senior partner in the venerable D.C. law firm Williams & Connally.   Gerry told me to work with some of our more aggressive civil counsel to figure out a way to make the information public, and he would use it to make the IRS criminal case go away.

Another disclosure from the Griffith Park meetings cut to the quick with both Miscavige and me. Armstrong had told Joey that another Department of Justice player was in on the grand plan to close down Scientology: Bracket Deniston III. Armstrong said that Deniston was not investigating to find out who attempted to pass Hubbard’s check, and he was not investigating the evidence we had provided to him.   Instead Deniston was out to nail our investigator, Gene Ingram. Deniston had represented to Armstrong that he was setting traps to nail Ingram and the church for attempting to frame Flynn with purchased evidence.

This was particularly disconcerting, given events in the check investigation while all this Armstrong business was going down.   After I had been ordered out of Boston by Deniston, I had been lured back in by a man being prosecuted by his office. Larry Reservitz had been charged in a case very similar to the one involving LRH’s check. One of Reservitz’s connections who had access to Bank of New England records had used his access to fraudulently transfer money from random accounts to Reservitz. While under indictment, Reservitz reached out to me for the $ 10,000 reward we had previously advertised in the New York Times, claiming he had inside information on the Hubbard case and could identify the inside man at BNE. We had a number of phone calls and several meetings attempting to negotiate the deal. The jockeying was due to my suspicion that Reservitz was shaking us down, and I was searching for facts that would indicate he knew what he was talking about. Reservitz was continually attempting to characterize my questioning as an attempt to make the deal an exchange of cash for handing us Flynn.

In the meantime, Robert Mueller, Denniston’s superior and head of the Boston U.S. DOJ office fraud division, had flown to Italy to visit Ala Tamimi. He bought Tamimi’s retraction of his original statement in exchange for dropping a number of outstanding indictments the DOJ had pending against Tamimi for a variety of fraudulent schemes he had previously executed. I attempted to confront Mueller with what we had learned, but he refused to meet with me. Deniston outright denied that any visit or deal had been carried out by Mueller. In either event, Tamimi’s retraction caused Miscavige to turn up the heat to get me to turn up fresh evidence of Flynn’s involvement in the crime.

I was caught between a rock and a hard spot. Miscavige wanted Flynn at any cost.   Yet I felt that Reservitz might be attempting to frame me for attempting to frame Flynn.   I walked a tight rope between pursuing the investigation to Miscavige’s required degree of aggressiveness, and not stepping over the line with Reservitz. I even visited the Boston FBI agent in charge of the Hubbard check investigation, Jim Burleigh.   I pointedly accused Burleigh of having covertly made a deal with Reservitz to attempt to sting me.   Burleigh brought in another FBI agent to witness his categorical denial that the FBI or DOJ had made a deal with Reservitz: “We would never cooperate with the likes of Larry Reservitz.” Deniston likewise denied that Reservitz was working for the DOJ.   Still, I had my suspicions, particularly when we learned Deniston had become pals with Armstrong and Flynn.

With the sharks circling in and our waning confidence in our civil lawyers (having their heads handed to them in the Armstrong case) and criminal lawyers (advising Miscavige that he resign himself to doing time, at least in a halfway house), Miscavige ordered I find a new breed of lawyer. He wanted someone tough as nails, not some nervous Nellie.   He wanted someone who could figuratively kick Flynn’s butt in court, and scare the hell out of his DOJ and IRS backers. After an exhaustive nationwide search and many candidates eliminated, I thought we had finally found our man – in, of all places, Boston.

Earle Cooley was bigger than life.   He was a big, red-haired knock-off of L. Ron Hubbard himself. His gravelly voice was commanding. His wit was sharp. He was perennially listed in The Best Trial Lawyers in America.   He could spin a yarn that charmed judges and juries and took easy, great pleasure in viciously destroying witnesses on cross examination.   After I had interviewed Earle and reported to Miscavige, I arranged for us to watch Earle in action.   Miscavige and I flew out to Boston to see Earle perform in a high-profile art theft trial. We saw him decimate a seasoned criminal government informant so thoroughly on cross examination that the fellow, in a trademark Cooley expression, “didn’t know whether to shit or wind his watch.” Earle’s client – whom the government had dead to rights, and who was as unsympathetic a defendant as could be – was acquitted by the jury.   We had found the horse for the course.

Earle was like a breath of fresh air to Miscavige.   He took a similar black-and-white view of matters – we are right and good, the enemy is wrong and bad. Miscavige had long since lost his patience and his tolerance for our teams of civil lawyers and the civil-rights-experienced civil-rights-experienced opinion leaders among them. He referred to them as the “pointy heads,” short for “pointy-headed intellectuals.”   To him, our only problem was our counsels’ timid, second-guessing, defensive frames of mind.   And Earle reinforced that view.   Cooley attended a few civil litigation conferences with our other counsel. He ruffled their feathers by readily agreeing with Miscavige’s simplistic sum-up of what was wrong and the solution to it, aggression. The existing lawyers’ nervous objections and eye-rolling reactions to Earle’s sermons only reinforced Miscavige’s view.   “They are nothing but a pack of pussies,” he regularly groused to me; “what we need is for Earle to sink his teeth into those Flynn witnesses and that’ll be the end of this nonsense.”

Miscavige was nothing if not resilient. While never giving a hint that the overridingly important goal was the attainment of All Clear, by late 1984 it was quite evident to all involved that we were fighting an entirely different battle now. It was a fight for survival. We were desperately staving off the barbarians storming the walls of whatever compound L. Ron Hubbard might reside behind. It was evident too that Hubbard himself might have quit fighting – we no longer received any dispatches from him about the legal front. He was only sporadically sending ASI advices concerning his personal business, and to the church about Scientology matters. Miscavige had a team feverishly marketing Hubbard’s new science fiction books, the Mission Earth series. He was putting just as much pressure on church marketing folks to market Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, the broad public re-release of the 1950 book that had launched the entire movement.   All titles were making it back onto the New York Times bestseller lists.   So the incongruity created another level of cognitive dissonance. How could government officials across the continent be so feverishly pursuing a man who was so wildly popular with the public at large?   It would be years before I would find out that the sales were given a mighty boost by teams of Scientologists sent out to bookstores to buy them in bulk.   In the meantime, Miscavige was adept at keeping me and the troops motivated, inferring that we were buying Ron time to bail out the church’s disastrous public image and to complete his final researches at the highest levels of Scientology.

With Miscavige’s solving of the “why” behind our failures to attain an All Clear – i.e., the outside lawyers’ blatant counter-intention to Hubbard’s advices on using the enemies’ tactics against them, only more cleverly and more aggressively – our defeat-battered hopes were rehabilitated. Earle Cooley, the great Scientology hope, would soon be unleashed.

Notes

  1. Rathbun, Mark (2013-05-28). Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior (pp. 255-64).
  2. GA: I mentioned Rathbun’s Chapter 21, which he titles “The Juggernaut,” in a recent letter to Dan Sherman. http://gerryarmstrong.ca/archives/1082 The whole chapter is Rathbun’s spin on the Armstrong Op, or more specifically the 1984 Griffith Park videotaping part of the op. The operation, which was clearly concocted to use or misuse the videos for nefarious purposes after the videotaping, still continues. Rathbun’s book shows the op continues by continuing it. Even though he calls it a memoir, and recounts different events or incidents in his Scientology career that appear unrelated to the op, the whole book is his spin on it. The book is also a fantastic late act, one more contemptuous fair game nastiness in the same old sick op.

    Most importantly at this time, Rathbun’s spin, and his facts propelling it, are virtually identical to the spin and facts the Miscavige Scientologists give to their description of these events in their black propaganda publications, in their filings in their legal proceedings, in their submissions to the IRS, or to governments and people around the world. The difference is that Rathbun says Miscavige ran and runs it all, and Miscavige and his corporate underlings either do not say or say the same thing.