by William J. Doherty, Globe Staff1
A US District Court jury yesterday heard final arguments in the trial of two men accused of extortion and fraud for selling false information to the Church of Scientology about the forgery of a church check.
Attorneys for Harvey Brower, 49, of Swampscott, and George T. Kattar, 67, of Methuen, admitted that their clients provided the false information, but said no fraud was committed on the church.
The defense lawyers argued that the church did not care whether the information was true or false as long as it incriminated a longtime church adversary, Boston lawyer Michael J. Flynn.
The jury deliberated more than two hours after listening to instructions from Judge John J. McNaught. The panel will resume deliberations tomorrow.
Larry J. Reservitz, a convicted swindler, was the chief prosecution witness during the three-week trial. He secretly tape-recorded conversations in which Kattar and Brower decided to falsely blame Flynn for the forgery in a bid to collect a $100,000 reward from the church.
The church offered the reward for information about an attempt to pass a $1.5 million forged check drawn on an account of church founder L. Ron Hubbard at the Bank of New England.
Reservitz, a disbarred lawyer who became a government informant following his own convictions on other fraud and drug charges, said he hid a tape recorder in his cowboy boot to record his conversations with Brower and Kattar.
The FBI initially equipped Reservitz with the tape recorder as part of an investigation of the church. But after taping several meetings with church officials, Reservitz switched his attention to Kattar and Brower.
Reservitz, formerly of Brookline, testified that he masterminded the 1982 attempt to pass the $1.5 million forged check. The forgery scheme failed, Reservitz testified, because an accomplice of his attempted to deposit the check at a New York bank without identification. He said Flynn was not involved.
According to testimony, church officials were seeking derogatory information against Flynn to discredit him and stop him from filing lawsuits against the church. Over the past several years, Flynn has filed numerous lawsuits against the church on behalf of disaffected church members. Earlier this month, the lawsuits, including one for defamation Flynn filed on his own behalf, were settled, reportedly for close to $5 million.
In his closing argument to the jury yesterday, Assistant US Attorney Gary C. Crossen said Kattar and Brower concocted the scheme because they felt the church would be a “perfect mark,” eager for anti-Flynn information, and reluctant to complain to authorities because of a longstanding feud with federal officials.
One former church official, Geoffrey Shervell, testified that Kattar and Brower obtained $33,000 from the church in return for the information implicating Flynn. Shervell said Kattar also threatened him in an attempt to collect the remaining $67,000 during an Oct. 2, 1984, meeting at Indian Ridge County Club in Andover.
According to tapes played during the trial, Kattar shouted at Shervell: “You’re finished. … Your days are numbered.”
Referring to one of his bodyguards, Kattar told Shervell: “He would blow your head off in 10 seconds. … You’re lucky I’m going to let you walk out of here, my friend.”
Shervell, who was chief of the church’s investigation section, said Kattar warned him: “Your name is going in the hat,” which Shervell said he intepreted as a threat to kill or bully him.
Crossen said Kattar also told church officials that he was “in the rackets” and that any attempt to oppose him would be disastrous for the church.
Neither Kattar nor Brower testified during the trial.
In his final argument to the jury, Kattar’s lawyer, Michael Avery, said his client was “set up” by church officials to deflect a federal investigation of the church. Avery called the threats Kattar made on tape “rough language” designed to protect himself from church officials he had been told were dangerous.
In his closing argument, Brower’s lawyer, John F. Ciciline, conceded that his client provided false information to the church to help it discredit Flynn.
“We are not denying that’s what he did. That’s what he was hired to do – to collect information for the church to destroy Flynn,” Ciciline said.
Ciciline attacked the credibility of the church, saying it believed it was permissible to lie and manufacture evidence to destroy a perceived enemy. He likened the church to terrorist groups.
- Retrieved on September 24, 2014 from http://www.scientology-lies.com/press/boston-globe/1986-12-28/jury-to-resume-deliberations-in-scientology-extortion-trial.html. ↩