By Dan Garvin
9 November 2003
In the summer of 1985, I had been in OSA Int for less than a year. I was in charge of external computerization for OSA, which meant I got to go all over the place setting up and taking care of anything that had a CPU and wasn’t inside OSA Int. Up in Portland, Oregon, the “Christo Trial” was getting going. There was already a Trial Unit of OSA Int, OSA US, local DSA and other staff and some volunteers. Some attorneys were also in Portland —Earle Cooley was the main one I dealt with. Miscavige was there, as were Marty Rathbun, Mike Sutter, Lynn Farny, Ken Long, Karen Hollander, and many other names you’d recognize. Many famous SPs were there too. Somebody got a nice picture once of Gerry Armstrong flipping the bird at the camera as he was leaving the courtroom.
The Christo Trial was a damages suit by Julie Christofferson against the Church in Portland for, IIRC, fraud and emotional distress and a number of related torts. By that time she was Julie Titchbourne, but we still called the case Christo in OSA. After a while, I was called up from LA. There were two or three condominiums in the same building in downtown Portland, near the courthouse. One was Earle Cooley’s; one was the work and research area for the OSA Int execs and senior Legal personnel; I think there was a third one for the ASI/RTC personnel (at that time, Miscavige was still calling himself ED ASI, although he was just as much the boss of everything as he is now, at least as far as OSA was concerned). These condos were fairly luxurious. The lesser beings worked in the Trial Unit at the Celebrity Centre. I got to work in the OSA Int Condo, although I slept in a hotel some distance away.
The reason I was brought up is that they wanted transcripts of the proceedings loaded into computers on a daily basis so they could be searched by Cooley, Farny, Long, et al. At first, so I was told by one of the attorneys (probably Tim Bowles), we were not even supposed to have been given the transcripts. Only the attorneys were allowed to have them, for some reason. So our attorneys of course violated this order and gave the transcripts to me and to other personnel. But I got pretty crappy copies. I had miniature duplicates of the INCOMM computers set up in the condo. They were made by a company called WICAT, and they had a Unix-like proprietary operating system. We had one or two OCR – optical character recognition – machines set up. In those days, OCRing was pretty primitive (or prohibitively expensive), and these could only handle certain fonts, which had to be in very good condition. So the crappy and illicit copies we were getting had to be mostly typed in by hand, and for that there were about a half dozen personnel who had been doing that type of thing in LA.
Later they got permission to let us have copies of the transcripts, and the quality improved vastly. The other typists were sent home and I was pretty much running the whole computer show. I could OCR and correct everything by myself. We had huge rack-mount tape drives with twelve- or fourteen-inch reels, each holding 10 MB of data. I used these for backups and to transfer the data up to the computer in Earle Cooley’s condo. The information was loaded into a database that INCOMM called FAST, which was like SIR, or Source Information Retrieval, which is all the LRH issues (of all kinds, and advices too for those authorized) in a searchable database. FAST was the same system exactly, but for non-LRH material. OSA was inputting all the documents in all legal cases, and later added just about everything else as well. When a case was going on, everybody would rush to get it into FAST as soon as possible so the legal vultures could pick it over for anything they could use to win points the next day in court.
The Christofferson case is a fascinating story, but one I don’t know very well. What’s relevant to this post is, we lost. The jury awarded Julie Titchbourne something like $30 million. Nothing like this had ever happened before (so I was told and believed). The loss would set a precedent and all the other “frivolous” deep-pocket lawsuits against Scientology churches would fall like dominoes in favor of the enemy. We were crushed. I had not been in the courtroom once the whole time I was there, but I came down to hear the decision – and share in the victory. When I heard the award against us, I literally did not know what to do. I thought it was the end of the world, or pretty close. It was impossible and unthinkable. Our religion could be shut down by ambulance-chasing attorneys and professional victims. I wandered out of the courtroom in a daze. I went down to a park in town and just walked around. Everything seemed surreal. But I realized we would not just cave in. We would appeal. We would fight with every ounce of our strength, and when that was gone, we would still fight on. I started to feel a little better. All the same, it was unbelievable. After all, RTC and ASI were running things directly, and if anybody would make sure LRH legal tech was standardly applied, they would — and still we lost. Man, there must be some heavy-duty corruption going on behind the scenes, to create such a miscarriage of justice! Well, we’d find that, too, and somehow we’d win. We had to. The survival of the world depended on it.
So I got tired of moping and headed back to the condo. The execs and OSA guys were there; I don’t remember which ones but probably most of the ones who normally worked or attended conferences there. Nobody was saying much; it looked like everybody else hadn’t finished moping yet. So I took a hint and resumed moping. Every once in a while somebody would wonder what the hell we were going to do, or what went wrong, and speculate about how bad it was going to be. After a while, the CO OSA Int, Mike Sutter, spoke up. He said (paraphrasing), “I don’t care if she thinks she won. That bitch is never going to see one single cent. I’ll kill her first. I don’t care if I get the chair — it’s worth it. It’s just one lifetime.”
I froze. I wasn’t moving much to begin with, but I froze solid. I didn’t want to breathe. I forgot all about our immediate problems. My CO had just said he was going to murder Julie Titchbourne. He was absolutely serious. I was in shock. Sure, she deserved to die — all SPs did. But you can’t actually do that that sort of thing. My thoughts raced. Please, I thought, please, somebody say something that will make this stop. I was trying to think what I could say. If I said the wrong thing, or said it the wrong way, I’d be out of there that night and getting sec checked the next day. But this was madness!
There was not a sound in the room. It seemed like ten minutes but was probably only one. Finally Miscavige spoke up. Here’s what he didn’t say: He didn’t say, “Sutter, you’re fucking crazy, we don’t kill people!” He didn’t say, “You’re joking, right?” He didn’t explain that Julie’s estate would still get the money or that killing a plaintiff would be a hundred times worse for the Church than paying her even the whole $30 million. He just said, “No, this is what we’re going to do.” And then launched what within a day or two became the Portland Crusade.
The Crusade, along with a lot of flanking actions and, according to Cooley, his own research in the database I’d put together for him, worked, and the Judge, Londer, eventually threw out the decision. Julie would have had to start from scratch, with much tighter restrictions on what was admissible as evidence. I guess they just gave up.
Julie deserved that money, or at least some compensation for being screwed over by Scientology. I’m sorry for my part in stopping her from getting paid. But, then again, if the Crusade and everything had failed and she had won in the end, I wonder if Sutter would ultimately have made good on his promise to murder her. Even if the estate still collected Julie’s money, it sure would have made other plaintiffs think twice about their own cases. It may be that Julie’s loss is the only reason she is alive today.
One thing I am absolutely certain of: When Mike Sutter said he would kill her, he meant it, absolutely and literally. He certainly was not reprimanded or corrected at the time by anyone for suggesting this, and if any action was taken against him later, it was nothing I ever heard about – nor did anybody ever pull me aside and say, “You know we would never actually do that, right?” or some such. In fact, a few months later he was promoted to RTC. He was still in RTC as late as 1995 or so. I don’t know if he has been seen in the last few years. That could mean a number of things. He could just have a post that never requires him to leave the Gold Base, or he could have gone to the RPF, or he could have been transferred somewhere else on some secret post or mission. Or, for all I know, he could have gone off to do the Hit Man Full Hat and Apprenticeship.
Hubbard’s Code of Honor says, near as I can recall, “Your honor and integrity are more important than your physical body.” Also, the third and fourth dynamics (the group Scientology, and all mankind) are more important than anyone’s first dynamic (self — an SP’s life or the life of whatever hero murdered the SP). To the average Scientologist and perhaps the average SO member, this interpretation of those ideals may sound extreme, even beyond extreme. As one nears the top of the ladder, though, I think they’re pretty typical. What may not be typical is the willingness to actually go through with it, mainly because the repercussions on Scientology would be far worse than the consequences of not committing the murder.
Lurkers, those of you still in the COS— this is a glimpse at a side of RTC that you don’t hear about at the International Events. Next time you’re watching David Miscavige spewing his glib, formulaic PR at you, try remembering that this is a man to whom murdering a plaintiff was apparently just another option, one that he ultimately rejected in favor of a better one, but one he seemed to have no fundamental objections to.
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