Biased Journalism Vol. 2, issue 1

Biased Journalism: a net magazine designed to compensate for the shortcomings of the professional news media.

Copyright 1996 Shelley Thomson; all rights reserved.

Mail, articles and comment may be directed to Netiquette will be observed with all communication, except for the following: harassing or threatening mail will be posted to the net immediately.

Table of Contents for Biased Journalism.

Biased Journalism Volume 2, issue 1 January 16, 1996.

  2. Plea for Dennis Erlich
  3. Rodent Report (ARSCC cartel to buy sacred documents)
  4. Preemptive Strike by Lerma Lawyers
  5. .sig of the week
Read at your own risk. This is Biased Journalism!


This is decision time for Arnie Lerma, flag carrier for ars against the Church of Scientology. The church's lawsuit (brought by its agent the Religious Technology Corporation) against him is scheduled to go to trial on January 29. Digital Gateway Systems, Lerma's service povider, has settled on undisclosed terms.

As we have pointed out before, settlement talks are quite common at this point in a lawsuit. The question is whether the church, having pushed the legal process as far as it can without actually going to trial, can buy its way out. FACTNet has been put under intense pressure. In their case the question is whether they can muster up the last few dollars to see it through.

As a purveyor of news, rumors and crass sensationalism on the net, we would like to see this case go to trial. We would like to see what happens when certain people are put on the witness stand, and what Judge Brinkema says in her future opinions.

On the basis of information which has recently reached us, we believe that if this case goes to trial it is extremely unlikely that the church will win. Lerma's legal team has been given a silver bullet.

Think of the movie. Arnie Lerma, warrior for the First Amendment, Defender of Cyberspace; versus a sinister religious sect that is famous for its ruthlessness and its plan to take over the world. See cameo appearances by Eugene Ingram, Heber Jentszch, Warren McShane, Steven Fishman and others. See the parts of the lawyers played by _real lawyers_, including the pompous Earle Cooley and the darkly glamorous Helena Kobrin. See the church lawyers blanch and hear the audience gasp when Lerma's team fires the silver bullet.

This is the entertainment buy of the century. Send a contribution now to bring it to your local theater. Tell Arnie Lerma that you want to see the movie!

To date this production has cost almost one million dollars, To finish it, including the stunning last scene at the U.S. Supreme Court, Factnet needs to raise only sixty thousand dollars.

If everyone reading this message sent what he/she would spend on a single night at the movies, we could have this astonishing show, featuring real netpeople in a story so bizarre that we could not have made it up. Sex, blood, blackmail, LSD, hidden gold hoards, extraterrestrial aliens...and free special effects from the Church of Scientology!

Let's go for it. Send $10 (or more) to Arnie Lerma and tell him that you want to see the movie.

Arnaldo P. Lerma
6045 N. 26th Road
Arlington, VA 22207.

Or send a tax deductible contribution to Factnet, 601 16th. St. C-217, Golden, CO. 80401 USA. Mark the check "Lerma Defense Fund."

Credit card orders can be accepted at the Factnet web page, or call 1-303-473-0111 and follow the voice instructions for a credit card donation.

If you would like to talk to Arnie Lerma and give him your credit card donation in person, call (703) 241-1498.

Then make yourself some virtual popcorn and get ready for the show.


Factnet has taken center stage due to the impending Lerma trial. Nevertheless, the lawsuit against Dennis Erlich continues in San Jose. Our freedom of speech in cyberspace is at stake in San Jose, exactly as in the Lerma case. The formal trial will probably not occur for several months, but expenses are mounting.

Please send contributions to

Morrison & Foerster
345 California St.
San Francisco, CA 94104
Attn: Carla Oakley

Checks payable to Morrison & Foerster - DEDF in notes area

These donations are not tax deductible, but Dennis Erlich receives none of this money himself. It all goes to defray his legal expenses, in a struggle which has already cost him his home, his job, his privacy and his peace of mind. (Erlich receives no money from Factnet, so please contribute directly to his fund.)

3. RODENT REPORT [gossip column by staff member Arlene Fortiori]

Scientology documents sold at auction

We have just learned that a collection of genuine scientology documents including 53 NOTs will be sold at auction sometime this spring. The documents to be auctioned belong to an estate. We understand that they consist of lawfully acquired, pristine church documents. These will go to the highest bidder provided the reserve bid is met.

A virtual mouse advised us that the ARSCC has formed a cartel to participate in the bidding. Ron Newman, Sheriff of ars, has been designated treasurer. Outside parties wishing to join the cartel may contact Mr. Newman ( The cartel intends to bid in the auction, and if successful it will place the documents on Newman's web page.

It has also been proposed that the documents rotate among cartel members after the manner of a timeshare condominium. (To clarify: suppose a total of $25,000 is raised. Dividing this by 365, we find that a $68.49 contribution entitles the participant to maintain the documents on his web page for one day per year. At the expiration of that day the documents will automatically be rotated to the next user. A day is not necessarily the smallest unit of time available; this decision will be made later by cartel management.) An additional feature of rotation is that the owner of a day can sell his day to another purchaser, perhaps at a profit. (All sales will be subject to approval by the ARSCC and a small transaction fee.)

Sources indicate that the church of scientology will have at least two bidders at the auction. The job of official church bidder will go to Kurt Weiland. More details will be forthcoming as soon as we have them.

--A. Fortiori

[send hot tips to Attention: Arlene at our Biased Journalism address]


At 5 p.m. on Friday, January 5, the darkling hour in which all disputed bills and utility shutoff notices arrive, the RTC lawyers were served with a hard-hitting motion by Lerma's attorneys. The document is a Motion for Summary Judgment and/or To Dismiss. We would not think of depriving readers of the pleasure of perusing the entire document. It will be on the net very shortly as a special edition of Biased Journalism.

In simple terms, Lerma's attorneys have asked the judge to throw out the RTC lawsuit, or render a summary judgment, thus making a trial unnecessary. [However the RTC can appeal the decision. Whatever happens, this case appears headed for the Supreme Court.].

The Motion is powered by startling information revealed during discovery. We quote a few snippets from the supporting memorandum:

"...Information from Mr. Lerma's files has found its way into Scientology-related publications attacking Mr. Lerma; and

"Much of this new evidence comes from sworn testimony of James Settle given after the Court's September 15 ruling ... deposition testimony that is, at the very least, at odds with representations previously made to this court by the RTC." [end quote]

Jim Settle, the amiable former FBI agent who now works for I-NET, spilled the beans when he was deposed. The search of Lerma's files went far beyond what the Judge had been told. Among other things, the Scientologists selectively looked for email after they finished doing the word searches.

Further, after going to all this trouble to retrive the alleged copyrighted secret scriptures from Arnie Lerma, it appears that the church casually left them in an unlocked room. The lack of security "speaks volumes about RTC's true motivation in bringing this litigation..."

An interesting detail about the Writ of Seizure cropped up. From the Settle deposition, again:

"Q: Now, could you point me to which in this writ of seizure authorized you to search Mr. Lerma's computer materials?

"A: This writ only addresses seizure, storage, authority to enter the residence, serve the defendant with a copy of the writ. That's all it covers.

"Q: From where did you derive the authority to search Mr. Lerma's computer materials after they had been seized?

"A: From representations made by William, Brinks [the RTC's law firm]. [end exerpt]

[It is clear that scientologists had complete control over all the seized materials while they were in the custody of I-NET. If the RTC presented I-NET to Judges Brinkema and Kane as a neutral third party, they have some explaining to do.]

Contending that the RTC committed a fraud upon the court, misused its copyrights, used the legal process to punish its critics and obtain information to which it had no right, used the information outside the legal process to harm critics, fibbed about its handling of Lerma's C-drive, and deliberately made superfluous motions to run up the legal costs, Lerma's lawyers asked Judge Brinkema to throw out the suit. This is the only remedy, they pleaded, for the offenses against Mr. Lerma's First and Fourth Amendment rights.

On Friday, January 19 a hearing will take place in which Judge Brinkema is expected to render a decision. We cannot guess what the Judge will do. If she grants the motion, we assume the church will appeal. If she does not, the trial will begin on January 29.

With apologies to Mr. Lerma et al., we look forward to a trial.



"If you can't say 'fuck,' you can't say 'fuck the government.'"
--Lenny Bruce

[In our next issue: henri speaks his mind (Part I); the Marcabs; more about the auction]