Biased Journalism Vol. 3, issue 2

Biased Journalism : a net magazine designed to compensate for the shortcomings of the professional news media. We cover issues of interest to the citizens of cyberspace. This is a community newspaper of the net.

Copyright 1997 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.

[ All Issues of Biased Journalism | Main Scientology Page ]

Biased Journalism Volume 3, issue 2 May 22, 1997


  1. Footbullet update
  2. Dirty Tricks in the Desert [deposition of David Miscavige]
  3. Car Chases and Other Modern Courtroom Phenomena [Keith Henson]
  4. Rodent Report [a gossip column]
Read at your own risk. This is Biased Journalism!

1. Footbullet Meets Desert Storm

Prologue: The last few weeks have been difficult ones for the church of scientology. To summarize the major developments,

  1. Magistrate Judge Infante ordered the deposition of David Miscavige, supreme head of the church and all of its corporate shells, in the Erlich, Ward and Henson cases. Church attorneys struggled to prevent the deposition and filed a strongly worded objection. They miscounted the days. Their response was filed one day late. Judge Whyte ordered the deposition to proceed as scheduled.
  2. Thanks to an unnamed lawyer who recently joined a new firm with a robust probate department, FACTNet attorney Graham Berry discovered that probate was still open in the estate of L. Ron Hubbard. The Hubbard copyrights were conveyed during the settlement of the estate. Berry, who had been the target of a vicious and imaginitive dead agent attack on alt.religion.scientology, immediately filed a strongly worded ex parte motion. [In a future issue we will print exerpts. Suffice it to say that Berry clearly enjoyed his work.] The probate judge disallowed the motion and invited Berry to submit an ordinary motion, inasmuch as probate was still open. Berry refiled, asking that Norman Starkey be removed and a different administrator appointed, asserting flaws in the copyright conveyance and further improprieties. The church, which rushed Monique Yingling and an estimated dozen other personnel down to San Luis Obispo in a desperate effort to fend off Berry, now must litigate issues they had hoped were beyond question.
  3. Meanwhile in Los Angeles documents surfaced in one of the Wollersheim lawsuits showing that one scientology entity had paid to defend another scientology entity against Wollersheim's suit. The corporate veil which had protected the vast complex of companies against liability hung in shreds, looking remarkably like a shroud.

2. Dirty Tricks

Judge Whyte's court ordered a consolidated deposition of David Miscavige: 6 hours for Dennis Erlich and 1 1/2 hours apiece for Keith Henson and Grady Ward. The deposition was to take place in the county of Miscavige's headquarters. According to comment on irc, it was set for the Marriott Hotel in Palm Desert, to begin Tuesday May 20 at 9 a.m..

Henson and Ward got on the plane. [Dennis Erlich was already in Los Angeles] They picked up their tickets at about 1:30 pm.

At 4:30 pm they were handed a court order. Back in San Jose RTC had presented Magistrate Judge Infante with an ex parte motion. Citing a conversation allegedly overheard by a Southwest Airlines employee, in which Keith Henson allegedly made a bomb threat, RTC asked that the deposition be moved to an undisclosed location and that Ward and Henson be barred from attending the Erlich portion of the deposition. Infante granted this motion. He also ordered that RTC bear the cost of preparing an expedited transcript.

The netizens were shocked. Now they would have to ask their questions without knowing what had already been answered, which took away the advantage of the consolidated deposition. As a favor to RTC the three defendants had agreed to postpone the Miscavige deposition to this date. RTC had performed a bait and switch.

Left with an extra day on his hands, Keith Henson made a picket sign and proceed to stage a solo picket at Hemet. This was a first, and it was splendidly successful. Henson told us that the scientologists were so enturbulated that he actually feared for their health. Guards shoved the population back to prevent them from seeing Henson's sign, which said "David Miscavige is Afraid of Wogs." On the other side it had a statement about Lisa McPherson and cockroaches. Henson took pictures of the razor wire around the compound. After about 40 minutes he had compassion on the guards and departed the scene.

[more details later]

Erlich in the Desert

Dennis Erlich came to the deposition with his attorneys from MoFo [Morrison & Foerster], Carla Oakley and Harold McElhinny. The secret location turned out to be a large hotel in Palm Springs. Erlich noticed a significant Palm Springs Police Department presence, and there was armed muscle in the lobby.

The church was present in overwhelming force. In addition to David Miscavige, Erlich remembers attorneys Monique Yingling, Drescher, Eric Lieberman, two ex-cop heavies, one obviously armed, and sundry others for a total of about sixteen people.

Warren McShane, Elliot Ableson and Mike Rinder were present but not in the room. There was no sign of Helena Kobrin.

The scene was tense but polite. Harold McElhinny curtly objected to being frisked. The church wisely refrained from attempting similar liberties with Carla Oakley. Dennis Erlich pushed the trolley containing their legal papers.

Of the content of the deposition, unfortunately nothing can be said, and we are not privy to any knowledge of what transpired in it. Hopefully a transcript will be released in 30 days.

Apparently the deposition went very smoothly. Erlich seemed pleased afterward.

As far as we know, no one served David Miscavige with any legal papers. Ron Newman, closet romantic, was forced to discard his mental photo of Monique Yingling. Erlich's description was unflattering [like Marcia Clark on a really bad day -- no, Ron, she's not Oriental].

Meanwhile, Keith Henson was annoyed with the bait and switch. "Why are we less dangerous on Wednesday than on Tuesday?" he wondered. Other netizens wondered the same thing.

3. Wogs at Cause by Keith Henson [car chases and other modern courtroom phenomena]

This part starts when the deposition of David Miscavige is over.

The bodyguard walked us down to the car and listened with considerable interest to the tale of Lisa McPherson and how Grady and I got mixed up in this circus.

We headed off to the north, overshot the road to the airport and headed back. Since Grady's flight was not for a few hours, and by this time it was about 1 pm we stopped at a deli/restaurant to have one last meal at the cult's expense.

We hadn't been in there 5 minutes when Tom Hogan showed up to warn us not to post anything of substance (hah! what substance?) from the deposition. Before Hogan showed, we could ignore the scientology operatives who had been assigned to tail us. (We found out later they were PIs--I guess they decided that they needed professionals after they had lost us twice the day before when we were playing with them, but trying not to lose them.)

At first we only saw one car of them, two younger dudes in a late model car. I pulled a couple of U turns and then pulled over to the curb. Grady jumped out and ran back to get a picture. I nearly spilt my sides laughing as they frantically backed up around a corner to get away from Grady. Wogs at Cause are immune to cameras, but cameras cause scientologists, certain scumbag lawyers, and PIs to scurry like vampires facing a cross.

After a few go arounds in some parking lots, we went south and pulled in to a cul de sac so we could get some better pictures as they want by. Then we went around the south edge of the airport and off to the west, then south into an industrial park. We were playing loop the loop through the parking lots and around backs of the buildings when we noticed the second car which only an older guy in it. He waved us over and identified himself as a PI, and told us that the team was commissioned by the scientologists to follow us wherever we went, though he would not identify himself further. His license (his car lacked a front plate) was BAYBUMZ (California). I gave his and the other license number to the cops later, but unfortunately the license for the car the two younger guys were in was on a map I left in the rental car. Both were late models, but with the license plate numbers I didn't care what kind.

After the encounter in the industrial park, we went a little further west then south, back to the west and finally north on a road which passed to the west of the airport.

I decided it would be a good idea to check the story, so we called on the cell phone and got directions for the Palm Springs Police Department. It was within a few blocks of the airport.

We pulled in there, went in, and a Lieutenant of the Palm Springs police came out with us and went over to talk to the older dude who had stopped across the street from the station. In a few minutes he was convinced that this was indeed a PI, and told us that PIs have a "License to Stalk," but that as long as we were reasonably careful with the traffic laws, we were welcome to lose him.

This sounded like an interesting challenge to me, but Grady figured we had about run this episode into the ground, and in any case, he had only an hour before he needed to check in.

I dropped Grady at the Palm Springs airport about 2:30 and considered "what next" because it seemed to me there was more life in this adventure somewhere. I looped out of the airport, drove by the Palm Springs Police Station and continued on south to Hwy 111, and then southeast about ten miles to the Embassy Suites--where we had stayed the previous night. I figured that was one of the few places which would take me seriously about there being three scientology operatives on my tail, since they knew of the activities of the previous night. I stopped at three service stations before I found one who would jack up the car and take a look under it for a locator bug like Steve Fishman reported some time ago. No luck. I was really hopping I could take one off and get the cult charged for it, but this must have been the economy tail.

Next to the Embassy Suites is a Lucky's (giant grocery store) and row of shops. I pulled in there and picked up another disposable camera and some bottled water. Tossed the water in the car, unwrapped the camera and went behind the row of shops. Being careful with the camera, I jumped down a two meter retaining wall and went into the lobby of the hotel. (Actually the way I went down the wall was not one mighty leap, but dropping down holding onto the top of the wall.)

A lot happened in the next two hours. I told the desk clerk what was up, being tailed by three scientology operatives. They knew about the previous evening, and insisted on calling the cops. One of the desk clerks offered to go get my car from the lot next door. So I gave him the key, after warning him the operatives would not be happy. They weren't. He came back somewhat bug eyed with this tale of being stopped by the PIs who insisted on knowing who he was and what he was doing with the car--thus providing the cops who came by later with a third party verification. Both of the cops who showed up happened to be women, the first one with the Riverside Sheriff's department (sorry I did not get either of their names) was only about 5 feet tall, but I sure wouldn't want to tangle with her. The second, a somewhat thin blond woman was with the Palm Desert Police. Excellent professional behavior in both of them, in what must have seemed a thoroughly nutty situation. Of course Palm Desert is a rich community, and you expect top grade policing.

I spent most of the time before the first cop showed up and some of it afterwards talking to the local newspaper and TV station. Both reporters I talked to were drooling over the chance to do a local "slow speed chase" on camera/photographs but it was too near deadline. Sigh, I even offered to lead the PIs through around the TV station's parking lot so they could just poke a camera out a window. Well, the regular media loses again, and you get it hot on the net.

I mentioned to both the cops and the media that I was not thrilled at two hours on the road going back in the direction of LA while being tailed by scientology operatives--and related the Scarff affidavit where Moxon is accused of ordering Scarff to run one of the CAN people off the road and kill her. (Not that I *really* expected such of hired PIs, killing citizens must be cause to lose a license, but you never can tell--and there is nothing which forbids PI licenses to scientologists.)

This went on to about 5:30 and it became clear the cops could do nothing. I had kind of hoped that the local laws in Palm Desert might be a little more restrictive on out of town PIs or maybe they could informally hang onto these dudes long enough for me to get a head start on them, but this seems to be beyond the rules. I presume they did locate the three and talk to them because they confirmed to me that the three tailing me were PIs, and apparently the PIs told such a tale of a "Wog at Cause" that the first cop felt the need to pat me down. (At the stop where I had the car checked for bugs, I did advise the older one that he might want to read up on what a wild character he was following and he wrote down the title I gave him.)

The cops were not pleased by my speculation about how to shake the PIs by a high speed chase on the roads north of Palm Desert up to the freeway. Even if nobody got hurt, the idea of all four of us being jailed didn't appeal to me. The exchange ratio would only be three fines/jail terms to one, definitely too low to be properly at cause. As I was walking out the door with the car key in my hand, a very worried cop (the second one) asked me what I was going to do. I told her the truth, that I did not know, and left.

Now, to understand what happened next, you need a bit of a picture of the geometry of the Embassy Suites. It is on a chunk of land with a relatively narrow frontage on Hwy 111 and a very deep lot. Behind the Embassy Suites is an old palm grove maybe as much as 300 meters deep and at least that wide. My car was facing toward the back of the hotel (the lobby is in the middle facing west). I figured I would drive around the back of the hotel since the car was pointed in that direction.

When I reached the end of the paved section there was no curb and a faint track where tractors had been in to plough under the weeds and fallen palm fronds. Why not? In a long ago and far away phase of my life I had driven thousands of miles off road. So, away I went, figuring the worse that could happen would be I would get stuck, and the best they would get stuck. As I got out into it, I realized that the whole thing was surrounded by a 8-10 foot high concrete block wall. I was hoping for a break in the far right corner behind some thick trees but alas, there was no opening anywhere in the back wall. So I went ploughing through sand and over fallen palm fronds like a small boat in a heavy sea. If GMC ever needs a testimonial from a verrry satisfied customer about the handling characteristics of a GEO in deep sand, they can get it from me.

Anyway, I make a huge U through the sand and palm frond mix. If there was a locator stuck under the car it was likely scraped off. Near the end of the wall (which is perhaps 300 meters back from Hwy 111, the surface smooths out and just beyond the wall is a cul de sac with a sloping curb. A fishtail turn and I am back on pavement. There are some small office buildings ahead, so I make a right, a left, and go around the end of one of them and park under a sun shade next to some other cars. I jump out and hide inside a dumpster enclosure. I have to know if there is a locator on my car-- there is no point in trying to shake them if there is.

I had not been in there 30 seconds when what looked like the car with the two dudes goes blasting past right in front of me going way too fast. They stop at a fairly main road and then tear off to the north. I go back to my car, pull out the palm fronds which are stuck under it and follow them, turning to the west at the next major intersection and then north through a housing development (hard to find, most Palm Desert housing in that end of town is in gated communities.)

Eventually I came out on a street called Hovley Lane, went further east and north and came out on I 10. The rest was an uneventful drive back to Ontario. When I went by Hwy 79, which leads back to Gold Base and Hemet, I was sorely tempted to make the side trip and picket them again. But, as much "at cause" over clams and clam PIs as this wog is, I reminded myself that this is, after all, only a hobby and Real Life (tm) calls.

---Keith Henson

4. Rodent Report

We would never report mere rumors, but we have it on good authority that a past love of a certain lady on ars is coming back to town. The white knight who has carried her favor with such courage recently will need to practice his courtship. The lady claims to feel no interest in her old flame, but persistence may soften her heart. It's going to be a long, hot summer.

In other news, the new guest at the party on #scientology made rude remarks to everyone and proceeded to throw up on the carpet. This was a disappointment to many who had hoped to hear his story. "On the other hand," a rat said acidly, "maybe that _is_ his story."

--Arlene Fortiori

[Biased Journalism is distributed free in cyberspace. To subscribe, send a message to with "subscribe" as the body of the message. Comments, article submissions and hot tips should be addressed to Solid mail, checks and donations go to S. Thomson, 236 Stanford S/C, Suite 142, Palo Alto, CA 94304. Separate issues of Biased Journalism are available via USA domestic mail at $5 apiece. Foreign rates on request. NEW: back issues of Biased Journalism are available on floppy disk at $2 per issue, minimum of four issues.]