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Prosecutors: Scientologists infiltrated Washington Post

Title: Prosecutors: Scientologists infiltrated Washington Post
Date: Tuesday, 4 December 1979
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Gregory Gordon
Main source:

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WASHINGTON — Prosecutors said Monday the Church of Scientology's campaign against its enemies included infiltrating law firms and newspapers, including the Washington Post.

Federal prosecutors disclosed a number of the church's activities in a 70-page memorandum in which they urged a judge to give eight Scientologists the maximum sentence for their roles in a conspiracy to steal government documents.

U.S. District Judge Charles Richey is scheduled to impose sentences Thursday on nine leading church members whom he found guilty last month in an unusual plea-bargaining agreement.

AS PART OF the agreement, the government took no position on the sentencing of Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of church founder L. Ron Hubbard. But it said in view of the "severity and heinousness of the crimes" of seven other defendants, they should be given maximum sentences of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Prosecutors, argued that a ninth defendant, Sharon Thomas, who infiltrated the Justice Department but was not considered part of the church hierarchy, should be given the maximum sentence of a year in prison for a theft misdemeanor.

They said the Scientologists' contention that their infiltration of federal agencies was aimed at protecting the church against government harassment "collapses" with disclosure of church campaigns against private groups and citizens considered church enemies.

The government noted that one church leader, Henning Heldt, only regrets "to some degree" his action and added: "One wonders whether, in fact, the only thing which this defendant and his coconspirators really regret, is the harm they caused their organization and themselves by having been caught ..."

A number of campaigns against medical groups, a Now York author, newspapers and government agencies already have been disclosed.

THE GOVERNMENT memorandum cited evidence, from documents seized from church offices in 1977 FBI raids, showing:

* In the spring of 1976, church member Mitchell Hermann approved placing a covert agent as a security guard at the Washington Post. The agent provided the church with research material from Post files.

* The church set up a fake hit-and-run car accident in 1975 involving then Mayor Gabriel Cazares of Clearwater, who criticized the church when it set up offices in that city under the name "United Churches of Florida." While Cazares was in Washington in early 1976, the church documents said, a church member drove him around town and set up "a fake hit-and-run accident." Later, letters assailing Cazares' role in the accident were sent to citizens in the Clearwater area.

The church planned to distribute false marriage documents showing that Cazares was "secretly married in Tijuana, Mexico in 1938-1940 and that he was, therefore, a bigamist." The church infiltrated Cazares' congressional election campaign and took credit for contributing to his 1976 defeat by "spreading rumors inside his camp, contributing to disorganization in his campaign."

* As part of a 1975-76 church campaign to attack all enemies in the Clearwater area at church operative, June Byrne, "infiltrated the Clearwater Sun and provided Scientology almost daily reports on the activities of that newspaper."

* On March 19, 1976, church member Richard Weigand approved a plan calling for a series of telephone calls aimed at discrediting the editor and president of The St. Petersburg Times, Eugene Patterson, with the newspaper's owner, Nelson Poynter. A second smear campaign was directed against St. Petersburg Times reporter Bette Orsini. The church burglarized the law firm representing the newspaper at least three times, stealing documents "outlining the law firm's strategy" in defending the newspaper against, a church lawsuit.

* The church filed dozens of lawsuits "for the sole purpose of financially bankrupting its critics and in order to create an atmosphere of fear" to discourage critics from speaking out against the church.