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Scientology church convicted on 2 counts

Title: Scientology church convicted on 2 counts
Date: Friday, 26 June 1992
Publisher: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Author: Thomas Claridge
Main source:

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An Ontario Court jury last night found the Church of Scientology of Toronto and three of its members guilty of breach-of-trust charges stemming from infiltration of the Ontario government and three police forces in the 1970s.

The jury found the organization guilty on two counts and not guilty on three others, and acquitted two individuals. Mr. Justice James Southey of the court's General Division, set aside Aug. 12 and 13 for sentencing.

The criminal charges followed a raid on the Toronto Scientology headquarters in 1983 that resulted in the seizure of thousands of documents. Although the Church of Scientology and nine members were committed to trial in the fall of 1990 on theft as well as breach-of-trust charges, the Crown abandoned the theft prosecutions after a ruling by Judge Southey that most of the seizures were unlawful.

The theft charges wound up being heard yesterday morning by a second jury, empanelled simply to hear prosecutor James Stewart say that in view of the judge's ruling he could not produce sufficient evidence to prove the allegations. The jury retired briefly before returning acquittals on the theft counts.

The unusual procedure was apparently adopted as a means of preserving the Crown's right to appeal Judge Southey's ruling, which was based on a finding that virtually all the seized documents were protected as confessional materials.

The breach-of-trust charges were based on evidence, not challenged by the defence, that members of the Scientology organization's Guardian's Office infiltrated the government, RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and Metro Toronto Police in order to learn whether the organization was being investigated. The charges did not include any indication of the information being put to any particular use.

The jury heard evidence from former Scientologists that the infiltration led to elaborate spying activities, and that at one point the OPP sent its own spy into the Guardian's Office.

Rev. Earl Smith, president of the Toronto Scientology organization, said last night that he regarded the jury verdicts as "really a victory." Noting that the organization had been found guilty on only two of 12 charges on which it had been committed, Mr. Smith added: "And we're going to appeal that."

The two-month trial was preceded by months of legal arguments based on the length of time taken for the matter to reach trial and assertions that the prosecution of the organization as well as the individuals was an abuse of process. Similar arguments are likely to be aired when the matter reaches the Ontario Court of Appeal.

The defence team, headed by Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby, acknowledged the spying activities but contended that they had been carried out primarily by former Scientologists who were testifying for the Crown in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He also asserted that the Toronto organization had no control over, or even knowledge of, the illegal activities.

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