SCIENTOLOGY FILES FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AGAINST DEBBIE COOK
Here's our first impression: After Cook's explosive testimony in a Bexar County, Texas courtroom made news around the world and has more people than ever talking about the shocking and strange abuse allegedly dished out by Scientology's leader, David Miscavige, the church's attorneys are trying their best to convince a San Antonio judge that this is a much drier, less interesting dispute, summed up best in one of their opening lines:
"This is a dispute regarding the enforcement of contracts."
We figure speed is of the essence and that you'd rather read the document itself than anything else, so we're going to post it as quickly as we can, and then add more analysis when we have a chance. So here we go... (There are 33 pages, posted now -- including page 23, which is now in place.)
Some great comments already showing up that analyze this document. (See John P.'s reflections, for example.)
I can tell you as someone who was in the courtroom on February 9, this document appears to be a distillation of what we heard that day from George Spencer as he examined Debbie Cook on the stand. The church's position is that Cook and Baumgarten left the employ of the church and each signed agreements never to disparage their former employer publicly, and each took $50,000 checks. When Debbie spoke up with her New Year's Eve e-mail that complained that Scientology leader David Miscavige was taking the church away from the principles of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, she was in violation of the agreement, and therefore owes $300,000 in damages.
Simple, right? Except that Spencer leaves out what blew away everyone watching that day in the courtroom as Debbie Cook explained what you don't see on the 2007 videotape showing her sign the agreement -- that she'd been held against her will in nightmare conditions and would have signed anything, she testified, to get away.
As numerous observers have pointed out, that difference in facts suggests that a jury should decide who is telling the truth, and that a summary judgment would be premature. But who knows. We're just posting the documents, and you tell us how you think this thing is going to go...
Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, and if you ask nicely he'll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories, which tend to come out each and every morning at 8 am, but can suddenly appear at any time of the day. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, "What is Scientology?" Another good overview is our series from last summer, "Top 25 People Crippling Scientology." At the top of every story, you'll see the "Scientology" category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories. As for our regular features, on Thursdays we do a roundup of world press, on Fridays we visit L. Ron Hubbard on the yacht Apollo circa 1969-1971, on Saturdays we celebrate the week's best comments, and on Sundays we publish Scientology's wacky and tacky advertising mailers that people send us.
As for hot subjects we've covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and is now being sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology's "Mecca," whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology's policy of "disconnection" that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We've also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there's plenty more coming.