The Best Reasons Why You Should Doubt the Allegations in the John Travolta Sex-Assault Lawsuit (UPDATE: John Doe #1 DROPPED)
Monday evening, we wrote that the sex-abuse lawsuit filed against John Travolta read like something someone had imagined in a dream. The account by "John Doe" that was described in the lawsuit's complaint stretched credulity beyond the breaking point, and was one of the sloppiest jobs of lawyering that we've seen in a long time. And that was before evidence began emerging that Travolta wasn't even in Los Angeles on January 16, the day he was supposed to have groped the massage therapist suing him.
Since then, some news outlets have generally ignored the facts in this case and instead have used this as an opportunity to revisit the years of rumors about Travolta and his sexuality.
As we said from the start, we really don't care about Travolta's bedroom habits. And while we'd like to see Travolta get away from the abusive and notoriously homophobic Church of Scientology, this lawsuit seems to have little to do with his involvement in David Miscavige's church.
No, despite the many distractions this week that have resulted, naturally, from such a salacious story, we're still focused on the lawsuit itself. And after talking to our resident legal expert, Scott Pilutik, we have even more reason to believe that "John Doe" attorney Okorie Okorocha may be in for a world of hurt when this thing is said and done.
I've been communicating all week with Pilutik -- who has counseled us for numerous stories in our beat covering Scientology -- and we've both been doing our best to keep up with the latest developments.
After news of the John Doe lawsuit broke on Monday, most news organizations were extremely squeamish about the details, which were too salacious for many to print or mention on the air. That was unfortunate, because those details are important and telling -- and they are extremely hard to believe. Here at the Voice, we said that Doe's story sounded like a dream or a Fellini film. The Smoking Gun said the complaint read like the worst sort of fan fiction. We each found that what Doe claimed Travolta had told him sounded like what a fan might fantasize that a star like Travolta might say.
The next day, Okorocha sloppily added a second unnamed plaintiff, John Doe #2, and Travolta's attorney Marty Singer scoffed, saying that Okorocha was obviously reacting to how badly his original complaint had gone over in the media.
We noted that in the amended complaint, John Doe #2's tale of a rubdown in an Atlanta hotel had one significant problem: not much really happened in the way of "assault." Travolta was said to have engaged in some pretty rude behavior, but abuse worth $2 million in damages? We had to agree with Singer (and we rarely ever do that) -- this did come off like Okorocha was simply trying to bolster what had turned out to be a very problematic original complaint.
(Yesterday, news of a third unhappy massage therapist emerged, but he is not part of the lawsuit Okorocha filed as of yet.)
I asked Pilutik about the original complaint and the added plaintiff. Here's what he sent over.
I agree with you that it reads almost like slash fiction -- someone's wishful thinking about what a sexual encounter with Travolta would be like. And since the narrative is so similar to long-told rumors, there's an air of plausibility to them (to anyone who has heard and believed those rumors, that is). But plausibility doesn't equal credibility, and in that respect the complaint is sorely lacking.
Some problems with the complaint aren't hard to spot to even a casual reader -- misspelled words, grammatical errors, sloppiness suggesting it hadn't been read before being sent to the printer.
But what really elevated the complaint to an Orly-Taitz-level of awful was what happened when Okorocha added John Doe #2. The stories by the two John Does differ from the other, meaning that even if their stories are presumed to be true, their causes of actions should likewise differ.
But the complaint doesn't differentiate them in the cause of action section -- Okorocha simply adds "and Doe Plaintiff No. 2" after every instance of "Doe Plaintiff No. 1." The upshot to this slipshod drafting is that per the literal language of the Amended Complaint, John Doe #1 is making allegations on behalf of John Doe #2, and vice versa, each one affirming the truth of the other's story (which is logically impossible), as well as their own. I know this probably sounds like an overly legalistic observation, but the court will likely view it as a fatal error. I mean, it's the type of egregiously lazy mistake few law students would even make.
And why are these plaintiffs co-plaintiffs at all? Is Okorocha seeking to certify a class action comprised of Masseurs Who Have Suffered Identical Torts Committed By John Travolta? Good luck with that. Each Doe should probably have his own complaint.
The more obvious problem, though, is that the stories, as told, just don't make a lot of sense. Perhaps it's in the telling, but you can't help but wonder why each plaintiff stayed around so long as Travolta acted as they say he did. Doe #1 alleges spending two hours with Travolta during which time he suffered five actionable torts (at the beginning, middle, and end of the massage), and Doe #2 alleges massaging Travolta until only 15 minutes remained in the session (the Amended Complaint neglects to allege how long the session was supposed to have been).
Not that our John Does are likely to get a chance to explain away these time line inconsistencies. If it's demonstrably true that Travolta was in Tribeca on the date John Doe #1 alleges he was in Los Angeles, this joyride is going to be over pretty soon. And after that, I have little doubt that Travolta's attorney won't make good on his promise to crush Okorocha and his Does with suits for malicious prosecution and whatever else. After all, this was very widely reported, and most of the coverage wasn't nearly as skeptical as the Voice. Travolta should be able to buy a massage school when he's through with Okorocha.
Yesterday, another sad chapter in this farce emerged when Okorocha, for some bizarre reason, allowed his original client, John Doe #1, to make a public statement that leaves little doubt that he's more loon than victim.
I'm going to include it here in its entirety, admitted into the court of public opinion as Exhibit A proving, we believe, that John Doe #1 not only dreamed his encounter with Travolta, but that he has not yet awakened from his stupor...
As the unidentified masseur in the John Travolta case I have an opinion that I wanted to share. I don't think anyone should form any opinion about Mr. Travolta, his family, his council, myself, John Doe #2, and our counsel.
Instead, I would urge everyone to understand that guilt or innocence in our Justice System is decided by our court system. Too often these matters are decided by swaying public opinion through elements that would never be considered in an actual court case.
For instance, a photograph, a restaurant receipt, testimony, and other things that may or may not constitute proof have strict guidelines that must be followed. A fine example is the amazing number of guilty people that escape their crimes due to the mishandling of evidence. Is it disappointing, of course it is, but it is a price we must pay in order to have a justice system that runs in a constitutional manner.
In consideration of that, I ask the public to not judge anyone, and allow all parties to work things out in a respectful and dignified manner, and if these matters do go to court than only that final decision past appeals, etc should be considered a definitive statement on 'guilt' or 'innocence'.
Despite the circus that celebrity matters seem to spiral into, we should grant all parties involved a wait-and-see attitude, and wait for either the official decision of a judge and jury, or the possibility of a dignified discussion between people who are not pit bulls, or aces, or anything, but are actually officers of the court (lawyers) who have sworn an oath to protect the justice system from losing its blind lady of justice with scales and replacing her with the days of Salem Witch Hunts.
Even though Mr. Travolta and his counsel are on opposing sides in this matter, I do wish them good health, happiness, and want them to be judged with absolute fairness as our great nation affords all citizens regardless of their wealth or station.
In closing, I want everyone to understand the reason for my statement is not to comment on the case, but to merely remind the world that everyone involved is a human-being we all fall short of the glory, but we all have rights granted by the sacrifices of our forefathers, and in that spirit I ask everyone to not make comedy, or light of this serious matter, and lets all thank god we have the right to even deal with matters like this in a organized and fair system without allowing this to become a circus.
And now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, our summation...
This lawsuit should never have passed the smell test with any news organization, and its transparent weakness should have been the story, rather than a salacious romp through Travolta's past.
UPDATE: John Doe #1 has been dropped by Okorocha! That's the stunning development just reported by RadarOnline.
There's no news specifically about the fate of the lawsuit in that story, but at this point, Okorocha doesn't have much left if he's booted the prime claimaint. (As we've pointed out before, John Doe #2 just doesn't have much in the way of actionable behavior by Travolta, if his story is true.) More details when we get them.
At this point, news organizations tend to reporting this as if there were three equal claimants, and one has simply dropped out. When are they going to get more honest about the situation -- this lawsuit was built on the claims of John Doe #1, with John Doe #2 thrown in as a sort of "me too," as our legal expert pointed out. (The third man isn't even in the lawsuit at all.)
With John Doe #1 dropped by Okorocha, this case should disintegrate quickly. We're waiting to hear from Pilutik for his thoughts on how it could proceed at all.
NEW: Here's Scott's grim projections for where Okorocha can go from here...
Well, Doe #2 shouldn't be adversely affected by Doe #1 although he'll continue to be adversely affected by Okorocha.
The problem for Doe #2 is that per the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, you only get to amend a complaint once as a matter of course (which has already happened); if he wants to amend again he'll need Travolta's attorneys' consent (good luck there!) or the court's leave, "when justice so requires."
If the court permits Okorocha to amend a second time, it'd be because Doe #2 would be otherwise prejudiced, since, well, he was the reason for the first amendment. Remember what I said how this should've been multiple complaints? Maybe Okorocha was trying to save money (federal court filing fees are pricier than the state equivalents) but the decision to add him as a plaintiff as if this was a class action (it's not) put Doe #2 (and all future Does) in a spot.
So it seems likely that the first time a judge is presented with this mess, it'll be for the purpose of getting Okorocha out of an easily preventable, self-imposed jam with his client, Doe #2. And the court will take a dim view of his case before even reading a single allegation.
And Okorocha may face additional storm clouds for blaming Doe #1 for getting the date wrong--an attorney has a duty to conduct a reasonable inquiry into the claims his client makes in papers presented to the court (FRCP 11(b)), and that "factual contentions have evidentiary support." Doe #1's story is so unusual, inflammatory, and potentially damaging that one could argue that Okorocha's duty to investigate was especially high here. And to get such a vital element as the date of the incident wrong... I mean, Doe #1 was in a line of work that absolutely necessitated an appointment book of some sort--did Okorocha even ask to see it?
Scientology on the High Seas
In November the Voice obtained hundreds of copies of L. Ron Hubbard's previously unpublished "Orders of the Day," which he gave to crew members as he sailed the Atlantic and the Mediterranean on the yacht Apollo. Our documents cover the period from late 1968 through 1971, and this time we're looking at what was happening the week of May 6 through 12 during those years.
This week, the Commodore reports a miracle...
May 12: No one works harder than the Commodore, and don't you forget it.
Thank you very much for your daily report. I am glad to see so many outnesses being corrected.
Delwyn did a beautiful job on the horde of international press that descended on us. Was able to tell them (they were really startled) that the D/Prime Minister of Greece had apologized and wanted to see us when we came back. She had the story ready and it's a story they'll print as it has a big name in it. We have four witnesses that he did. Evidently they've been searching the Med for Apollo. The local press, contrary to rumour, is said now not to have been bad. So that blows our cover (at this port) from here to China.
We hear that the US is not backing any attempt to free Cuba and has advised other Latin countries not to give the Cuban govt in Exile any base.
Diana arrived safely. Athena isn't leaving her port at once.
Due to blown security you can approach embassies for passports.
My daily report is usually 12 to 14 hours of work in the Research Room and heavy study currently after I "go to bed". I spend about an hour to an hour and a half at dinner as my time off. I'm doing C/S, reports, despatches, planning and catching outnesses that are likely to knock us down. Had I less on my plate I could get going on our next programme.
May 10: Hey, hold the persecution, it's time for a party!
Comm Evs, Ethics actions and Conditions in progress aboard are cancelled in appreciation of the 20th Anniversary of Dianetics and as a thank you for your support.
This happy occasion should not be marred.
The Anniversary Party and the program and applause were appreciated.
We will make it.
Congratulations to the Commodore and 20 years of fantastic success with Dianetics and Scientology. We all love it! Thank you sir.
From the D/Capt,
Officers and Crew
of the Flag Ship
May 7: Is it just me, or does the Commodore sound nervous?
The "Findings" of this enquiry have been handed over to Sir Joseph in House of Lords.
This means very early publication.
Past signs are that they will not be viciously unfavorable.
We are busy working to handle any possible repercussion.
If these "findings" (based on no investigation whatever) are unfavorable, we could get a port reaction. So be alert.
It may be a week or so yet before they hit the UK press.
This cycle is far from conclusive. We made a last minute breakthrough on the WHO that began all this and keeps busy hounding us. This breakthrough puts the initiative in our hands.
Instead of trying to find out WHO has been hitting Scientology we now find we are moved right over, on target, of WHO is responsible for East-West upsets and the atomic war threats and the economic crises.
Whatever the UK "enquiry" says, the end of the war is well in view.
May 8: Nazis and banking -- it's a slippery slope!
The nitty-gritty of the West German raid on the dollar is to be found in a proposal to form a World Central Bank that "adjusts all the worlds currency."
This is about the most cold-blooded effort at world domination I've ever seen. A country that surrenders its currency surrenders its sovereignty.
It was Nazi banking expertise that saved the Third Reich and opened the door to WW II. What we DON'T need is Nazi control of all nations.
Along with that goes psychiatric control, gas chambers, obliterated "impure" minority groups.
For the sake of German Scientologists of which there are now many, and the rest of the world, the new Nazi resurgence must end before it winds up in another blood bath.
The FB including CS-G did a splendid fast job on the program to beef things up in event of a hostile UK "Enquiry" finding release.
Some Enquiry! Never called on us to testify on anything. Its secretary, Miss Lee, was a member of Smersh!
Correction: Sir Joseph is the Minister of Social Services. He has it now. When the cabinet okays it maybe it will be out.
May 10: I'd like to know where that key is today...
The FB, the FAO and FSO presented me with an enormous KEY TO THE PLANET to celebrate 9 May, the 21st Anniversary of the publication of "Dianetics the Modern Science of Mental Health."
A party was proposed but was considered too little notice and everyone too rushed.
The presentation was appreciated.
These fantastic stats also came up on 9 May.
It was quite an anniversary.
May 12: You have to wonder if Mr. Miscavige heard about this particular miracle...
Relax. Word is it won't be out for 2 or 3 months "as the govt has to study it". I don't imagine they want to release it at all. Other rumour is it's just a rehash of our literature on what Scientology is. However this gives us time to rig a real counter blast. (And we've got it to rig.) Or cool it totally.
The anti-Scn bill in Rhodesia hit a heavy snag due to our attorney, the legal office of the government chopping down on their parliament saying its unconstitutional. The name of a notorious anti-govt psychiatrist appeared and got the govt legal dept antagonistic.
Also, I had excellent PR in Rhodesia when I was there and they're still trying to explain their actions.
The Guardian Office Africa and all concerned did a fine job there. It's all held off indefinitely.
A pc yesterday reports she grew 2 to 3 inches taller in session. Went in at one height, came out taller. Fascinating.
The shore party for traders was reported to be a smashing success. Even the Shell Agent was friendly and apologetic for his flap.
Amanda Ambrose was a hit. Who wouldn't be delighted with her singing. Her contribution was appreciated.
So it all went off very well indeed.
While L. Ron Hubbard was moving HQ from the yacht Apollo to the Florida coast, Advance! magazine was thrilling Scientologists with its tales of "OT Phenomena." Those church members who had reached the higher levels of spiritual training shared their stories of superhuman powers with fellow dupes -- er, enthusiasts. This excerpt is from Issue 32, June 1975.
I was on a business trip. The rain was pouring down by the bucketful. I stepped out of my car on the protected lot, but I had to cross the street to get into the building on the other side. Not wanting to get wet, I mocked up a force field to stop the rain. Slowly the rain came to a halt and I was able to cross the street comfortably. -- Peter F. Gruning, OT
Being a Scientologist and OT actually saved my life Thanksgiving Day 28 November 1974.
Here's what happened.
I was driving to the home of Randy and Jeanene Knight who had invited me there for dinner. The route I took was the Harbor Freeway. Around the vicinity of 111th Street I felt (theta wise) that there was a guy who had a gun pointed at me and had intentions to shoot me in the head. I looked at this and acknowledged him first, and found that I had better just be him and decide not to shoot the guy in the car (who was me). This was all done in a second or two.
I thought nothing further of it until today when I saw a headline of the Herald Examiner which said, "Girl Critically Shot in Freeway Sniping." Did I take notice of that paper! Sure enough, it was done on the Harbor Freeway around 111th Street just a little later in time than the experience I had.
I should have treated the situation by handling that guy's evil intentions, but I'll know next time to validate my knowingness more so and thereby assume more responsibility. -- Jim Bostrom, OT
Alas, Mr. Bostrom's affinity for the church didn't last. I see several online references to him as a former member turned critic who was raided in 1990 or so. Anyone know what came of him?
We'll have another post for Sunday -- this week's funnies are a hoot, and you don't want to miss them. And remember to check our Facebook author page for schedules and updates you won't see on the blog.
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. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, 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 hot subjects we've covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was 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.