By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Rick Ross believes it never would have happened without the meddling of Scientologists.
Based on science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard's book Dianetics, the Church of Scientology has struggled to escape the image of a litigious cult that vigorously pursues its enemies with harassment and intimidation. In 1990, Time devoted a cover story to Scientology, calling it a "ruthless global scam." The church sued, asking for$415 million in damages. The case still hasn't been resolved, although on November14, a federal judge dismissed all but one of the many statements Scientology claimed was libelous.
The Internet has spawned the church's latest legal and holy war. Former Scientologists have gone online to post sensitive teachings that the church claims are copyrighted and are only revealed to adherents after extensive (and reportedly expensive) training. In this closely guarded data, Hubbard supposedly reveals that humans contain clusters of "body thetans"--75-million-year-old aliens banished to Earth by Xenu, the galactic overlord. In some cases, courts have sided with the church, ordering offenders to forfeit computer files.
Arizona's only Church of Scientology, located in Mesa, claims a mailing list of 9,000 names, according to church spokeswoman Jennie Leason. The number of active Arizona Scientologists is probably much smaller. When asked how many people actually show up for weekend service, Leason says "60 to 100."
Leason attended Rick Ross' November 14 lecture at ASU, and disagrees with his assessment of Scientology. "There are religions out there that are very destructive. But Scientology has only bettered us. My children are not in gangs. They're healthy boys. I don't perceive the signs of mind control that Ross talked about in his lecture. We are a church, and we are in the mainstream."
Advancing a perception of normalcy is a primary goal of Scientology. Critics of the church say that to do that, they attempt to discredit and hector deprogrammers and anyone else who calls Scientology a cult. In 1990, the Los Angeles Times reported that Hubbard had told his followers "The purpose of the [lawsuit] is to harass and discourage rather than win. ... If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything, always find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace."
So the church employs attorneys like Kendrick Moxon, a longtime Scientologist who's been involved in many of the battles over the Internet and with the Cult Awareness Network.
Kendrick Moxon also happens to represent Jason Scott.
"One of the reasons Jason wanted to pursue this case is that he didn't want to see this happen to anyone else," Moxon says. "He came to us for advice, and he hired us."
Attempts to confirm this with Scott were unsuccessful. Moxon, who is based in Los Angeles, has advised his client not to talk to New Times.
Kathy Tonkin believes the Scientologists recruited her son and encouraged him to pursue the case against Rick Ross. She says they coddled Jason to gain his trust, and coached him to be a good witness.
Former Scientology operative Garry Scarff says Tonkin is correct. He says he should know--he was doing the coddling and coaching.
By the time Rick Ross went on trial in 1994, Scarff had left his position working for Scientology's Office of Special Affairs and was spilling his guts about what he'd done for them.
Scarff says it was Friends of Freedom, a Scientology front operation, that first contacted Jason after news of Ross' arrest in January 1991. Scarff says he was assigned to accompany Jason to anticult rallies and press conferences, and Scientology picked up the tab.
In a sworn testimony related to Ross' criminal trial, Scarff says that during one such assignment in Oklahoma City in 1991 "while Jason Scott was physically present in our hotel room, I, under the direction of my supervisor, ... telephoned Rick Ross in his room and threatened to kill him."
Scarff also accompanied Jason to Portland, Oregon, to disrupt a cult education forum where Jason's brother Thysen was scheduled to speak on behalf of the Cult Awareness Network.
The brothers had become dueling icons for the debate over cults.
"Following the forum," Scarff continues, "I traveled with Jason. ... During our five-hour road trip to Seattle, Jason and I discussed ... the persistent and unwanted pressure he was receiving from Scientology officials wanting him to demand Greys Harbor County prosecutors to reinstate criminal charges against Rick Ross.
"Jason expressed very clearly, at that time, that he wanted to put his deprogramming behind him. ... Jason, however, expressed fears of losing his friendships with Scientology officials if he did not follow through on their directives."
Kendrick Moxon says, "Garry Scarff is a liar." He says Scarff was a deprogrammer who became disenchanted with Cult Awareness Network and came to Scientology begging to be used against his former allies.
Priscilla Coates, Los Angeles director of the Cult Awareness Network, confirms that Scarff was associated with CAN before he switched to the other side. She says he's a problematic figure who's flip-flopped several times. But, she adds, there's no reason to doubt the veracity of what he's testified to in regard to Jason Scott.
Moxon disagrees. "Scarff's own father says he's a scumbag."
Scarff is accustomed to being called a liar. "That doesn't bother me anymore," he says. "Just look who's calling me a liar--key people in Scientology--and that should tell you I'm telling the truth."