Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlatans

Clients of deprogrammer Rick Ross call him a savior. Perhaps that's why people he's branded cult leaders want to crucify him.

In January 1993, an attorney from Moxon's firm had begun a letter-writing campaign to convince Greys Harbor prosecutors to put Rick Ross on trial. The prosecutor, Joseph Wheeler, downplays its importance. "It is typical in a criminal case for attorneys to be concerned about the case. The letters were read, and they were put in a file. Ross says that the letters were a major reason we pursued a conviction. That's not the case. We prosecuted because we believed we could prove without a doubt that a crime had been committed. The jury felt otherwise."

On January 18, 1994, after just two hours of deliberations, a Greys Harbor jury acquitted Rick Ross of unlawful detainment.

But Jason Scott and Kendrick Moxon had a contingency plan. Four days before the acquittal, they had filed a civil suit against Rick Ross, the Cult Awareness Network and two of the security aides who had detained Scott (the third security aide was not sued, and, in exchange, gave damaging testimony against the others).

Moxon convinced the judge to exclude Garry Scarff and Matthew and Thysen Scott--whose testimony had helped Ross win acquittal in the criminal trial. The judge in the civil case also prohibited Ross' attorneys from pointing out that Jason was being represented by Scientologist lawyers.

On September 15, 1995, a Seattle jury agreed that the defendants had conspired to deny Jason Scott of his civil rights. The jury awarded Jason $5 million.

Ross' share was $3.1 million.

Rick Ross' bankruptcy won't affect his lifestyle much.
He lives alone in a one-bedroom apartment that doubles as an office. He keeps the location of his apartment a secret, because he fears what might happen if his enemies learned where he lives.

When he wants company, he visits his mother, who lives nearby. "One of my blessings in life is that I have a great family. If I didn't, I'd be in a world of shit," he says.

Many of Ross' closest friends are people he's counseled. Encouragement from them, he says, has buoyed his spirits during his recent travails.

He keeps the ignition key to a long-gone BMW, a memento of his pre-deprogramming days, when he made more money. He says his only luxury was an annual birthday excursion to Mexico, but this year he couldn't go.

He blames Scientology, and the $3.1 million judgment against him.
Although he's never deprogrammed a Scientologist, Ross says the church's campaign against him began well before the Jason Scott case.

"I was becoming one of the most outspoken, high-profile cult commentators in the United States. They felt it was a threat to them," Ross says. "I would briefly mention the Church of Scientology on a list of destructive cults, but I don't think that I've ever mentioned them on a national television show."

After Jason Scott's aborted deprogramming in 1991, Ross says, Scientology stepped up its efforts to harass and discredit him.

One episode in particular stands out. In 1992, he deprogrammed a man named David Block in Los Angeles. During the five-day-long deprogramming, he says, the house was under surveillance by a private investigator who had been hired by Scientologists. The private eye contacted Block's pastor to say that a member of his flock was in Ross' evil clutches.

The church was located in Waco, Texas, and its pastor was David Koresh.
David Block says that today there are plenty of cult apologists--he singles out Idaho's Bo Gritz--who portray the Branch Davidians as an independent group with unwavering commitment to its beliefs who should have been left alone.

"Gritz doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about," Block says from his Los Angeles office.

"You have to understand, most of the people at Mount Carmel didn't like living that way. They didn't like [Koresh's] ways. He was rude. He was abusive. But they believed that it was the way. Are you familiar with the Bible? There's a verse that says something about 'prisoners of hope.' We had to deal with the idea that leaving the group meant the devil would get you.

"You were told when you could eat and when you couldn't. When you could go out or not. We were told 'If you're having doubts, don't discuss it with each other.' Does that sound like a healthy environment? I can remember not eating for quite a while. We were usually fed once a day. And you didn't know when the meal was coming. It might be the morning or the afternoon, it could be three in the morning.

"I remember being outside the building that we called the gymnasium. We're all out there working in the heat, and none of us has eaten all day. Above us is the balcony or window or whatever you want to call it where Koresh's bedroom is. And I'll never forget, he comes out on his balcony and he's throwing sweet rolls in individual packets, and we're jumping for them like animals. At the time, it didn't seem unusual. It was just the way things were."

Rick Ross first encountered Davidians, an offshoot of Seventh-Day Adventism, in 1987, when he deprogrammed a couple in upstate New York. But after 1988, he says, the calls he received about Davidians all dealt with Koresh's Mount Carmel group.

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