Cult Expert Must Pay

Nationally known deprogrammer loses bid to discharge $3.4 million civil debt

The jurors who acquitted Ross in his criminal case were told about Scientology's involvement. The jurors in his civil case who awarded Scott $5 million, however, weren't.

Although Ross specializes in Bible-based cults, he says the Church of Scientology--which is based on the writings of science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard--has long considered him an enemy. But more important, Ross says, the church saw in the Scott case another possibility to sue the Cult Awareness Network.

Scientology and CAN have tangled repeatedly. The Scott case, however, finally put CAN out of business. Because a CAN member had referred Tonkin to Ross, the Seattle jury found CAN liable for $1 million. The judgment forced CAN into bankruptcy, and now Moxon acknowledges that he is asking an Illinois court to allow him to sell CAN's confidential files as an asset. That prospect is chilling to anticult activists.

Moxon says that about 20 organizations have contacted him about obtaining the files, from "mainline churches" to the John Birch Society. He says the Church of Scientology, however, hasn't asked him about the files.

Moxon's prominence in the church--the church's own publications have cited his importance--lead Scientology observers to assume the church will attempt to get the CAN files for itself.

Those files contain confidential information about thousands of families that have made complaints about hundreds of the nation's churches, therapy groups and political organizations.

"Unfortunately, we're in bankruptcy, so there's no one to stand up for these families," says Priscilla Coates, a former Los Angeles director of CAN. She says that various groups are so eager to get a look at the files, it's producing a feeding frenzy with unanticipated results.

According to Coates, Landmark Education Corporation, a "self-empowerment" organization that rose from the ashes of Werner Erhard's est movement, is also anxious to see CAN's files.

CAN officials have said that Scientology and Landmark were the two groups about which it received the most complaints.

But if there's one group that Landmark dislikes more than CAN, it is reported to be the Church of Scientology. Landmark has accused Scientology of spreading bad publicity about it. Neither organization wants its CAN file to fall into the other's hands.

In Phoenix, meanwhile, Kendrick Moxon relaxes after Judge Nielsen rules that Ross can't discharge his debt to Scott.

"You can't kidnap people and then run into bankruptcy court for protection," Moxon says. "Ross is so arrogant. He says he's going to keep doing what he's doing. He feels he's outside the law."

Moxon is asked if those statements don't suggest that shutting down Ross' operation is his primary motive, rather than helping Jason Scott recover damages. "My intention has never been to shut down Rick Ross," he answers. "My intention was to get compensatory damages for Jason Scott."

Kathy Tonkin, Jason Scott's mother, disagrees, saying, "This case is about shutting Rick Ross down as a deprogrammer. And for Jason, his motive is money.

"[Jason] did not seek them [Scientologist lawyers] out. I know my son well enough to know that is something he wouldn't do.

"Rick got two of my sons out. They have productive lives now, and they're not giving up all their money to a destructive cult. And they're very thankful for the things Rick did for them."

Ross himself says he was expecting Judge Nielsen's ruling after Nielsen made a similar decision in the bankruptcy of Charles Simpson, one of the security men, just weeks earlier. (Simpson reportedly brought up the subject of Scientology's involvement in the case to Judge Nielsen; Ross didn't.) Simpson and Mark Workman, two of the men who actually grabbed Scott, are facing $1 million judgments. The third man, Clark Rotroff, agreed to testify against the other men in the Seattle trial and settled with Scott for an undisclosed amount. Court records, however, indicate that Rotroff's testimony was appreciated: Moxon admitted to a judge that Rotroff has had to cough up only $800.

Ross says there's no way he'll be able to pay the $3.4 million judgment, and he's produced tax records to show that as a deprogrammer he's rarely netted more than $20,000 in a single year. But the prospect of sending most of his income to Jason Scott for an indefinite period isn't daunting enough to keep him from giving up his career.

"I'm going to keep doing my work, keep lecturing. I'm booked for the near future," Ross says, and then he asks jokingly, "Got three million bucks on you?

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