Double Crossed

The Church of Scientology has a reputation for ruthlessly going after its enemies. Robert Cipriano claims Scientologists rewarded him for helping them do just that. Now he's turned on them.

In July 1998, Cipriano sat for his deposition and reiterated what he had said in his 1994 declaration. Cipriano now claims in declarations filed in 1999 that he lied under oath, saying things about Berry that he knew were not true.

After the deposition, Cipriano moved to Palm Springs, where Moxon personally leased a condominium and a Saturn automobile for Cipriano's use. Cipriano turned over copies of the lease papers to New Times. Cipriano claims in his August declaration that Moxon also told him that a source of funds to pay off Cipriano's debt in New Jersey had been found.

The $20,000 was sent to a New Jersey attorney who settled Cipriano's debt to end his probation. Moxon refuses to identify the source of the funds and points out that although Cipriano has fired him, the information remains subject to attorney-client privilege.

Robert Cipriano

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After the settling of the debt, some of that money was left over, and Cipriano had the New Jersey attorney deposit it into his "Day of the Child" nonprofit business, which Moxon had gotten incorporated. Other money for the project was coming in from prominent Scientologists -- a canceled check shows that Los Angeles art dealer Isadore Chait contributed $1,000. Chait did not return phone calls asking for comment.

When New Times asked Moxon about Cipriano's allegations, he responded by denigrating Graham Berry and sending over a packet of documents that described Berry's numerous court sanctions. Moxon said Cipriano's August declaration was actually Berry's doing and that given the chance, Cipriano wouldn't back up that declaration's allegations. "The [August] declaration is peppered with false statements. You will never get Cipriano to affirm the contents of the declaration under oath -- he knows it is full of lies," Moxon wrote in a letter to New Times. When he was told that New Times had already spoken to Cipriano, who had repeated verbally what he had written and had turned over voluminous records to back up his version of events, Moxon started questioning a New Times writer about his motives. Repeatedly asked to talk about whether he had leased Cipriano a car and a house and had paid off his felony debt, Moxon instead questioned whether New Times had paid anyone for information for this story. (It hasn't.)

Cipriano says Scientology's various lines of support began to end when, in February 1999, Berry dropped his lawsuit. "When that happened, Moxon dismissed me," Cipriano says. Moxon stopped paying his bills, and other Scientologists stopped helping him out with his nonprofit business.

Cipriano says he gradually realized that his Day of the Child was getting nowhere and that Scientology's interest in him was waning.

In July, he gave Graham Berry a call.

A month later, Cipriano signed a new declaration announcing that he'd been an unwitting pawn in a nefarious plot by Scientologists to target Berry.

But both Berry and Cipriano say Cipriano's defection hasn't sated the church's hunger to destroy its enemy.

Berry claims that Moxon and other church attorneys have only used his lawsuit against Cipriano -- now dropped -- as another way to fair game him even further.

During a deposition in November 1998, for example, a Scientology attorney learned that Berry had provided free legal work to a young gay man whom Berry had slept with. Two months later, Eugene Ingram was dispatched to tell the man, Michael Hurtado, what Berry had said under oath.

Berry admits that he once had a short relationship with Hurtado, and that when Hurtado was arrested for violating a domestic restraining order, Berry agreed to represent him free of charge.

Four months after Berry divulged their relationship publicly, Hurtado filed suit asking for $9 million in damages, claiming that Berry forced him to have sex four times as compensation for the legal representation. In the suit, Hurtado alleges that he's not gay and that Berry forced him to have his first homosexual experience. Hurtado did not return phone calls from New Times.

Berry, in a counterclaim, asserts that Hurtado is a homosexual prostitute who doesn't want his Latino family to know that he's gay. Rather than admit to his relationship with Berry, Hurtado is suing to convince his family that he was raped, Berry claims. Also in the counterclaim, Berry indicates he has found a man willing to testify in court that Hurtado was known in the gay community as a prostitute. The man tells New Times he knows Hurtado is a hustler because the two of them were once hired to perform in a threesome.

Currently, Hurtado's attorney is trying to convince a judge that Berry filed bankruptcy recently so that he could avoid paying Hurtado and has asked that Berry's insurance carrier pay $700,000 even before the case has gone to trial.

Hurtado's attorney is Kendrick Moxon.

Moxon refused to answer New Times' questions about how he had become Hurtado's attorney.

Besides filing bankruptcy, Berry says he's been forced from several law firms since he became prominent in anti-Scientology litigation, and he claims that his own practice is now a shambles. He claims he's giving up litigating against the church. If the Church of Scientology has set out to destroy him, he says, it has succeeded.

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