News

Double Crossed

Page 11 of 11

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.

But even his admirers say Berry's over-the-top strategies have been as much to blame for his downfall as Moxon and Scientology.

If at one time Berry's bold strategies scored him significant victories, his flair for the dramatic has worn thin with judges.

In August, L.A. Superior Court Judge Alexander H. Williams III declared Berry a vexatious litigant, a harsh and rare penalty meted out to attorneys who tie up courts with frivolous lawsuits.

Williams chided Berry for turning in needlessly voluminous filings and turning them in late.

Berry is appealing the ruling. He notes that Williams didn't reveal until well into Berry's 1998 lawsuit against Cipriano that Williams' fianc' works for the Church of Scientology as a translator and that his clerk worked for one of the law firms representing Scientology entities.

Berry also says it's outrageous that Moxon and other attorneys hired by Scientology -- such as L.A. Police Commission President Gerald Chaleff -- argued to Williams that Berry has clogged the court with conspiracy theories, when Moxon's own former client, Robert Cipriano, has come forward with evidence that the conspiracies really exist.

Judge Williams, bemoaning the "bizarre evolution of the relationship between Mr. Berry and Mr. Cipriano," decided Berry's point is irrelevant to the question of whether Berry has been a legal pain in the ass.

Even Cipriano has had second thoughts about Berry. Complaining that he's sick of being used by both sides, Cipriano says he's leaving the country to get away from Berry and the Church of Scientology's private investigators.

Other people who battle the church say it's a shame that Berry has been brought so low. But some wonder if Berry's legal and personal predicaments only take away from the significance of Robert Cipriano's stunning allegations, and they wonder if Cipriano's claims that the church is up to its old tricks will get the attention it deserves.

Says one attorney who litigates against the church: "The Cipriano declaration is a potentially fatal stab to the heart of Scientology. But, in the hands of Graham Berry, I wonder if it will be used as effectively as it could be."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tony Ortega
Contact: Tony Ortega