Actress Tricia Vessey and civil RICO added to Scientology lawsuit in proposed new complaint
We’ve been telling you for several weeks that a new amended complaint was expected in the Bixler v. Scientology lawsuit, and that it might dramatically change the case.
That’s the lawsuit that was filed by Danny Masterson’s victims in 2019, even before he was charged criminally in June 2020. And the lawsuit initially wasn’t about the sexual assault allegations, it was about the harassment that the women said they were experiencing since they had come forward to the LAPD in late 2016.
The lawsuit suffered a setback when it was forced into Scientology “religious arbitration,” but then an appeals court overturned that decision. Then the lawsuit was put on hold while Masterson’s criminal trials were happening. In the meantime, the Jane Does suing Scientology replaced their lawyers. And now that Masterson has been sentenced to 30 years to life in prison, the lawsuit is active again, and attorneys for both sides said they expected to see this new complaint (technically the “second amended complaint” in the case).
Yesterday, the plaintiffs filed a proposed copy of their new complaint with the court, and it contains some surprises.
First, a sixth plaintiff, actress Tricia Vessey, is joining the case to sue Scientology. She testified in Masterson’s first criminal trial, alleging that he had raped her in 1996 after a wrap party in his Hollywood home. (The other five plaintiffs are Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, and Chrissie Carnell-Bixler from the criminal trials; Chrissie’s husband Cedric Bixler-Zavala; and Bobette Riales, another woman who alleges that Masterson attacked her, but who was not a part of the two trials.)
Second, the plaintiffs have added civil RICO charges to the lawsuit, accusing Scientology of racketeering and of being a criminal enterprise.
Also, the lawsuit is now very much about the sexual assaults and not just the harassment, with multiple plaintiffs suing Masterson for attacking them and Scientology for covering it up.
Wow, there’s a lot of new stuff here and some surprising revelations. But we mostly wanted to show you the change in language, with attorneys for the Jane Does referring to Scientology as a “criminal enterprise” throughout.
This is a lengthy document, but we want to show you the actual language from its introduction, to give you a sense of how it has changed the approach of this case.
Chrissie Carnell Bixler, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Jane Doe #1, Bobette Riales, Jane Doe #2, and Tricia Vessey hereby allege against The Church of Scientology International, Religious Technology Center, and Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International (collectively, the “Corporate Defendants”); and David Miscavige, Daniel Masterson, and DOES 1–25 (collectively, the “Individual Defendants”) as follows:
1. The Defendants are members of a criminal enterprise within Scientology. That criminal enterprise includes many individuals, including the Individual Defendants, and a number of corporate entities, including the Corporate Defendants.
2. Defendant David Miscavige is the undisputed and unquestioned leader of this criminal enterprise and derives significant financial benefit from Scientology’s criminal and unlawful activity.
3. Scientology was devised by L. Ron Hubbard, a science-fiction author who was dissatisfied with the income that vocation provided him. As his wife explained, Hubbard believed that “‘[t]he only way to make any real money was to have religion.’ That’s essentially what he [Hubbard] was trying to do . . . Get a religion where he could have an income and the government wouldn’t take it away from him in the form of taxes.” A science-fiction associate of Hubbard’s similarly recounted that Hubbard believed “the only way to make a million dollars was to form your own religion.”
4. Scientology’s self-described governing philosophy is “MAKE MONEY. MAKE MORE MONEY. MAKE OTHER PEOPLE PRODUCE SO AS TO MAKE MORE MONEY.”
5. Many of Scientology’s criminal enterprise’s money-making schemes are criminal in nature; it routinely and systematically engages in fraud, human trafficking, identify theft, and money laundering to fill its coffers and enrich its leadership.
6. Scientology’s criminal enterprise also makes money by selling pseudo-scientific “auditing sessions.” Scientology’s criminal enterprise claims these sessions “bring people from a condition of spiritual blindness to spiritual existence” and that they cure arthritis, dermatitis, asthma, coronary difficulties, eye trouble, bursitis, ulcers, sinusitis, cancer, and any number of other physical ailments. As befits such lofty (purported) results, customers who purchase the entire course of auditing sessions spend upwards of $500,000.
7. As with many criminal enterprises, Scientology’s takes steps to protect itself and its co-conspirators from governmental authorities. Scientology’s criminal enterprise takes a two-faced approach to protecting its criminal activities: it simultaneously presents an innocuous front to the public while terrorizing any who speak out about its unlawful activity in order to intimidate them and dissuade them from seeking protection from law enforcement or from cooperating with governmental authorities.
8. In order to provide itself with a patina of legitimacy, Scientology’s criminal enterprise recruits celebrities to serve as its public ambassadors. Defendant Daniel Masterson is one such celebrity. During Masterson’s long association with Scientology, Scientology’s criminal enterprise used its resources to assist Masterson with his burgeoning acting career and provided him preferential treatment within Scientology. In exchange, Masterson publicly supported Scientology and its criminal enterprise (by, for example, claiming Scientology cures depression).
9. While presenting itself outwardly as a respectable organization, Scientology’s criminal enterprise has implemented a policy of terrorizing victims (and witnesses) of its crimes — whether or not those victims (or witnesses) are Scientologists — into keeping Scientology’s crimes secret. This begins by inculcating its members to distrust outsiders, and particularly to distrust governmental enforcement. Scientology’s criminal enterprise has a strict policy against reporting crimes to the authorities, and if a member does find the courage to go to the authorities, Scientology’s criminal enterprise and its agents engage in a coordinated effort to wreak havoc on the victim’s life through a targeted harassment campaign. These harassment campaigns extend to non-members as well, who are frequently targeted for harassment if Scientology’s criminal enterprise sees them as a threat.
10. Scientology’s criminal enterprise’s harassment campaigns are carried out by Scientologists within that enterprise. But Scientology’s criminal enterprise also uses its significant resources — including the proceeds of its criminal endeavors — to hire outside agents (i.e., non-Scientologists) to implement and carry out its harassment campaigns.
11. Prior to the events alleged herein, Scientology had known for years that Defendant Masterson had raped and sexually assaulted multiple women. In order to protect Defendant Masterson, and to protect itself, Scientology’s criminal enterprise chose to bury knowledge of Defendant Masterson’s crimes.
12. While Scientology knew that Defendant Masterson was a rapist, due to Scientology’s criminal enterprise’s concealment of that fact, Plaintiffs Bixler, Riales, Vessey, and Jane Does 1 and 2 did not. Over the course of the late 1990s and early 2000s, each of them associated with Defendant Masterson in different capacities, and Defendant Masterson assaulted and raped each of them. For years, Plaintiffs Bixler, Riales, Vessey, and Jane Does 1 and 2 believed themselves to be Defendant Masterson’s only victims and, due to fear of reprisal from Scientology and its criminal enterprise, did not report Defendant Masterson’s rapes and sexual assaults to the authorities.
13. Beginning in 2016, Plaintiffs Bixler, Riales, Vessey, and Jane Does 1 and 2 began to contact each other and came to understand that Defendant Masterson was a serial rapist. In the hopes of preventing him from continuing to prey on women, they went to the authorities to report his sexual assaults.
14. As soon as Plaintiffs went to the authorities, Defendants began a concerted, targeted campaign of harassment and intimidation aimed at preventing Plaintiffs from cooperating with the authorities.
15. On June 16, 2020, Defendant Masterson was charged with forcibly raping Jane Does 1 and 2 and Plaintiff Bixler.
16. Defendants redoubled their efforts and began to harass both potential witnesses to Defendants’ illicit acts and at least one of the prosecutors assigned to Defendant Masterson’s criminal trial.
17. Defendants’ efforts failed again to stop Defendant Masterson’s prosecution. On May 31, 2023, a jury convicted Defendant Masterson of forcibly raping Jane Does 1 and 2 and hung on the count of forcibly raping Plaintiff Bixler, with eight of twelve jurors voting to convict. On September 7, 2023, Defendant Masterson was sentenced to imprisonment for a period of 30 years to life.
The lawsuit then dives into the background about how Scientology operates, and how it targets its perceived enemies with its “Fair Game” retaliation methods.
As for Masterson, there’s a new allegation now listed in the lawsuit:
“In 1994, Defendant Masterson raped and sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl (‘V1’). V1 was a Scientologist and immediately reported the rape to Defendants’ agents. Defendants did not go to the authorities and instead concealed the rape to protect Scientology and Defendant Masterson.”
(In 1994, Masterson turned 18 years old.)
“In 1996, Defendant Masterson raped and sexually assaulted a Scientologist (‘V2’). V2 also reported the rape to Defendants’ agents. Once again, Defendants did not go
to the authorities and instead concealed the rape to protect Scientology and Defendant Masterson.”
That second victim could not have been Tricia Vessey, who also reported being raped in 1996, because Vessey was never a Scientologist. So that’s three alleged rapes by 1996 that the plaintiffs are accusing Scientology of covering up and preventing the victims from knowing about each other.
The lawsuit then goes into minute detail about the allegations of stalking, hacking, intimidation and harassment by the individual plaintiffs, some of which is repeated from earlier versions of the case.
For Carnell-Bixler and Bixler-Zavala, for example, there was the horrific poisoning of their dog by someone who had tossed rat poison placed inside raw hamburger into their yard, clearly an intentional act.
Riales, who lives in Indiana, alleges that anonymous callers claimed she was abusing her children to the state department of child services. “These allegations were false, but nonetheless resulted in a lengthy investigation of Riales. After numerous court hearings, no adverse action was taken against Riales.” (Longtime readers will remember that both the Headleys and Jason Beghe were subjected to this same harassing tactic.)
Bobette’s dog was also poisoned, but survived, and she was in her home one day when she found that the outside of it had been set on fire, and the local fire department said it had been intentionally set.
The women allege that their phones and home security systems have been repeatedly tampered with, their emails erased, even their prescriptions interfered with. All of it, they believe, was carried out by the defendants.
And now, the list of charges has grown quite a bit:
Charges 1-3. Racketeering. 4. Violation under a new California law giving victims a year to revive claims of sexual assault. 5. Sexual battery committed by Masterson. 6. Domestic violence by Masterson. 7. Negligence. 8. Negligent supervision. 9. Intentional infliction of emotional distress. 10. Conspiracy to interfere with civil rights. 11. Wiretapping. 12. Computer data access. 13-17. Invasion of privacy. 18. Trespass (NY, for Vessey). 19-20. Stalking. 21. Conspiracy. 22. Loss of consortium.
What a huge change this is from the previous complaint, and no doubt we’ll be hearing a howl of protest from Scientology’s attorneys very soon.
Continuing our year in review: The stories of August 2023
We started off the month with some personal news: We’d be going under the knife in August, which would prevent us from going to Los Angeles for Danny Masterson’s sentencing. But that all turned out fine and we’re cancer-free and hoping it stays that way.
The next day, Leah Remini filed her lawsuit against the Church of Scientology and its leader David Miscavige over the “Fair Game” retaliation she has been enduring for years. Her specific allegations about the way Scientology’s harassment has harmed her business projects seems to make this a particularly troublesome suit for the church.
Judge Charlaine Olmedo ruled that all three Jane Doe victims would be allowed to give statements at Masterson’s sentencing, even though he was convicted on only two of the counts.
Sinéad O'Connor’s death elicited a fascinating remembrance from one of our readers about how the Irish singer had dated a Scientologist but managed to keep away from the organization itself, something O’Connor herself confirmed in her writings.
An odd twist in the Leah Remini lawsuit: Leah asked for a new judge, but then the next one chosen had to recuse herself because her attorney husband has done work for the church. Small world.
Sands Hall updated us on her latest adventures at our podcast.
We just had to thumb our nose at the Daily Mail and its speculation about Tom Cruise leaving Scientology after it was picked up by the rest of the tabloid horde as gospel.
Recent defector Mitch Brisker told us about what he witnessed on an overnight flight to England with David Miscavige and what the Scientology leader had got up with his female “communicator.”
And Leah Remini, not waiting for a response from Scientology, added to her lawsuit with new allegations of the church’s PIs stalking Mike Rinder.
A LOOK BACK AT AUGUST 2022: Valeska Paris files an amended complaint in her labor trafficking lawsuit. Shawn Holley wanted a delay in Danny Masterson’s case, it turned out because she was involved with secret proceedings regarding former Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer. We kicked off a special podcast series on a Scientology TV series that never aired, and started it off by interviewing Phil Jones. Bruce Hines on visiting the super-secret Scientology compound where, years later, Shelly Miscavige would be stashed away. Valerie Haney nominated Tom Cruise and, if he was busy, Shelly Miscavige. Andreas Heldal-Lund learned that he has an aggressive cancer.
A LOOK BACK AT AUGUST 2021: We count down Tom Cruise’s Scientology superpowers. Our attorneys got a subpoena quashed that had tried to haul us into Danny Masterson’s case. Laura Prepon told People she’d been out of Scientology for five years. The apologist journal CESNUR slimes Gerry Armstrong.
A LOOK BACK AT AUGUST 2020: We started a new list, Top 25 People Enabling Scientology. Judge Burdge denied Valerie Haney’s motion for reconsideration. New Clearwater city councilman Mark Bunker suggested making Scientology a tourist attraction. And episode one or Bryan Seymour’s spiked ‘Black Ops’ series leaks here at the Bunker.
A LOOK BACK AT AUGUST 2019: Chris Owen detailed Scientology’s 1970s attempt to take over the UK’s National Association of Mental Health. Rod Keller looked at Scientology attempts to make inroads with the Trump administration. Victoria Locke describes her abuse in Scientology. Danny Masterson’s accusers sue him and the Church of Scientology. Leah Remini and Mike Rinder finished their A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath’ with a powerful final episode.
A LOOK BACK AT AUGUST 2018: David Miscavige’s “transparency medal” blew up into a major press story in Colombia as senators there call for an investigation. R.M. Seibert delivered again with a government document showing the US was fully aware of Scientology’s essential scam 50 years ago. Scientology scrambled to throw money at Efrem Logreira after realizing how much trouble it was in. The mid-year Maiden Voyage whales surfaced. Sea Org was now expected to salute donors. Scientology had to remove a kiosk from an LAPD station.
A LOOK BACK AT AUGUST 2017: Carol Nyburg told us about her part in an unaired TV series. Leah’s second season started off with a bombshell about child molestation. Michael Peña’s wife Brie Shaffer backed her former employer, Danny Masterson. Pastor Willy Rice got the Scientology smear treatment. We made the full 2009-2010 FBI file about Scientology trafficking public (and on the same day we took in the solar eclipse with Jefferson Hawkins). We attended a San Antonio court hearing about Marty Rathbun.
A LOOK BACK AT AUGUST 2016: Scientology didn’t make us feel very welcome at its Harlem grand opening. Life in retirement looks pretty good for Scientology’s notorious dirty trickster, Eugene Ingram. In the presidential campaign, a lot of comparisons between Donald Trump and L. Ron Hubbard were being made, but we pointed out that it was the Clinton White House that had serious Scientology baggage.
A LOOK BACK AT AUGUST 2015: Steve Fishman, of the famous Fishman Papers, is doing serious time for a bizarre crime. Tom Cruise gave a speech in Spanish, and turned up at a Scientology org in Colombia. And Paulette Cooper had an amazing encounter in Europe.
A LOOK BACK AT AUGUST 2014: We remembered Denise Brennan on the occasion of her passing. Mary Sue Hubbard’s house finally went up for sale, as we had predicted. And Kim Poff and Michael DeLong filed lawsuits over the troubling behavior of Oklahoma state officials who were too afraid to take on Scientology.
A LOOK BACK AT AUGUST 2013: Leah Remini filed a missing-person report on Shelly Miscavige, PZ Myers read A History of Man with us, Gerry Armstrong helped us tell his tale, and Monique Rathbun filed her harassment lawsuit.
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