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Deliberations, day two: Can frustrated jurors get it done today?
At the end of the day yesterday, we remained behind long enough to see the jurors leave the courtroom after their first full day deliberating in the Danny Masterson trial in Los Angeles.
The look on their faces? One of frustration.
That isn’t unusual for a jury trying to come together on a unanimous verdict, and we hope they manage to work things out today and get us a decision. We’ll be in the courtroom today at 9 am, and we’ll be sending updates on Twitter and our tonyortega.org website, as well as sending out stories here at our Substack.
And now that the case is with the jury and things are a bit looser in the courtroom, guess who showed up yesterday and was gladhanding various Masterson family members?
Well, would you be surprised to hear that it was Scientology attorney Vicki Podberesky?
We’ve been asked throughout the trial if we saw any evidence of Scientology’s presence in the courtroom, and yes, we had.
Podberesky played a really interesting role at the preliminary hearing last year, and we had a feeling that she’d be keeping tabs on things during the trial as well. We saw her young colleague, attorney Dillon Malar, in the audience several times over the last few weeks.
But there was also an intriguing figure, a well dressed and tall attorney who has attended every single day of the trial, even during jury selection when there was only one seat available for the public. He arrived early enough every day so that he got that seat.
Later, as it became clear that he was taking detailed notes on a pad of paper, a couple of journalists asked him who he was. He not only refused to identify himself, when one of our colleagues asked him if he was there representing Scientology, he refused to answer the question.
The man eventually landed a minor role in a Los Angeles Times article by Noah Goldberg, who noted the speculation about him, described his tattoos, and said that it was assumed he was representing the church.
But we had a better form of confirmation when our friend Jeffrey Augustine noticed one day that the man had received a phone call. Jeffrey happened to catch a glimpse of the man’s phone, which he says clearly had the name “Vicki Podberesky” on it.
Well, that left little doubt.
But now that the case is in the can, it’s time for Vicki herself to show up, and we saw her yesterday giving hugs to Masterson family members.
Sure, there’s nothing wrong with Scientologists like the Mastersons playing chummy with an attorney who for many years has represented Scientology in court, and who, we suspect, was providing a live account of the preliminary hearing to David Miscavige.
But it was fun yesterday to see everything so out in the open.
Hearing in trafficking case today in Tampa
Oral arguments will be presented by attorneys for Scientology and for the plaintiffs suing the church today at federal court in Tampa, and we’re looking forward to coverage of it by the Tampa Bay Times.
The lawsuit was filed on April 28 by Valeska Paris and Gawain and Laura Baxter, three former Sea Org residents who live in Australia, who allege that they were forced into the Sea Org as children, suffered neglect and harsh punishments as children and adults, and served as virtual prisoners aboard the ship. Valeska also alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by other Sea Org workers, and then had been punished for speaking up about it.
Scientology responded by filing motions to compel arbitration, a strategy that has largely been a successful one for the church in recent years. The church says that Valeska and the Baxters signed contracts between 2003 and 2015 that obliged them not to sue but to take their grievances to Scientology’s internal form of arbitration. The church’s filings ignored the allegations of neglect and abuse that the lawsuit made, and argued that a contract was a contract and these former Sea Org workers can’t sue. Also, Scientology is pointing out that a 2013 lawsuit filed by two former Scientologists, Luis and Rocio Garcia, was forced into arbitration in the same Tampa courtroom, and it was upheld on appeal by the federal Eleventh Circuit. The same fate should apply to the trafficking lawsuit, Scientology asserts.
The plaintiffs responded that there was no valid arbitration agreement because the documents Scientology has presented are conflicting and were signed under duress; because they would unlawfully require the plaintiffs to give up their rights; because the plaintiffs would be forced into an “ecclesiastical” proceeding in a church they are no longer members of; and because the agreements are unconscionable.
Both sides asked for a hearing to present oral arguments before Judge Thomas Barber rules on Scientology’s motions, and that’s what is happening today. We don’t think the judge will issue a ruling today, although he may ask some questions of both sides which could be revealing.
Keep an eye out for coverage by Tracey McManus at the Tampa Bay Times.
Yesterday’s wrap-up of a whole lot of nothing
Not much happened in court yesterday, but we still managed to spew a lot of hot air about it. We released our end-of-the-day video to everyone here at Substack, but we’re linking to it here in case you haven’t seen it. And here’s also the version at our YouTube channel.
Thank you for reading today’s story here at Substack. For the full picture of what’s happening today in the world of Scientology, please join the conversation at tonyortega.org, where we’ve been reporting daily on David Miscavige’s cabal since 2012. There you’ll find additional stories, and our popular regular daily features:
Source Code: Actual things founder L. Ron Hubbard said on this date in history
Avast, Ye Mateys: Snapshots from Scientology’s years at sea
Overheard in the Freezone: Indie Hubbardism, one thought at a time
Past is Prologue: From this week in history at alt.religion.scientology
Random Howdy: Your daily dose of the Captain
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