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How a major Scientology donor family is caught up in the Danny Masterson case
In court on Monday, Deputy DA Reinhold Mueller described to Judge Charlaine Olmedo one of the witnesses the prosecution plans to call in Danny Masterson's criminal rape trial, which starts Tuesday.
Masterson is accused of forcibly raping three women between 2001 and 2003, and if he's convicted of all three counts faces 45 years to life in prison.
The That ‘70s Show actor is a Scientology celebrity, and the three alleged victims were Scientologists when the incidents occurred, but they are no longer involved in the church today. At last year’s preliminary hearing it became clear how much Scientology would be a part of the case when Judge Olmedo allowed the women to testify that Scientology’s policies and their fear of retaliation from the church prevented them from coming forward sooner. (On Friday, we posted lengthy excerpts from her decision to allow Scientology in the trial as well.)
But there are other ways that Scientology is intertwined in the case, and today we have another example for you.
Mueller on Monday was arguing for being allowed to include what are known as "fresh complaint witnesses" in the trial, which is expected to last about a month. Fresh complaint witnesses are brought in because they would have been told about an assault by a victim around the time it happened. Their testimony would otherwise be considered hearsay, but under California law it can come into sexual assault cases under certain circumstances.
Mueller went into some interesting detail about the first of the witnesses he wants to include, and what one of the victims, known as Jane Doe 1 in the case, told the witness about a month after her attack, which she alleges occurred at Masterson's house in the early morning hours of April 25, 2003.
Based on what Jane Doe 1 testified to at the preliminary hearing last year, and what Mueller said in court on Monday, we can piece together some interesting things about this witness and his connection to some major Scientology donors.
At the preliminary hearing, which took place in May last year, Jane Doe 1 testified that after the night of her attack, she reported the incident to the church. When she tried to describe what had happened to a Scientology “ethics” officer named Julian Swartz, he stopped her.
Jane Doe 1: I started to tell him what happened. I said, "Julian, something really bad happened. I have to talk to you." He closed the door to a room. And I said, "I got covered in bruising. I got hurt." All of this stuff I started to tell him, and he said, "If you're going to say the word 'rape,' don't say it now. We don't use that word."
All three of the alleged victims testified last year that in Scientology, it's against policy to turn in fellow Scientologists even for serious crimes. They said they knew they would be in serious trouble if they went to the police with accusations about Masterson.
Scientology's solution for Jane Doe 1 was to put her through about $15,000 of past-life counseling in order to find out what evil things she had done in previous incarnations that had made her a victim in this lifetime.
But then, in June 2004, she decided to defy Scientology policy and she reported the incident to the LAPD. At the prelim, she testified that when she made that report to the police, she said that the first person she told about the attack was a friend named Shaun Fabos.
"Shaun Fabos was a friend of mine, also my mother's assistant. But I would say mostly my friend," she testified last year.
On Monday, Mueller revealed a little more about that conversation, which occurred a few weeks after the April 2003 incident with Masterson.
Mueller: She was giving Mr. Fabos some details about the events that were occurring. She did not use the word "rape" but was giving some details about what happened. Mr. Fabos had gotten upset, got angry, because he was starting to understand what had occurred, and then said some things about — that he wanted to go and settle this with Mr. Masterson because of what he had done to her. When she started — when [Jane Doe 1] started to recognize he's getting real upset and thinking things might escalate, she said, "Then you know what, let it be. I'm just kind of making this up." But it was literally to de-escalate his anger at the time. That was a statement — that was a conversation that they had.
Mueller then revealed that after the new LAPD investigation began in 2016, Jane Doe 1 was instructed to make a "pretext call" to Fabos to find out what he remembered from that conversation, and to record it for the police.
Mueller: Subsequently — 2017, I want to say — there was a pretext call where she was talking to Mr. Fabos and said, "Hey, do you kind of remember when I talked to you about what happened?" and he acknowledged, "Yes, I do." and she said, "What do you remember?" And he kind of laid it out. "I remember you coming to me. I remember you saying that, you know, you ended up going to his house and just having one drink, got in the jacuzzi." I think he mentions all of those details in that pretext.
On Monday, Mueller informed Judge Olmedo that the prosecution intends to call Fabos to the witness stand to ask him about this.
On Tuesday, Judge Olmedo said she wanted the fresh complaint witnesses to come in only under narrow circumstances, and she indicated that there may be more discussion about them in the coming days.
Meanwhile, we find it interesting who Shaun Fabos is. He's the son of Steve Fabos, and the two of them operate a North Hollywood music studio Shaun built that they call Fab Factory.
Steve Fabos and his wife Peggy Oppenheim-Fabos are also known as major donors in Scientology.
Scientology celebrates its biggest donors with trophies and appearances in Impact magazine, and we do our best to document them and track their progress.
Meanwhile, Steve and Peggy have popped up in a lot of Scientology's fundraising flyers recently, showing them giving dozens of "humanitarian" grants (at $100,000 each) for new "Ideal Org" projects around the country.
The couple (who are often in costume) have become so ubiquitous at fundraising events for building projects in places like Hawaii, Philadelphia, Long Island, and Battle Creek, Scientology has dubbed them the "Fabos Factor."
We briefly reached out to Shaun Fabos in 2017, but he never got back to us. We're still interested to learn how he feels about the situation.
The prosecution wants to put on a witness who talked to Jane Doe 1 shortly after the alleged 2003 attack, and who also happens to the be the son of one of Scientology's biggest current donors.
That has to make Scientology leader David Miscavige uncomfortable.
Again! Scientology has seriously lost it over Mike Rinder, Valeska Paris court documents
Two weeks ago, we told you the situation with the labor trafficking lawsuit in Tampa federal court, and how Judge Thomas Barber told Scientology he didn’t need more briefing while he considered its latest motions intended to derail the case. Settle down, he seemed to tell them, he had everything he needed to make an informed decision.
But this is Scientology. You think they’re going to take a hint from a judge?
The lawsuit was first filed on April 28 and alleges that Valeska Paris and Gawain and Laura Baxter, all residents of Australia, 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.
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.
Valeska and the Baxters responded with well-written briefs that included declarations by Valeska and the Baxters saying they had signed those contracts in the Sea Org under duress.
They also submitted a declaration from an expert on trafficking, Florence Burke. And maybe most irritating to the church, they filed a declaration from former spokesman Mike Rinder describing Scientology’s control of its Sea Org minions.
Scientology (or rather, church leader David Miscavige) was livid that the declarations had been attached (Mike Rinder tends to trigger them like nothing else), and they asked Judge Barber for permission to file a whole new set of replies in order to counter the declarations.
Judge Barber, essentially, told them to sit down.
“Defendants’ motions for leave to file replies are denied. If necessary to resolve the pending motions, the Court will direct the parties to file supplemental memoranda or set a hearing to further address the legal issues and arguments in this case,” he ruled.
Since then, he did set a hearing for oral arguments that both sides had asked for. It’s scheduled for November 17.
One of our legal friends, TX Lawyer, who specializes in appeals, told us that Judge Barber’s instruction to Scientology not to submit more documents might be a sign that he’s actually leaning their way and might be preparing to find for the motions to compel arbitration.
There’s a reason to suspect that might be the case: 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. That seems like a fairly heavy precedent that the Baxter lawsuit must overcome.
We really don’t know what Judge Barber is going to do, but with the Garcia precedent hanging over the Tampa courthouse, and Barber telling Scientology that he had what he needed and that if he needed more information he’d ask for it, you’d think Scientology would just sit tight and prepare for the November 17 hearing, right?
Nope. Dave is clearly still seriously triggered about Mike Rinder’s entry into the case and the declarations by the others, and this week his attorneys bombed the court with seventeen new filings totaling more than 250 pages, and all aimed at striking the five declarations from the record.
And some of this stuff is just classic David Miscavige spleen.
By his own admission, Michael Rinder left the Church of Scientology in 2007, fifteen (15) years ago. Therefore, he has no personal knowledge of many of the “facts” he asserts in his declaration concerning the current organizational structure and practices of the Church. For instance, Mr. Rinder purports to describe the chain of command within the Church, but then describes his so-called experiences from 1982 to 2007. Mr. Rinder claims that RTC and Mr. Miscavige have offices in the Flag Building but provide no basis for this claim. Nor could he. The Flag building was not opened until 2013 – years after Mr. Rinder left the Church…
Since his departure from Scientology in 2007, Mr. Rinder has devoted his life to falsely and publicly attacking the Church for opportunistic ends. He has served as the co-host of an anti-Scientology cable television program and maintains a blog and, at times, a podcast for the exclusive purpose of spreading false propaganda and attacking the Scientology religion, its leadership, and adherents. In his podcast, and other media, he has referred to the ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion, David Miscavige, as “Kim Jong,” “Hitler,” “Stalin,” and “the emotional equivalent of Jeffrey Dahmer,” among other highly offensive, malicious and defamatory insults. He has also referred to Scientologists as “rabid vermin,” “cornered rats,” “dumbass extremises [sic, extremists],” “will lie [liars],” “brainwashed,” “perniciously evil” and “Kool Aide drinking bubble-dwellers.”
Stop, stop, Dave. Yer killing us.
From the motion to strike Valeska’s declaration, this is the paragraph that should be enshrined in the Scientology hypocrisy hall of fame:
Multiple paragraphs of the Paris Declaration must be stricken because they are improper opinion testimony regarding the doctrines, practices, and beliefs of the Scientology religion. Ms. Paris is not qualified to opine on such matters. Ms. Paris is a non-believer who has left the faith. She offers no foundation for her opinion testimony regarding the religion and its practices. For instance, she is not a religious scholar and does not claim to have held any doctrinal position when she was a member of the Sea Org.
OK, just so we’re clear, Dave: Valeska’s opinion about Scientology’s practices are not valid because she’s left the church, but that contract you forced her to sign is still valid, right?
Anyway, for all we know Judge Barber might not mind being paper-bombed with this dreck when he explicitly told them not to file replies, and in the end it might make no difference to what he ultimately rules.
But we still find the thought of Miscavige throwing a fit over Mike Rinder entertaining as hell.
Here are the motions to strike (the rest of the filings were joinders from the various defendants saying, essentially, “us too!”, and we’re not going to post them).
Motion to strike Mike Rinder’s declaration.
Motion to strike Valeska Paris’s declaration.
Motion to strike Gawain Baxter’s declaration.
Motion to strike Laura Baxter’s declaration.
Motion to strike Florence Burke’s declaration.
Jury won’t visit Paul Haggis’s apartment, judge rules
We told you Friday that the start of Paul Haggis’s civil lawsuit trial in New York was moved back from October 11 to October 17. And now, there’s been another small development.
Haggis had filed a motion trying to keep out an expert that the woman suing him, Haleigh Breest, wants to bring in, a psychologist who has examined Breest.
Haggis wanted the expert, Lisa M. Rocchio, PhD, to keep from testifying, or to have Breest to submit to a psychological examination from his own expert. Judge Sabrina Kraus denied those requests.
And she also denied Haggis’s request to have the jury visit his apartment where, Breest alleges, he raped her after a movie viewing in 2013. According to Judge Kraus’s order denying the request, Haggis believes visiting the apartment and seeing its layout will convince them that some of the things Breest said in a deposition were not true.
But Judge Kraus found that photos and a video walkthrough of the dwelling is sufficient to give jurors what they need to know about it.
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