[Tonight’s guest post is by Mark Bunker.]
While waiting for U.S. Magistrate Judge Julie S. Sneed to convene Friday’s hearing in courtroom 11A of the Sam M. Gibbons United States Courthouse in Tampa, your humble correspondent suggested to Tracey McManus of the Tampa Bay Times that we should have an answer that day over whether the judge would rule that David Miscavige should be considered served in the human trafficking lawsuit brought by three former Sea Org members. How difficult could it be, we agreed? Oh, how wrong that foolish idea was.
It seemed like a simple task. There had been 27 documented attempts to serve Miscavige at five different locations here in Clearwater and five in Los Angeles. Each time at every location, the process servers were essentially told, “Miscavige? I’ve heard of him but he’s not here, doesn’t live here, doesn’t work here and no one has any idea where he might be. Why not try on the other side of the country?”
Manuel Dominguez, attorney for the three ex-Scientologists called on the judge to put an end to this cat and mouse game and consider Miscavige served. Miscavige’s attorney Joseph Terry countered that they just hadn’t tried hard enough.
The judge asked whether Terry or the attorneys for RTC, the Flag Service Organization or the Flag Ship Service Organization would now accept service for Miscavige and was met with a chorus of “NOs!” The judge must not have tried hard enough either.
What followed was 90 minutes of quibbling over silly arguments about where Miscavige lived and why anyone would think Miscavige should be served to begin with.
At one point the judge flat out asked Terry where Miscavige lived and didn’t get an answer. Terry said not in Florida (that’s for sure) and referenced an affidavit from Warren McShane that said essentially, “I’ve known Miscavige for over 40 years and in all that time Miscavige has been always a resident of California”…while failing to add an address.
Then it was time for dueling affidavits as Terry pointed out that Dominguez had filed a declaration from Aaron Smith-Levin that said Miscavige lived at Hacienda Gardens in Clearwater yet two weeks later Levin made a YouTube video in which he said Miscavige lived at Golden Era Studios near Hemet, California thus alleging he committed perjury while ignoring that Miscavige simply has more than one home.
But this was the one time in the hearing when I got worried because Dominguez admitted that no service was attempted at Gold. Would the judge rule that in that case they didn’t try hard enough? Of course, if they had made multiple attempts to serve Miscavige at Gold they would still have been stonewalled just as they were everywhere else.
Dominguez scored his own bullseye earlier when he was giving examples of other corporate heads who were served in absentia when ducking subpoenas, citing several cases in Florida and then capping it off by pointing out that Hubbard himself was considered served in absentia while he was hiding out in the desert at the end of his life.
Much later in the hearing, Terry pointed out that the Hubbard comparison didn’t hold up because Scientology has been so restructured since then that it’s simply not the same joint it once was. I stifled a good loud laugh at that moment. In fact, it was very difficult at many points to not disrupt the proceedings by standing up to say, “WHAT?!?!”
It particularly got my goat that Terry was saying Miscavige shouldn’t be served in absentia because a recent change in Florida statutes (Substituted Service of Process) which allows individuals be served by notifying the Secretary of State that service is being ducked at every turn. The statute had a turn of phrase Terry was trying hard to exploit.
The word “individual” was used in the rewritten text and Terry hit hard that it should only apply if Miscavige had been operating as an individual and not as the head of an organization such as Scientology. “Individual, your honor! Individual! He is not operating as an INDIVIDUAL!”
Terry pointed out that even under the old version of the statute it still says the same thing. The judge said, “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t at all.”
Also if there was human trafficking, Miscavige wasn’t to blame as an individual, especially since the crimes were committed on a ship far, far away, not here in Clearwater where Miscavige definitely doesn’t have a home.
The judge asked if Miscavige had an office here. Whoops, that was a tough one. “Scientology has offices everywhere and Miscavige can always find one to work in wherever he is but he doesn’t have his OWN office. My law firm has offices around the state and I can always find some office space if I need some.”
Some other examples of substituted service were given in Florida cases including against corporate heads, employees and even in one case against a mere stockholder of a company. They all benefitted from the business in one way or another.
The judge pointed out that Miscavige benefited from his position.
“Not as an INDIVIDUAL your honor. He benefited as the Chairman of the Board, not as an individual,” argued Terry. He had no individual control of what went on under his reign, only as COB.
At the end of the hearing, I pointed out to members of Dominguez’s team that as a member of the city council, I was aware of Miscavige telling our past city manager that he lived in Clearwater but that his wife didn’t and how as an individual he was “instructing” parishioners to fix up their empty buildings. Of course, these are not admissible as evidence but I said I’d be happy to answer any questions they might have.
Now it is just a matter of waiting to see how Judge Sneed rules. Can we please see some justice done? Is that asking too much?
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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Thanks Mark, Kafka has nothing on these legal eagles.
I love the
“Not as an INDIVIDUAL your honor. He benefited as the Chairman of the Board, not as an individual,”
Is this the Sovereign COB we are seeing emerging? The not-an-individual who is everywhere and nowhere and who is never seen in the same room as defendant David "he is NOT insane!" Miscavige?
Thank you Mr Bunker! Fingers crossed for a swift serving.