Jesse Prince hearing summary, April 9, 2001
11 Apr 2001
Jeff Jacobsen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On Monday afternoon, April 9, in Courtroom 15 of the Clearwater Criminal Court Building, Judge Michael E Andrews heard further argument on a motion to compel testimony from two undercover private investigators involved in the arrest of Jesse Prince on drug charges.
Judge Andrews started by saying he remembered well the arguments Denis deVlaming had made in the last hearing on March 13 so there was no need to reiterate those but he wondered if Denis had anything else he wished to say before turning it over to the opposing side. Denis said he would hear the arguments of Mr. Johnson and then he may have a few comments.
With that, Paul Johnson, attorney for the private investigators, announced that, on last Friday, he had filed a 14 page response to Jese Prince's affidavit, including 5 attachments. The judge had not seen the response but did find it in his courtfile so he asked Mr. Johnson to give it to him in a nutshell.
Mr. Johnson (who is the nephew of Scientology's longtime attorney of the same name, not his son, as I mistakenly posted last time) stated that he still opposed the idea of revealing the names of the confidential informants and having them deposed. He first argued that there was no showing of good cause.
He said Jesse Prince and one of Denis' private investigators had interviewed Barry Gaston (one of the two confidential informants whom Denis is seeking to be brought into court) for two hours and from the information obtained in that interview, its clear to Johnson that Jesse's claims of being set-up by Scientology are wildly speculative and imaginary.
"Off the wall" theories is how he termed Jesse's assertions; not backed up by a shred of evidence.
Further, Mr. Johnson again argued, as he did last time, that the private investigators are confidential informants and any improper divulgence of information carried with it very strict fines including the loss of their license.
The judge asked Mr. Johnson, "Are they really at risk if the court issues orders to compel them to speak?"
"Well...barring court orders...it shocked me to see how serious the penalties are!"
"Yes, but if I grant Mr. deVlaming's request and order them here?"
"Well...then...no...they wouldn't be at risk," Mr. Johnson conceded.
Talk then switched back to Jesse's affidavit and the fact that there must be a solid reason for bringing confidential informants out into the open, not mere speculation. Mr. Johnson stated that reading Jesse's affidavit was like getting a look at deVlaming's "Fantasy Closing Argument." He expects Denis will lay out that this was all a plot by the Church of Scientology to set-up one of its enemies.
Saying so in an affidavit "does not make it reality," Johnson stated. There was no proof of these assertions or "we would have seen them in the affidavit."
Johnson laid out some of the charges which he said Jesse did not refute in his affidavit. Johnson said that Detective Crosby of the Largo police will say that Jesse and his "live-in paramour" were seen smoking some marijuana. Jesse told the detective that they are growing wildly. "I pull them up and they just keep sprouting," he quotes Jesse as saying. To which Johnson added, "Yeah...from probably OTHER plants he planted!"
Johnson states that Jesse knew what marijuana looked like and even though there was one just one plant in his house, that's all it took. If a friend comes over and drops a bag of cocaine on your table, you can't say, "I didn't put it there." Its there and you know it's there.
Mr Johnson then moved onto Scientology and Fair Game. He told the judge that Jesse claimed he left Scientology a few years ago, "but he doesn't tell you how many years ago, judge. He left in 1992!" Johnson claimed that Jesse has no knowledge of the current policies and practices of the church whatsoever.
Johnson explained that in early 1968 the Church of Scientology issued a policy. Johnson said he had great knowledge of this policy and wanted to explain it to the court. Scientology has this very effective internal ethics and justice system. If anyone in Scientology has a problem with another member they don't go outside to the courts, its all handled internally and its a great benefit to the members.
And like the Catholic Church with it's excommunication, Scientology has a similar system. People used to be called Fair Game. Its really makes sense. It simply means that people who are declared Fair Game no longer have the benefit of the internal justice system of Scientology and have to rely on the outside courts to settle their grievances.
"Critics of the church seize that language (Fair Game) and use it to attack!", Johnson explained. Hubbard shortly thereafter issued another bulletin saying they can no longer use this language but all this document really says is that they can't use the internal justice system of Scientology.
The judge interrupted. "Let me ask you this...I'm looking at the Fair Game policy and it doesn't look like its talking about excommunication at all."
"No, your honor...they're just saying they can't benefit from...you see, I know about this..." Johnson said. "There has been no written policy about this for 33 years!"
Johnson then went into great detail about how Fair Game doesn't exist, never has existed, its all a hammer used by the church's enemies...and so on. He then quoted from a form Jesse signed in Scientology back in 1979 in which Jesse laid out "his crimes." "I'm just giving you the factual background, your honor," Johnson said, then listed some of Jesse's overts and withholds.
Johnson returned to Jesse's affidavit and said Jesse never refutes the facts of the arrest. The judge says that it sounded to him as though he is. It sounds like Jesse is saying "I did know that was marijuana but I didn't plant them there and they keep popping up."
Johnson came back with, "If he's pulling them all up, how could he miss a three foot plant?" And he said Jesse never claimed entrapment which is not a defense for possession of marijauna in any case.
"The court is being led to believe that 1 + 1 = 2...but there's another 1...and it adds up to 4," said Johnson. "And how does Jesse Prince know he's Fair Game? He's been out of the church for years. They're asking you to make leaps of faith, your honor. 1 + 1 = what else?"
The judge asked Johnson if it really matters that Jesse hasn't been in since 1992. The judge felt that Johnson was inferring that Fair Game was in effect in 1979 while Jesse was still in, even though Johnson says that it ended in 1968.
Johnson told him, "No, it was not policy...just a name that was discontinued. It was not a tool...but it has been used as a weapon by opponents of the church."
The judge said, "I can understand why the church would say it was not a policy..."
"It exists only in the minds of the church's enemies," Johnson said.
As to the confidential informants, neither have been listed as witnesses by the state. Johnson wondered why deVlaming would even call Gaston? He knows what he'd say. They've talked to him for two hours when they tracked him down and blew his cover. As to Gaston's connection to Raftery ...it's pure speculation. No one has said that Raftery hired Gaston.
Then Johnson wrapped up by saying he wanted to add another piece of info so that Mr. deVlaming couldn't stand up and say "But your honor, what he didn't tell you was...", so Johnson very sheepishly said that the state prosecutor called him last week and told him that she had informed Mr. deVlaming that she had interviewed "an individual" and "this individual" had received information and orders "to monitor Jesse Prince to see if he was doing something unethical or illegal."
The judge said, "Wait a minute...are you saying that Gaston was given orders to monitor Jesse Prince to see if he was doing something unethical or illegal?"
"We're not identifying anyone at this moment, your Honor," Johnson tried to explain. He didn't know exactly what had been told to deVlaming, he explained, and he didn't want to give away any more information than the state may have already divulged.
The judge and Johnson bobbed around this "Gaston/unidentified individual" issue for a bit but it was clear the judge knew it was Gaston's name Johnson refused to utter.
The Judge then asked if the state was also going to say that Scientology gave Gaston orders to monitor Jesse Prince to see if he was doing something unethical or illegal.
Johnson paused and said, "I don't know."
"You're not able to tell me who told Gaston to investigate Jesse Prince?"
"I wasn't there for the conversation," said Johnson.
After this lengthy defense of Scientology and Fair Game, this admission from Johnson was pretty damning. Then his arguments took a strange turn as he tried to explain to the judge that he shouldn't even worry about all this because it would be "inappropriate for the court to look at church policies or practices." He mentioned several cases in which religious issues were declared off topic.
The judge said "It would be different if the case was about Scientology but this is a case where a man says he has been entrapped. He's not guilty and he has been set-up. I'm not interfering with church doctrine if I order such a ruling."
The judge was adamant that his ruling would in no way affect church doctrine.
Johnson went back to saying that Jesse never said he was innocent but is only creating wild speculative schemes for his defense. "If the defendant had said that martians came down and planted marijuana in his backyard...it doesn't make it so."
"I don't see how that relates at all", said Judge Andrews as he asked again how his ruling would affect church doctrine.
Johnson said "I may have put too much focus on Fair Game."
"I'm still missing the argument about how my ruling would affect the church's doctrine. My ruling would not specifically interfere with the church's activities and doctrines. Point out where it is in the cases you cite."
"Its not specifically in those cases, your honor," Johnson admitted. He then compared it to a case in which a Catholic School fired someone on a religious issue and was sued. The judge pointed out that in that case, the suit was filed about the church and the doctrine was at issue.
"I don't see how I'm interfering in any way." But the judge allowed Johnson to fax him any case law by the next day to support his notion.
Then Johnson went into a bit of minutae about Jesse's affidavit not being properly sworn before he concluded.
Now it was time for State Prosecutor Lydia Wordell's presentation and she started by saying that after the last hearing on this very issue she started to think back. Suddenly she remembered a private conversation she had had with Gaston months before. During this conversation he had told her that he was assigned by a "confidential source" to monitor Jesse Prince to see if he was involved in any unethical or illegal matter. She claimed he did not reveal his source.
She went on to state that she believes this is all "much ado about nothing" and a red herring. She doesn't need Gaston or the confidential informant (Raftery) who hired Gaston for her case because the Largo detective saw the plants in Jesse's house.
"I can try this case very cleanly...black and white." She added, "I don't like that any former member of a church can hide behind a shield of 'They set me up!' Whether it was the church that hired them or not, they didn't roll the plant and stick it in his mouth."
Next, deVlaming got to respond. "We can short-cut this whole process. If there's a voluntary disclosure of privileged information...it's waived!" Denis explained if the person discusses any portion of the testimony, it's waived. His right was waived when Gaston sat down for two hours and talked with Jesse and Denis' private investigators. "When he spoke with the State Prosecutor...he waived!"
He spoke about and admitted to everything in the police report, Denis explained. "He's waived it."
Although he had other arguments, Denis felt he didn't need to go into them adding, "I'm not going into all this L. Ron Hubbard stuff. We'll address that at another time."
Then Denis brought out another bombshell. He passed a letter to the State, to Johnson and to the Judge. This letter was written to "a woman who was trying to get her money back." It was written on FLAG letterhead and dated October 30th. The letter stated that undoubtedly this woman has been in contact with the LMT. The letter advised her that we are all criminals. The writer went into details of Jesse's case.
"I have one question," said Denis, "How could the Church of Scientology get this information available only through discovery? I didn't get it till three months later in January."
"Of course the state says they're not going to use Gaston and Raftery but that doesn't mean I can't. Gaston is no use to the State but he's of tremendous use to me." Denis explained he would like to know what went on when Gaston met Prince...what he told Prince. "Without Gaston my case is gutted."
Johnson had a chance to respond. He said nothing was waived because Gaston never raised his hand and said "I'm the confidential informant."
As for the letter, Johnson felt the info in the letter could be found in the search warrant which was a public document.
Plus, Johnson had a tough time reading the date on the letter.
With that, the judge said he would try to have his ruling by Thursday.
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