eye on Pinellas County: Pinellas County's two biggest cults--Scientology™ and Straight--, and the Semblers finally answer their first set of interrogatories

Friday, February 11, 2005

Pinellas County's two biggest cults--Scientology™ and Straight--, and the Semblers finally answer their first set of interrogatories

The other day I was reading a newspaper series about a popular cult. In the first segment the writer wrote that during the course of his investigation he had found criticisms of the group and that these criticisms included that the group can tear families apart, that it even pressures some members to sever relations with family members critical of the group. That it uses deceptive practices and some recruitment methods lack professional credibility. That it seeks legitimacy through government coalitions and that it had even wooed city officials in an attempt to escape its reputation as a cult. That the mayor had declared a day in honor of the cult. That jail authorities tried to bring the group's drug-related program to the jail. That it practices intimidation and harassment and that it has a " history of using lawsuits to silence critics." That it is costly and that it opposes psychiatry.

Well I thought the writer was talking about Pinellas County, Florida and Melvin and Betty Sembler and their Straight program--you probably did too. But he wasn't. He was talking about L. Ron Hubbard and another cult--the Church of Scientology™ in Buffalo, New York. [Read Mark Sommer's excellent four part series in The Buffalo News, Jan 30 - Feb. 2, 2005, Part 1: Enlightenment's dark side, Part 2: Being in, breaking out, Part Three: Helping spread the word, Part Four: Outside critics are unacceptable.]

Like I say the series wasn't about Mel, Betty and Straight, but it easily could have been. America's First Couple of National Drug Policy was in the news though. The darlings of demand reduction finally turned in their interrogatories for PumpGate. (See plaintiff's answers to first set of interrogatories.) They were a few days late but the framers of the Constitution did allow for certain automatic time extensions of a judge's order for dukes, duchesses, earles, knights, ambassadors and others who "pay a little more." To me their collective answer to question 15 lays out the whole of PumpGate.
Q15. "Please state your understanding of what has motivated Richard Bradbury to picket your house."

Answer. "His effort to extort monies from us. His sadistic desire to inflict pain on people. His desire to avoid responsibility for his own actions."
You know, when my daughter was a little girl, whenever she pointed an accusatory finger at me I would tell her, "Honey, whenever you point a finger at someone three fingers are pointing back at you." Truth be known Mel and Betty Sembler founded and operated a juvenile drug rehab program that extorted money from clients' parents; that used a quack, sadistic therapy that intentionally inflicted pain on its captives; that ran at every turn to avoid responsibility for what it had done. Mel and Betty never mentioned Straight in the entirety of their answers even though everyone, especially Mel and Betty, knows that many people, including Ray Bradbury, have protested the Sembler home, venues and other interests because of what Straight did to them all those years ago. I wonder if their answer to Q15, by ommission, is tantamount to perjury--or does it just border on perjury. This case is about Straight and nothing but Straight. The Semblers know that if Straight gets in, there's not an honest person who could be on a jury who would not find their Straight program reprehensible.

In question 7 the Semblers admit that they told several people about his prostrate cancer. So much for invasion of that privacy. But they do affirm they told no one that he uses the medical device. (ADDED BONUS: Of course Mr. Bradbury did not ask the question, but their answer to Q7 amounts to a voluntary admission that Mr. Sembler has not been unfaithful to his wife since he purchased the medical device [or devices, if there have been others]. Quite possibly DNA testing can confirm this. )

In other questions the Sembler's say they have not sought medical attention to deal with their emotional distress. So how does one tell a magistrate, "judge, he's made me emotionally disturbed and I am suffering from $1 million in emotional damages."? How can a court assess the extent of harm done and determine a dollar award for damages without supporting expert medical testimony. If there is this damage, then why haven't they sought medical help?

I am reminded of an old black and white English film (Marlene Dietrich may have been in it). It was about a person who had accused another of having been a doctor in a Nazi concentration camp. The doctor sued for libel. In court the doctor prevailed that his reputation had been soiled by the claim and the judge's instruction to the jury told them that they had to find the defendant guilty. Complicating the matter for the plaintiff however, though the defendant could not actually prove beyond a shadow that the doctor had been in the SS, his attorney had convinced the jury that the doctor had been a monster in the SS. Required to find for the plaintiff, the jury did. But the punishment they recommended--one pound! If "Straight" gets in, the Sembler's lose even if they win.

Sounds to us like, from their own answers, their case is weak, regardless. Sounds to us like they've already lost. They claim that when Bradbury placed the ad on eBay, Bradbury was over the limit. They had Judge Logan shut Bradbury up and then their son served on a diner committee with the judge. A US ambassador with a dark past who is being picketed all over the place for that black past sues a former employee for placing for sale his discarded penis pump--and he demands it back! The St. Pete Times might be in Sembler's vast Republican pockets and quash the story, but a story like that has to sell. Sembler has Bradbury gagged and hogged-tied but PumpGate is all over the Internet in blogs, web pages, discussion forums--and in languages that we don't even know what they are. And now it's in print. For 17 long years Melvin and Betty Sembler ran a program that intentionally inflicted emotional distress (and even physical pain on some) on thousands of kids and now they want to sue one of those former kids for intentional infliction of emotional distress because he dared fight back. How dare them.

If David Miscaviage can go to his deposition as Admiral Farragut, then Keith Henson can go as Bozo the Clown.

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