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Hubbard letters entered in trial

Title: Hubbard letters entered in trial
Date: Saturday, 19 May 1984
Publisher: Clearwater Sun (Florida)
Author: George-Wayne Shelor
Main source: link (85 KiB)

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LOS ANGELES—Scientology lawyers introduced several hundred pages of sealed documents in Superior Court Friday, saying they fracture the defense of a man charged with taking thousands of sect papers when he fled the organization.

Letters written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to his children, parents, and wives were submitted by attorney Barrett Litt in an effort to impugn Gerald Armstrong's testimony.

Armstrong, a 37-year-old sect researcher, contends he took 10,000 documents in 1981 to defend himself against an anticipated suit.

The sect did sue, claiming many of the letters, recordings, and papers are "personal and private," and demanded their return. Armstrong said the documents prove a 50-year, systematic fraud by Hubbard, and the researcher says he has every right to give the contested material to his attorney to prove his claims. The material introduced by Litt date from 1938 to 1968 and include birthday cards to Hubbard, his proposed constitution for Rhodesia, and his eulogy a for Scientologist.

Although Litt represented them as being "personal" papers, he did not elaborate on their content. Yet Armstrong steadfastly maintained he took them believing they were instrumental in his defense.

He has testified that as a research assistant assigned to aid in the production of Hubbard's biography, he obtained thousands of documents that prove the reclusive, 73-year-old science-fiction writer lied about his background and accomplishments. Hubbard's claims, Armstrong testified, were the reason he joined the 6 million-member sect and embraced it as his own religion.

But Armstrong said the documents tell a completely different story. Frightened and disillusioned, he left the sect's massive Cedars Complex in Hollywood, Calif., taking with him five boxes of material.

"I had talked at some length with my wife (Jocelyn) and we reached a decision to take a stand," Armstrong recalled for Superior Court Judge Paul G. Breckenridge as he detailed his reasons for going public with his contentions.

"We could not back down ... Our best defense was to make a public statement," he said.

But Litt faulted some of those statements during his cross-examination of Armstrong. The attorney pointed out a discrepancy in the dates of a particular event Armstrong had detailed earlier. For the first time in the three-week trial, Armstrong admitted to "an error" in his testimony.

Lawyers, reporters and even Judge Breckenridge have marveled continually at Armstrong's astonishing recall and vivid memory of names, dates and places.

"All along (Armstrong) has been claiming they (the letters) were necessary for his defense," the sect lawyer said. "We feel we've introduced enough of them to show that they mention only personal relationships."

Nonetheless, the bulk of the letters Litt introduced precede Hubbard's marriage to his wife, Mary Sue, who is a party in the suit asking for the return of her personal papers.

"Our view is that we're taking apart key parts of his testimony, and that's what we'll continue to do next week," Litt promised.

The non-jury trial continues Monday with the continued cross-examination of Armstrong. His attorney, Michael Flynn, expects to bring forth a number of other former high-ranking Scientologists to corroborate Armstrong's testimony. The trial is expected to last another two weeks.