Scientology Critical Information Directory

This site is best viewed using a highly standards-compliant browser

Scientologist jailed for silence in racket probe

Title: Scientologist jailed for silence in racket probe
Date: Friday, 25 April 1980
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Craig Roberton
Main source: news.google.com
Alternate and/or complementary: news.google.com

Disclaimer: This archive is presented strictly in the public interest for research purposes. All the copyrights of materials reproduced here are the properties of their respective owners.

CLEARWATER — Church of Scientology spokesman Milt Wolfe went to jail Thursday for refusing to cooperate in an investigation involving alleged racketeering, infiltration and harassment by church members.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge John S. Andrew, found Wolfe in contempt of court and sentenced him to 45 days for repeatedly refusing to answer a question put to him by investigators from State Attorney James T. Russell's office.

ANDREWS ALSO refused to set bail for Wolfe, pending his appeal of the contempt citation, a decision that shocked Wolfe's attorneys. They immediately appealed the refusal to set bail to the 2nd District Court of Appeal, which scheduled a hearing for 8:30 a.m. today in New Port Richey.

Wolfe finally did answer the question, which sought the name of the church's information bureau chief, at the end of the hearing. But Andrews told him it was too late. The judge noted that the Wolfe had refused on Friday and again oh Monday to answer the question.

During the hearing, Assistant State Attorneys Allen Allweiss and Lee Fugate revealed for the first time that the criminal investigation being mounted by their office involves racketeering, grand theft and aiding and abetting.

A TRANSCRIPT of a portion of Wolfe's interrogation shows authorities are specifically interested in:

* "Plots" against former Clearwater Mayor Gabriel Cazares, St. Petersburg Times reporter Bette Orsini, her husband Andrew and former Clearwater Sun reporter Mark Sableman.

* Infiltration of the Pinellas-Pasco state attorney's office and the office of the Florida attorney general.

* Establishment of "front businesses in order to locate telephones for the purpose of making calls that were not relatable back to or traceable to Scientology."

Allweiss added that these matters "are just the tip of the iceberg," saying there are "a number" of other alleged felonies being investigated.

ALLWEISS AND Fugate are members of Russell's organized crime force and are in charge of all racketeering investigations. Under state law, racketeering consists of a pattern of related felonies.

After a bailiff escorted Wolfe from the courtroom, his attorney, Bruce Rogow, told reporters the 45-day sentence and refusal to set bond were "punitive and far out of line . . . It is unheard of to deny bond to somebody with no previous record." Rogow said Andrews' severity "destroyed my faith in the fairness of the hearing."

Andrews may have been influenced by an internal church document introduced by Allweiss. Labeled "Project Quaker," the document shows that church officials devised an elaborate standby plan in 1966 to whisk their Washington staffers into hiding if they were sought for questioning in an investigation there.

"It may be deemed necessary for all DC staff who could be pulled in for questioning to suddenly leave," the document says. "This must be done in such a way that they never can be accused of 'fleeing prosecution.' "

COVER STORIES, to be called "sabbaticals," were to be developed, "safe houses" were to be acquired in remote areas of the country and an "early warning system" was to be set up to warn of pending subpoenas or warrants.

Allweiss contended that church policy still requires its members to flee prosecution and hence Wolfe should be jailed without bail.

Rogow noted that Wolfe has lived in Clearwater for five years, is married and a father and showed up for Thursday's hearing on his own after being released on his own recognizance Monday.

Rogow heatedly objected to introduction of the "Project Quaker" and other documents, saying he had never seen them before. Andrews first sustained, then overruled, then sustained, then overruled the objections. Andrews also refused to seal the documents.

AFTER SATISFYING himself that the investigation legitimately concerns criminal violations of law, Andrews asked Wolfe to explain why he should not be held in contempt.

But rather than arguing Wolfe's claim that the question violates his First Amendment right to freedom of religion, Rogow announced that Wolfe was finally prepared to answer the question.

"I could care less whether he answers the question or not," Andrews replied. "What I am concerned about is his refusal to answer the question last week."

Wolfe nevertheless answered, identifying the church's information bureau chief as Doug Sadwick.

A church spokesman later released a statement said to have been prepared by Wolfe in jail. It said Wolfe had refused to answer "to insure the point was clearly made that Mr. Russell's entire investigation . . . is being conducted as a vindictive campaign and fishing expedition at the expense of the rights of the members of my church."