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Scientologist Wolfe questioned by state attorney

Title: Scientologist Wolfe questioned by state attorney
Date: Saturday, 19 April 1980
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: Craig Roberton
Main source:

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CLEARWATER — Facing possible contempt charges, Church of Scientology spokesman Milton Wolfe and a colleague submitted Friday to questioning by Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney James T. Russell's office.

Wolfe and Ted Froyland, an officer of the church's Ministry of Legal Affairs, were jailed briefly Thursday afternoon for refusing to respond to subpoenas issued by Circuit Judge David Patterson.

Russell said he wanted to question the two about a complaint they lodged against Clearwater City Commissioner Richard Tenney and in connection with a criminal investigation into activities of Scientologists.

THE STATE attorney apparently is close to taking his case to the Pinellas County Grand Jury. At a press conference Friday morning, Russell made a show of signing a petition to recall the grand jury May 13.

He could not comment on the nature of the grand jury's work, however.

At a hearing earlier Friday morning, Judge Patterson said he would not cite the two Scientologists for contempt if they agreed to submit to questioning immediately. After conferring with his clients for several minutes, Allen Jacobi, attorney for Wolfe and Froyland, agreed.

The two were then interviewed by authorities for a total of about three hours.

Jacobi said he believes that the subpoenas were not properly served, but advised his clients to respond to them because they ultimately would be issued new subpoenas anyway.

At his press conference Russell said he has "never seen so much ado over failures of persons to comply with a subpoena in my life."

While not divulging the specific nature of the questioning of the two Scientologists and others who have appeared, Russell did say he is "not asking about their religious beliefs."

"I believe they have information necessary to our investigation," he said.

He also denied a church charge that he used "police-state" and "Gestapo" tactics in arresting and jailing Wolfe and Froyland.

"THAT IS ludicrous," he said. "The whole thing is just ridiculous."

Church spokesman Hugh Wilhere said Patterson's "dismissal" of contempt charges shows that "the harassive tactics employed by Mr. Russell were both unjustified and unnecessary."

Asked about the status of a church complaint against the church, Russell said, "That file has not been closed."

Impatient with Russell's progress in pursuing the complaint, church officials recently asked Florida Attorney General Jim Smith to investigate Russell and possibly remove him from office. Church spokesmen now contend that the subpoena of Wolfe and Froyland is Russell's way of punishing the church for doing that.

Tenney told The Times that the church complaint against him is "another attempt to stop the rally by impugning my character."

Tenney was referring to a protest rally and march around Fort Harrison Hotel that he has organized for 11 a.m. today. The rally will be in front of Clearwater City Hall.

THE RALLY will be "nonviolent," Tenney said.

In another move against the church, Tenney said he will ask the City Commission next week to ban the Church of Scientology softball team from the city-sponsored summer church league.

A number of church teams in the league's "A" division have notified the city that they will boycott games they are scheduled to play against the Scientology team. If they all do so, the Scientologists will be credited with a perfect season and will represent the league in the Metro Tournament later this year.

Tenney said he has received many calls from church team representatives asking his help. Tenney said the Scientologists should be allowed to play in the regular city league if they pay a $25 non-resident fee.

Wilhere accused Tenney of conducting a "one-man inquisition as to what baseball teams are following the true faith."

Wilhere suggested that Tenney, "having been left out of 60 minutes . . . is attempting to build up his publicity so he can make it on to Wide World of Sports."