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Russell says he investigated plot to kill Clearwater mayor

Title: Russell says he investigated plot to kill Clearwater mayor
Date: Wednesday, 13 July 1977
Publisher: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)
Author: David Smith
Main source:

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CLEARWATER — Pinellas Pasco State Atty. James T. Russell disclosed Tuesday that last month his office investigated an alleged plot to murder Clearwater Mayor Gabriel Cazares.

Russell said his office received a report on June 10 of an alleged death threat against Cazares. Rut Russell refused to reveal details because he said the case has not been closed.

"YOU'RE NOW talking about an investigation that my office is or was doing," Russell said. "It's an open file in our office . . . It would be proper to say the matter is still pending in the state attorney's office."

Clearwater Police Chief Frank Daniels confirmed that Russell's office contacted him about the alleged threat. Daniels also said that information he received included "some implication" that the Church of Scientology was involved in the alleged threat. He declined to elaborate.

No known attempt has been made on Cazares' life, Daniels said.

"The threat was of such a nature that we felt we had to run it out," Daniels said. He said he contacted Cazares, who was on a trip to California and Arizona, about the report.

TUESDAY, A Scientology spokesman in Clearwater said, "The whole thing sounds absurd, sounds like another Cazares fabrication, irresponsibility at its worst, paranoia to the nth degree." Spokesman Steven Heard added that Russell's office has not contacted church officials in Clearwater about the alleged threat.

Cazares' wife Maggie said she called Russell's office after receiving a telephone call the night of June 9 from person who told her of the alleged plot. She refused to identify the caller but said the person was someone she knew.

"The report to me (from the caller) was that it was a Scientologist plan to assassinate Gabe, and that's all I can say," Mrs. Cazares said. She said her husband instructed her to call Russell's office when she telephoned him about the threat.

Cazarre refused to discuss the matter. "I'll stand by whatever Maggie told you." he said. "I have no reason to doubt anything Maggie may have told you."

CAZARES AND HIS wife have conducted a bitter public feud with the Church of Scientology since it purchased the former Fort Harrison Hotel and old Bank of Clearwater building in 1975. A lengthy legal battle climaxed in May when both sides announced they were dropping their lawsuits against each other.

This week Cazares demanded tighter security at Clearwater City Hall because of federal charges that Scientologists infiltrated the justice department and Internal Revenue Service to steal documents.

The FBI said it obtained information about the alleged infiltration from a former church member who later was placed under federal protection because he feared reprisals from the church. Scientology doctrine "requires the church attack and destroy its enemies," an FBI affidavit said.