All of them, those in power, and those who want the power, would pamper us, if we agreed to overlook their crookedness by wilfully restricting our activities.
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Nearly three years after the largest police raid in Ontario history, the provincial Government has finally won a guilty plea from a member of the Church of Scientology of Toronto.
Nanna Anderson, 39, a former church member, pleaded guilty in Provincial Court yesterday to possession of stolen goods, photocopies of material from the files of the Ontario Medical Association.
Judge Lorenzo DiCecco granted Miss Anderson an absolute discharge, which means she will not have a criminal record. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years.
The woman's lawyer and the Crown attorney had asked for a discharge conditional upon a one- year probationary period. But Judge DiCecco told Miss Anderson: "Whatever you did was because of a situation that developed over a number of years. . . . You've been penalized sufficiently." Miss Anderson and 18 other former and present members of the Church of Scientology were charged nearly a year ago with a variety of offences—breach of trust, theft and possession of stolen documents—as a result of a four-year intensive investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police.
More than 100 OPP officers, some armed with sledgehammers and fire extinguishers, raided the church's Yonge Street headquarters in March, 1983, seeking evidence into alleged fraud involving claimed tax exemptions and marketing of church courses. Police removed about 250,000 documents in 900 boxes.
The investigation, which began in 1980 when a special OPP unit was formed, is believed to have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The church says it has spent more than $500,000 in lawyers' fees in the various cases that have arisen since the raid.
The Church of Scientology is recognized in Australia, the United States, Britain and France as well as in several Canadian provinces but is not allowed to perform marriages—a chief element of recognition in Ontario. It says it has about 6,500 members in Toronto.
Earl Smith, president of the church in Toronto, criticized the OPP investigation yesterday as "basically religious persecution." All those charged, he said, were members of an autonomous Guardian unit created in 1966 to deal with security and public relations issues. He said the unit was disbanded in 1980 because it conflicted with church policy and its members were disciplined well before the OPP laid its charges.
In pleading guilty yesterday Miss Anderson bolted from the joint defence being co-ordinated by the church. Although various news outlets had been alerted by the OPP, church officials only found out she was changing her plea an hour before the court hearing.
The remaining accused are scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 6.
Before sentence was passed Miss Anderson explained how she first became interested in Scientology at the age of 17 in her native Denmark and rose to become a senior official in the church's European office before emigrating to Canada in 1976.
In Toronto, where she lived with her husband, also a church member, she said she was pressed to get a job at one of several organizations Scientology was investigating. She said that after she got a job at the OMA her "case worker", Kathryn Gilbert, leaned on her to obtain files dealing with an OMA investigation of the church.
She said she took a file on her lunch hour to Ms Gilbert, who then photocopied various papers, and photocopied other material herself. She said she was praised for her work but soon stopped the practice because it caused her ethical difficulties. She said she did not know she was breaking the law until she learned last year she had been charged.
Under questioning from her lawyer, Brian Heller, she told how a church official in England pressured her to divorce her first husband, how a doctor who was a Scientology member forced her into a scheme to get $27,000 from her parents to treat a non-existent case of cancer and how she gave up custody of her son in a divorce suit because she was afraid of the organization and its influence.
Crown attorney John Pearson, in seeking a conditional discharge, told Judge DiCecco that Miss Anderson had "acted out of a misguided sense of loyalty to an organization that used her for its own purposes." He said she had been "manipulated by an organization that exercised tremendous control over all aspects of her life." Judge DiCecco went one step further in granting her an absolute discharge. He said her testimony, during which she was on the verge of tears many times, convinced him that "sentence was passed on you much before today." He said he did not need to put her on probation because he accepted that her conduct since leaving the church in 1980 was acceptable.
Clayton Ruby, a lawyer for the church, said it was "quite corrupt" to use Ms Gilbert as a Crown witness and to give her immunity from prosecution when she played such a large role in persuading Miss Anderson to break the law.
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