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Defence lawyers attack witnesses in Scientology trial

Title: Defence lawyers attack witnesses in Scientology trial
Date: Saturday, 20 June 1992
Publisher: Toronto Star (Canada)
Main source:

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The credibility of witnesses and whether a corporation is responsible for illegal actions carried out by its employees were the subjects of summations by attorneys yesterday in the breach-of-trust trial of the Toronto chapter of the Church of Scientology.

Lawyers Mel Green and Frank Addario, who are representing five church members charged with breach of trust, both attacked the credibility of crown witnesses.

"These (crown) witnesses are unreliable and cannot be believed," Addario told the jury yesterday. "Their testimony is the stuff of reasonable doubt. It does not allow you to be morally certain that they are right. You deserve better evidence than this."

The witnesses were former church members who worked in its Guardian Office Worldwide, Scientology's covert intelligence gathering operation.

The onetime church members offered evidence to the Ontario Attorney General when five church members were caught obtaining information from confidential files that the RCMP, OPP and Metro Police kept on Scientology. In exchange for turning evidence, the witnesses were granted immunity from prosecution.

"The central issue is whether the testimony you heard is accurate," said Crown Attorney James Stewart. "Any discrepancies or inconsistencies in the witnesses' testimony are understandable if you believe the core of what the witness is saying," Stewart said.

On the question of corporate liability, Stewart said the church cannot hide behind its parishioners and its corporate entity to avoid the breach-of-trust charge. "The accused individuals carried out their illegal actions not for themselves but for their church," he said. "Their actions are the actions of the corporation."

On Thursday, defence lawyer Clayton Ruby maintained the Church cannot be charged because it is a corporation. Ruby said the church should also be acquitted because it was unaware of any activities carried out by the Guardian Office.

"The Guardian Office's responsibility was to safeguard the church's reputation, to protect its image, and in that respect, it (the church) knew very well what the Guardian's activities were. The two organizations worked very close together, and so the church cannot claim it was unaware of the Guardian's activities."

In his final words, Stewart clarified the nature of the Crown's case against the church. "In this trial, we have not attacked the precepts of Scientology as a religion. But clearly the Guardian Office was over zealous, even messianic, in trying to protect the church's image. And it did so to the detriment of the community. Religion cannot be used a cloak to shield the corporation from being accountable here in court."