V) Indication Of Attempted Extortion
The sudden turnaround of Minton drew a lot of speculation of how it had come about. When it was made public that Minton had secretly met with Scientology representatives, shortly before he admitted in court of having committed perjury, several former associates of Minton believed that he had been blackmailed by the Church of Scientology. In an interview with the "Saint Petersburg Times" the estate's attorney Kennan Dandar stated that he believed that Minton "was threatened with something that Scientology discovered to his overseas financial affairs." [Exh. No. 143]
The first contact between Minton and the Church of Scientology occurred at the beginning of February 2002. At this time Minton authorized his Clearwater attorney Bruce Howie to approach Scientology's local attorney Wally Pope with the offer to discuss a global settlement. When the Church of Scientology refused to provide Minton in advance with a written settlement proposal, the planned meetings were called off again.
Finally in mid-March Minton called Michael Rinder, the head of the "Office of Special Affairs International," telling him that he felt overwhelmed by the litigation and that "he wanted to get out" by settling all outstanding differences. A few days later the first of four initial meetings was scheduled to be held on March 28th in New York at the office of Scientology's attorney Samuel Rosen. Prior to the first meeting, at around March 25th/26th, a confidentiality agreement was worked out by Minton's Boston attorney Stephen Jonas and Samuel Rosen in preparation for the upcoming settlement discussions.
On March 28th the first meeting took place. Minton, accompanied by Stacy Brooks and Stephen Jonas met with Michael Rinder and two other attorneys, Samuel Rosen and Monique Yingling, a specialist on tax matters from Washington, DC [Exh. No. 144]. Another meeting was then held the next day, followed by a third and fourth meeting on April 6th & 7th in Clearwater.
Much of the speculation concerning the alleged blackmail by the Church of Scientology attempts circles around these meetings, which Minton attended to achieve a global settlement with Scientology. Because the motive of Minton's turnaround was an important issue of the recent court hearings, the course of these settlement negotiations became the subject of inquiry during Minton's testimony.
And while both parties, Minton and the representatives of the Church of Scientology, denied in court that threats had been made towards Minton, the court testimonies and the legal outcome of these meetings clearly show that the Church of Scientology at least attempted to capitalize on Minton's fragile legal situation. From Minton's testimony on May 28th, 2002 [Exh. No. 145]:
[ ... ] The Court: "I don't understand why you settle with the Church of Scientology for perjury committed in court."
The Witness: "No. The - we weren't - we weren't trying to settle with the Church of Scientology for perjury committed in court. As I said, your Honor ... "
The Court: "Well, you went to the Church of Scientology to settle all these things, and then Mr. - Mr. Dandar said, was the reason because of the extensive discovery that was being conducted. And you talked about that, and you said that was not the only reason."
The Witness: "Right."
The Court: "This is why you were going for this settlement. You said another reason was the perjury. And I guess I will never understand how it is that you thought you'd go to the church to settle whatever it is you thought you - whatever the perjury had to do with."
The Witness: "Well ... "
The Court: "Why didn't you go to a lawyer who would have come to the court with that?"
The Witness: "Well, your Honor, the idea wasn't to - the idea was never to sit down with the Church of Scientology and talk about perjury; the idea was to sit down with the Church of Scientology and try to find a way to get out completely of all this - all these litigation matters down here, and preferably never to come back again to deal with any of this stuff."
The Court: "Okay. So - so when you were going up there to settle with the church, a global settlement, whatever it is you call it, the perjury you were concerned with, they had nothing to do with that as far as ... "
The Witness: "No."
The Court: "... they couldn't offer you a settlement."
The Witness: "No, your Honor. No, no. That was not - that was not an issue."
The Court: "Okay. So the discovery abuse was going on, you felt - you felt you were being hounded or that you had a lot of - seemed like ... "
The Witness: "Well ... "
The Court: "... endless depositions, endless motions to compel. You knew that you had committed perjury on the 5th. This was a concern of yours."
The Witness: "Right."
The Court: "What else? What else ... "
The Witness: "Well ... "
The Court: "... were you trying to settle?
The Witness: "... you know, I was a party in these cases - well, you know, in the breach case anyway, at that time, and LMT was. You know, LMT, stroke, me, was in the counterclaim. You know, they'd been alleging that - that, you know, LMT was my alter ego. So you know, as far as I was concerned, I was already added to the counterclaim through LMT, because that's how they would come get me on the counterclaim, is through LMT."
The Court: "Were you a party to the breach of contract?"
The Witness: "I ... " The Court: "The Clearwater case in front of Judge Baird?"
The Witness: "Yes, your Honor."
The Court: "You were?"
Mr. Dandar: "Not at that time."
The Witness: "I believe so. I could tell you when I was added." [ ... ]
The Court: "Well, you may have read somewhere that I said that if they didn't add you as a party, I was going to. But there again, I don't know why you'd go to the Church of Scientology and meet with them to try to work a settlement of something I said I was going to do. You can't - the only thing they could do to stop you from being added as a party, if I wanted you added as a party, is drop the counterclaim."
The Witness: "Mm-hmm."
The Court: "Because as long as the counterclaim was going on, I put them on notice, either add him or I'll add him. So I don't - again, you know, perjury, being a party to this counterclaim - and you're going to the wrong place it seems to me. What - what did you think they could do for you about all that?"
The Witness: "Well, as I said, your Honor, the - the idea was to be able to extract us from all this litigation. You know, pure and simple. Just extract us from this litigation so that we didn't have to deal with this anymore."
The Court: "Okay. Were there any other litigation you were involved in? ‘Cause I don't know. I've heard about a lot of suits. Is there anything else where you were a party to a lawsuit that had been filed by the Church of Scientology, the local church or the church in California or any other entities that you know of, that you could tell me about?"
The Witness: "Other than the Florida cases, I don't think so. You know, the - the – I mean, Wollersheim case, I wasn't a party to that case in any way, but - but clearly, you know, I faced the same kind of liability in the Wollersheim case that I was facing in this case."
By Mr. Dandar: "How is that?"
A: "Or the Florida cases."
Q: "How were you facing liability in the Wollersheim case?"
A: "Well, because of my involvement in the case and, you know, financing the whole thing."
Q: "You just provided funds. How could you possibly be named as a party for loaning money?"
A: "No, I didn't say I was named as a party. I said that, you know, I considered that I faced the same kind of liability with whatever they did with Wollersheim, that they could come after me for the money."
Q: "You're talking about a RICO action."
A: "No. I'm not talking about a RICO action."
Q: "Then what are you talking about that you could possibly be sued by the Church of Scientology for providing loans to Mr. Wollersheim or his attorney?"
A: "Well, you know, they sued me for having provided Gerry Armstrong a computer, and therefore, you know, I was responsible for his - you know, 201 acts of infringement - or not his infringement - violations of agreement that he had signed."
The Court: "That didn't happen until you went over there to settle all your scores, right?
The Witness: "Right. But I mean, it was the same principle."
The Court: "You went to settle your scores, and - and you walked out, you got out as a party here; you got sued - It's a hell of a deal you made, wasn't it? Or a hell of a thing for you to do." [ ... ]
The Armstrong suit, which is mentioned in the above testimony is a civil suit that was filed by the "Church of Scientology International" on April 2nd, 2002 ("Church of Scientology International vs. Gerald Armstrong, Robert Minton & LMT," Superior Court for the County of Marin, No. CV-021632), six days after the settlement talks with Minton had started [Exh. No. 146].
The suit claims that Armstrong publicly spoke out against Scientology in 201 cases, thereby violating a gag order from a 1986 mutual release agreement with CSI. As Armstrong was financially supported by Minton, CSI included Minton as a defendant in the lawsuit. The suit asks for $ 10,050,000 in damages.
The Armstrong suit was not the only legal outcome for Minton from the meetings with the Scientology representatives. Early in the settlement negotiations, Michael Rinder made it clear to Minton that the Church of Scientology wanted several civil cases, in which Minton had partially financed Scientology's legal opponents, to be dismissed or, in the words of Monique Yingling during her testimony on June 11th, make them "go away" [Exh. No. 147]:
[ ... ] Yingling: "He [Michael Rinder] spoke about several areas that he thought needed to be covered in any overall settlement. He said that all outstanding litigation that Mr. Rinder was involved in ... "
Mr. Weinberg: "Mr. Minton?"
A: "I'm sorry, Mr. Minton was involved in would have to go away. And he said specifically the cases down here in Florida. I believe he referred specifically to the Lawrence Wollersheim matter. He also referred specifically to cases that were ongoing in France and in Germany. But he made it clear that there would have to be - all of these cases would have to go away, because Mr. Minton was intimately involved in those cases, and so long as those cases were ongoing, there could not be a disengagement."
Q: "Okay. Do you recall - do you recall any other - terms is too strong a word - but any other things that Mr. Rinder said needed to be resolved?"
A: "Yes. That was just the first area was the litigation."
A: "The second area had to do with witnesses, that Mr. Minton had been paying to, in the Church's view, provide false testimony in litigation against the Church around the country. And I think there were specific witnesses that were mentioned who provided affidavits, including Stacy Brooks, Vaughn Young and Jesse Prince. That was the second area." [ ... ]
The Court: "You say what about these witnesses? What was going to have to happen?"
The Witness: "That there would have to be some resolution of the affidavits that they had filed so that assuming we could reach a settlement where there was a disengagement in the future, these affidavits wouldn't be popping up in other litigation and then causing the parties to have to come together again to try to resolve that issue. So that there needed to be some – some resolution with respect to that."
The Court: "And the three witnesses mentioned were Mr. Prince, Ms. Brooks and ... "
The Witness: "Vaughn Young, your Honor. Those were the three I remember that were mentioned. There may have been others."
The Court: "Okay."
A: "The third area that Mr. Rinder mentioned was the question of the Lisa McPherson Trust. And that it needed to be dissolved or done away with or - or whatever. And I understood that there was a website, also, that the trust had. And that the Church would also want that to - to go away." [ ... ]
Soon after the first meetings were concluded, Minton indeed tried to make the Lisa McPherson case "go away" by calling Kennan Dandar and asking him to dismiss the case. Dandar refused.
Next, Minton tried to get the Wollersheim case dismissed. Lawrence Wollersheim had sued the "Church of Scientology of California" in 1980 ("Lawrence Wollersheim vs. Church of Scientology of California," Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, No. B-023193). He finally won a $ 2.5 million judgement in his favor in 1994 and was since then trying to collect the money from CSI. Minton had loaned Wollersheim $ 750,000 in 1996 to enable him continue the case against CSI.
During April of 2002 Minton proposed Wollersheim to dismiss the case, offering him additional $ 200,000 and a cancellation of the earlier loan. Wollersheim refused Minton's offer and was indeed later successful in collecting his outstanding judgement in the amount $ 8,600,000 [Exh. No. 148].
These two cases were not the only ones for which Minton was made responsible by the Church of Scientology. During the meeting in March Samuel Rosen confronted Minton with a summary of legal expenses that the Church of Scientology had had in connection with cases in which Scientology's opponents had been financially supported by Minton. Rosen's notes were later introduced as evidence in the McPherson hearings [Exh. No. 149]. The following are extracts from Rosen's notes from March 28th:
" [ ... ] I - FloridaDuring the court hearings on May 29th judge Schaeffer questioned Robert Minton about his expectations with regards to a future settlement with the Scientologists and about the significance of Rosen's list of legal expenses [Exh. No. 137]:
A) Wrongful death paid - $ 14,400,000 to be paid - $ 4,500,000
B) Breach case - $ 1,025,000 [ ... ] E) Courage/TRO - $ 20,000
II - Wolly
A) we've paid - $ 2.5 Mill B) we'll have to pay - $ 3.0 Mill C) poss. [?] $ 8.5 Mill
III - Armstrong [illegible]
A) we've paid - $ 260,000 B) we'll have to pay [?] - $ 500,000 [ ... ]
VI - European Cases
A) we've paid - $ 80,000 B) we'll pay - $ 25,000
X - IRS Harassment
A) [illegible] - $ 30,000 B) [illegible] - $ 50,000
XII - planned RICO case - $ 40,000 [ ... ] "
[ ... ] The Court: "So - so those are two things that we said pretty quickly. Now, what else is it you hope to obtain in this global settlement, if anything?"
The Witness: "I just - I just want some peace and ... " [ ... ]
The Court: "Okay. What do you think they want from their global settlement or whatever it is that they're calling it? Are you both talking about global settlements, settling everything everywhere?"
The Witness: "So that we can ... "
The Court: "I assume ‘global' means you have cases in France and ... "
The Witness: "Germany, yes."
The Court: "So when I hear ‘global,' I presume you're hoping to settle everything and go away and not bother them and they not bother you?"
The Witness: "That is correct, your Honor."
The Court: "So that is what you want. What do you think they want?"
The Witness: "They want me to leave them alone and not fund any litigation, you know. I don't know what else they want. I know they don't want me to be funding litigation or attacks on the Church of Scientology, or helping people attack the Church of Scientology, anymore."
The Court: "Okay. Do you think they want money?"
The Witness: "I believe they expect it. Yes."
The Court: "Is there any thought in your mind as to what that amount would be?"
The Witness: "Well, your Honor, I believe that would put me in a very bad negotiating position if ... "
The Court: "So you don't know anything about money, except that first meeting you were shown something that suggested this is what you've cost the Church, this 34,925,000 figure - $ 34,925,000."
The Witness: "Well, you know, I'm not, you know, expecting to deal with that kind of amounts of money, your Honor."
The Court: "I understand that. But you basically told us you had no discussions of anything I can put my fingers on and understand. So the only thing I know of that has ever been discussed at the very first meeting ... "
The Witness: "New York."
The Court: "... you were shown something by a lawyer from the Church of Scientology who said - or he said, or something – ‘This is what all these cases, we figure, you have cost us.'"
The Witness: "Well, you know, I added them up, as I said."
The Court: "In your head you added them up?"
The Witness: "Right."
The Court: "So you don't expect to pay more than that? That is true? And you're hoping, obviously, you'll have to pay as little as possible. Is that it?"
The Witness: "Yes, your Honor."
The Court: "And when it is all done, it is your hope, what, that the lawsuits will be gone, whatever it cost you for the - with the lawsuits will be gone?"
The Witness: "Yes, your Honor."
The Court: "Okay. And then you don't plan to put yourself in a position where you'll be suing them or they'll be suing you in the future. Is that it?"
The Witness: "Absolutely not. I want to be in that position. I don't want, you know, any overt or covert hostility of any sort in the legal arena, through private investigators or whatever, between me and the Church of Scientology. I would just like for them to get on with their activities and for me to get on with my life."
It is evident from his testimony that Minton expects to regain his former personal and legal freedom by paying off the Church of Scientology with an amount of several million dollars. It is also evident that the Church of Scientology used Minton as an odd-job man to destroy two major civil cases, which had caused the organization great costs and bad publicity, the Wollersheim case and the Lisa McPherson case.
Up to this day it is not clear what the Church of Scientology has found out about Minton's financial background. According to earlier statements of Minton, private investigators working for the organization scrutinized extensively his past and present life. Minton also said that it was Scientology investigators who had stirred up the rumors of an alleged billion dollar fraud in connection with his business deals for the government of Nigeria.
The question whether or not the Church of Scientology is in possession of evidence that would incriminate Minton will probably remain unanswered. It is nevertheless a fact and it has already been proven through the recent legal developments in the McPherson/Wollersheim cases that the organization is unscrupulous enough to exploit Minton's current situation in order to capitalize in all areas of Minton's prior activities. And that includes Minton's fortune as well, in view of the future financial compensation that the organization has demanded from Minton in exchange for leaving him alone.