Holy Wars

A Mother's fight with a Bellevue church

Eastside Week/February 9, 1994
By John Colwell

Under the Influence?

A desperate mother had her son kidnapped to destroy his loyalty to a Bellevue church. After three years, two lawsuits, and a Geraldo episode, this family feud has become a pawn in a bigger, even nastier conflict.

Jason Scott knew his mother was not to be trusted. She had steeped off the godly path, arranging the capture and conversion of his younger brothers. Jason remained safe from her, so long as his pastor was near. But one winter day three years ago, when his brother asked for some help moving carpet scraps, the amiable teen-ager dropped his guard and drove right over to his mother's Kirkland house.

Three men jumped the 18-year-old in the driveway. He was cuffed and dragged through the house to a waiting van. "I was headfirst, on my back, going downstairs," 6-fot-plus, 200-pound Jason later told police. "He was praying in tongues and calling me the devil," his mother says.

The mother, Kathy Tonkin, paid the men thousands of dollars to kidnap her son and wrest control of his mind from the pastor of a fundamentalist Bellevue church. She calls it a cult; she says her boy was brainwashed. That's why he was taken to a secure beach house in Grays Harbor County, where he was to be "deprogrammed." The youth, however, escaped and called police.

Rick Ross, a veteran deprogrammer out of Arizona who was catapulted into the national spotlight during the Waco reckoning, had hired on to help retrieve Jason, mind and body, from the influence of Life Tabernacle Church in Bellevue. With scores of successful conversions to his credit, including those of Jason's younger brothers, Ross was prepared. But Ross never knew how difficult this deprogramming would become.

As soon as Jason found a lax moment to flee his captors and call police, Ross and the abductors found themselves open to criminal prosecution, though it took more than two years for felony kidnapping charges to be filed against them. (Jason stopped short of pressing charges against his mother.)

The trial took place last month in Montesano, the county seat of Grays Harbor County. But even after their airing in court, the issues behind Jason's kidnapping are hardly on their way to being resolved.

During the three years between the teen's abduction and the trial, the case united strange bedfellows, taking on bizarre twists and developing intricate subplots. Each side of this family feud has become a cause celebre between bigger, more powerful rivals who show no signs of ending their longtime war. Still reeling, Jason is caught in the middle.

On the one side is Ross, and on the other, the Church of Scientology, a secretive and powerful organization that has resisted the definition of "cult," but which nonetheless has an interest in discrediting those deprogrammers who accuse it of being a cult. Even though Scientologists' religious beliefs are not at all compatible with the Life Tabernacle church's, Scientologists early on realized that they could help Jason make powerful legal arguments for his rights as an adult to practice his religion. They sought Jason out, to help him bring his case against Ross.

With freedom of religion pitted against the supposed danger of cults, the ramifications of a case like Jason's found deep-seated public appeal. Well before going to court, players in the local drama aired their issues on Geraldo, and Sally Jessy Raphael.

But these holy wars, where private lives and minds are on the front line, leave a profoundly personal carnage. Not only is Jason now pitted against his mother and brothers, all of whom left the same church, but his life is a mess. He lost his job, his wife is expecting a baby in April, but he no longer lives with her. Torn between his siblings and salvation, the affable, impressionable, confused young man became a pawn in a larger, nastier conflict - that between a big-league religious organization and its foes.

Walk into Bellevue's Life Tabernacle church during a weekday or weekend service and you'll find more friends than seems possible. Endless smiles, handshakes, and questions greet a newcomer to the windowless chapel of the small church. The affection bestowed on a visitor is no less than intense. "What's your name?" "How did you find us?" "Where do you live?" "Are you going to come back?" "What's your phone number?"

But make no mistake, Life Tabernacle Church is a strict hierarchy, with pastor Harold Kern at the top. Kern is the shepherd of a Shepherding sect; he and his followers avowedly believe that God delegates authority to Kern in controlling his flock.

"Don't you ever, ever get yourself in the position that you rail against the man of God," Kern preached at a Sunday sermon taped in September 1989. "Don't you ever, ever allow yourself to get into a position that you begin to criticize the man of God…If you have a heart to do the will of God and what's right, you're gonna love authority and love submission, because it is of God. Amen."

As United Pentecostals, Life Tabernacle's members adhere to the idea of "Oneness," which rejects the doctrine of the Trinity. The Oneness doctrine allows for only one God, Jesus. To orthodox Christians, this belief is unacceptable.

Oneness Pentecostals also believe only they are going to heaven, that others are not saved. Someone who leaves the church, forgoing salvation, as Tonkin did, is a "backslider" who has made a mistake and needs to be prayed for. Tonkin's children, while still in the church, angrily denounce her as such.

Twenty years ago, in search of virgin territory in which to start their own church, Harold and Pamela Kern had come from California's Central Valley to the Northwest. Kern started a construction company to subsidize the United Pentecostal Church he built in a wooded area along Newport Way, in Bellevue's Eastgate area.

After eight years they started Christian Life Academy, a school. Two more years and the church was self-sustaining. Today there are about 175 members in the church, with 40 students in the school. There is a daycare with non-church employees.

The sense of love, belonging, and family at Life Tabernacle very much appealed to Kathy Tonkin when she first joined the church in 1989. Her history, by her own admission, has been troubled. The daughter of the wealthy owner of a major restaurant chain, she has never managed, by choice or fate, to lead a simple life.

She has eight children by four husbands. Her second husband, the father of the youngest son to undergo deprogramming, died in an electrical accident, an event which she says started her "spiritual pursuit." (Most recently she married and moved to Arizona with Mark Workman, one of the men she hired to abduct Jason. They had a baby girl. Now they are divorced. She remains in Arizona.)

After attending churches in Seattle, Kirkland, and Woodinville, Tonkin heard about Life Tabernacle. Her third marriage was failing, and Jason, by his own account, was getting high and drinking. Tonkin was looking for answers. A window washer she hired told her about a "wonderful pastor" named Harold Kern.

Tonkin joined the church, enrolling her sons - Matthew, 11, Thysen, 15, and Jason, 17 - in the church school. As newcomers to the United Pentecostal Church, the family was engulfed with flattery and, Tonkin says, "love bombing," a phrase coined to describe a disarming stage of induction.

Soon, Tonkin says, all were immersed in the conservative, ebullient, fundamentalist environment, where they were expected to meet a strict dress code, or "holiness standard," which for women dictates that skirts be low, necklines high, and hair long (only single women can wear their hair down). Women could not expose their arms.

"Women do not wear men's apparel - based on the Scripture - God hates that," Kern says. Church ritual mandates "running the aisles" in a religious fervor, speaking in tongues, and submitting to the strict authority of Kern.

Tonkin eventually grew disenchanted with the church's overbearing nature; she resented the constant threat of going to hell. She says she resented Kern's family living in a large house, driving new cars, and taking ski vacations from an income drawn on church member's tithing's. (Tonkin says she gave $8,000 to the church in one year.)

The flock followed the shepherd so diligently, Tonkin says, that Kern sought refuge one night a week in a hotel room, where he found peace and quiet. His wife was frustrated by followers so dependent they called "to ask what kind of toothpaste to use," Tonkin says.

Her boys grew fond of the church and school, Tonkin admits, yet all of them - herself included - took on attitudes she considers close-minded. "As a member, you see things through critical glasses," she says. Her boys frowned upon children wearing jewelry, makeup, or short skirts. "We'd say, 'We feel bad for them, because they're going to hell,'" Tonkin recalls. "The school marms would call them 'sinner kids.'"

When Tonkin wore a T-shirt outside the house, she claims her boys reported her behavior to Kern. "They had to repent if they saw a TV in the mall," Tonkin says. "They learned they had to love Jesus more than anything. It was Jesus or me."

Tonkin left the church, her boys continued to attend. Jason went to live with the Kerns. Matthew and Thysen would stay with relatives or church members.

"Anytime somebody marries the wrong daughter, you get rid of them," Kern preached in 1989. "I mean, it's just the way it is. Anybody, somebody doesn't line up, you just pull out some hair here, slap somebody there. Amen. You say, oh, now we got the Holy Ghost. That's right, you're supposed to have the Holy Ghost. But it's them that don't have it or don't have very much of it are the ones you gotta slap. Hallelujah…

"And before long you get a reputation. Hallelujah. I don't think we've got that kind of reputation, but I'd rather be known for doing right and upholding the standards of truth than to be known for being a compromiser. Wouldn't you?"

Kathy needed help, she was absolutely terrified," says Shirley Landa, a local authority on cults and mind control who counsels former cult members. Landa says Tonkin was referred to her through the emergency telephone Crisis Line. "Kathy had on a pair of pants for the first time," Landa recalls. "She was terrified of putting on makeup. She was terrified of going to hell, of losing her children."

It was this fear, Tonkin says, that prompted her to call Rick Ross in Arizona. (Landa, co-founder and former president of the Cult Awareness Network, a Chicago-based organization that is the most active and widely known anti-cult group in the country, made the referral.) With her house as equity, Tonkin received a large loan from her father, using it to fund the deprogrammings. Her father's wealth, she says, is one reason Kern fought to keep her family in the church.


[Note: WARNING! The Cult Awareness Network (CAN) was recently bankrupted and bought up by Scientology. We strongly recommend you do not contact them for assistance.]

Kern dismisses Tonkin's recollections as entirely self-serving. Kern says Tonkin was carefully preparing the foundation for a million-dollar civil suit against Life Tabernacle, that Ross promised to make her rich by deprogramming - or, in this case, programming - the younger boys in supporting the claims of kidnapping and child abuse against the well-insured church.

Tonkin said she is not going to file suit, but did consider it. "I wanted my money back for the deprogrammings," she says.

"Kathy's from a rough background," says Kern, who portrays her as the faltering mother of a "dysfunctional family" who came to Life Tabernacle seeking escape from drug use, bad credit, and a bad marriage that ended during her stint as a member of the church. He and his wife tried to help her, Kern says, but she was lost to the great enticements of Ross.

Anger between Kern and Tonkin obviously runs deep. But Tonkin says that a major catalyst in her move to get her boys out of the church relates to the alleged sexual molestation of her son Thysen.

According to court papers filed in Montesano in Ross' defense, Tonkin and her son were prepared to testify that a man he'd met through the church had sexually abused him. Though never called on to testify about him, Tonkin spoke to an Arizona newspaper, which published her account of the man having slept "in one of her minor son's rooms." Even Jason reportedly discussed the alleged abuse with one of his Scientology handlers, according to a signed declaration filed with the court in the Montesano kidnapping proceedings.

When Matthew and Thysen joined Ross in May 1993 as guests on the Geraldo show, they further discussed the allegations. The title of the episode, which appeared at the height of the Waco hoopla, was "Child-Killing Cults: Investigating the next Waco," a name Kern takes issue with. (No one from the show ever called him, Kern says.)

Kirkland police say that the case remains under investigation, though no charges have been filed, according to Detective Pat Haster of the Kirkland Police Department.

Tonkin says Kern failed to act on her complaints about possible molestation, a claim Kern denies.

Tonkin, increasingly desperate, turned to Ross, who felt that the allegations of sexual abuse bolstered the case that his services were needed. In 1990, Ross agreed to deprogram all three boys, starting with the younger two.

Matthew's grandmother employed a ruse to trap the pair in her Kirkland house, where Ross and his comrades waited. The boys spent six days under Ross' control.

Though the boys were minors with their mother in attendance, their seclusion put Kern and his flock into a frenzy. When church members found out where the boys were, they started calling at any hour, driving back and forth near the house, and peering in the windows.

They repeatedly reported child abuse to the Kirkland police, called Child Protection Services, and accused Tonkin of beating, starving, using psychedelic lights on , and drugging her sons, according to court documents filed to obtain an anti-harassment order against Kern and the church members.

"We endeavored to get some relief for them," says Kern. "They were using brainwashing procedures on a 16-year-old boy held captive by three strange men. We know that brainwashing works…We knew Thysen would be broken by the fourth day if we didn't get him out."

Kirkland police officer Keith Ikeda visited the house, talked to the boys, and reported no evidence of these allegations.

Church members maintained surveillance from the public street, circumventing the court order.

Jason reportedly rallied dozens of young men from Lake Washington High School to gather on the property and chant, "We want Thysen!" Jason, however, would not enter the house without Kern.

Thysen, now 20, is living with his grandparents in Eastern Washington and is enrolled in college. Matthew, 15, is attending preparatory school in Arizona.

Kern discounts accusations that he leads a cult, or that his followers may be victims. He says he simply runs a conservative, fundamentalist church. "We have a lot of friends in the community, a lot of backing," he says. "Ross loves to paint a picture of the church as a terrible group of people."

Kern talked and argued with Ross during the deprogramming of Thysen and Matthew. He left convinced Ross is "not a food theological debater."

"He is a guy who works to get rich; he's in it for the money," Kern says. Ross disputed this allegation by releasing his tax returns to the press and challenging Kern to do the same. Ross' reported income for each of the three years from 1990-1992 averages out to about $25,000 per year based on his tax returns.

Kern claims Tonkin paid Ross that much just to deprogram her three boys, a charge Ross calls ludicrous. Though neither he nor Tonkin discuss his fee, they say it is far less than she paid in annual tithing's to Kern and his church.

By the time Jason's day came, he was prepared for it. He had learned from Kern what to expect. He had been living with Kern for several months, and a friend of Kern's familiar with the process coached Jason on deprogramming technique. Even Thysen, who had been at a post-cult rehabilitation center in Ohio, told Jason about his experiences with deprogramming.

Three hours after he was abducted from his mother's home, Jason found himself restrained in the shower of a luxurious beach house as Ocean Shores, according to police reports.

An intensive attempt at deprogramming followed. Jason's mother and his brother Thysen joined Ross and the other men in monitoring Jason's every move. Ross challenged the church's and Jason's theology, showing the teen-ager videos about cults, one featuring an admittedly crooked evangelist counting money after a revival.

His family showered him with attention. He got full meals and played ping-pong with Thysen. It took three days before Jason broke into tears, sobbing to his mother.

But in loyalty to his church, his pastor, and what he described as his own beliefs, Jason claimed he feigned emotional collapse, Tonkin thought she had gotten through to her "little boy," but last summer he called her - from his pastor's house - and said it was a fake, he was "praying through" the whole time.

"I put on a big show so I could get out of there," Jason told police. "They thought they cracked me when I burst out in tears. I told my mother I was sorry and that I loved her."

She bought it. "I wanted to show I loved him," says Tonkin, explaining why she rented the $1,200-per-week beach house at Ocean Shores where Jason was confined. "I didn't want a dumpy hotel room. I got Jason's favorite foods, presents. He had the master suite. [With Jacuzzi and television, which the church forbids members to watch.] It was beautiful. I thought we could walk on the beach."

Shortly after Jason's apparent breakdown, the whole group went out for a celebratory dinner. Once in the restaurant, Jason excused himself to go to the bathroom, left the restaurant an called police.

Tonkin was crushed. Jason was the last link to the church. Kern and several carloads of church members went out to Ocean Shores to bring Jason back into the fold.

Tonkin believes that Jason's deprogramming failed, in part, because, unlike his brothers, he now has blood ties to the church. In the spring of 1992, Jason married a devoted church woman who will soon bear his child. If Jason leaves the church, Tonkin claims, he will lose Kathleen, unless she leaves as well.

"You have to marry within the church," Tonkin says, claiming that another woman at Life Tabernacle left her husband because he wanted her out of the church. "Jason's always in my prayers," she says. "I love him so much."

"I'm real happy," Jason said early last October. But, he added, "I've got a lot of anger and fear. Sometimes I'm afraid to go home." Jason says he has gone to counselors and doctors to contend with all he has been through. The last few years of his life have been a "big soap opera," Jason says.

The opera is not over yet. He got a job at a Redmond lumberyard, but on Oct. 19, 1993, he lost it. Jason, who will turn 22 in April, is now working as a window washer.

During 11 years of deprogrammings, Ross says charges in the Jason Scott case were the first filed against him. He remains convinced the suit was the direct result of Scientology's influence on Grays Harbor prosecutors, whom he intends to sue for malicious prosecution.

"They [the Scientologists] are against me," Ross says, "because deprogramming works."

Witnesses to his work - he has deprogrammed hundreds of people - say the 41-year-old deprogrammer is logical, knows the Bible well, and has the patience to spend days on end at his work.

Where his foes may be fiery orators, Ross portrays himself as completely calm and even-tempered. He tries to come off as objective in the face of partisan, passionate opponents. But in fact, his beliefs are just as strong.

Jason's case riles him; not because he failed to deprogram him, but because he believes that Scientologists are using Jason to get him and his profession.

As coordinator of a Jewish prisoner program and advisor to the Arizona Department of Corrections in the early '80s, Ross monitored the different religions in the prison system. He used his expertise to become a private consultant.

After seven years as a deprogrammer, or, as he now prefers, "exit-counselor," Ross fell into the national spotlight. His deprogrammings of Branch Davidian members before the Waco tragedy brought him to the attention of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms when they sought to understand David Koresh. He told agents that a former Davidian described a cache of arms lying ready in the Waco compound. CBS News brought him on as a consultant, and his notoriety grew.

As Waco waned, Ross had been interviewed or quoted by dozens of major television networks, radio stations, newspapers, and magazines. By the time Ross and Jason's younger brothers reached Geraldo, Mr. Rivera billed him as "perhaps the most renowned expert on cults and cult deprogramming." He became a bigger target for groups like Scientology.

Just as Ross is widely considered a leading deprogrammer, the Church of Scientology is considered by some to be one of the country's leading cults. Its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, advocated the rigorous pursuit of all enemies, and Scientology continues his persistent campaigns. A controversial society, most visible as the vendor of "Dianetics," the self-help tract pitched on late-night TV, Scientology has thousands of members and $400 million in assets, according to the IRS. (They claim 500 "extremely active" members in Washington state.)

Ross says he never deprogrammed a Scientologist or had any dealings with them. But Ross' affiliation with the Cult Awareness Network, the leading anti-cult group and a longtime rival of Scientology, puts him high on the list of Scientology's list of enemies.

From first word of Ross' arrest, attorneys from a Los Angeles law firm retained by the Scientologists contacted Jason and took control of his case, encouraging him to speak out against deprogrammers while they lobbied local prosecutors to file charges against Ross.

They published a "Testimony of Jason Scott," a press release expanding upon his statements to police. And Scientologists spirited Jason - a teen-ager who lived at home until his family's church conflict - on a national tour of confrontations with deprogrammers and their supporters, especially anyone associated with the Cult Awareness Network (CAN). Jason was impressed and immersed.

IN February 1991, when Grays Harbor deputy prosecuting attorney Joseph Wheeler signed the kidnapping charges against Ross and his cohorts, Scientology officials took note. Bowels & Moxon, a Los Angeles law firm retained by the Scientologists, contracted Jason to volunteer their services. They began petitioning Wheeler to press charges against Ross.

Wheeler seemed to have a strong case from the beginning. Ocean Shores detectives provided him with Jason's detailed account of the abduction, as well as handcuffs, duct tape, heavy straps, deprogramming materials, Ross' phone book, and other evidence of a crime in the beach house.

But Ross and Tonkin think Wheeler, faced with a mother protecting her son from what some might see as a cultlike church, initially declined to press a case unlikely to sway a jury. They claim he eventually succumbed to intense pressure from Scientology attorneys.

"I just wanted to be cautious and prudent and make the best decision," says Wheeler, who discounts the extent of Scientology's involvement in developing his case. It took Wheeler two and a half years, but he eventually restated charges against Ross and the others, five months before the statute of limitations expired.

Wheeler said that not until August 1993, after arraigning Ross, did he hear anything from Scientology. In fact, according to letters obtained by Ross' attorney, he was contacted regularly by one of their attorneys before January 1993, at least eight months earlier.

A January 11, 1993 letter to "Mr. Wheeler" from Scientology attorney Marcello Di Mauro is somewhat formal, but a letter of June 2, 1993, Di Mauro writes: "Dear Joe, I have some very good new for you…," going on to describe the conviction of a deprogrammer in Virginia and attendant media coverage. "This looks like an excellent opportunity to push forward with the Rick Ross prosecution," he wrote.

"Cases languish," Di Mauro says about the correspondence. "Most DA's offices are overloaded. It's my experience, after 20 years, that the squeaky wheel gets the grease."

What appears at first face an "insignificant crime," Di Mauro says, has constitutional ramifications for freedom of religion. "You can't just kidnap adult people because you disagree with their beliefs."

The Scientologists have often gone to court to protect what they see as attacks on their ability to practice their faith. In 1987-88, for example, Scientology pumped $30 million into legal fees, according to IRS records released last year and reported in The New York Times after the IRS granted the church federal tax-free status.

An official from CAN says Scientology has taken CAN to court 56 times in less than three years, mostly to allow Scientologists access to CAN conferences.

While much of the dispute between Ross and Scientology was playing itself out in the legal forum, some of it was spilling over into direct confrontations at CAN meeting around the country. Just as Jason was enlisted to aid the Scientologists against Ross, Thysen Scott was brought into the CAN fold.

Both boys traveled away from home to testify for their warring fractions. In the end, the conflict became terribly personal, as the two young brothers clashed at a CAN meeting in Oregon, where Jason reportedly managed to keep Thysen from speaking.

And to complicate matters further, a man who says he is a disgruntled Scientologist emerged to help Ross fight his foes. Like a double agent, Gary Scarff first accompanied Jason on a mission to disrupt CAN meetings, then defected to the anti-Scientology camp. Later, in a declaration filed with the court in the Montesano kidnapping proceedings, he gave his account of his own and Jason's role in the Scientologists' war with Ross and CAN.

In November 1991, Ross attended a CAN conference in Oklahoma City. Scientologists also came to town, with Jason and Scarff. Ross says he received a death threat over the phone. In his declaration, Scarff takes credit for that call.

"While Jason Scott was physically present in our hotel room, I under the direction of my superior…telephoned Rick Ross in his room and threatened to kill him," Scarff says in the signed declaration.

Scarff alleges in his declaration that he "acted as an agent for the Church of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs in covert operations directed against the Cult Awareness Network for a number of years while a longtime member of the Church of Scientology."

A Scientology official in Los Angeles says Scarff is a fabricator who attempted to infiltrate Scientology, presenting himself as a former deprogrammer willing to speak out against CAN.

"Scientology wouldn't have Gary Scarff acting as a representative of Scientology in any circumstances," says Glenn Barton, director of religious affairs for the Church of Scientology International. Barton also says that Scarff was never a practicing Scientologist, though he worked with the organization.

As for the alleged death threat: "Total lies," says Barton.

In the declaration, Scarff also claims that Scientologists brought Jason to the Oklahoma conference to "confront and ridicule" Rick Ross. "I observed Jason Scott giving different individuals varied interpretations of what occurred in his deprogramming by Rick Ross," Scarff says in the declaration.

Scarff also claims in that document that a Scientology official "prodded Jason to embellish his story so he would be seen as a 'victim' of a malicious crime."

In the declaration, Scarff went on to say, "Jason claimed initially, that no physical violence occurred. However, after coaching…Jason reported the physical violence, torture, and mental abuse he endured at the hands of Rick Ross."

Scarff says in the declaration that he joined Jason and Harold Kern in cooperating with a Scientology scheme to disrupt a public cult education forum in McMinnville, Oregon, where Thysen was set to speak in favor of Ross. Both Scarff and Jason verbally disrupted the event, according to the declaration, prompting a man to threaten to eject Jason causing Thysen's appearance to be canceled.

(Though aligned against Ross, Scientologists and Kern are entirely incompatible in their beliefs. The Oneness doctrine of Life Tabernacle makes no provision for extraterrestrial entities like Xenu and the Thetans, both key factors in Church of Scientology scripture.)

After the McMinnville meeting, Scarff says he accompanied Jason back home. "During our five-hour road trip to Seattle," Scarff says in the declaration, "Jason and I discussed many personal issues affecting him, including the persistent and unwanted pressure he was receiving from Scientology officials wanting him to demand Grays Harbor County prosecutors to reinstate criminal charges against Rick Ross. Jason expressed very clearly, at that the time, he wished to put his deprogramming behind him, and seek some mental, financial, and familial stability in his life…Jason, however, expressed fears of losing his friendships with Scientology officials if he did not follow through on their directives."

"Jason Scott advised me in Oklahoma City," Scarff says in the declaration, "that Scientology officials sought to have Jason embellish his story to include charges that Rick Ross had sexually abused him during the deprogramming. Jason was adamant in refusing to do this, citing his personal displeasure of events surrounding the sexual abuse of Thysen [sic] Scott…"

Barton counters these accusations, saying that the Scientologists were simply aiding Jason in the mutual effort to protect freedom of religion and "helping Jason to handle emotional baggage from his kidnap and torture." He also says, "Jason was very anxious about it. He was very upset. His rights as an adult were abrogated."

Rick Ross went on trial in Montesano for felony unlawful imprisonment early this year. On January 18, after a week-long trial, the jury took two hours to acquit him, while his accomplices in the kidnapping pled guilty to lesser charges. Ross leapt from his chair and thanked each juror. With uncharacteristic emotion, he turned to the courtroom gallery and addressed observers including Jason, his pastor, and others openly hostile toward him.

A reporter from the Aberdeen Daily World caught his words: "If you can't beat me with a rigged courtroom, a corrupt prosecution, and a judge who granted every one of your motions, you can never beat me!" Ross exclaimed.

But, Ross still has some sympathy for Jason. "I think Jason sold his soul to the Church of Scientology," says Ross. He says he pities Jason, who, as a gullible young man, will drop hard when Scientology is through with him. "Jason should get a life, get a job, and stop living off this case," says Ross. "The ride is over."

Hardly. Four days before Ross' acquittal, a civil suit was filed in Seattle's US District Court on behalf of Jason Scott. Jason's lawyers are the same ones who helped him press his kidnapping case. They are also retained in other litigation by the Church of Scientology. Named in a suit as violators of Jason's civil rights are Ross, the three kidnappers, and CAN. Jason's attorneys undoubtedly will cite several civil cases in which targets of deprogramming recovered damages against their abductors, guaranteeing that the holy war Ross set off when he first agreed to kidnap Jason is likely to continue for a long, long time.

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