Former mayor takes on Scientology

San Antonio Express-News/February 22, 2012

A trial detailing abuse and confinement of officials in the upper echelons of the Church of Scientology began this year in federal court in San Antonio, and put one Bulverde lawyer in the middle of an internationally and sensational affair.

Bulverde lawyer and former Bulverde mayor Ray Jeffrey is defending Debbie Cook, 50, of Converse, who is being sued by the Church for allegedly violating an extensive nondisclosure agreement she signed when leaving the church in October of 2007.

Cook and her husband, Wayne Baumgarten, relocated from Florida to Texas at that time.

The Church of Scientology is being represented in the case by attorney George Spencer Jr. of San Antonio.

Jeffrey ended up representing the couple on recommendation from a fellow lawyer and friend in Florida who told Jeffrey that his proximity to the church in Florida would make it difficult to represent Cook.

"Here I am in Bulverde in the middle of this international case," said Jeffrey.

Along with international and U.S. news media knocking at his door as well as following the trial in San Antonio, Jeffrey said private investigators have swarmed around his office in the Village of Bulverde conducting surveillance.

The basis for the trial dates back to Dec. 31, when an email the couple had sent internally among a few thousand church members and officials detailed abuses and other practices Cook wanted addressed.

The church was seeking a gag order on the couple for speaking about their experience in the church, as well as for speaking about Scientology in general.

"I think they believed they could simply get a gag order," Jeffrey said. "I think they were surprised when she got an attorney."

There is now a stay in the trial, and no further date set for it to continue.

The church did not get the gag order and the couple can currently speak freely on the subject.

But, said Jeffrey, church officials are seeking a minimum of $300,000 in damages from the couple, a sum which increases every time the couple speaks about Scientology, their experiences in the church or are mentioned in the press. Jeffrey noted that could amount to millions of dollars.

A video of the pair signing the agreements shown in court also shows another lawyer for the church pleading with them to take checks for $50,000 each.

"The money was forced upon them. They were imprisoned when they signed these," Jeffrey said. "He (the Scientology lawyer) had to repeatedly push them to take the money. Wayne left without it.

"It took her (Cook) two years to recover her health," Jeffrey said.

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