Federal judge unswayed by claims Scientologists spent $30 million to cover up death of Lisa McPherson

Church member Lisa McPherson died in 1995, and now, despite an explosive deposition, her family's lawyer, Kennan Dandar, is facing $1 million in sanctions

New York Daily News/November 19, 2012

Blockbuster claims that the Church of Scientology spent more than $20 million trying to cover up the 1995 death of church member Lisa McPherson failed to sway a federal judge in Florida on Monday.

The headline-grabbing claims, made by ex-church honcho Marty Rathbun in a recent deposition, allege church officials spent millions on private investigators, operatives and lavish gifts such as Super Bow tickets, jewelry and face-time with John Travolta to influence Florida judges and other officials after McPherson died.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez heard arguments on the claims Monday but ultimately denied a request by a McPherson family lawyer to stop an upcoming Nov. 26 state court hearing at which the lawyer expects to get slapped with $1 million in sanctions.

The lawyer, Kennan Dandar, told the federal court judge he plans to amend his request for an emergency injunction and try again.

"The original complaint did not allege a 'conspiracy' in specific language. I'm filing an amended complaint with that language and will continue to seek an injunction," Dandar told the Daily News Monday. "I'm the victim. I will continue that until it's over."

Dandar, who signed a settlement in the McPherson case in 2004, is fighting the Church over his involvement in a follow-up wrongful death case related to the suicide of a church member's son in 2007.

The Church of Scientology claims the McPherson settlement prohibited Dandar from involvement in the 2007 case, but Dandar disagreed and pursued it for years, even after a Florida state court held him in contempt.

In a complaint filed Oct. 31, Dandar alleged the Church of Scientology violated his civil rights in the legal saga and wants to leave him in "utter financial ruin," his court filing states.

Rathbun's deposition alleged a systematic effort on the part of Church leader David Miscavige to curry favor with Florida officials and discredit Dandar in his civil actions.

Rathbun claimed Miscavige used "perks" such as fancy cufflinks to win over the lawyer for former Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Joan Wood.

Wood, who died last year, ended the criminal investigation into McPherson's death when she reversed her original determination that the death appeared suspicious and ruled it an accident.

"Miscavige found out (Wood's lawyer) had somewhat of a cufflinks fetish," and gave him at least two pairs worth thousands of dollars, Rathbun said in his deposition.

And "Miscavige found out through bonding with (the lawyer) that his wife and he were sort of goo-goo ga-ga over John Travolta. So Dave very carefully arranged that Travolta would go up to their table and give them personal face time" at a gala, Rathbun said in his sworn testimony.

Rathbun also claimed the Church of Scientology paid a former Florida state prosecutor to "schmooze" with judicial figures and meet with a judge at a St. Petersburg bar.

The church also had Dandar "overtly" followed to "rattle" him, Rathbun claimed.

A lawyer for the Church of Scientology did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

Rathbun said he responded to a subpoena from Dandar but willingly helped the lawyer because he now feels the Church was responsible for McPherson's death.

Lisa McPherson, 36, had a severe mental breakdown and died from a pulmonary embolism after church officials reportedly delayed taking her to a hospital because they feared doctors would put her in a psychiatric ward.

"The Church was absolutely responsible for her death," Rathbun told The News Monday. "It was integral for the future of Scientology for that case to be won decisively."

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.