Woman guilty of assault

Victim, a Church of Scientology protester, relieved

The Chronicle Herald, Canada/May 6, 2010

An assault against a masked demonstrator protesting against the Church of Scientology has landed a Halifax woman in legal trouble.

Nicole Cassandra Andersen, a 40-year-old personal-care worker, pleaded guilty in Halifax on Tuesday to assault for punching the protester in the face near the Scientology Life Improvement Center on Dutch Village Road on Sept. 19.

She will return to court July 20 for sentencing.

Andersen has told police that she has no a connection to the Church of Scientology.

And a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology said Wednesday that Andersen is not a member of the church in Halifax and does not have any affiliation with it.

"The answer is no," said Pat Felske, a Church of Scientology spokeswoman in Toronto.

"As a matter of fact, when the incident occurred, no one was at the church at all," Felske said Wednesday

Crown attorney Jennifer Maclellan said Wednesday she can't talk about the case until the facts are read into the court record at sentencing.

However, the anti-Church of Scientology demonstrators, who captured the assault on video, posted some footage of the incident on YouTube on Wednesday night following Andersen's guilty plea.

The video, which had over 1,200 views by midday, shows a woman shouting at protesters and punching one wearing a mask near the Scientology Life Improvement Centre.

The victim, Chris Salsman, said the punch left him with neck pain for a day and a small scar beneath his eye.

"I am relieved that she has pleaded guilty," he said in an interview Wednesday.

"I didn't want this to drag out any longer."

Salsman is a member of the global online movement called Anonymous, which holds protests against the Church of Scientology around the world.

In Halifax, small protests, typically involving five to 10 people, are held about once a month across the street from Church of Scientology's centre on Dutch Village Road, he said.

Protesters, some of whom are former Church of Scientology members, wear masks to protect their identities because of a fear of reprisal, said Salsman.

A Facebook group called Get Scientology out of Halifax also exists, with about 365 members, said Salsman.

He said he has no connection to the Church of Scientology. He also said all the protests in Halifax are carried out peacefully.

Although no link has been found between the Church of Scientology and his assault, Salsman said he thinks it is important that the public is aware of the incident. He said he shed his anonymity because he believes the church is already aware of who he is.

Neither Andersen nor her lawyer, Peter Dostal, could be reached for comment Wednesday.

In the United States, there have been several convictions of Anonymous members for cyber attacks and harassment of members of the Church of Scientology, Felske said.

"We don't believe in violence. Our creed is a civilization without insanity, without criminality and without war."

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