Nine Church of Scientology leaders were convicted Friday on charges stemming from a four-year church program to burglarize, bug and infiltrate various federal agencies with which Scientology has battled for two decades.
On two occasions during the four-hour court proceeding, a fragile plea-bargaining agreement between the defendants and federal prosecutors almost collapsed. But finally all the legal obstacles presented by defense attorneys were overcome and U.S. District Judge Charles R. Richey pronounced all nine defendants guilty of one count each.
Seven of the defendants, including Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, were each found guilty of the umbrella charge of conspiring to obstruct justice, conspiring to obstruct a criminal investigation, harboring a fugitive and making false declarations to a grand jury.
Scientology's own internal memoranda disclosed a carefully conceived plan to steal government files kept on Scientology and an equally elaborate plot to cover up two operative's ties to Scientology after they had been caught in a Justice Department building in June 1976. Much of the data taken came from the Internal Revenue Service, which has battled for years with Scientology over its status as a tax-exempt organization.
Sentencing by Richey is expected to take place within about six weeks and all the defendants but Miss Thomas could get up to five years in prison and fines of $10,000.