Former Scientology official arrested in Ingleside on the Bay

Corpus Christi Caller Times/September 18, 2011

Corpus Christi -- Ingleside on the Bay resident Mark "Marty" Rathbun was arrested Friday on a misdemeanor assault charge after a member of a Scientology film crew complained that Rathbun snatched his sunglasses, scratching his forehead in an incident Sept. 2.

Rathbun, a former high ranking official of the Church of Scientology, admits taking the sunglasses and throwing them on the ground but said he didn't injure the crew member, Norman James Moore. Rathbun believes Moore's complaint was in retaliation for Rathbun's recent trip to Germany, where he spoke publicly about abuses in the church.

Moore could not be reached for comment.

County Attorney David Aken said the case is under review. He rejected a previous case from the film crew when Rathbun snatched a microphone. Aken said he didn't believe a county jury would convict Rathbun after seeing how much provocation he had endured.

The Scientology film crew calls itself the Squirrel Busters. In Scientology, a squirrel is a heretic. The Squirrel Busters have been surveilling Rathbun since April, claiming to film a documentary about him.

But Rathbun and Bert Leahy, a freelance videographer who worked briefly for the Squirrel Busters, say the group was sent by the church to harass him for speaking out and for leading a growing movement of Scientologists who are leaving the church to practice the religion on their own.

The independents frequently cite the high costs — typically thousands of dollars — of advancing to new levels in the religion, and church policies that encourage members to stop communicating with family and friends who aren't in good standing with the church.

Rathbun and other high-ranking former members also say they witnessed beatings inflicted on church officers by its leader, David Miscavige. The church denies the claims and portrays Rathbun and other former leaders as disgruntled and bent on revenge after they were demoted for incompetence.

Leahy said he left the Squirrel Busters because they told him their only purpose was to make life miserable for Rathbun and goad him into violence so they could levy charges against him. John Allender, the leader of the film crew, has said Leahy is lying. Allender could not be reached for comment Monday.

The church denies any affiliation with the Squirrel Busters. But in July, Corpus Christi attorney Richard Rogers sent a letter to Aken identifying himself as the attorney representing the film crews. The letter was copied to Allan Cartwright, the church's legal director.

Rogers said Cartwright was not affiliated with the Squirrel Busters but the film crew had gone to Cartwright for a referral to a local attorney.

"They kind of hired me as kind of compliance, just to appraise them of what Texas law was and to make sure they didn't violate it," Rogers said.

The church's media relations department did not respond to multiple requests since August for a telephone interview with Cartwright.

Leahy said the Squirrel Busters went to great lengths to avoid breaking the law while at the same time trying to get Rathbun on the wrong side of it. Their constant presence in the small bayside town has drawn the ire of Rathbun's neighbors, the City Council and local law enforcement.

In a sworn statement, Moore said that on Sept. 2, Rathbun approached him "in an angry and violent manner, and with his hand grabbing, jerking and pulling off my glasses (off my face), causing pain and injury, scratches to my forehead."

Rathbun said Moore had been pestering his wife, Monique Rathbun, and he asked Moore to stop, but Moore ignored him. Rathbun said he grabbed Moore's sunglasses out of frustration.

Moore filed a report with the San Patricio County Sheriff's Office. Chief Deputy Oscar Rivera said his deputy didn't arrest Rathbun immediately because the deputy didn't witness the altercation. Moore then took his complaint to Judge Yolanda Guerrero, the justice of the peace in Sinton, on Sept. 8, six days after the incident.

Rathbun was in jail for about four hours Friday before Guerrero came to arraign him and set bail at $1,000, Rathbun said.

Guerrero said Monday she had not been familiar with Rathbun's background or the activities of the Squirrel Busters in Ingleside on the Bay.

Rathbun's arrest follows a trip to Germany in which he spoke to government officials and appeared on a popular TV talk show to discuss allegations of physical and psychological abuse in the church. In Germany, the church does not enjoy the same tax-exempt status as an established religion as it does in the United States.

Rathbun said he wants to convince Germans that there is a distinction between the philosophies of Scientology and the organized religion.

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