Scientology Members Convicted of Burglary[reprint from Lakeland Ledger image]
The two church members, who had been extradited earlier this year from England, were accused of ordering subordinates in Washington DC to infiltrate offices of the Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department with aims of copying or stealing documents.
The controversial church has been locked in a long battle with the IRS over its tax status. A church spokesman called the convictions "an obvious vendetta" by the government.
Last December nine other members of the church, including Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of the church's founder, were found guilty of obstruction of justice and sentenced to prison terms in connection with the same alleged scheme.
Jane Kember, who is a British citizen, and Morrison Budlong, an American, stood silently and showed little emotion as the jury foreman pronounced them guilty on all nine counts of aiding and abetting burglary.
Both defendants remain free on bail while awaiting sentencing and pending a probable appeal. The nine other church members are also free on bail pending appeal of their convictions.
US District Judge Aubrey E. Robinson set the sentencing date for Dec. 19.
During the month-long trial in US District Court, Mrs. Kember and Budlong claimed they had nothing to do with the efforts by Washington-based church members to steal IRS and Justice Department documents, saying they were more than 3,000miles away.
The prosecution, however, presented to the jurors church documents and letters between the England headquarters and Washington DC office showing what the government claimed was "a common scheme and plan" showing that the two church leaders knew of, and in fact at times ordered, the thefts. They also produced a former church member, Michael Meisner, who testified that he was certain the two defendants condoned the infiltration schemes.
|Dept of Justice Washington DC|
Sharon Thomas was convicted of taking records from the Justice Department, where she was employed as a secretary, and Gerald B. Wolfe was convicted of stealing documents while employed as a clerk-typist at the IRS. Mrs. Kember and Budlong declined to talk to reporters as they left the courtroom.
A church spokesman, Joseph Burgess, issued a statement accusing the Justice Department of "an obvious vendetta" in its pursuit of the case. "These defendants were prosecuted only because they challenged and sought to expose the Internal Revenue Service's unconstitutional activities ranging from false dossiers and intimidation to secret enemies lists.They were prosecuted because they fought back, " the statement said.
Meanwhile, Judge Robinson ordered three of the nine church members convicted last December to preform 300 hours of community service work as a result of a contempt ruling against them.
Mike McClaughry: Guardian's Office 2/05/2000
[9 videos ~ 40:45 min] Mike McClaughry, former GO agent relates his experience in Scientology's intelligence office, the Guardian Office (GO) [transcript] [playlist 9 videos]