11 Scientologists Indicted in Theft of Gov't Documents
[reprint from Lewiston Daily Sun image]
Named in the indictment was Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of L. Ron Hubbard, founder and head of the church.
The government's case is based in part on the FBI's raid on July 8, 1977, of the church's offices in Washington and Los Angeles in which hundreds of thousands of documents were seized.
In the indictment Tuesday, the government charged that the Scientologists planted agents in the government to find out about investigations of the church.
For example, the indictment charged that for one month in 1976, Sharon Thomas, an alleged agent of the church, stole documents from the office of Paul Figley, an attorney with the Justice Department's civil division.
The Scientologists have said they made copies of government documents, after being refused the material under the Freedom of Information Act, in order to counteract what they claim has been a government campaign of harassment begun more than 20 years ago.
The indictment charged that another Scientology agent, Gerald Bennett Wolfe, who the indictment says was also known as "Silver" and "Kelly", infiltrated the Internal Revenue Service as a clerk.
The indictment charged that the Scientologists planted an electronic eavesdropping device in an IRS conference room in 1974 and recorded a meeting that dealt with the Scientologists' application for tax-exempt status.
The government's case also relies in part on the cooperation of a former church official, Michael Meisner, who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the indictment.
The other church members who were charged in the indictment are:
Jane Kember of Sussex, England; Morris Budlong of Sussex; the Rev. Henning Heldt of Los Angeles, who heads an arm of the church known as the Guardian office; Duke Snider of Hollywood, Calif., head of the church's information bureau;
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The defendants face up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines on several charges, which include conspiracy, obstruction of justice, lying to a grand jury and illegal bugging.
The indictment came as no surprise, since the Scientologists themselves said last month that they expected formal charges against at least 10 members of the church after courts had ruled that the documents seized in the church raids could be used as evidence.