“As Scientology grew in the Clearwater area, it often hired local off-duty police officers to act as a private police force. Did this built-in conflict of interest affect the investigation?”
The simple truth about lies is that there are many different types. Some, such as bald-faced lies, are so outrageous that they’re obvious to all within earshot. Another category comprises lies that are not so obvious—they lie hidden among the reams of information we ingest daily. But though these lies are obscured from sight, they’re no less pernicious. These are lies of omission—lies that represent an intentional failure to “tell the whole truth” in a situation requiring complete disclosure. Lying by omission is particularly destructive, of course, in legal and criminal matters.
Are the members of the Clearwater, Florida, Police Department guilty of lying by omission? You be the judge.
Clearwater policeman Jonathan Yuen was one of the first officers on the scene the night my son Kyle died under very suspicious circumstances at the apartment of his biological father, Tom Brennan, on Friday, February 16, 2007. At the time, Officer Yuen had been with the department for only eighteen months. He’d been hired right out of college. Despite this fact, however—and despite the fact that higher-ranking officers were present at the time—Yuen was placed in charge of the crime scene.
Normally, one would expect a rookie cop to follow police procedures by the manual. One would expect a young officer to try really hard, to be attentive to every last detail. In reading other Clearwater Police Reports, for example, you’ll find an amazing amount of detail. Crime scene details are extremely important. Even the tiniest bit of information, of course, can be the determining factor in a criminal investigation. People have been convicted because of tiny details. And, of course, people have walked away from criminal acts because of the lack of a tiny detail.
In the Clearwater Police Report regarding my son’s death, Officer Yuen’s one-page narrative of the events of February 16/17 is remarkable for its inattention to detail. Later, when Yuen was deposed by attorney Ken Dandar—the lawyer representing the Estate of Kyle Brennan—his brain fog surrounding the details of that evening is incredibly suspicious.
First the big lie of omission. In his contribution to the Clearwater Police Report, Yuen omitted the fact that present at Tom Brennan’s Cleveland Street apartment the evening of Kyle’s death were two important members of Scientology’s first family—the twin-sister and brother-in-law of the church’s worldwide leader, David Miscavige.
Denise Miscavige Gentile, David Miscavige’s twin-sister—whom Tom Brennan referred to as “Chaplain Denise”—was Brennan’s Scientology auditor, his spiritual advisor or spiritual counselor. Her husband’s name is Gerald “Jerry” Gentile. In spite of the fact that they both at first lied about Denise being at the Cleveland Street apartment that night, during their depositions, Denise and Jerry finally admitted that they were both there. Jerry Gentile stated that Denise waited outside near their parked vehicle. Denise claimed she didn’t go inside because she was wearing pajamas.
Amazingly, Yuen left them completely out of his narrative. When questioned later, under oath, about people arriving at the crime scene, Yuen responded: “I believe I advised a couple of people showed up.”
“What did they do?” asked attorney Dandar.
“Basically spoke with Thomas [Brennan] and gave him some counseling or, you know, support.”
In the first few months following my son’s death, it was believed that Gerald Gentile was Tom Brennan’s roommate at the Cleveland Street apartment. This was assumed as it seemed the logical explanation for Jerry Gentile’s early presence at Brennan’s place the night Kyle died. Information pertaining to Gentile’s early appearance at the Cleveland Street apartment was omitted from the police report. No information regarding Jerry, in fact, was provided by the Clearwater Police Department, either in the police report or in the first phone interview Kyle’s Virginia family had with Detective Stephen Bohling (who took over the case on Saturday, February 17). Kyle’s older brother—wondering who the elusive “Jerry” was who called our home to tell us of Kyle’s death—asked Bohling about him. (Some of our questions, naturally, were things like: Why didn’t Tom Brennan call us? Why didn’t the police make this important call?) Bohling’s response to the question about Jerry’s identity? “Some Scientology guy.”
Denise Miscavige Gentile was simply referred to as “Chaplain Denise.”
Why were these two members of the Clearwater Police Department—Officer Jonathan Yuen and Detective Stephen Bohling—not forthcoming or truthful about the presence of the Gentiles at the Cleveland Street apartment that night? Why would they not identify these high-powered Scientologists? Were these members of the police department deliberately lying by omission in order to protect two individuals with extremely close ties to the very top leadership of the Scientology organization?
Attorney Ken Dandar deposed Officer Yuen on June 11, 2010. Yuen’s deposition lasted just over one hour.
Officer Yuen stated during his deposition that he left the crime scene in the early morning hours of February 17, and had no further involvement in the investigation.
Then he was asked: “Did you ever discuss the matter with Detective Bohling? Did he ever contact you?”
“No” responded Yuen.
(It’s important to note here that Detective Bohling never visited the crime scene. Never. So, in other words, Officer Yuen was in charge at the Cleveland Street apartment the night Kyle died—even though other officers present outranked him—and wrote the narrative of that night’s events. He then simply handed that in, and never again spoke of the matter with the police detective who took over the case. And that man—Detective Stephen Bohling—never went to the Cleveland Street apartment. Why the disconnect between Yuen and Detective Bohling? Was it done this way in order to ensure Bohling’s future plausible deniability?)
During Officer Yuen’s brief deposition, he responded 28 times with either “I don’t recall” or “I don’t remember.” And it’s interesting that Officer Yuen’s memory deficit only occurred when he was questioned regarding fellow police officers, medical investigator Martha J. Scholl, or the presence of that mysterious “couple” who arrived at the crime scene during his “short-short” interview of Tom Brennan.
And amazingly, Yuen destroyed the notes he took during that interview.
Ken Dander asked him: “Did you take notes during the interview [of Tom Brennan]?”
“Yes, I did” responded Yuen.
“What do you take the notes on?” was the next question.
“I have a note pad that normally I document all my cases on,” was the answer.
“Do you save those?”
“No, I do not.”
Unfortunately, Officer Yuen, a college graduate, doesn’t really understand what the verb tense “to document” means.
What about these two members of Scientology’s first family—Denise Miscavige Gentile and her husband Jerry? According to a Tampa Bay Times article written in the summer of 2013, the couple married in 2000. They lived in Maryland for two years, then moved back to Clearwater “where Flag Land Base, Scientology’s spiritual headquarters, dominates the downtown skyline.” It was then that Jerry joined the church. Denise at the time was working at a small Scientology mission in Bellair. He continued working his Maryland technology job, commuting back and forth every week.
That tech position, however, wasn’t Jerry and Denise’s only source of income. A police investigation revealed that Jerry Gentile was the owner of a notorious drug-selling establishment—or “drug house”—located in St. Petersburg, Florida. It comprised a house on 15th Street North, and three detached apartments next door in a duplex and a separate cottage.
According to the article, “drug sales at the Gentile property got so bad police raided it twice in 14 months, busting up a marijuana den and what police called a cocaine sales operation.” Following the first raid, the city contacted the Gentiles asking them to “curb the drug activity.” Nothing changed. In fact, it appears the Gentiles had a good reason not to improve the situation at their St. Petersburg pot house. According to tenants, it was Denise who’d stop by monthly for the rent or for money to cover the water, sewer, and trash bills. If cash wasn’t readily available—according to former tenant Roreco “Rico” Currie—Denise was happy to accept marijuana “blunts” instead. (Blunts are small cigars converted into fairly large marijuana cigarettes.) Currie, during this period, was distributing marijuana from the Gentile property. Denise had discovered this illicit activity but had decided to let Currie remain.
If that wasn’t enough, Currie eventually converted the cottage into an impromptu strip-club. Exotic dancers performed routines as onlookers tossed money onto the dingy floors. Admission was $10, more after midnight. Currie proudly claimed this business was “by appointment only.” He was arrested in October 2012 on several charges. He pleaded guilty and is currently serving a 38-month sentence. Denise Miscavige Gentile pleaded not guilty to the charges related to the activities at the Gentiles’ 15th Street North property. She denies receiving drugs in lieu of rent or bills.
The Tampa Bay Times piece is an extremely unflattering portrait of this Scientology celebrity couple. Obviously, in the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater area, the rule of law simply does not apply to Denise Miscavige and Jerry Gentile. These are the people the Clearwater Police Department shielded, it appears, in order to protect the Miscavige name from scandal.
The Gentiles’ involvement with Tom Brennan should have raised numerous questions. Why, for example, weren’t they pressed about the obvious lies they told regarding Tom Brennan and the night of February 16/17? Denise at first lied about being Tom Brennan’s auditor; she lied about her relationship with Brennan, and she lied about her presence at the Brennan apartment. Jerry, too, at first lied about his wife’s presence that evening. Particularly troubling as well as the fact that my son’s laptop computer ended up in the hands of Jerry Gentile. Why wasn’t Kyle’s computer taken into custody by the police?
My son Kyle deserved to have a fair and unbiased investigation. He deserved to have his day in court. Thanks to the defendants’ multitudinous lies—and thanks to the police report’s lies of omission—he got neither. “The Clearwater Police Department; Who are they protecting? Who are they serving?”
“The Kyle Brennan investigation was merely a box to be checked on the way to a foregone conclusion in which only the victim is responsible.”
Copyright © 2021 by Victoria L. Britton
Excerpts from the Deposition of Officer Jonathan Yuen
Excerpts from the Deposition of S. Brennan
Officer Jonathan Yuen’s Clearwater Police Report Narrative
Below is a sample of the careful narrative and abundance of detail within a Clearwater Police Report. When reading the report, the negligence of the Clearwater police on the scene the evening Kyle died becomes glaringly obvious.
This is the html version of the file http://www.artharris.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/nick-bollea-clearwater-police-report1.pdf.
Notes: Deposition Excerpts