Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs–Part Two
It was a beautiful Virginia day, late spring. With the rainy season in the not-so-distant past, winter’s browns had given way to a kaleidoscope of brilliant green hues. A tangle of early-blooming honeysuckle perfumed the air.
Kyle had been gone for just over a year.
I was walking along one of the neighborhood’s paved walkways—carrying, ironically, a copy of Andrew Morton’s recently released biography of Tom Cruise—when I noticed two unfamiliar vehicles parked off the road, suspiciously close to my backyard. They were the same make and model.
Approaching one, I leaned in close and rapped my knuckles on the partially opened window.
“Excuse me, are you lost?” I asked.
Peering across the passenger seat to better look at the driver, I repeated with a firmer tone: “Are you lost?” The thirtyish-plus man sitting behind the steering wheel didn’t respond. He stared straight ahead as if I wasn’t there.
“So, you don’t want to talk to me,” I said, attempting to conceal my agitation. I quickly scanned the car’s interior for clues as to where he came from—perhaps a newspaper or a map with a highlighted travel route. (I assumed he was from the Washington D.C. area.)
He never flinched: he was as cold as a statue, never once glancing towards his antagonist or acknowledging my existence. A dark fringe of hair sprouted from the edges of his bi-colored ball cap. Beads of sweat appeared on his brow, threatening to run down his face after a hard swallow.
“Here’s what’s going to happen next,” I told him. “Do you see that stop sign not too far from where your friend is parked, right behind my house? In about ten minutes, a school bus will pull up to let off a group of school children, and their parents aren’t going to be happy having two men who don’t belong in this neighborhood sitting in cars right nearby. Do you understand? It’s time for you and your friend to get out of here.”
I backed away from the vehicle as he started it up.
The car slowly pulled away from the curb and u-turned, an unmistakable signal to the companion vehicle that it was time to leave. They drove off together.
It was my first experience with OSA, but it certainly wouldn’t be my last.
The troubling aspect of OSA harassment is that there’s often no solid proof that the Church of Scientology is involved. Once you’re a targeted enemy of the Church—an activist or someone who opposes Scientology’s practices—you need to err on the side of caution regarding accusations, or you may come across as paranoid. Still, this incident follows a documented pattern of menacing behavior levied against the Church’s opponents.
In early 2009—before Kyle’s wrongful-death lawsuit was filed—attorney Kennan Dandar gave serious consideration as to what court to use. Dandar, who had extensive experience litigating the Clearwater organization, was worried the case would get thrown out before we reached the discovery stage. He was convinced that the only way we could get to discovery was by filing in federal court. Filing in federal, rather than circuit court also protected my family against OSA intimidation during the litigation.
The family member it didn’t protect, of course, was Kyle.
The Church of Scientology claims to hold human rights in the highest regard, but its adherents certainly didn’t seem to have a problem stripping my son of his humanity and dignity. They said, for example, that Kyle’s use of a prescribed psychotropic drug made him no better than a hardened drug addict, someone buying crack or heroin off the street. How do Scientologists—and especially OSA operatives—justify their immoral behavior? The disdain levied towards Kyle gave me a glimpse into the dark recesses of an organization that perceives itself above the law and has no compunction about breaking it.
One of the documents submitted by the Church of Scientology during the litigation of my son’s case was a “Knowledge Report” allegedly written by Jerry Gentile, husband of Denise Miscavige Gentile, twin sister of the Church’s leader. The top of the report states its subject matter, “Tom Brennan, Kyle Brennan,” and it purports to be an account of the evening that Kyle died.
Far from imparting “knowledge,” however, this Knowledge Report is full of falsehoods. And it wastes no time in spinning a huge obstruction-of-justice-level lie. It opens by stating that Denise Miscavige Gentile–on February 16, 2007—received a 12-midnight call “from Tom Brennan that his son had committed suicide. Tom had been over [to the Miscavige house after] his work just before that and had left at 11:50 p.m.” According to the report, Denise and her husband “immediately left the house and arrived,” across the street from Brennan’s apartment, “at approximately 12:10 a.m.” This information is problematic, however, because it contradicts earlier statements made by both Denise and Tom Brennan. Denise first told the police that Tom had arrived at her house at 11 p.m., remained “a short time,” then, after leaving, called her ten minutes later to say that Kyle had shot himself. Under oath during his deposition, Brennan told attorney Dandar that he left the Gentile’s at 11:05 p.m. and drove directly home (a mere ten minutes away). This version places Brennan—at his apartment—at approximately 11:15 p.m. (Additionally, both the Knowledge Report and Brennan’s deposition statement contradict what he first told our family members—that he’d gotten home at 10:30 p.m.)
It’s estimated that Kyle died at 11:00 p.m. Brennan’s 911 call was made at 12:10 a.m., leaving—if you believe his sworn statement—a 55-minute gap of time between his arriving home and calling the medics. And, if you believe Brennan’s first recounting, that gap stretches out to 100 minutes. These varying timelines leave any reasonable person with some questions: What really happened that night in Brennan’s apartment? Why are so many people lying about it?
What’s apparent is that these Scientologists needed to establish a storyline that would remove them from the vicinity of Brennan’s apartment at the time of Kyle’s death. Initially, Denise even tried to deny that she’d traveled to Brennan’s that night with her husband. Lying to the police during an investigation, giving false testimony under oath, filing false documents; all of these acts are considered obstruction of justice, all of them are felonies in most states. These Scientologists committed crimes but were never held accountable.
What does all of this have to do with OSA? The Knowledge Report is addressed to OSA International, located in Hollywood, California. And according to former senior OSA executive Mark C. Rathbun, in sworn testimony, the Church’s Office of Special Affairs is carefully micromanaged by the ecclesiastical leader himself, David Miscavige. “He exercised his control through me,” affirmed Rathbun, “and Mike Rinder, Commanding officer of OSA International … no OSA operation could be undertaken on any matter without Miscavige’s fully-informed and direct authorization and direction.”
Was the writing of the lie-laden Knowledge Report part of an OSA operation intended to protect the Miscavige name?
When attorney Luke Lirot stepped in to take over Kyle’s case in the Autumn of 2011, he certainly wasn’t naive about the potential of becoming an enemy of the Church. After all, he’d also worked the highly contentious Lisa McPherson case. During that tumultuous time, Denise Miscavige Gentile purchased a home just around the corner from Luke’s. Was OSA scrutinizing Luke’s comings and goings from the cover of Gentile’s new digs?
When Lirot made his first appearance in Middle District Court on behalf of Kyle’s estate, his car was undergoing repairs so he drove his daughter’s. That very evening his daughter’s vehicle, parked outside his Clearwater home, was vandalized.
Eager to hear how his day in court went, I contacted him first thing the following morning. It was rare for him to pick up on the first try, so I was surprised to hear his voice exploding from the phone. He was beside himself with anger, and he wasn’t holding back. Luke told me how his family had awakened that morning to discover that the car’s back windshield had been blown out. (I never learned if it was from a rock or a bullet.)
Luke’s rage boomed through the telephone line and across the miles that separated us. He was typically laid back and easy-going, but now I witnessed what happens if someone crosses into his sacred territory—his family.
“When I told Pope I’d be taking over Kyle’s case,” he shouted, “I warned him to tell his clients not to fuck with my family. I’m calling him as soon as I hang up this phone. (A partner in Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel, and Burns, LLP, F. Wallace Pope, Jr. was one of the lawyers representing the Scientology defendants.)
Luke’s rage-filled moment helped me with a few questions I’d been asking myself. What did the attorneys representing the Church of Scientology know? Were they aware of OSA’s behavior? Of the harassment and dirty deeds executed against their perceived enemies? Now I had my answers.