Last October we told you the dramatic story of young Daniel Montalvo, a 19-year-old who had been brought up in Scientology but had made a dramatic break for freedom — only to be thrown in jail by the LA Sheriff’s Office on behalf of revenge-minded Scientologists.
Since that time, we’ve kept in touch with Daniel and the actor Jason Beghe, whose Malibu ranch has been Montalvo’s protective sanctuary as Scientology continued to send private eyes and process servers at him.
Today, Daniel turns 20 years old. Yesterday, he filed two stunning lawsuits against Scientology with the help of attorney S. Christopher “Kit” Winter.
Winter helped Montalvo avoid the grand reaching that tends to characterize lawsuits against Scientology, and instead kept his complaints laser-focused on damning charges about how children are used by the church in troubling ways.
Specifically, Montalvo’s lawsuits paint a picture of a child who was essentially abandoned by his two Scientologist parents to the organization, was signed to a billion-year contract at only 6 years of age, and through his teens was forced to work up to 100 hours a week with only the barest schooling, and for wretched pay (about $35 a week).
In the past, when Scientology has been confronted with the low pay and miserable conditions of its “Sea Org” workers, the church has responded that such workers are analogous to the monks of other religions who choose a life of asceticism and contemplation.
But Montalvo’s lawsuit anticipates that excuse: not only was the youngster denied an adequate education, he was also not trained in Scientology itself. He was simply a miserably-treated, underpaid, and underage drone who was asked to operate dangerous machines without adult supervision.
“Yes, the ‘monk’s life’ shtick doesn’t ring so true when it’s kids who are involved — especially kids who couldn’t care less about L. Ron Hubbard,” says Winter.
Working at Bridge Publications in the City of Commerce, where some of Scientology’s books are produced, in January 2008 Montalvo lost a finger operating a “notching” machine. Two days later, the Sea Org insisted that he return to work, the lawsuits allege.
The St. Petersburg Times, always great on all things Scientology, has an excellent rundown of the lawsuit specifics this morning:
The lawsuits filed in state court in L.A. include allegations that Montalvo:
• Was permitted to attend school about one day a week because working for Sea Org took priority.
• Spent his childhood working at least 40 hours a week, and often more than 100 hours a week for pay that ranged from $35 to $50 a week.
• Had no work permits required of minors.
• Was made to work back-to-back 12-hour days in the fall of 2007, when the church was pushing its staff to produce and sell a new book release.
• From 2008 to 2010, was punished along with other workers for lack of production. He was made to run laps wearing a jacket and tie, clean grease traps and do push ups.
• Worked past midnight for two months in 2009 after rising at 6 a.m. each day, and was made to do push ups and dig ditches for lack of production.
• Suffered an accident at age 16 while cleaning a “notching” machine at the church’s printing unit, Bridge Publications. Half of his right index finger was cut off and no ambulance was called, the lawsuit asserts. It says Montalvo was taken to the hospital but told by the Sea Org to tell doctors he was a volunteer. He was not to mention Scientology.
We were especially encouraged to see that Scientology attorney Kendrick Moxon was named as a defendant in Montalvo’s lawsuit. As we pointed out in our previous story about Montalvo, it was Moxon who lured the young man back to Los Angeles with promises of seeing his mother, only to double-cross him by having him sit through interrogations with Scientology attorneys and a short stint in jail, the lawsuit alleges.
Moxon we know very well. Eleven years ago, we showed in great detail what sort of skeezy behavior Moxon was capable of on behalf of Scientology.
As the St. Pete Times points out, a similar lawsuit against Scientology was brought by Marc Headley, another defector we’ve written about. That lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge. But we’ve rarely seen a lawsuit like Montalvo’s — one aimed at Scientology in such a narrow, focused way, leaving out Scientology’s beliefs and focusing only on how it treats its Sea Org wretches. It’s early days, but this case should be spectacular to watch unfold.
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard’s organization:
The Larry Wollersheim Saga — Scientology Finally Pays For Its Fraud
The Tory Bezazian (Christman) Story — How the Internet Saved A Scientologist From Herself
The Jason Beghe Defection — A Scientology Celebrity Goes Rogue
The Paul Haggis Ultimatum — The ‘Crash’ Director Tells Scientology to Shove It
The Marc Headley Escape — ‘Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle’
The Jefferson Hawkins Stipulation — Scientology’s former PR genius comes clean
The Daniel Montalvo Double-Cross — Scientology lures a young defector into a trap
A Church Myth Debunked — Scientology and Proposition 8