Yesterday, Debbie Cook began her defense against Scientology’s lawsuit which seeks $300,000 in damages because she dared to speak out to her fellow church members in an e-mail sent on New Year’s Eve.
Cook, through her newly hired San Antonio attorney, Ray B. Jeffrey, filed to dissolve the temporary restraining order that Scientology was granted a week ago which prevents her from talking to anyone — even her own husband — about the case or about Scientology. Friday morning, a hearing will be held over Cook’s motion, but we are learning that the real fireworks are coming next Thursday, when a hearing about a temporary injunction will give Cook the opportunity to introduce evidence that Jeffrey characterizes as “beyond the pale of what a human being should endure.”
We spoke at length with Jeffrey today about Cook’s plans to fight back against Scientology, and about his own preparations for what he acknowledges is likely to be a long, and brutal contest.
According to Jeffrey’s website, he’s a veteran of more than 75 trials since 1989, and served as the mayor of Bulverde, a San Antonio suburb, for a couple of years.
But I asked him what his experience is in litigation with the Church of Scientology.
“None. I’ve had a mild interest over the years. I’ve always been aware of Scientology, but that’s the full extent of it. Coincidentally I read the Reitman book on vacation last summer. It was quite fascinating,” he says, referring to Janet Reitman’s history of the church, last year’s Inside Scientology.
Jeffrey explained that when Scientology filed its lawsuit, it requested, and was granted, a temporary restraining order. “They’re only good for 14 days,” he says, “so they’re really easy to get.”
The TRO runs out next week, and the next step in the process is for there to be a hearing to see if the same restrictions on Cook will be continued in a temporary injunction, which could last the duration of the case.
In other words, Cook could simply wait a few more days for the TRO to expire, and then really begin to fight the case. Instead, as a measure of how anxious she is to take on the church in this matter, she filed a motion yesterday to dissolve the TRO. That’s what will be discussed in a hearing tomorrow morning.
“What we’ve done is rather than wait around, rather than wait until next Thursday, there are so many problems with the restraining order, we’re asking that it be dissolved. We’re able to do that on only two days notice,” Jeffrey says. “We’ll argue that they didn’t follow the law in getting this TRO and that they didn’t follow the rules for any kind of injunctive relief.”
Jeffrey explained that the TRO is stunningly broad. “It prohibits her from going and getting a lawyer and defending herself in the lawsuit. It’s that broad. She’s barred from talking to anyone, even her husband. That on its face is completely inappropriate,” he says.
Also, he points out, the church has not explained how it is being harmed by Cook’s actions so far, which amounts to an e-mail sent to her fellow church members that complained that her religion had gotten away from its underlying principles.
“The church has an obligation to show what is the irreparable harm that will occur if she is not enjoined from speaking. They don’t even make an attempt to spell out what that is. It’s just an abusive TRO. I hope that it will be dissolved. If not, it just stays in place until next Thursday, the hearing for the temporary injunction.”
I asked him for a preview of what might come out in that hearing next week, and he said they would enter evidence for how Cook and her husband Wayne Baumgarten were compelled to sign such seemingly draconian non-disclosure agreements.
“The shame of it is, she’s still a faithful Scientologist with great love for the church and doesn’t wish any ill on the church. And why they would squash her, when she has done nothing more than communicate with other Scientologists about the direction of the church, and in a very positive way,” he says. “I want to point out, however, that the Texas Constitution is even more protective of free speech than the federal Constitution.”
And if the court denies her requests?
“We could seek extraordinary relief from the appellate court, and I’m confident that would be granted,” he says.
I asked Jeffrey if he was aware of Scientology’s litigation history — its reputation for “scorched earth” tactics.
“I fully understand that they’re going to argue and fight over everything, and they’re a multiple billion dollar organization,” he says.
And Debbie? Is she up for a prolonged fight?
“For 17 years she supervised well over a thousand employees, managed a budget of 150 million dollars a year, worked extreme hours, had incredible pressures,” Jeffrey says. “You know that saying, that which does not kill you makes you stronger? Well, she’s ready.”
And the other side? I asked him about George Spencer, the local attorney that Scientology hired. (I’ve put in a call to Spencer and will update this if I hear from him.)
“He’s a respected lawyer in San Antonio,” Jeffrey says. “He’s the son of one of the founders of the firm, Clemens and Spencer. His wife is a probate court judge in San Antonio. And I’ll tell you something interesting. His co-counsel, Mark Cannan, was the attorney for the San Antonio Express-News. He is knowledgeable about First Amendment law, and he should know better, in my opinion.”
Debbie Cook Coverage in the Village Voice…
January 1: Scientology rocked by allegations of greed in e-mail to 12,000 church members
January 3: Is Scientology imploding? Watching the panic after a former executive dares to question church management
January 4: Scientology in crisis: Debbie Cook’s transformation from enforcer to whistleblower
January 6: Scientology in turmoil: Debbie Cook’s e-mail, annotated
January 31: Scientology sues Debbie Cook over her New Year’s Eve e-mail
Also, please see our primer, “What is Scientology?”
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications.
@VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[All recent stories] | [What is Scientology?] | [Top 25 People Crippling Scientology]
[Commenters of the Week] | [Thursday 2pm Stats!] | [Scientology vs. South Park]
[This Week Aboard the Apollo] | [Sunday Funnies]
[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing “disconnection”]
[Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology]
[Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?]
[Scientology hates clean ice: The “Fair Game” operation that should turn your stomach]
[Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon]
[Paulette Cooper, Scientology’s original and worst nightmare: a Thanksgiving tribute]
THE TOP 25 PEOPLE CRIPPLING SCIENTOLOGY
1. L. Ron Hubbard | 2. David Miscavige | 3. Marty Rathbun | 4. Tom Cruise | 5. Joe Childs and Tom Tobin | 6. Anonymous | 7. Mark Bunker | 8. Mike Rinder | 9. Jason Beghe | 10. Lisa McPherson | 11. Nick Xenophon | 12. Tommy Davis | 13. Janet Reitman | 14. Tory Christman | 15. Andreas Heldal-Lund | 16. Marc and Claire Headley | 17. Jefferson Hawkins | 18. Amy Scobee | 19. The Squirrel Busters | 20. Trey Parker and Matt Stone | 21. Kendrick Moxon | 22. Jamie DeWolf | 23. Ken Dandar | 24. Dave Touretzky | 25. Xenu
HELD ABOARD THE FREEWINDS: TALES OF THE SEA ORG
[Valeska Paris, held against her will from 1996 to 2007 on Scientology’s cruise ship]
[Ramana Dienes-Browning, marriage at 16, sexual interrogation, life in the engine room]
[Melissa Paris, Valeska’s sister: forced to marry at 16]
SCIENTOLOGY VS. SOUTH PARK: INVESTIGATION AS RETALIATION
[Scientology targeted South Park‘s Parker and Stone in an investigation]
[More documents in the South Park probe: instructions to send in a young mole]
[Scientology responds in typical fashion] | [Lloyd Kaufman confirms the probe]
[Mark Ebner also investigated after South Park involvement]
[Mark Chauppetta, private eye, explains what Scientology operatives look for]
MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS
[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties]
In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview]
The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun’s open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun’s cause] | [Squirrel Buster’s claim to be making a “documentary”] | [VIDEO: “On a Boat”] | [“Anna” sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology’s highest levels]
SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND “FAIR GAME”
[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley]
[Scientology’s West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology’s enemies list: Are you on it?]
Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2]
[A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard’s remarkable public confession]
[Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine]
[Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to “handle” the Voice]
[Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: “No one’s going to take my eternity away”]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
[Hey, Scientology Celebrity, Here’s Your Media Training Checksheet!]
[Tom Cruise and X Factor‘s Stacy Francis singing together on the Freewinds]
[X Factor’s Stacy Francis: Her first husband, Michael Sandlofer, answers abuse claims]
[Tom Cruise and Baby Suri embarrassed by news item, so someone must pay]
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[Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church]
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[Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense]
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Grant Cardone, NatGeo’s “Turnaround King”: [Doing Scientology’s dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone’s smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo]
[Philip Boyd, Saving Grace actor, rips “the business that is Scientology”]
JANET REITMAN’S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman’s first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid]
[Scientology doesn’t like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post]
[A roundup of Reitman’s print reviews, and why isn’t she on television more?]
HUGH URBAN’S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
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EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
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[Marc Headley: “Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle”] | [The Nancy Many interview]
[Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman’s Story] | [Jeff Hawkins’ Counterfeit Dreams]
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[Australian farmer blamed for giving Tom Cruise a bad shrimp, loses her friends, family]
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[Chill EB and me: the Voice interviews Scientology’s in-house rapper]
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[Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.]
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THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE
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