Breaking news that will be of interest to Scientology watchers: just this afternoon, Jason Beghe’s lawyer notified church attorneys Gary Soter and Kendrick Moxon in a letter that the actor is accepting their offer to settle a lawsuit for $19,000.
After the jump, we have that letter for you.
I talked to Beghe today, and he explained his thinking about the settlement. The lawsuit had originated when a process server came to his Malibu house in 2009 to notify him that he would be deposed in the lawsuit brought by Marc and Claire Headley against the Church of Scientology.
Beghe didn’t like that, and a confrontation unfolded. With the help of Scientology’s attorneys, the process server and his girlfriend then sued Beghe, asking $1 million dollars in damages. Now, they’re willing to take a lot less.
Beghe says he didn’t understand, in 2009, why he was being deposed in the Headleys’ lawsuit. He didn’t know the Headleys while he was in Scientology (they were at the International Base east of Los Angeles, Beghe made frequent appearances at the Celebrity Centre in Hollywood).
Beghe says he assumes the deposition was really just a fishing expedition as the church tried to get information about a bomb that was about to get dropped on Scientology — the investigative expose by the Tampa Bay Times titled “The Truth Rundown.”
Beghe argued with the process server, Javier Hernandez, and Hernandez alleged that Beghe got violent.
“I touched him because he refused to leave my property. I used remarkable restraint, frankly,” Beghe says.
Here’s how the lawsuit described it: “Beghe became enraged, and ran down the driveway after Mr. Hernandez. Beghe reached him and struck Mr. Hernandez in the back of his head with his hand or fist, knocking Mr. Hernandez’ phone out of his hand onto the ground. Beghe repeatedly punched Mr. Hernandez in the back including ‘kidney punches’ and on the back of his head as he tried to escape.”
Beghe was prosecuted criminally, and was charged with misdemeanor assault.
“I pled nolo contendere,” Beghe says. “So the minimum sentence was $200 and two years probation. But the judge looked at this thing and gave me a $100 fine and one year of probation.”
He was then sued by Hernandez, deposed twice, and Beghe estimates that Scientology’s attorneys spent hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing for trial.
Then, they offered to make the case go away for only $19,000 — $16,500 for Hernandez, and $2,500 for his girlfriend, who was along with Hernandez on that day in 2009.
The Californication actor says he couldn’t pass up such a good deal.
“I realized that I beat them. They got some money out of me, but that doesn’t bother me,” Beghe says. He points out that things are very different now than they were in 2009, when the scuffle happened.
The year before, Beghe had made a big splash by becoming the first Scientology actor to leave the church in such a vocal manner, putting together a YouTube video that went viral in 2008. We interviewed him at the time, and while he was very adamant about leaving a church he had come to believe was a scam, he was unsure how his defection would affect his career.
A well-known character actor who had been in several movies and quite a few television series, his career was at a bit of a low ebb then.
But not now.
“The entire Scientology mythology is that if you leave the church you go on to fail. But I’ve quadrupled my income. I’m hotter than I’ve ever been. And it’s killing them,” he says.
Here’s the letter that just got delivered from Beghe’s attorney, Michael D. Murphy. I’m reaching out to Soter and Moxon for their reactions to it…
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Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, and if you ask nicely he’ll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, “What is Scientology?” Another good overview is our series from last summer, “Top 25 People Crippling Scientology.” At the top of every story, you’ll see the “Scientology” category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.
As for hot subjects we’ve covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology’s “Mecca,” whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology’s policy of “disconnection” that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We’ve also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there’s plenty more coming.