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Subject: Big Suprise
Date: 5 Oct 1995 13:30:28 +0100
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Judge Appoints Computer Expert in Scientology Case
By Joe Wheelan
The Associated Press
October 03, 1995 23:08 EDT
A judge backed down on his threat Tuesday to hold the Church of
Scientology in contempt for refusing to return computer materials
to two men who have been attacking the church on the Internet.
Instead, U.S. District Judge John Kane appointed a special master
University of Colorado computer science professor Gary Nutt to
determine just what happened to the computer equipment.
Larry Wollersheim and Robert Penny former Scientologists who have
accused church members of engaging in mind-control have struggled
to get their computer bulletin board operating again since the
church had the equipment seized by court order in August.
Last month, Kane ordered the church to return all the seized
material intact or risk being held in contempt. He also ordered
Wollersheim and Penny to stop transmitting what the church
considers trademark secrets until he decides whether the documents
are protected by law.
In deciding not to hold the church in contempt, the judge noted
that the order authorizing the seizure of the material instructed
that it be placed in the custody of the church's attorneys, but the
marshals returned it to the church itself. So the judge reasoned he
wouldn't hold the church responsible for the return of the
"For this reason, my order did not involve any First Amendment
issue concerning the free exercise of religion nor can (the church)
be held in contempt for violating that order," he wrote.
Scientology, a religion founded 41 years ago by science-fiction
writer L. Ron Hubbard, requires initiates to undergo teaching and
counseling that can cost thousands of dollars.
Church members were infuriated when Wollersheim and Penny and other
former Scientologists posted some of the information on the
Internet, making it available for free to millions of people around
After Scientology lawyers obtained a court order, federal marshals
confiscated computer disk drives, floppy disks, tape drives and
CD-ROMs on Aug. 22 and turned them over to the church.
Since then, Wollersheim and Penny have struggled to get the
materials back. On Sept. 15, Kane ordered the return of the
materials, and they were handed over Sept. 25.
However, Wollersheim and Penny said they were given two replacement
computer disk drives and replacement floppy disks with much of the
material deleted. A seized CD-ROM was not returned at all.
At a court hearing Monday, Wollersheim also said he was unable to
operate his computer with the replacement hard drive he was given.
But church lawyer Earle Cooley told the court it would be sacrilege
to return sacred, stolen documents to the church's attackers.
Kane ordered Nutt to examine the original computer materials and
the copies the church made and "take all measures necessary to
determine if they have been modified in any manner."
In a separate case on Aug. 12, the church had marshals seize
computer equipment from Arnaldo Lerma of Arlington, Va. He also was
slapped with a restraining order barring him from revealing more
Like Wollersheim and Penny, Lerma, 44, had been posting court
documents alleging wrongdoing by the church, as well as some of
Scientology's most sacred texts, on international computer bulletin
Lerma's postings also described alleged abuse by former Scientology
officials and details of the path to theological growth that the
church says will transform people into near-gods.
The church also went after The Washington Post, alleging that the
newspaper violated copyright and trade secret laws. But a federal
judge ruled on Aug. 30 that the Post could retain a copy of the
church's texts for use in its reporting, saying newsgathering
rights outweighed the church's claims.