Letter to Wayne Andrews
|Date:||January 22, 1997|
ZUCKERMAN, SPAEDER, TAYLOR & EVANS, LLP
|RESIDENT IN FLORIDA
RONALD B. RAVIKOFF
MICHAEL S. PASANO
MORRIS "SANDY" WEINBERG, JR.
HUMBERTO J. PENA
SHARON L. KEGERREIS
THOMAS J. MEEKS
MICHAEL STEVEN GREENE
GUY A. RASCO
STEPHEN J. BRONIS
|ATTORNEYS AT LAW
401 EAST JACKSON STREET
TAMPA, FLORIDA 33602
201 SOUTH BISCAYNE BOULEVARD
MIAMI, FLORIDA 33131
ONE EAST BROWARD BOULEVARD
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA 33301
MELISSA MANNERSLEY CLARK
LAURA L. VAUGHAN
JENNIFER R. COSERLY
JILL M. GRANAT
CHRISTOPHER S. CARVER
CHRISTYNO L. HAYES
BEATRIZ C. COSCULLUELA
RICARDO J. BASCUAS
January 22, 1997
BY HAND DELIVERY
Dear Sgt. Andrews:
I am writing this letter to follow up the January 17, 1997 meeting with you and Agent Strope, as well as to provide some of the information which you and Agent Strope requested. At the outset, I expect that this letter will be kept confidential and will not be released publicly or to the press. The letter is submitted pursuant to the criminal investigation which you and Agent Strope are conducting regarding the death of Lisa McPherson.
As we discussed, Lee Fugate and I represent the Church of Scientology with regard to your investigation. At this time, we do not represent any individuals regarding the investigation. It is our expectation that most of the Scientology staff members and parishioners who you may subsequently interview will have their own lawyers, independent from counsel for the Church.
You should direct all your communications to the Church through me. As discussed, I am authorized to accept service of any subpoena to the Church. If you desire to interview a current Church staff member, please make the request through me.
While it is the desire of the Church to cooperate with the investigation, the Church and Mr. Fugate and I are very concerned about the willingness of you and Agent Strope to conduct a fair investigation. Lee Fugate and I were surprised by the vehemence of your and Agent Strope's attitudes about the Church of Scientology.
|1201 CONNECTICUT AVENUE, N.W.
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20036
|100 EAST PRATT STREET
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND 21202
|1114 AVENUE OF THE AMERICAS
NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10036
January 22, 1997
Agent Strope made no secret of his strong conviction that the Church of Scientology is not a "legitimate" religion. If you recall, he became visibly angry when I analogized the privilege of a Church of Scientology's parishioner speaking with a Church auditor to the priest/parishioner privilege in the Catholic religion. At that point in the conversation, I asked Agent Strope if he would have the same objection to Buddhism, Unitarianism, and a number of other religions in the world. He again voiced his anger at any comparison with his religion - Catholicism - and Scientology.
This conversation was followed by questions to Mr. Fugate and I as to whether we were Scientologists and whether we had previously worked for the Church of Scientology. My personal religious beliefs and the beliefs of my client should have absolutely no bearing on your investigation. Unfortunately, it appears that they do.
Your and Agent Strope's bias toward Scientology is exacerbated by your apparent willingness to surf the Internet and to relate as fact the anti-Scientology information you have gotten there. The Internet is full of sick, bigoted and ruthless individuals who hide behind the anonymity of the worldwide net to disparage literally any entity or organization, including Scientology. That you and Agent Strope subscribe to reading such garbage raises a substantial concern in my mind as to your willingness to conduct an impartial investigation.
You can imagine how your comments regarding Scientology were received by my client. Imagine if you had made such disparaging comments about African-Americans to an attorney representing an African-American group. Your superiors and the public would be outraged, as they should be with the comments that you and Agent Strope made during our meeting.
It appears that your expressed passion for this case is driven by your bias towards Scientology. How else can you explain comments that you will investigate this case to "your last breath" and that the case was "personal" with you.
We were distressed by your suggestion that Scientologists had been going through your garbage and had been following you and your sixteen year old daughter. I am assured by my client that they have done no such thing, nor would they. However, my client has had similar experience in the past with anti-Scientologists taking such outrageous actions to make it appear as if the Church were involved. The impact of such actions is obvious on the ability of the Church to be treated fairly. We would be willing to offer our assistance in investigating the real source of any perceived
January 22, 1997
investigation into you. In any event, we request that the actions described by you be fully investigated.
My concerns about the ability of you and Agent Strope to conduct a fair investigation are heightened by the willingness of Dr. Wood and the authorities to speak with the media regarding the investigation. To date, representatives from the Clearwater Police Department have given interviews to two tabloid television shows, as well as various interviews with local newspapers. The Medical Examiner has completed an unprecedented interview with Inside Edition discussing the details of the autopsy and her opinions regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of Lisa McPherson while this is an active criminal investigation. At the same time, Dr. Wood has refused our request for access to her files for a separate analysis by our experts. Her comments on Inside Edition were outrageous and inflammatory. They were based on the rankest speculation and, for the most part, are in direct contravention to the evidence and her own autopsy protocol. It appears that the media attention has been instigated by law enforcement to generate interest in the investigation. That technique is irresponsible and has unfairly tainted the Church and its members. These actions alone may well constitute grounds to dismiss any charge emanating from your investigation due to the conduct of your office and the Medical Examiner's office.
It suffices to say, we will be addressing all of our concerns regarding your investigation and the ability of you and Agent Strope to conduct an unbiased investigation with the State Attorney. It is hard for us to believe that as long as you and Agent Strope continue to have such biased views toward the Church of Scientology that any objective investigation could occur.
Despite our concerns, it is our intention to cooperate with law enforcement in an effort to bring this investigation to a conclusion. We do not believe that any crimes were committed by the Church or any of its staff regarding the death of Lisa McPherson. To that end, I will attempt to respond to most of the information that you asked for at our meeting.
In separate letters sent January 21, 1997, we have provided you with the names, addresses and phone numbers of private counsel for Ildiko Canovas, Suzanne Schnurrenberger, Laura Arrunada and Janis Johnson. You need to communicate with these counsel to arrange for the interviews of these witnesses.
You have also asked for the person who was in charge of Lisa's stay at the hotel in November and early December. Lisa was not at the hotel for services and therefore there was no auditor or case
January 22, 1997
You also asked for a list of everyone who stayed with Lisa and their schedules. The Church will not produce at this time the names beyond noting that you've already been informed by Janis Johnson that Suzanne Schnurrenberger and Laura Arrunada stayed with Lisa McPherson at points during her stay at the Fort Harrison.
Since Lisa McPherson was exhibiting psychotic behavior at the Fort Harrison during most of her stay, women staff were with Ms. McPherson to help care for her. The stays by these women varied from a few hours to on and off for several days. The women provided Lisa McPherson with food, liquids, vitamins and herbal remedies and attempted to keep the hotel room clean at all times.
You have also asked for documents the Church has regarding Ms. McPherson, including her auditing file. Ms. McPherson's auditing file is subject to the priest/penitent privilege and will not be produced voluntarily by the Church. The Church is in possession of accounts data showing Lisa's donations to the Church and some other documents regarding her stay. Given the privilege issues, we will not release any documents without a subpoena.
You have also asked for definitions of the following terms: Introspection Rundown, "Isolation Watch," Invalidation, baby watch and "keeping your eye on the object."
Introspection Rundown - A series of spiritual counseling actions undertaken by someone to stabilize them spiritually after they have come out of a psychotic episode.
Isolation Watch - This term is not part of the lexicon of Scientology.
Invalidation - This term is used in Scientology in the same manner as defined in any good English dictionary.
Baby watch - This term is not part of the lexicon of Scientology.
Keeping your eye on the object - This term is not part of the lexicon of Scientology.
There are many questions that we want answered regarding the autopsy and recent statements of Dr. Wood. We believe that the autopsy protocol is in direct contravention to the pronouncements that Dr. Wood is now making regarding her findings. We renew our request for access to the autopsy materials so that our experts can
January 22, 1997
analyze and examine them. To date, the Church appears to be the only entity that has been denied access to relevant materials regarding the death of Lisa McPherson, including medical examiner records and the hospital records of New Port Richey and Morton Plant Hospital. Given the rash of publicity, Dr. Woods' interview with Inside Edition and the release of the medical records by the family to the newspapers and other media, it is unclear how those records have not become public documents. We again renew our request for access to the medical examiner's files as well as copies of the hospital records. Please let me know if you accede to our request.
In sum, we do not believe that investigators with such bigoted views towards Scientology can conduct a fair investigation. We believe that any fair investigator will conclude from the evidence that the staff at the Church was attempting to help a very troubled woman who had a sincere belief in and commitment to her religion of Scientology. We expect that the medical evidence will demonstrate serious problems with the autopsy protocol and will reveal that Lisa McPherson died of natural causes which were in no way caused by any criminal actions by the Church or its staff.
Very truly yours,
Morris Weinberg, Jr
cc: Mark McGarry, III, Esq. (By Hand)
Assistant State Attorney
Lee Fugate, Esq.