May 24, 2001
By DEBORAH O'NEIL
� St. Petersburg
Five lawyers helped fill the courtroom Wednesday in a misdemeanor trial that included
poster-board-size charts, a video recording, expert scientific testimony, five other witnesses and
repeated references to the Church of Scientology.
After five hours of courtroom proceedings, the marijuana possession case against strident
Scientology critic Jesse Prince still was not over at the end of the day. It continues today at 9:30 a.m.
The elaborate case is over a single marijuana plant that the State Attorney's Office says was growing
in a pot on Prince's lanai when an armed tactical team from the Largo Police Department searched
his house on Aug. 11, 2000.
Prosecutor Lydia Wardell told jurors the case is built on the work of a 20-year police veteran who
acted on a tip and went undercover to investigate Prince.
"That's it," she said. "That's the case. On three separate occasions law enforcement observed
marijuana in the home of the defendant."
But defense attorney Denis deVlaming said the case is really about the efforts of the Church of
Scientology to discredit Prince, a former Scientologist who is a key witness in a wrongful-death
lawsuit against the church.
Displaying a flow chart with "Church of Scientology" written across the top in red, deVlaming
outlined a web of connections between the church, its lawyers and their private investigators who
were watching and trailing Prince every day for months, and eventually went to police with
information that led to his arrest.
"Every day the agents of the Church of Scientology are following the man, telling people by cell
phone where he is, what he's doing, what they can expect," deVlaming said.
He also showed the jury a video of Prince's arrest taken from across the street from his home.
Officers arrested him Aug. 11 after searching his house at 7:30 a.m.
"The significance of the tape is the police didn't make the tape. (A private investigator) was sitting
outside the house. Let me tell you, police don't tell you when they execute a warrant," deVlaming
Brian Raftery, the investigator who made the video, testified that he stopped near Prince's home the
morning of the arrest after seeing police cars there. He said he was following Prince mostly for the
security of the church staff and its parishioners.
"The primary reason why I was surveilling Jesse Prince is his history of violence," Raftery said.
Caption: Jesse Prince talks Wednesday to attorney Denis deVlaming in Prince's trial on a
misdemeanor marijuana charge.
(ran City & State, Metro & State); Photo: PHOTO, CARLTON