ST. PETERSBURG - Even if a leading Scientology critic lied in court about
paying more than $2 million to fund a lawsuit against the church, "Who
cares?" said the judge in the case.
Millionaire church critic Bob Minton likely will face contempt of court
proceedings and could be prosecuted for criminal perjury, but that does
not affect a wrongful death lawsuit brought against the church by the Lisa
McPherson estate, Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Susan Schaeffer said
"You guys are spending too much time on stuff that doesn't have anything
to do with this trial," the judge told a panel of church attorneys.
Last month, Minton stunned church critics by testifying in favor of the
church in a related lawsuit.
Minton said Tampa attorney Ken Dandar told him to lie about the more than
$2 million Minton has given Dandar to fund the McPherson lawsuit.
Testifying before another judge, he called Dandar a "lying thief" who was
milking the case for as much money as possible.
Whether or not Minton chooses to spend his money underwriting the lawsuit
on behalf of McPherson's elderly aunt has no effect on the issue of
whether McPherson's death while under church care in December 1995 was an
accident or homicide, Schaeffer said.
The judge repeatedly wondered aloud why Minton would fund the lawsuit
without a contract stating the bulk of any monetary award would be donated
to groups critical of the church, as he now contends.
"I don't know what the funny business is, but there are weird things going
on when someone gives someone $2 million and there's not a written
agreement," Schaeffer said. "There is something crazy going on."
Schaeffer also had sharp words for Dandar.
She scolded Dandar for implying in court records that the church was
"blackmailing, extorting or otherwise convincing Robert Minton to change
his deposition testimony" without firm evidence to back up the allegation.
"No wonder people look so askance at lawyers these days," the judge said.
Schaeffer might remove Dandar from the wrongful death case if she becomes
convinced he urged Minton and others to lie about funding of the lawsuit
and other financial matters, the judge said.
And Dandar is likely to undergo close scrutiny from the Florida Bar as
well, she said.
But neither issue would cause her to dismiss the lawsuit, which is the
main goal of church attorneys in advance of a four-month trial scheduled
to begin June 10, Schaeffer said.
The case is simple, the judge repeatedly told church attorneys.
Either McPherson died from an accidental blood clot while undergoing a
religious procedure to heal mental problems or she died after becoming
dehydrated and falling into a coma while church officials ignored the
situation, Schaeffer said.
Dandar's Tampa attorney, Luke Lirot, said during a break he will try the
McPherson case if Schaeffer kicks Dandar off it.
Reporter David Sommer can be reached at (727) 799-7413.
back to coverage page
back to main page