Scientology foes continue rancor
By DEBORAH O'NEIL, Times Staff Writer
CLEARWATER -- Millionaire Scientology critic Robert Minton has expanded his criticism of the lawyer fighting the Church of Scientology over the death of Lisa McPherson.
In a 26-page affidavit, Minton elaborated on his earlier testimony in the case, arguing that Tampa attorney Ken Dandar asked him to lie, drew up false court records for him to sign and urged him to generate bad publicity for Scientology to prejudice potential jurors in the McPherson wrongful death case.
Minton -- the lawsuit's financier and Dandar's one-time ally -- has become Scientology's star witness as it tries to get the wrongful death case dismissed on grounds of serious misconduct by Dandar and his client.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of McPherson's estate, blames the church for McPherson's 1995 death in the care of church workers. Church officials say the lawsuit is a "sham."
The explosive Minton affidavit was the most significant development in a day that brought more courtroom rancor.
At a hearing Tuesday before Judge W. Douglas Baird, the church resumed its effort to have Dandar removed from a case closely related to the McPherson wrongful death lawsuit.
For two hours Tuesday, Scientology's New York attorney Samuel Rosen tried to grill Dandar about his financial arrangement with Minton and how he has spent the more than $2-million Minton has given to the case.
It was a fiery exchange, with Dandar refusing to answer some questions and responding to others: "It's none of your business."
At one point, Rosen challenged Dandar, "You want to keep arguing with me? I can argue all day long."
Baird, who will decide whether Dandar should be disqualified from the case, gave Dandar a stern warning.
"This isn't a game," the judge said. "Listen to the questions. Answer the questions, and we'll get through this."
Much of the inquiry centered on two Swiss bank checks totaling $750,000. Minton says he gave the checks to Dandar. However, Dandar says Minton told him only that the money came from an anonymous donor. Rosen questioned why Dandar never investigated the source of the money.
The parties will be back in court on Thursday, this time in a hearing involving the wrongful death lawsuit itself.
Church lawyers plan to argue before Judge Susan Schaeffer that the case should be thrown out.
They will be armed with Minton's affidavit, which gives new detail about how involved Minton was in the wrongful death case from the start, giving Dandar more than $2-million to keep it going and paying witnesses to testify against the church.
"It's what we've been saying all along," said church spokesman Ben Shaw of Minton's affidavit. "It's really outright criminal what has happened in this case. He bought the lawsuit, and they've been paying people who will say anything."
Dandar described Minton's affidavit as "all lies," motivated by Scientology's extortion of Minton. The church, Dandar said, is threatening Minton with a racketeering lawsuit.
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