This morning, Denis deVlaming appeared before Judge Michael E. Andrews in courtroom 15 of the Criminal Court building in Clearwater to argue a motion in the criminal case of Jesse Prince. The motion was to compel the testimony of two undercover private investigators involved in the arrest of Jesse on drug charges.
Appearing on behalf of the state was Lydia Wordell who objected to proceeding without Jesse in attendance. Denis explained that Jesse was in Paris and involved with LMT matters and the judge overruled Wordell's objection and allowed the hearing to proceed.
Denis contended that the testimony of these two P.I.s was crucial to Jesse's right for a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
Speaking on behalf of both of the P.I.s was Paul Johnson. Johnson is the son of veteran Scientology attorney, Paul B. Johnson who can be seen defending Scientology in the 1982 Clearwater Hearings into Scientogy:
The elder Johnson also can be seen speaking for Scientology at a Transit Board Hearing in 1999:
Denis started by giving a brief summary of Jesse's background. He covered Jesse's time inside Scientology as a high ranking member and spoke of how Jesse left several years ago and became an outspoken critic with much important information on the internal workings of Scientology and its management. He described Jesse as someone Scientology views as a primary foe.
Denis promised to bring forth a witness to explain Scientology's practice of Fair Game. At this, Paul Johnson was quick to object. He described deVlaming's explanation as a diatribe and moved to strike. Judge Andrews denied this objection and allowed Denis to proceed.
Denis was then able to lay out the entirety of Fair Game for the Judge, explaining SP's and how Scientology deals with them. How Scientologists can lie, sue, trick, deceive or destroy them without retribution to the Scientologist.
He explained to the judge how Hubbard wrote that anyone who criticizes Scientology is labeled a criminal and that if you can't find criminal activity in an SP's background, you were to manufacture it.
Denis explained that Jesse and his fiancÚ, Dee, moved to Clearwater over a year ago and bought a house. Three months later they discovered marijuana growing wildly on their property. Not knowing he was being set up, Jesse explained to the undercover P.I. hired by Scientology that they were constantly pulling out these weeds and throwing them out.
Denis then went into a little background of the P.I. whom Scientology hired to set up Jesse. He explained that Scientology went outside the area to find an African American P.I. who came to Jesse's neighborhood and waited at a nearby bar to meet Jesse and befriend him. This P.I. (Gaston) spent months hanging out with Jesse and Dee before turning Jesse into the Largo police.
Brian Raftery is the other P.I. whom Denis wishes to depose. Raftery is a former DEA agent who now works for Scientology. It was Raftery that reached all the way over to the Orlando area to find Gaston and bring him into Jesse's life.
Once Gaston went to the Largo police as a confidential informant, the police sent in an agent of their own. This Largo undercover agent repeatedly asked Jesse for drugs and Jesse kept telling him he couldn't get him any. The Largo undercover agent then told the Largo police that there were marijuana plants at Jesse's house which led to the early morning raid when the police arrested Jesse and found one plant growing from the roots of a rubber tree plant.
The judge looked surprised. "One plant? As in only one plant?", he asked. "Yes, your honor," replied deVlaming.
Denis went on to explain that in order for the judge to rule for his client, Denis must show that there is important evidence to be discovered by revealing the informant's identity and compleling them to testify. "Concrete circumstantial evidence" has to be shown that there is a good reason for taking this action and Denis seemed to meet this criteria.
He cited a case from 90 days ago, Gonzales vs.. State, when the 3rd District faced a similar request which the judge for that case denied. That judge was quickly reversed and a new trial ordered because the appeals judge ruled that the appropriate action would have been for the judge to take the informant into chambers for an in-camera hearing to find out whether or not relevant information would have been uncovered.
Denis suggested that this was a very appropriate measure for Judge Andrews to take. Denis said, otherwise he feared that in Jesse's trial he would be hearing the State in their closing argument state that "There was no evidence presented whatsoever that Jesse Prince was set-up." Without the disclosure of the informants' information, Jesse's case would be severely hindered.
In the Gonzales vs.. State case, the appeals judge stated that the confidentiality of the informants was used by the State "first as a shield and then as a sword." Denis asked this not happen here and that Judge Andrews first take the informants back into camera and then "you can decide if it's material to call them as witnesses."
Next Paul Johnson spoke and the first thing he did is distance himself from Scientology. He said "I don't represent Scientology or the state...only the two named informants, Paul Raftery and Mr. Gaston."
He said Gaston was a licensed P.I. and confidential informant. His Confidential Informant number was #273. Gaston, he said, saw Jesse and Dee smoking pot and he saw five plants in Jesse's house. One of the plants was 2 to 3 feet high. This is the sole plant that the police found and has been taken into evidence.
He asked the judge to not grant the request because in the civil codes that bind Confidential Informants, any breach of client's privileged information can bring about major sanctions including losing your license. "That's how serious the state views this investigation privilege," he stated.
"Mere speculation about information sought is not enough of a reason to reveal these informants identities," he argued. Then Johnson added that this is the first time he's been involved in a case where the confidential informants identities were already known by the parties involved.
"The investigative efforts on behalf of Jesse Prince are exemplary." He explained to the judge that the identities of the P.I.s were not told to the them but were found out by the defense. He couldn't cite one case where confidential sources identities were found out.
Johnson admitted that Gaston lives in Lake Wales and was using a fake name when working with the Largo police.
The judge then asked what would be wrong, if the proper predicates were laid, for the Judge to have an in-camera hearing in his chambers? Johnson didn't have a good reply but asked that the proper warrants be issued and a declaration from Jesse be written.
The judge agreed that these documents needed to be filed and they would argue the specifics at the next hearing.
Lydia Wordell for the state offered that neither Gaston or Raftery would be called by the state for their case so this didn't need to go forward. The Largo undercover cop saw pot on two occasions and he is the only one they plan to call. The judge disagreed and set March 23rd as the date for the next hearing on the matter.
After the hearing, Paul Johnson spent time debriefing two Scientologists from OSA's legal division. For someone who "doesn't represent Scientology" in this matter, he sure was trying to be inclusive.
Funny how Scientology's attorney would be representing two Confidential Informants in a case involving an LMT member, isn't it?