Scientology critics allege church tried to influence Pinellas legal community in Lisa McPherson case - 2012-11-19
Scientology critics allege in recently filed court papers that the church hired local lawyers to schmooze Pinellas judges and gave gifts to a prominent attorney trying to gain influence during the legal saga that followed the 1995 death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson.
High-profile defector Marty Rathbun says in a 57-page sworn statement that Scientology provided Super Bowl tickets to the lawyer for former Pinellas Medical Examiner Joan Wood, whose surprise decision to change her ruling in the cause of McPherson's death torpedoed the state's criminal case against the church.
Rathbun and longtime church antagonist Ken Dandar, a Tampa lawyer, both say the church hired former assistant Pinellas prosecutor Lee Fugate and Clearwater lawyer F. Wallace Pope Jr. to pal around with Pinellas lawyers and judges involved in both the criminal case and a wrongful-death suit filed by Dandar on behalf of McPherson's family. The thrust of the conversations: to demonize Dandar and talk up Scientology, Rathbun said.