Jesse Prince Case: Scientology PI's Ordered to Depo

01 May 2001



SPN 02157727


THIS CAUSE having come on before the Court upon Defendant's Motion to Abrogate Private Investigative Privilege And to Take Depositions and the Court having heard arguments of counsels and being otherwise duly advised in the premises, finds as follows:

The defendant in this cause has met the necessary prerequisites set by this court and in accordance with the case law. He raises a worth further exploration. Said defense can only be fully explored through the discovery of evidence relating to his contact with the confidential informant and the private investigators involved in this cause. Both of the private investigators involved in this case were hired by a third party not necessarily known at this time. The state and defense agree that a witness, who is one of the investigators and believed by the defense to be the confidential informant was specifically instructed to find unethical or illegal activities the defendant was involved in. That information would be relevant, that is, the information would tend to prove or disprove a fact of consequence to the outcome of the case. See. Chapter 90.404 Florida Statutes. Contrary to the assertions of the counsel for the private investigators, there is no requirement that the defendant first prove that he seeks to assert a "legally recognized

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defense" before the sought after discovery can proceed. The "(c)oncept of relevancy is broader in the discovery context than in the trial context, and a party may be permitted to discover relevant evidence that would be inadmissible at trial, so long as it may lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Davich v. Norman Bros. Nissan. Inc., 739 So.2d 138 (Fla.5th DCA1999). The defendant claims he was "set up." This court has heard enough to believe that he should be allowed to explore that issue.

Finally, in his response to the affidavit signed by the defendant on April 19, 2001 Mr. Barry Gaston attempts to clarify his position regarding references to religious beliefs, practices and doctrines of the Church of Scientology. He states, "should this Court entertain whether or not the Defendant's allegations regarding the existence and interpretation of the 'fair game' policy (despite the Church's assertions to the contrary) could form a legal defense then this Court would, in fact, be interpreting Church beliefs, practices and doctrines." Mr. Gaston supplements the record with the transcript of a motion in limine sought by the prosecution on this very issue and granted in a California court.

There are two problems with Mr, Gaston's argument. First, this is discovery and as previously state in Davich , supra, relevancy during discovery has a broader context than at trial. Hence, while the sought after relevant evidence may not be admissible at trial it is none-the-less discoverable. Secondly, Mr. Gaston is a witness in this case and therefore not a party thereto. While he has standing to challenge the abrogation of the private investigator privilege, he has no standing to object to potential defenses to be raised or what discovery methods can be used to raise them. If the state chooses, prior to trial, to move this court to exclude references to the so-called "fair game" policy then the court will entertain such a motion.

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This court again finds no merit in the assertion of Mr. Gaston that allowing the defendant to investigate and possibly assert any particular, defense in any way amounts to the court "interpreting" Church practices, beliefs or doctrines. Therefore, it is,

ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Defendant's Motion to Abrogate Private Investigative Privilege And to Take Depositions is hereby granted.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the motion to take deposition of Mr. Gaston and Mr. Raftery is granted.

DONE AND ORDERED at Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida this 27th day of April 2001.

Michael F. Andrews County Judge

Copies to:

State Attorney
Denis M. deVlaming, Esquire
Paul D. Johnson, Esquire

Bob Minton


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