Scientologists Deleted Data Before Returning Computers

Source: Rocky Mountain News
Date: September 26, 1995

By Tillie Fong, Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

The Church of Scientology defied a federal judge and deleted material from the computers and floppy disks of two critics from Boulder before returning them Monday.

"We are not ... returning our sacred, confidential, unpublished and copyrighted scriptures," Warren McShane, a church leader in Los Angeles, wrote in a letter that accompanied the return of the computers to the law officies of Faegre & Benson in Denver.

The missing documents prompted attorneys for church critics Robert Penny and Lawrence Wollensheim[sic - Larry Wollersheim] to file a contempt motion in federal court.

The church had filed a motion in Denver U.S. District Court to keep the hard drives, floppy disks, and a compact disk, claiming their return would be "sacrilege."

A federal judge in Denver this month ordered the computers and materials returned to Penny and Wollensheim[sic], who are being sued by the church for copyright infringement. The church appealed to U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected the plea.

"The plaintiffs did not follow Judge (John) Kane's order," attorneys Tom Kelley and Natalie Hanlon-Leh said in a statement. "The original computer drives were not return but ... altered copies (were)."

Kelley said the deleted materials were the so-called secret scriptures. "It's a very small percentage," he said. "Nontheless, they were the most important materials in this case."

Attorneys and representatives of the church contended they were in compliance with the court.

"We gave everything except for small portion of the confidential documents," said Leisa Goodman, media relations representative for the Church of Scientology.

"We're entitled to them. They were stolen in the first place. We believe no one has the right to take these basic religious rights (from us)."

Kelley disputed that assertion. "They're claiming the right to unlawfully seize something that the court has decided was not properly seized," he said.

The computers and disks of Penny and Wollensheim[sic], both former Scientology members, were seized by federal marshals and Church officials armed with search warrants on Aug. 22.

The church claims the two had violated copyright laws by publishing Scientology materials on 48,000 electronic bulletion boards.