Wife of Scientology Founder is Sentenced to Prison

Source: Globe and Mail
Date: December 7, 1979

A federal judge yesterday sentenced Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of the founder of the Church of Scientology, to a maximum five-year prison term for conspiring to steal government documents about the church.

After announcing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Charles Richey held out the possibility that the sentence could be reduced at a later date. He ordered prison officials to interview Mrs. Hubbard and report to him in three months on whether the full sentence should be served.

Judge Richey also fined Mrs. Hubbard the maximum $10,000 and directed her to report to prison in 10 days.

The judge also sentencd three other Scientologists to four years in prison and fined them $10,000 each. Five other Scientologists are expected to be sentenced today.

Seven of Mrs. Hubbard's co-defendants were convicted of conspiracy. The other, convicted of theft, faced a maximum one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. "I accept full responsibility for the charge upon which I've been convicted and sincerely regret my role in it," Mrs. Hubbard said. "I've done everything in my power to make sure nothing like this can ever be done in the future." The sentencing memorandum reviewed not only the defendants' crimes against the Government, but also church records that revealed "infiltration and theft of documents from a number of prominent national and world organizations, law firms and newspapers." The Government said the Scientologists also conducted smear campaigns and filed harassing lawsuits against people who opposed the church.

Defense lawyers responded that the defendants were simply trying "to preserve a religion from what the defendants ... perceived as a powerful campaign by government agencies and others to destroy it." The church, founded in the 1950s by writer L. Ron Hubbard, says it tries to make its members better people through a church-run counselling program. The church claims 5 million members.

The church has had a running battle with the Internal Revenue Service over its tax-exempt status. The matter is unresolved.

Part of the church conspiracy involved bugging an IRS meeting on the church's tax status and planting a church member as an IRS employee. The church also planted a spy in the U.S. Justice Department and stole records from several government agencies, including departments they infiltrated and the U.S. Attorney's office.

Documents released by the court have revealed that the church also infiltrated groups such as the American Medical Association. Church leaders have accused the medical community of trying to destroy their religion because of its counselling program.

There have been a number of unusual aspects to the Scientology case since the FBI seized thousands of documents from the church's U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles in 1977.

Through long pretrial hearings, Government and defence lawyers hurled personal insults at each other, a rare courtroom occurrence.

Then, just before the trial was to begin, Judge Richey forced the Government to present its case in writing instead of before a jury. The written record stated that each defendant expected to be found guilty of one count of the 28-count indictment.

Assistant prosecutor Raymond Banoun, in pushing for maximum sentences for all nine defendants, said the conspiracies that resulted in the convictions told only part of the story.

It wasn't only the Government they were after, he said. It was anyone that was critical of them. The Government acted with restraint. There could have been many more defendants.

Judge Richey followed the plea-bargain agreement, and on Oct. 26 found each defendant guilty of one count.