Scientology Protester's Court Motion Is Denied

Source: The Press - Enterprise (Riverside)
Date: April 14, 2001

The man, who has picketed the church complex in San Jacinto, is accused of terrorist threats.

Erin D. Randolph

A Riverside County Superior Court judge on Monday denied Church of Scientology opponent Keith Henson's motion to dismiss the entire district attorney's office from his terrorist-threats case.

In the motion, Henson, 58, accused the Riverside County district attorney's office of bias in favor of the Scientologists.

The deputy district attorney prosecuting the case declined to comment.

Such a motion is typically directed at defense attorneys, but Henson's move is not uncommon, said Robert Pugsley, professor of law at Southwestern University of Law in Los Angeles.

In the motion filed earlier this year, Henson alleges the church has tried to "silence and ruin" him because of his criticism of the church.

The motion also alleges that the district attorney's refusal to investigate the deaths of Ashlee Shaner and Stacy Meyer is further evidence of bias. Ashlee, 16, died in May when the vehicle she was driving collided with a tractor that was doing work for the church's Golden Era Productions in San Jacinto. Meyer, 20, died in June at the facility after slipping in a transformer vault.

Henson also accuses District Attorney Grover Trask of being influenced by letters written "when the prosecution of (Henson) did not appear to be proceeding as desired by Scientology."

Pugsley said motions like Henson's are often made when people fear they will not receive a fair trial.

"The Scientologists have come to acquire a reputation, deservedly or not, for being very heavily involved in litigation against their adversaries. That has created an impression, again rightly or wrongly, on the part of many people ... (that) they feel they have a heavier burden to prove a case," Pugsley said.

Henson is charged with two misdemeanor counts of making terrorist threats and one count of attempting to make a terrorist threat.

The Palo Alto man is accused of making threats against the church on an anti-Scientologist news group Internet site and while picketing outside the church's Golden Era Productions complex in San Jacinto.

Despite the court's refusal to recuse the district attorney's office from prosecuting the case, Henson is still adamant that the office and church are trying to make his life hard.

"I didn't threaten them," Henson said. "It's not in my nature to make threats."