In May of 2001, Jesse Price stood trial in Clearwater, Florida for possession of a marijauna plant. Jesse could have accepted a plea bargain and paid a small fine but he decided to fight the charge to uncover Scientology’s involvement in the case.
The trial was expensive and in some ways embarrasing but ultimately we were able to show just how far Scientology will go to attempt to destroy it’s critics.
Several of Scientology’s Private Investigators were forced to take the stand and testify. One of them, Brian Raftery, testified that he is paid $187,000 a year for following members of the LMT.
Furthermore, Scientology admitted to the press that they set out to damage Jesse’s reputation through these investigators so they could undermine Jesse’s testimony in the Lisa McPherson wrongful death civil suit. This is a very serious example of witness tampering.
Ultimately, Scientology’s effort backfired as the local media condemned them for the set-up.
Judge Michael F. Andrews presided over the trial and allowed me to record the audio of the proceedings.
The trial was held in Courtroom 15 of the Pinellas County Court House. The audio of the trial was recorded from the P.A. system controlled by Judge Michael F. Andrews who graciously granted us permission to record the proceedings.
While attempts were made to record the entirety of the trial, we were unable to record the opening statement of Lydia Wardell from the State’s Attorney Office. The state’s opening remarks are available in transcript form.
Day One – May 23, 2001
Denis deVlaming’s Opening Statement
Denis explains to the jury that the arrest of Jesse Prince began with an extensive Scientology operation that started months before Jesse’s arrest.
The first part of Denis’ remarks are missing from the tape but are available in transcript form.
Detective Crosby’s Testimony
Detective Crosby from the Largo Police Department was contacted by Scientology’s Private Investigator, Brian Raftery. Crosby went undercover into Jesse’s home alongside Scientology’s PI, Barry Gaston.
Officer Michael Bruno’s Testimony
Officer Bruno was the arresting officer who removed the single marijuana plant from Jesse’s pool area.
Lab Technician’s Testimony
Stacy Mace analyzed leaves from the plant taken from Jesse’s pool area.
Request for Judgment of Acquittal
At the close of the State’s case, Denis deVlaming asked for a judgment of acquittal.
Paul Johnson Appears on Behalf of the PIs
Paul Johnson appears before the judge to address issues raised by Barry Gaston’s plan to plead the Fifth Amendment in his upcoming testimony.
Fifth Amendment Arguments
Judge Andrews allows Barry Gaston to plead the Fifth.
Barry Gaston’s Testimony
Barry Gaston was one of the Private Investigators hired by Scientology’s attorneys. He assumed the name “Rinzi Trinidad” and befriended Jesse and Dee. Gaston became a confidential informant for the Largo Police, then disappeared after Jesse’s arrest. DeVlaming’s Private Investigator, Ray Emmons, tracked down Gaston. This started to reveal the Scientology connection.
Gaston repeatedly took the Fifth Amendment on the stand. He would be signaled by the raising of a hand from his attorneys, Paul Johnson and Helena Kobrin.
Brian Raftery’s Testimony
Raftery is one of Moxon and Kobrin’s key Private Investigators in the Clearwater area, earning over $180,000 a year for investigating Scientology’s critics.
Joseph Fabrizio’s Testimony
Fabrizio is another of Scientology’s Private Investigators. Gaston wrote reports to Fabrizio nightly concerning his ongoing operation against Jesse.
Day Two – May 24, 2001
Arguments Over Allowing Frank Oliver’s Testimony
Part of the planned defense for Jesse involved the operation of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs and the Fair Game Policy. Frank Oliver had been a member of OSA and was prepared to testify about the tactics Scientology uses against it’s perceived enemies. The State sought to limit Oliver’s testimony.
Frank Oliver’s Testimony
Frank Oliver was allowed to take the stand and testify with some restrictions.
Arguments About Allowing Rebuttal Witness
The State sought to bring Jesse’s fiancé to the stand as a rebuttal witness. DeVlaming argued that she should have been used in the State’s main case and not as rebuttal.
Dee Phillips Testifies in Proffer
The judge allows Dee to testify outside of the presence of the jury in order to see the relevance of her testimony.
Discussion of Jury Instructions
Judge Andrews takes a moment to discuss which instructions the jury would be receiving.
Arguments to Allow Dee Phillips Testimony
The State explains why Dee Phillips should be allowed as a rebuttal witness.
Judge Allows Dee Phillips’ Testimony
Judge Andrews decides Dee can testify with a few limitations.
Dee Phillip’s Testimony
Deneen Phillips tells how she and Jesse met “Rinzi Trinidad” and allowed him into their lives. Jesse, Dee and her two sons felt “Rinzi” was a close friend until they discovered he was a Scientology agent.
The State’s Closing Arguments
Lydia Wardell tells the jury to focus on the law and not be sidetracked by other issues.
Denis deVlaming’s Closing Arguments
Denis explains why Scientology is such a major part of this trial and can’t be ignored.
The State’s Rebuttal
The State has the final word.
The Jury Has Questions
The jury deliberated for several hours. Around 8:30 p.m. they had some questions for the judge. Judge Andrews shared these questions with the attorneys.
The Judge Allows Readback of Testimony
Judge Andrews had the court reporter read back the entire testimony of Detective Crosby. The readback took over an hour but is condensed here to about one minute.
The Jury is Restless
In this short clip, the judge announces that the jury is having a hard time with deliberations. After Judge Andrews shut off the audio feed, they discussed the fact that jurors were unsettled and even getting physically ill. He gave the jury a 20 minute break to go outside the building and relax.
The Judge Reads the Jury Instructions on Deadlocks
Soon after the jury returned from their break, they announced that they were deadlocked. Judge Andrews brings them in to tell them to give it another try.
The Judge Declares a Mistrial
Shortly before 10 p.m. the jury returned to the courtroom. Many were visibly distraught, some had seemingly been in tears. They announced that they could not reach a verdict.
Judge Andrews thanked them for their service and declared a mistrial.
May 15, 2001 –Deposition of Jim Patterson, a private investigator hired by the defense, along with Ray Emmons, to locate Scientology PI’s for this trial. Read more
May 15, 2001 — Deposition of Ray Emmons, a private investigator hired by the defense, along with Jim Patterson, to locate Scientology PI’s for this trial. Read more
May 15, 2001 — Deposition of Brian Raftery, Private Detective hired by Scientology to surveil Jesse Prince. (Also, on this record is Scientology Attorney, Helena Kobrin, attempting to attend the deposition without identifying that she represents Scientology.) PDF version 2.2 megs
May 15, 2001 — Deposition of Barry Gaston, Private Detective hired by Scientology to surveil Jesse Prince. Gaston befriended Jesse and Dee at a local pool hall and claimed to be Rinzi Trinidad. PDF version 2.4 megs
Barry Gaston’s surveillance reports detail the operation he ran on Jesse.
Report 1 PDF format 2.3 megs
Report 2 PDF format 2.2 megs
May 18, 2001 — Deposition of Joseph Fabrizio, Private Detective hired by Scientology to surveil Jesse Prince. Fabrizio worked with fellow PI, Barry Gaston. (Also, on this record is Scientology Attorney, Helena Kobrin.) PDF version 7.24 megs
May 15, 2001 — Deposition of Howard Crosby, Sergeant, Largo Police. PDF version 2.3 megs
May 18, 2001 — Deposition of Deneen Phillips, Jesse’s partner Read more
May 23-24, 2001 Read more