Church of Scientology Plans Appeal of $39 million Judgment
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Church of Scientology officials say they’ll appeal a $39 million fraud judgment awarded a 27-year-old woman in a decision her lawyer says ″will be heard around the world.″
A Multnomah County Circuit Court jury on Friday awarded Julie Christofferson Titchbourne punitive damages of $1.5 million from the Church of Scientology Davis Mission, a Portland branch; $17.5 million from the Church of Scientology of California; and $20 million from church founder L. Ron Hubbard.
The jury also awarded Ms. Titchbourne $3,203 in general damages from each of the defendants.
Circuit Judge Donald H. Londer entered a default judgment against Hubbard, a defendant, on April 30 since Hubbard failed to respond to the lawsuit.
″This jury listened through this long trial, for 10 weeks, and rendered a verdict that will stand and will be heard around the world,″ said lawyer Garry P. McMurry.
The jury said the church defrauded Ms. Titchbourne when she was a church member for nine months in 1975 and 1976. The lawyer said she read in church literature and was told by church leaders that Scientology could improve her weak eyesight, raise her I.Q. and teach her more about the mind than any psychologist or psychiatrist.
″This is great,″ a beaming Ms. Titchbourne said, embracing her husband, Bob Titchbourne, and other friends and relatives, when the decision was announced.
Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International, said the suit was part of a conspiracy against the church.
″Evidence in this suit shows plaintiff witnesses acted as agents in a far- ranging conspiracy among government and private vested interests including the IRS and psychiatric front groups,″ Jentzsch said.
He said the church will appeal.
Ms. Titchbourne sought the return of $3,253 she paid to the church for books and classes, plus up to $42 million in punitive damages.
She won a $2 million judgment against the church in a 1979 lawsuit, but the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned that ruling and ordered a new trial in 1982.
The appeals court ruled that Ms. Titchbourne could sue the church for its secular activities but not its religious teachings.