Lisa McPherson died in 1995 while in the care of Scientologists, and her parents later sued the controversial organization, claiming it was responsible for their daughter's death.
Now the lawyer who represented the family, Ken Dandar, is suing Scientology, its attorneys and two judges for trying to ruin his career, and he's brought in a stunning witness.
Marty Rathbun, Scientology's former number two and now its most vocal critic, has given a sworn deposition in the case, accusing the church of spending $30 million to cover up what really happened when Lisa died, Tampa TV station WTSP is reporting.
After Lisa died, the Church of Scientology was initially charged with a second degree felony for practicing medicine without a license, and abuse of a disabled adult. But the charges were dropped after the medical examiner, Joan Wood, changed the cause of death from unknown to accidental.
In his deposition on behalf of Dandar, Rathbun alleges that the organization showered Wood's attorney Jeff Goodis, with gifts to influence her to change the cause of death; an allegation Goodis has denied.
Dandar's complex lawsuit goes back to the settlement he won against Scientology in the McPherson case in 2004, a full nine years after he launched it.
According to Scientology's lawyers, as part of the settlement, Dandar agreed never again to sue the church. Dandar insists he didn't give up that right, and took on another client against Scientology in 2009.
A Senior Circuit Judge agreed with Scientology and ordered Dandar off the case. But when he couldn't find another attorney to take it over, a U.S. District Judge ordered him to stay on it, and he's been fined tens of thousands of dollars by the state for the violation.
“I’ve never heard of anything like it,” Clifford Higby, chairman of the trial lawyers’ section of the Florida Bar, told The Tampa Bay Times.
Meanwhile, it's been ruled that Dandar did violate that settlement agreement, and Scientology is now going after the attorney for big bucks.
“A final hearing on the amount of attorney’s fees and costs due Scientology under Judge Farnell’s rulings is scheduled for November 26, 2012, where Defendants are seeking in excess of one million dollars in a closed-to-the-public-and-press courtroom in Clearwater, Florida,” Dandar’s suit says.
According to WTSP, on Friday, Scientology's top lawyer filed a lawsuit to have all of Rathbun's testimony thrown out.
An emergency hearing has been set for Monday in Federal court.
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