By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By varying estimates, Henson spent 40 to 50 days last summer walking the highway in front of Golden Era. His protest signs focused on the deaths of several women in the care of the church, most notably Lisa McPherson, whose controversial death is the subject of an upcoming civil trial in Florida (another Scientology world headquarters). He accompanied Scientology buses to the employee quarters, taking down church members’ license numbers and addresses.
At times, the Hemet protests took on a faintly ludicrous, Spy vs. Spy cast, with Scientology agents and picketers bombing around Hemet, watching one another. Ida Camburn, a 78-year-old anti-Scientology activist who houses out-of-town protesters, says Scientology P.I.s tailed her from her residence at the Sierra Dawn Mobile Home Park.
”They had five private investigators sitting in my neighborhood last summer when Keith was here, following me around and scaring me half to death,“ Camburn charged. ”One morning I was turning left, one pulled up beside me on the right side, as I made a left, she also turned left real fast out of the right lane, so close I could feel her . . . I went into the medicine shop, and there she‘s sitting grinning at me.“
The Sierra Dawn park manager told police that residents were frightened because of ”the private investigators who sit in cars for hours at a time and watch Ida’s house.“
Henson also continued to contribute to alt.religion.scientology, which is closely monitored by the church. One of his postings was a suggestion to land a ”Cruise missile“ on Gold Base; another said of Scientology, ”destroy it utterly.“ Henson says the messages were inside jokes: ”Cruise“ referred to actor Tom Cruise, a longtime Scientologist, and the ”destruction“ quote was a takeoff on one of L. Ron‘s own incendiary statements.
”Like I’m going to take a bomb out of my pocket and throw it over the fence,“ Henson said.
”Does that even pass the giggle test?“ asked EFF‘s Cohn.
But Golden Era general manager Ken Hoden says Henson’s bomb postings were taken seriously.
”Based on evidence we were able to collect off the Internet, his intention was to destroy [the production facility] utterly, to leave not one stone unturned,“ Hoden said.
Hoden denies that the church tailed Camburn or other activists, and says instead that Henson, whom he compares to Timothy McVeigh, is a stalker with an extensive background in explosives.
”He‘s no different. The man’s obsessed, and he‘s a dangerous individual,“ Hoden said.
”He would take pictures of people, take down their license-plate numbers, and he wasn’t carrying a sign then; it‘s pretty intimidating stuff,“ agreed Deputy District Attorney Robert Schwarz, who prosecuted Henson.
But from the beginning, the Henson investigation was hardly business as usual. Opened at the behest of Scientology, the case relied on evidence provided by the church’s ”Internet expert,“ Gavino Idda, and private investigator Edwin G. Richardson. At one point, Riverside County Sheriff‘s Detective Tony Greer, the lead investigator, said, ”In reviewing all of the Internet postings I did not see any direct threat of violence towards the church or any personnel of the church.“ At the D.A.’s direction, however, the investigation continued. Scientology lawyers also attended the trial, and conferred with Schwarz during the breaks.
Schwarz said it was not unusual for victims to help prosecutors. ”Scientology has absolutely no say in whether or not we file a case,“ Schwarz said.
After a disastrous non-defense defense -- Henson and supporters say Riverside County Superior Court Judge Robert Wallerstein gutted their case -- the jury hung on two counts, but convicted Henson of the interfering charge, which is classified as a hate crime.
Facing a recommended 200 days in Riverside County Jail, which Henson feared had been infiltrated by the Scientologists‘ Criminon rehab program, the defendant fled before his sentencing date to Toronto, where he and Hagglund, a Canadian Scientology foe, picketed a downtown Scientology office. The church complained, bringing out the SWAT team.
”We get notified by Scientology, we check, and he’s an undesirable,“ Toronto Police Fugitive Squad Detective Phil Glavin said of Henson. ”We look on the Internet, and he‘s a self-proclaimed bomb expert.“
Henson worked in the 1970s for an explosives company in Arizona, and arranged pyrotechnic parties in the desert ”similar to Burning Man,“ he acknowledged, but that’s a far cry from mad bomber. Henson told deputies his aim against Scientology was ”psychological warfare.“ This goal, and some of Henson‘s tactics, may sound extreme. But the activists say he was just giving back as good as he got from the church, which has repeatedly picketed, videotaped, defamed and followed him. Outside Golden Era, P.I.s spat upon and intimidated him in a practice known within the church as ”bull baiting.“
”Scientology goons accused me of having sex with girls, boys and goats,“ Henson said.
Henson blames his prosecution on a Scientology doctrine called ”fair game.“ In 1967, Hubbard announced that any suppressive person (Scientology jargon for ”enemy“) ”may be deprived of property or injured by any means, by any Scientologist . . . He may be tricked, sued or lied to, or destroyed.“
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