Judge Steven D. Merryday
“Perhaps Steven D. Merryday, to gain a better understanding of the defendants, should have first familiarized himself with some of the basic tenets of Scientology.”
When the Tampa-based federal judge presiding over the wrongful-death lawsuit—Steven Merryday for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida—ruled in favor of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, he noted the following:“Assuming that Kyle’s father [Tom Brennan] and the others [Gerald and Denise Miscavige Gentile] are liars, Scientology’s responsibility is possible, but this theoretical and remote possibility is unsupported by evidence or any reasonable and direct inference from the evidence. If the witnesses are ignored in gross as liars, the fact finder is left to guess. Attenuated and compound inferences and speculation uniformly fail to create a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to avoid summary judgment.”
Obviously, we strongly disagree.
Not only did the defendants in the case lie, but the Clearwater, Florida, detective investigating Kyle’s suspicious death—Stephen Bohling—lied in his police report. Both of these assertions are easily verified with testimony and documentation.
Did these individuals commit perjury (a felony in the State of Florida)? According to The Law Dictionary, available online: In criminal law, perjury is “The willful assertion as to a matter of fact, opinion, belief, or knowledge, made by a witness in a judicial proceeding as part of his evidence, either upon oath or in any form allowed by law to be substituted for an oath, whether such evidence is given in open court, or in an affidavit, or otherwise, such assertion being known to such witness to be false, and being intended by him to mislead the court, jury, or person holding the proceeding.
(See The Law Dictionary [at http://thelawdictionary.org/perjury/#ixzz2qURWg1aC%5D, featuring Black’s Law Dictionary.)
Obviously, if a witness deliberately chooses to lie, twisting the testimony in one way or the other, the false testimony may bring about a very skewed outcome in a case. It’s been shown that Detective Stephen Bohling deliberately lied in his Clearwater Police Report (the CWPR). This has been supported by documents and testimony. His investigation is replete with conflicts of interest and mishandled standard investigative procedures. By twisting statements made by others—in other words, assigning the lies to others such as Marti Scholl of the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office, or FDLE Agent Barbara Mendez, or Kyle’s psychiatrist Stephen McNamara—he may have believed that he could wheedle his way out of perjury charges. Perhaps he thought he could turn the entire situation into a “he said, she said” scenario.
Unfortunately, all of this illegal behavior had a direct impact on the outcome of the wrongful-death lawsuit.
On May 29, 2009, Lee Fugate—the attorney representing Gerald and Denise Miscavige Gentile—attached Bohling’s CWPR to his “Motion to Dismiss Complaint.”
On June 11, 2009, Attorney Kennan Dandar—the attorney representing the Estate of Kyle Brennan—filed a motion to strike the report.
On June 24, 2009, Judge Stephen Merryday granted the Estate of Kyle Brennan the motion to strike the police report.
Did this stop the defendants from using the content of the police report? Absolutely not!
In the end, all of this—the lies, the mishandling of information, the obstruction of justice—came at the expense of a twenty-year-old college student whose existence to the corrupt powers-that-be in Clearwater, Florida, was absolutely meaningless.
Attorney Ken Dandar Information
Excerpt from the deposition of detective Stephen Bohling
The recorded exchange between Attorney Lee Fugate and Detective Steve Bohling.
Attorney Luke Lirot
Affidavit of Lance Marcor: The Handling of Kyle Brennan
Inside Charlottesville with Coy Barefoot
ORIGINAL BROADCAST DATE: Tuesday, May 12, 2015.
Inside Charlottesville with Coy Barefoot is a news-talk-and-ideas program that originates from Charlottesville, Virginia. A veteran journalist, speaker, best-selling author and historian, Coy Barefoot is the program’s creator, host, and Executive Producer. Coy teaches history at the University of Virginia and serves as the President and Executive Director of the Virginia History Lab.
In January 1994, U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday was arrested for DUI near his home in Palatka. A Florida State trooper saw Merryday driving erratically near construction on U.S. 17. Merryday, then a federal judge for two years, declined interviews but offered an unambiguous statement after he was released from jail.
“I made an inexcusable and dangerous mistake in judgment, for which I accept full responsibility,” he said. “I apologize to my family and friends, as well as the public, for this incident.”
Merryday vowed that his first offense would be his last. He said he was “committed unalterably to remaining free at all times from any and all intoxicants.”
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year’s probation, ordered to pay $688 in fines, perform 50 hours of community service, attend DUI school and give up his driver’s license for six months.
US federal judge and Florida judge clash over Scientology wrongful death case.
The suit asserts that members of the Scientology organization, including the father of Brennan, removed access to the deceased’s anti-depression medication, and provided him with means to utilize a loaded gun. Brennan had been staying with his father for a week prior to his death. Police in Clearwater, Florida investigated the 2007 death of Brennan, and determined it was a suicide. Kyle Brennan was himself not a member of Scientology. The lawsuit, filed in 2009, was filed by Brennan’s mother on behalf of her son’s estate. Named as defendants in the lawsuit include the Scientology organization, its subdivision the Flag Service Organization, twin sister of Scientology leader David Miscavige, Denise Gentile, and her husband Gerald Gentile.
Attorney Dandar had previously represented the estate of Lisa McPherson in a separate civil wrongful death claim against the Scientology organization. After being under the care of members of the Scientology organization for 17 days, McPherson died in Clearwater in 1995. The wrongful death suit claimed that Scientology officials permitted McPherson to deteriorate to a dehydrated state, where her condition was such that she did not have the energy to fend off cockroaches from biting her skin.
Scientology management settled the McPherson wrongful death case in 2004; lawyers representing the organization stated the settlement included a confidential arrangement with Dandar to never again represent clients in lawsuits against Scientology entities. The settlement included an agreement that both sides would never speak again about the case; California lawyer Ford Greene commented, “The church bought silence.” The Scientology organization had also filed a countersuit against the estate of Lisa McPherson and named Dandar a party to that lawsuit. The organization claimed Dandar had inappropriately tried to add the head of Scientology David Miscavige as a party to the wrongful death lawsuit.
|I’m stuck in the middle of two courts.|
Scientology legal representatives requested Judge Beach to see to it that Dandar abide by the secret settlement agreement, and Beach subsequently issued an order in June 2009 that Dandar be removed from the Brennan wrongful death case. Dandar faced sanctions from Judge Beach including suspension of Dandar’s license to practice law, a $130,000 judgment to be given to the Scientology organization, and a fine of $1,000 per day. Judge Beach ruled that all money from the sanctions imposed against Dandar – were to go directly to the Scientology organization. The Tampa Tribune noted that Judge Breach made his ruling, “in an inexplicably closed hearing from which Beach tossed a St. Petersburg Times reporter”.
Faced with these possible sanctions, Dandar filed an “involuntary” motion to withdraw from the Brennan wrongful death case in federal court, but Judge Merryday denied this request. Dandar stated to The Tampa Tribune, “I’m stuck in the middle of two courts.”
D. Wallace Pope, a lawyer for the Scientology organization, stated that he wished to show evidence regarding the settlement in the McPherson wrongful death case. However, Judge Merryday emphasized his main issue was determining whether or not Dandar was being penalized for obeying the federal court’s order denying his request to be withdrawn from the Brennan wrongful death case. Judge Merryday stated he would prevent the Scientology organization along with Judge Beach from punishing Dandar for representing his client in US federal court. Merryday stated Beach had attempted to usurp control outside of his jurisdiction, thereby “aggressively” interfering with the US federal court process through imposing sanctions on Dandar.
Merryday has served as a US federal judge based in Tampa, Florida since 1992. The St. Petersburg Times noted that Judge Merryday, “has presided over some of the region’s most noteworthy cases.” Judge Merryday’s court order creating an injunction against Beach was 29-pages long, and criticized the “stunning severity” of Beach’s sanctions imposed on Dandar. Merryday explained that the federal court needed to “act in defense of the (federal) court’s jurisdiction”, due to Beach’s actions. Referencing Judge Beach, Merryday wrote in his court order, “A judge should not undertake, directly or indirectly, overtly or through a surrogate, to compel an act by another judge, especially in a different jurisdiction.”
Judge Merryday stated to Scientology lawyers, “have forced my hand on this issue.” Merryday stated to Scientology lawyer, Robert Potter, “I don’t like being put in this position. When people start to squeeze, other people can squeeze back.” Potter asked him to seal the proceedings from public view, and Judge Merryday responded, “I’m not going to be entering any seals unless I see a lawful reason, and I can’t even see the beginning of a reason”. Merryday stated he would not allow his court to be influenced by “some circuit judge somewhere who appears for all I can tell to have sealed something for some unknown reason”.
Judge Beach responded to Judge Merryday’s injunction which “permanently enjoined” him from imposing sanctions on Dandar, by filing a motion on Thursday in federal court in Tampa. Beach asked Merryday to rescind his order so that he may recuse himself from acting as a judge on the Scientology case related to Dandar. Beach’s motion argued that he was denied due process because he was not given notice by Merryday of the hearing which occurred before Merryday issued his ruling. In addition, Beach asserted Merryday did not have power to issue the ruling restricting him from sanctioning Dandar, because Beach was not a party to the Brennan wrongful death case, and Merryday lacked authority to restrict powers of a judge from outside his federal court jurisdiction. In response, Judge Merryday has scheduled a hearing for October 12 in federal court to hear state court judge Beach.
Martin Errorl Rice is an attorney in St. Petersburg, Florida who represented Beach in the motion before the US federal court. Rice stated his client’s motivation in requesting the ruling by Judge Merryday be rescinded was to allow Beach to recuse from the Scientology case. Rice told the St. Petersburg Times that his client’s conflict with the US federal court has “cast kind of a cloud” over Beach’s position in the Scientology case.
Constitutional law professor Michael Allen analyzed the clash between the US judge and Florida judge for The Tampa Tribune. Allen observed that it was “very, very rare” for a US federal judge to order a state judge. He noted that a 1793 federal law contravenes such orders – except in “extraordinarily narrow” cases where the federal judges are permitted to create rulings in order to safeguard the jurisdiction of their federal court proceedings.
“Lies of a Scientologist Father”
Fair Game; May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.
(ref: HCO Policy letter of 18, October 1967, Issue IV)
My twenty-year-old son, Kyle Brennan, died in the Clearwater, Florida, apartment of his Scientologist father, Tom Brennan, on the evening of February 16, 2007. The Clearwater Police Department (the CWPD) ruled it a suicide, but the circumstances surrounding his death were, and remain, highly suspicious. Over the course of the subsequent investigation, for example, Tom Brennan, his Scientologist associates—and the Clearwater police—changed their descriptions of what had transpired that fateful night. Brennan told one of the first policemen on the scene that he had taken control of Kyle’s psychiatric medication, his Lexapro. He later recanted, saying that Kyle had voluntarily handed it over. The CWPD at first claimed that Kyle had left a suicide note. They later admitted there was no note. And thanks to what we believe to be criminally mishandled police procedures it’s actually impossible to identify the weapon used, and—most importantly—who pulled the trigger. For these reasons, we’re certain that the actual events of the evening of February 16, 2007, were very different from those detailed in the Clearwater Police Report.
Medical Misinformation (Part II)
As described in “Medical Misinformation (Part I),” the Estate of Kyle Brennan filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in February 2009. Named as defendants were: Tom Brennan; Denise Miscavige Gentile, Brennan’s Scientology “auditor” (or advisor); Denise’s husband, Gerald Gentile; the Church of Scientology; and Flag Service Organization, Inc. (hereafter referred to as “Flag”). In June 2009, Flag’s lawyers filed a motion for Rule 11 sanctions against the Estate of Kyle Brennan and the Estate’s legal representative, Kennan “Ken” G. Dandar.
Flag’s motion states that: “Thomas Brennan advised that Kyle had not been taking the Lexapro on a regular basis prior to his arrival in Clearwater, Florida.” (This assertion we disproved in “Medical Misinformation [Part 1].” See.) In this piece, we’ll cover a few of the other Lexapro lies.
“There is no evidence to the contrary,” the motion continues. “Nor will there be. The two witnesses to what transpired with respect to the medication are Thomas Brennan and Kyle Brennan. Kyle Brennan is deceased and Thomas Brennan has already provided the police with the facts about what happened to his son. No witness exists who is competent to contradict him.” The “facts,” according to Flag’s motion, “do not support the allegation that Thomas Brennan took away his son’s Lexapro without his knowledge and consent.”
But “facts,” like chameleons, can very often change their appearance—especially “facts” concocted by pathological liars seeking to escape culpability.
Flag’s assertion that Kyle’s father “provided the police with the facts” is laughable, absolutely preposterous. Irrefutable is the fact that Tom Brennan lied—repeatedly, and evidently without conscience. Tom Brennan’s stories regarding the circumstances surrounding Kyle’s death are riddled with lies and inconsistencies. In his various recountings of the events of February 16, 2007, for example, Brennan changed his whereabouts, changed his purpose for going out that evening, and changed the time of his arrival home (making sure, of course, that it was later after Kyle passed away). He also lied about calling Kyle that evening—no call was recorded—and he told numerous lies about the weapon and its ammunition. (For more information regarding Brennan’s lies, see “Kyle’s Story; A Summary of the Lies & Deception,” and “A Weapon and Bullet List of Contradictory Statements.) Tom Brennan lied about so many things: Why should anyone believe what he said about the Lexapro?
The Church of Scientology’s claim that there is no witness “competent to contradict” Brennan is also ridiculous. In reality, no other witness is needed: Because Brennan did a startling job of contradicting himself. Reading through his various statements—to Kyle’s family, to the various policemen, his deposition under oath—one is immediately taken by the fact that they don’t add up, they’re amazingly inconsistent. These lies are boldfaced—not secretive, not creative—and yet the fact that he told wildly differing stories was not questioned by the police. Why not?
In the early stages of the investigation, Kyle’s family was told by Clearwater Police Detective Stephen Bohling, the lead investigator, that Brennan had in fact taken away Kyle’s prescribed psychiatric medication. (One of the precepts of Scientology is that psychiatrists and psychiatric medication are evil: they’re forbidden.) Police Officer Jonathan Yuen—one of the first to arrive at the crime scene—stated in his 2010 deposition that Brennan, on the night Kyle died, “advised that he [Brennan] took the prescription bottle from him [Kyle] about three days ago.”
Yuen also said, under oath, that Brennan admitted that “he did not believe in psychiatric medications based on his beliefs,” and claimed that Kyle “was not taking his medication.” If Kyle wasn’t using his Lexapro, why was it necessary for Brennan to lock it in the trunk of his vehicle? Why wasn’t this obvious line of questioning pursued by the police?
During his deposition, Officer Yuen was asked the following: “Did you ask him [Brennan] further about the circumstances surrounding the taking of the [Lexapro] prescription bottle?” Yuen response was, “I didn’t get into a full discussion about that.”
Then the attorney representing the Estate of Kyle Brennan asked Yuen: “Did it make any sense to you as the on-scene officer [what] Thomas Brennan [was] telling you; Kyle didn’t like to take his medicine, but the medicine is locked in his trunk? Did that make sense?”
Yuen reply was, simply, “I don’t know.”
When Tom Brennan was deposed in 2010, his Lexapro story took a sharp turn from what Kyle’s family had been told three years earlier. Brennan stated under oath that “Kyle gave him the medication.” Without hesitation, the morally challenged Brennan concocted a crude, false, and damaging impression of his only son when he claimed that Kyle stated: “I hate this shit” as he handed over the Lexapro.
Unfortunately, Brennan’s fabricated Lexapro story dominated the court documents, the oral arguments, and the pleadings presented by the defendants in both the United States District Court (Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division) and the United States Court of Appeals (for the 11th Circuit).
What’s obvious is that Brennan’s fictionalized Lexapro story was created to avoid liability. And yet the Clearwater Police Department—amazingly—decided that Brennan was telling the truth. Then they proceeded to hide proof to the contrary: Officer Jonathan Yuen—contrary to recommended police procedures—shredded the notes of his first interview with Kyle’s father. Detective Stephen Bohling—who took over the investigation the day after Kyle died, and never visited the crime scene—also destroyed the notes of his first interview with Brennan.
In September of 2007, Clearwater Attorney Luke Lirot (representing the Estate of Kyle Brennan) had his first and only interview with Detective Stephen Bohling. In an e-mail written the next day, attorney Lirot stated that Bohling told him that “the medication was either taken away by the father [Tom Brennan], or the father ‘influenced’ Kyle to abate the use of the prescriptions” (sic). Kyle’s family believes that some of Brennan’s earliest statements are the most accurate. And the information gleaned from this Lirot-Bohling interview is faithful to the first Lexapro story told by Tom Brennan to Kyle’s Virginia family.
Undebatable, too, is the simple revelation found in the statement: “to abate the use of the prescriptions.” It clearly means that Kyle was taking his Lexapro. If Kyle was not taking the medication—if he indeed “hated this shit”—there would be no need for Brennan to have a conversation with him trying to get him to stop taking it.
Brennan’s lying knew no bounds when it came to the events surrounding Kyle’s death. In his 2008 deposition, Tom Brennan admitted that he’d lied to me over the phone. The attorney then representing the Estate of Kyle Brennan, Ken Dandar, asked him: “Did you ever have a conversation with her [Victoria Britton] where she told you to make sure Kyle had his Lexapro and was taking it?” Brennan’s response was “Yeah, she said something like that. She said make sure Kyle is taking his Lexapro.”
Dandar’s next question was: “So you decided not to follow her request; is that right?”
“You’re right,” was Brennan’s answer.
Lying, evidently, comes easily to the likes of Tom Brennan. It’s striking, too, that he showed no remorse for the outcome of his behavior.
The most pernicious and injurious of the Lexapro-related lies, however, is found in the Clearwater Police Report: It’s a concocted story concerning Kyle’s psychiatrist—Dr. Stephen M. McNamara—and his diagnosis of Kyle’s condition. Detective Stephen Bohling and Medical Investigator Martha J. Scholl lied about contacting and consulting with Dr. McNamara, saying in the police report that: “The doctor confirmed that Kyle had been exhibiting early signs of schizophrenia to include paranoia and delusions and . . . advised that he was not aware of any major side effects if one was to suddenly stop taking Lexapro” (emphasis added).
Dr. McNamara, stated emphatically under oath, however, that he had absolutely no contact with either Bohling or Scholl. Not only had they lied about contacting and consulting with him, they had also fabricated a diagnosis.
“Perplexed and dumbfounded” by their statements, McNamara said he was “bound by confidentiality” not to release “information about a patient’s treatment.” He said that “Kyle’s diagnosis was mild anxiety and depression”—not schizophrenia and paranoia—and that there are major side effects from the sudden termination of taking Lexapro, especially for someone Kyle’s age (emphasis added).
Dr. McNamara was perplexed and dumbfounded, but that doesn’t begin to describe the outrage Kyle’s family feels over the contemptible treatment he received at the hands of a police detective and a medical investigator—supposed public servants. They evidently had very little regard for either Kyle or their duty. They chose instead to protect a line-up of defendants that included powerful members of a wealthy, and litigious, religious organization. We’re left with an important question: What was in it for them?
Excerpts from the Deposition of Dr. Stephen McNamara
Excerpts from the Deposition of S. Brennan
Excerpts from the Deposition of G. Robinson
Excerpts from the Deposition of Tom Brennan
Excerpts from the Deposition of Detective Jonathan Yuen
Excerpts from the Deposition of Victoria Britton
Luke Lirot Email; Notes on my meeting with Detective Steve Bohling
Excerpt from the Deposition of Detective Steve Bohling
Attorney Ken Dandar, email; Martha Scholl, Medical Investigator