Kyle Brennan was declared dead from a gunshot wound to the head just past midnight on February 17, 2007, in Clearwater, Florida, the apartment of his Scientologist father, Tom Brennan. The circumstances of his violent death were—and still remain—extremely suspicious. The reasons are many: The horribly mismanaged police investigation during which crucial evidence was either not gathered, not processed, or purposely lost; The numerous lies told by Police Detective Stephen Bohling (lies to our family, lies strategically placed in his police report); And the innumerable lies told by the defendants—celebrity Scientologists that Kyle (who was not a Scientologist) had the extreme misfortune to be surrounded by in the last days of his young life.
Clearwater is the Church of Scientology’s worldwide headquarters, and Tom Brennan’s Cleveland Street apartment was in close proximity to Scientology central—across the street from the Coachman Building (a Scientology training center), and just one block from Scientology’s main building, the Fort Harrison Hotel. Just as Scientology structures dominate downtown Clearwater, the religion also dominated the subsequent police investigation, and the wrongful-death lawsuit filed in February 2009 on behalf of the Estate of Kyle Brennan. Listed as defendants were: Scientologists Tom Brennan (Kyle’s father), Denise Miscavige Gentile (twin sister of Scientology’s controversial leader, David Miscavige), her husband Gerald Gentile, the Church of Scientology itself, and Flag Service Organization, Inc. (or FSO, the Church’s so-called “spiritual headquarters”).
In the years since Kyle’s death—residing in a new world-turned-upside-down—I’ve struggled with the grief over the loss of a child and the arduous challenge of suing the Church of Scientology. The Church of Scientology, as most people realize, is a very wealthy and litigious organization. Based on the writings of founder L. Ron Hubbard, they have no qualms whatsoever about using the most ruthless and heinous tactics when it comes to the law. To high-ranking Scientologists, lawsuits are not merely dispute resolutions, they’re acts of war. The Church of Scientology is ever willing to twist the law in order to destroy those it perceives as opponents. (Kyle was considered by Scientologists to be an “enemy of the Church” simply because he was seeing a psychiatrist and was taking psychiatric medication. See the blog post entitled “Heart of Darkness (Part I): The ‘Handling’ of Kyle Brennan.”)
“The law can be used very easily to harass,” wrote Hubbard in The Scientologist, a Manual on the Dissemination of Material, “and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway . . . will generally be sufficient to cause professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.”
This is the stratagem they used against me. Despite the fact that they’d stopped our wrongful-death lawsuit—effectively muffling anything said legally on behalf of my dead son—they proceeded, after their victory, to sue me for just under $1 million. Fortunately, the judge threw this attempt out.
Who pays the price when the rule of law is purposely distorted in order to bully honest citizens into submission? And what of Scientology’s next set of victims? How many more will suffer because the bullies haven’t been stopped?
On August 27, 2008, defendant Denise Miscavige Gentile, with her attorney in tow—Lee Fugate from the law firm of Zuckerman, Spaeder, LLP—arrived at the Clearwater Police Department for her first and only police interview. It was conducted by Detective Stephen Bohling (who headed-up the investigation into Kyle’s death). Eighteen months had passed since Kyle had died.
In the recorded interview’s opening, Detective Bohling and lawyer Fugate engage in casual conversation. Then the attorney explains that he’d told Denise that if the detective asks her a difficult question she could talk with him—Lee Fugate—before replying. “[B]ut,” Fugate adds, “I don’t think you’re gonna have anything like that.”
Bohling—forgetting that the conversation is being recorded—says: “No. And I’m more than willing to work with you, as I said, on this case.” Obviously pleased, Fugate says: “Well, that’s—that’s fine.”
This statement by Bohling—“I’m more than willing to work with you . . . on this case”—might seem innocuous, but it was made by a detective who subsequently falsified police information, committed perjury, and seemingly aided and abetted the defendants in the evasion of justice.
Extremely troubling, too, is that during this recorded interview Fugate refers to a previous conversation with Bohling, perhaps a phone conversation. The fact that this attorney/detective communication was not documented raises additional questions.
Bohling’s subsequent lie-filled police report was attached to Denise Miscavige Gentile and husband Gerald’s answer/response to the wrongful-death complaint filed by attorney Lee Fugate and later used in court documents filed in federal court by the defendants. This is how the defendants weaseled their way out of the wrongful-death lawsuit. This is how they escaped justice. It all began with Detective Bohling helping these celebrity Scientologist defendants.
The detective later falsified information when he wrote his police report. Under the very important heading “Investigative Conclusion,” for example, Bohling wrote that Kyle “had been exhibiting early signs of Schizophrenia to include paranoia and delusions and that Lexapro had been prescribed. Kyle’s doctor, Dr. [Stephen] McNamara advised that Lexapro should be administered on a long term basis in order to attain the proper results. . . . Dr. McNamara also advised that he was not aware of any major side effects if one was to suddenly stop taking the medication. . . .”
Here are the documented facts: Dr. McNamara was deposed on June 16, 2010. Under oath, Dr. McNamara expressed astonishment at the lies told by the police detective, perjury committed at the expense of an innocent twenty-year-old.
“I—I’m perplexed and dumbfounded,” stated Dr. McNamara. “Number one, I’m bound by confidentiality” to not reveal “information about someone’s treatment. . . .”
“Number two, I’m—stated here [as] stating that Kyle had a diagnosis that I did not make.”
“And lastly,” this statement regarding “major side effects if one was to suddenly stop taking Lexapro. . . . [W]e all, as a profession, have known this since the ‘90s. This—this is not something I would ever say.”
Moments later, Dr. McNamara stated under oath that he’d never spoken at all to Detective Bohling about Kyle, never!
Detective Bohling also omitted important information from his police report. In the first phone conversation I had with him, for example, the detective told me that the night Kyle died Scientologist Gerald Gentile was inside Tom Brennan’s apartment prior to the police. When I questioned this, Bohling said that Gentile had a right to be there. This crucial piece of information was left out of Bohling’s narrative of that evening’s events.
Truth is what drives our judicial system. Everything is based on this simple, and very necessary, virtue. For this reason, the public is always willing to give a police officer, or police detective, the benefit of the doubt. This despite the unfortunate fact that public servants sometimes lie, commit perjury, and obstruct justice. When an officer betrays his responsibilities—betrays his Oath of Honor—in this fundamental way, he makes a mockery of our judicial system. Criminals escape justice, lives are ruined and lost, families are crushed. Unfortunately, this illegal behavior by Stephen Bohling had a direct impact on the outcome of my wrongful-death lawsuit.
What became of Detective Stephen Bohling? He quietly retired from the Clearwater Police Department.
Five years after Kyle’s death, an interesting story was reported by WTSP News in Tampa. On November 9, 2012, Mark C. Rathbun—Scientology’s former number-two man—gave sworn testimony accusing Clearwater-area judges and lawyers of criminal wrongdoing regarding another Scientology-related lawsuit.
Rathbun alleged that the Church of Scientology spent at least $30 million to cover up the tragic 1995 death of a woman in Scientology care. This was Scientologist Lisa McPherson, who, after a minor traffic accident, told fellow Scientologists she needed psychiatric help. Instead, they took her to the Fort Harrison Hotel—the religion’s headquarters—where McPherson died seventeen days later. Her family sued the Church of Scientology saying they’d simply let her die. Criminal prosecution was brought by the Pinellas State Attorney’s office.
According to WTSP News: “The Church was charged with a second-degree felony for practicing medicine without a license, and [the] abuse of a disabled adult. However, the charges were dropped after Pinellas Medical Examiner Joan Wood changed the cause of death from unknown to accidental.”
Rathbun, however, alleged that the cause of death was changed because the Church of Scientology “showered gifts on the Medical Examiner’s attorney.”
And Rathbun had something to say about attorney Lee Fugate. In his sworn testimony, Rathbun stated that Fugate, a former prosecutor, was hired by he and Scientology leader David Miscavige to have illegal ex parte meetings with judges involved in the McPherson case. (“Ex parte,” means one-sided, partisan.) According to Rathbun, those extra-legal meetings, plus the liberal rewarding of “at least $30 million,” got the charges dropped and lessened the damages in the civil suit. WTSP News claimed that the story had many other twists and turns. “Stay tuned,” they said. Unfortunately, WTSP News never provided a follow–up.
(In the case of Kyle’s death, similar wrong-doing was perpetrated by personnel in the Medical Examiner’s office. The Medical Examiner ruled Kyle’s cause of death a suicide saying that police officials told her a suicide note had been found on his person. The police later admitted there’d been no note. And—like Detective Bohling—Medical Investigator Martha Scholl lied about having contact with Kyle’s psychiatrist, Dr. Stephen McNamara.)
During my deposition in 2010, I had an interesting exchange with Lee Fugate. Following my complaint about the pathetically poor police investigation into Kyle’s death, attorney Fugate had the gall to ask: “[W]hat investigation did you conduct [Mrs. Britton] and what did you do to preserve the findings of that investigation. . . ?” Evidently, Fugate believes that in Florida private citizens are required to conduct their own police investigations. He believes that it’s a grieving parent’s responsibility to investigate the suspicious death of their child.
In the summer of 2012, I had a highly qualified expert in the field of criminology and police procedures analyze Detective Bohling’s investigation. “It is my conclusion,” he wrote, “that the [Kyle] Brennan investigation was a farce. It is clear to me that there is some connection between the Church of Scientology and [the] Clearwater Police Department, including the relationship between Detective Bohling and the [Church of Scientology], and that this investigation is replete with conflicts of interest and mishandled investigative procedures.”
In perfect lock-step with L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings, this is how the rule of law is contorted by Scientology’s lead counselors. This is how the morally bereft and aggressively litigious Church of Scientology continuously manages to get its way legally, even when it appears that its opponents have strong cases. Lying, victim-blaming, obstructing justice–it appears that any tactic is perfectly acceptable in defense of the Church of Scientology.
Written by Victoria Britton©, All Rights Reserved. Duplication or reproduction without permission of the author is prohibited.