How OSA Operates: Intimidation & Litigation

“I’m going to prove something to you, Victoria,” said the voice on the phone. “I’m going to show you how OSA operates.” The voice belonged to Luke Lirot, the attorney representing the estate of my deceased son, Kyle Brennan. And he was speaking with conviction. If anyone knows the sordid ins and outs of OSA, the Church of Scientology’s “Office of Special Affairs,” it’s Lirot, who practices law in Clearwater, Florida, site of the religion’s international headquarters.

A department of the Church of Scientology International, OSA handles the Church’s legal affairs and public relations. Its operatives—much like those of the KGB or CIA—also investigate critics and enemies of Scientology, often targeting them online and in the media with character assassination tactics.

Luke—who’d helped me in the early days after my son’s passing—had agreed to step in and become Kyle’s attorney after federal Judge Steven D. Merryday issued an order removing the estate’s first representative, attorney Ken Dandar. He’d put together our wrongful-death lawsuit against Scientology and several Clearwater-area Scientologists, including my ex-husband. But the Scientology-funded lawyers from Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns claimed that in 2004, Dandar—while working on another Scientology death-related case—had signed a document agreeing to never again sue the Church. Dandar denied that he’d ever done such a thing.

The persecution of Ken Dandar that ensued was unprecedented. If the leaks coming from the defendant’s camp were accurate, Scientology leader David Miscavige was orchestrating the attacks (many of which were no doubt carried out by OSA). Rumor had it they were out to destroy Ken “utterly, completely, and by any means!” Annihilating Ken Dandar would have served two purposes: It would’ve removed one of Scientology’s biggest nemeses (at the time) and discouraged other lawyers from pursuing litigation against the Church.

This dispute, unfortunately, cast a shadow over Kyle’s lawsuit. Ultimately, the Church tried to collect a 1.07-million-dollar judgment against Ken Dandar. He was confronting disaster. In this, however, he wasn’t alone. Besides removing him as my son’s attorney, Judge Merryday gave me only two weeks to find a replacement. If I couldn’t find one, he’d toss the case out, and I was certain that was precisely what he wanted to do.

Scientology’s reputation for engaging in scorched-earth litigation and its questionable and intimidating behavior is legendary. It’s a loathsome and underhanded one-two punch. High-priced and high-powered lawyers—thanks to the Church’s deep pockets—handle the former, while OSA carries out the latter. It’s understandable why judges don’t want to deal with cases involving the Church of Scientology, but it shouldn’t come at a cost to plaintiffs seeking accountability.

In 2013, for example, former Scientologists Luis and Rocio Garcia filed a suit in Tampa federal court alleging that the Church had defrauded them of 1.3 million dollars. Not long after the case was filed, I received a call from my friend Ray Emmons, a former Clearwater police sergeant with extensive first-hand experience with OSA’s intimidation tactics. Ray said he’d been contacted by one of Judge James D. Whitmore’s court officers. Whitmore, who was presiding over the Garcia case, had noticed out-of-place vehicles parked within sight of his house. Rattled by the invasion, Whitmore was questioning if it was because he had a Scientology case on his docket.

“Well,” said Ray, “I let the court officer know it most certainly was Scientology related, and the judge could expect more of the same.” The Garcia case never went to trial. In 2015, Whitmore ruled that Luis and Rocio Garcia couldn’t sue Scientology and granted the Church’s motion to compel the Garcias into internal “religious arbitration.” Religious arbitration, it appears, is a convenient way for the court to rid itself of contentious Scientology cases.

When Ken Dandar was forced to step down, I asked Luke if he could take over the case and was greatly relieved when he agreed. On September 2, 2011, Luke was in court in downtown Clearwater and decided to stop by the Scientology-subsidized law firm of Johnson, Pope, Bokor, Ruppel & Burns. Luke wanted to tell Wallace Pope about his intention to replace Dandar. According to Luke, Wally was fine with the substitution as long as he wasn’t planning on becoming a shill for Dandar.

Luke assured Pope that wouldn’t be the case. Instead, he told Pope, his intention was to represent Kyle Brennan’s estate to the best of his ability. That promise, however, was made before Luke read the defendant’s depositions taken in 2010. In these, the defendants—specifically Denise Miscavige Gentile and Tom Brennan, my ex-husband—had been let off easy, and questions critical to the case had not been asked. Luke wasn’t happy. When I told him about the Scientology lawyers withholding pages of Brennan’s deposition, it cemented his decision to reopen discovery and re-depose the defendants. And depositions weren’t the only records being withheld: Ken Dandar had hit a wall when attempting to acquire Denise Miscavige Gentile’s phone records from the night Kyle died. Attorney Lirot wanted to break through that roadblock to see if Gentile had called California to consult with her twin brother—David Miscavige, the head of Scientology—before calling the police.

As Luke left Pope’s law firm, he noticed that there were OSA operatives just across the hall, sitting behind computers, within footsteps of Pope and the other attorneys representing the Church of Scientology in Kyle’s wrongful-death case. I did not doubt that Luke—with his extensive experience in litigating Scientology—had become gifted in identifying agents of the Office of Special Affairs.

Soon after filing our wrongful-death lawsuit, we discovered that someone close to the case had been leaking sensitive information to the public. It didn’t take long to figure out OSA’s misinformation campaign—take bits and pieces of the truth and jumble them up with half-truths and outright lies. It was dark, twisted, and immoral. We knew the truth, but anyone outside the case unfamiliar with OSA’s game plan would’ve found it impossible to separate fact from fiction.

Along with supporting the Constitution of the United States, lawyers swear an oath to “honestly demean” themselves “in the practice of law.” They have an ethical obligation to disclose perjured testimony. But what if an attorney knows a client has committed perjury or submitted false evidence? It’s apparent that when that client has deep pockets, ethical obligations be damned.

While deposed in 2010, I was surprised when the attorneys representing the Church of Scientology handed me a photograph across the table. It was an image of a Walmart prescription bottle placed in evidence the night Kyle died. The bottle and its contents prescribed psychotropic medication, were essential to the case Ken Dandar had filed on the estate’s behalf. But now, I was bewildered. Early that same day, before going to work, I’d filled Kyle’s prescription at a nearby CVS. I hadn’t purchased this additional prescription bottle for two straightforward reasons—I was at work when it was acquired and never shopped at Walmart. Kyle, looking to save a few dollars, had taken his prescription to the discount store.

In showing me the image, the defendants’ attorneys unknowingly blew a hole in one of their main arguments. It now placed an extra bottle of meds in Kyle’s hands, contradicting their argument that he didn’t like his medication. He wouldn’t have purchased extra if he didn’t feel he needed it. Ken Dandar was delighted with this development: he didn’t hold back. The Church of Scientology’s attorneys were flustered when the new information was filed with the court. Despite this new evidence, however, these lawyers submitted documents claiming I’d purchased the Walmart meds. The truth didn’t matter. They were out to win at all costs.

In November 2011, Luke, under fierce opposition, filed a motion to reopen discovery with the court. Along with this motion, I submitted an affidavit outlining the inconsistencies, fabrications, and inaccuracies in the opposing lawyer’s statements. Despite all of our evidence, however—evidence that should have led to a jury trial—the judge threw out the case in under a month. He granted the Scientology lawyers their motion for summary judgment. His ruling, which sullied Kyle’s memory, read as if the Church of Scientology had written it. Luke Lirot was livid.

“Merryday wrongly usurped the jury’s role in deciding matters of fact at the summary judgment stage,” Lirot later wrote. “In other words, Merryday conducted the whole trial in his head rather than let the jury decide. . . .” “We’re filing an appeal,” he told me. “This isn’t over yet. I don’t know where it will take us” (referencing that higher courts are often reluctant to overturn another judge’s ruling). “But we have to try for Kyle.”

“Do you recall me mentioning how OSA works with the lawyers?” he continued. “I’m going to prove something to you, Victoria. I’m going to show you how OSA operates.”

“I’ll have someone I know post that I’m filing an appeal on a website we know OSA is monitoring. ‘Why We Protest,’ it’s called. Then we’ll time how long it takes them to walk across the hall and inform Wally Pope. Once he gets that info, he’ll call me ASAP.”

“Are you ready?” he asked. “Do you have a clock or watch in front of you?” “I’ve never doubted you, Luke,” I replied, “so let’s go; I’m watching the clock.

As Luke predicted, the wait was short. Five minutes had not passed when my phone rang. “Four minutes,” boomed Luke’s voice. “Not even four minutes.” The first thing out of Wallace F. Pope’s mouth was: “Hey Luke, what’s this I’m hearing about you filing an appeal?”

When it comes to legal matters, the Church of Scientology’s record is nefarious and vile—they’ll withhold evidence, file incomplete depositions, and lie in court documents. To make matters worse, OSA—backed by a fleet of high-priced lawyers—shamelessly troll the internet, spreading lies and misinformation.

Since my son’s highly suspicious Scientology-related death, I’ve had innumerable questions. As an American citizen, I believed I had the right to the truth. I thought justice was also within my grasp. Sadly, I was mistaken.

Copyright©2023 Victoria Britton


“The Church of Scientology does not turn the other cheek. Ministers mingle with private detectives. “Sacred scriptures” counsel the virtues of combativeness. Parishioners double as paralegals for litigious church attorneys.”