Escape From Others

Escape from Others
By Paul Morantz
© July 2011

Shoko Asahara
Marshall Applewhite

The moment I wake up
Before I am able to get up
I say a little pray for you
While combing my hair now,
And wondering what clothes to wear now,
I say a little prayer for you

Forever, and ever, you’ll stay in my heart
and I will think of you
Forever, and ever, we never will part
Oh, how I think of you
Together, forever, that’s how it must be
To live without you
has only meant heartbreak for me.

In memory of the Sakamoto family, murdered in Japan1989

There was a case where a man alleged he was attacked by a large group of Hare Krishna’s for making a snide remark. Another case involved a photographer at a hotel who took a photo of a then Guru of the month who then ordered his bodyguards to physically take the camera from him and destroy it. The case did not have great compensatory damages but the Guru needed suing to bring him from heaven down to earth; one of those 50 cents an hour cases.

I have only vague memories–around 1979 or 1980–and do not remember the client’s name or even the name of the group or leader, just that the woman leader had her own home on a hilltop in Malibu and that her followers lived in tents below her on her property. My client, following legal separation, wanted to get custody of his daughter, around 5 years old, as his wife had joined the group. We were discussing getting declarations of former members to establish the environment was not suitable for a small child when it struck me that there had been no divorce case yet filed thus both had equal custody rights as there was no court order. So I said, “if you don’t have plans this evening, let’s go take her.

We dressed in jeans and shirts. I think he had a knit cap. The sun was setting as we walked uphill into the camp, trying to appear without emotion and blending in, like the couple in movie “Invasion of The Body Snatchers–” trying to act as if we were part of them. The difference was that we were the ones there to do the snatch. We spotted the girl and when Mom was occupied Dad made a quiet sign with his finger and then took her by the hand. We walked out as slowly as we came in. Now it was she who would have to sue for custody and when and if that happened I was to be called. I never heard from him.


I was at the airport sometime in the mid-80s when a young man approached me and offered a flower while trying to pin a smiley face button on my shirt. He told me he was not asking for money for these items, just giving the things away. He said he was not in a cult or acting for some religion. Then he said his group did rehabilitate drug addicts and had a home for runaways and if I wanted to make a donation I could.

“Well, who is your group?” I asked, thinking, “boy, did you pick the wrong guy.”

“We are not a cult or a religion,” he replied.

“You keep saying who you are not, what I’m asking you is who you are,” I said. He pulled out his wallet and showed me an identification card that said he was a member of ISKCON.

“Oh,” I said. “You’re a Krishna. You guys hitting the airports now in civvies?”

Surprised I knew that the letters meant International Society for Krishna Consciousness, he asked “what do you know about Hare Krishna?”

“Well,” I said, “I know you would not admit you are in a cult and a religion, and misrepresented by saying any money I gave was going for the cure of drug addicts and to help runaways…What else do I need to know?”


When I left the restaurant I saw a couple digging into their pockets for money to put in the tin can being held by the girl sitting in a wheelchair. “Don’t give her any money,” I said.

The man asked why and I said, “because after you leave she’s going to get up, fold up the wheelchair and give her evening’s take to Rev. Moon.”

The couple walked off and the girl never made a denial.

When I was a kid I went to Hebrew school, but at age 12 at Passover services where wine and matzah are left outside as a gift for the Angel of Death, it was explained to me and my grandfather’s house what we were celebrating. As the Pharaoh would not let the Jewish slays free, God sent the Angel of Death to slay the innocent first born of innocent Egyptians, including the oldest son of the Pharaoh, in order to force the Pharaoh to release the slaves to Moses. When the Pharaoh recants and sentences truth after them Moses parts the Red Sea to pass and the ocean then swallows up the Pharaoh’s army. “Passover” meant the “passing”over of the first born of jewish families.

I got up and went to her room and came out with a baseball bat and was asked what I was doing. I said, “I can’t believe you are all celebrating this. I can’t accept the concept that God would murder innocent children and ordered that prisoners could be released into the desert. There had to be other ways. I’m going outside to hide and when the Angel of Death comes for his wine and matzah I’m going to bash him so he could never harm a child again.”

Nor did I ever accept the idea one was supposed to be willing to kill their own son for God (God would have to fight me first) nor that God would send his own son to earth do be tortured to relieve man of original sin.

My father never spoke a whole lot about himself and sometimes when they were out I would go to their room looking for clues. Once, while in high school, I found in a drawer a secret Mason pamphlet for members only.

I remember when my father was going to a ceremony celebrating his acceptance as a Masonite, he was very proud and showing off his Mason hat.

But the pamphlet bothered me. It talked of Mason loyalty. You said if a Mason was on jury duty and the defendant flashed a Mason sign then you were obligated to work for the defendant’s acquittal.

I knew this was wrong and it was worrisome to discover such thinking could exist in the world.


A few year ago an Iranian, now living in USA, asked me why I believed the Holocaust ever happened?

I responded, “I have a better question…Why is it so important to you believe the Holocaust never happened?”

Trying not to play favorites, I asked a born again, “Have you ever considered that may be when they took him off the cross he was not dead. So later he got up and found his friends having supper. Then he walked off, died and his body was never found.

I analogized it to the Movie the Boy who could Fly. A girl believes her friend Eric flew and caught her when she fell and that is why she only had a bruise on her head. A psychiatrist said, “What is more likely, that your fall was broken by tree ranches or a boy flew and caught you?”

It seemed like that was a good message. I used the analogy a lot when addressing dogmatic theories, keeping quiet in the movie it ended up the boy flew.

When my brother passed in 2004, at services I read from the Hebrew book passages I had not read since a kid. I read descriptions of being the “Chosen people” and all others were, in substance, infidels. I angrily closed the book.

During summer of l978 California congressman, Herschel Rosenthal, attached a rider to a bill that if passed would exempt Synanon from all health licensing laws, an argument of an old position– Synanon knows better than the state so leave them alone.

The Marin County Supervisors, led by Barbara Boxer . did not want to take a public position against Synanon as it was a constituent, so they called me and requested I lobby to defeat the bill which was in its last committee for vote. Just like earlier LAPDID asked me to save LAPD from est.

The feeling at my office was if I went to Sacramento it might seal my fate with Synanon. On the other hand, Rosenthal could reverse all I had accomplished. So I contacted all the state senators on the committee, delivered packets of key documents and the bill was defeated by one vote.

Then I got the snake.

Years later Rosenthal was driven through Pacific Palisades as a participant in the annual July 4 parade. My water balloon missed.


For years, the cult/religious lobbyists were pushing for a bill exempting religious organizations from punitive damages. The Trial Lawyers Association had me argue against it and the bill failed. I pointed out the freedom of religion is freedom to think and not to do. Punitive damages, which can only be awarded only when there is a finding of an intent to do harmful acts, is a necessary deterrence, and there was a need not to exempt a religious organization from such deterrence given the history of what zealots might do.

The counter argument was the individual evil-doers should be punished but not the church purse string which holds wealth in trust from its innocent donors.

Our side won. Donors had a duty, I argued, to oversee how the money was used. But every year the bill would resurface. So I helped write a compromise bill which was accepted by the churches with a promise no further attempts to eliminate punitive damages would be made. In essence, it stated a church could not be sued for punitive damages until the court found on motion that clear and convincing proof existed to make the intentional charge stick.

I felt I could comply in every case I had so it would not be a burden.

But also, in l979, the State of California put the Worldwide Church of God in receivership over allegations the leaders were taking the money and also against Synanon on similar charges. Nick Petris, who according to Synanon documents, was their “friend” and authored the prior bill exempting Synanon from certain licensing, was now advocating Bill 1423 to take away the State rights to interfere with charity spending, saying any challenges of wrongdoing could be left to individual religious members filing civil suits.

Ironically, Petris was co-author of the Petris-Lautermann-Short act, a brilliant landmark law defining when, how, and with what patient rights, a person could be held without consent for medical treatment when and if accused due to mental state to be a danger to himself/herself or others. I had used the statues many times (See Escape From Golden St. Manor) including Synanon.

Petris position was civil lawsuits could take on abuses, and so there was no need for the state to interfere with religious operations. If it passed both the current state charitable actions vs WWCG and Synanon would end.

I knew Synanon people were using Petris’s office and were acting as helpers. But I was warned Petris was well liked and not to attack him personally on his relationship with Synanon.

I countered the law under attack was rarely used, safeguarded the money for its religious intent, prevented its use for crimes, prevented wrongful self enrichment and asked that reality be accepted in the light of recent actions by religions leading to violence and death, i.e Synanon and Jonestown. Expecting members to control and prevent abuses by litigation overestimated their personal assets and underestimated the difficulties of such attempts. Pass this law and there are no safeguards.

I saw bored faces when I spoke. But when Petris came in he got sort of a heroes welcome and spoke elegantly about God and this country’s separation of Church and State. He was even congratulated “once again” on his “eloquence.”

The bill passed.


When I was flown through desert winds in l979, wanting to vomit in or jump out of the four seated plane, I thought I was on the way to speak to some officials at Lake Havesu a new city just incorporated in 1978

When I saw all the cars parked on the community college campus on a Saturday I thought there must be a basketball game. It turned out instead that all of the community had turned out to hear me speak on their new neighbor Synanon. Speakers were placed outside of the auditorium for those who could not get in. This was the difference between a big city like Los Angeles that engulfed everything weird and didn’t blink, and a small town where people had come to get away from the craziness of big cities.

During his opening speech, the masters of ceremony, said, “Paul, I think this is for you” and pulled out a rubber rattlesnake from his coat pocket and tossed it on my plate. The crowd roared.

Rather than expressing my displeasure, I spoke about how gracious the city had been to me and how impressive it was– “especially how fast it forwarded my mail.”


Rod Mullen was a veteran teacher who entered Synanon in its Camelot days seeking to be part of a new and better way of education. He was also the person who gave 15-year-old Joe Butler an A plus for writing that Chuck Derderich can’t tell a thousand people what to do, Synanon is becoming an Army that will defeat its enemies, changing partners is good and it is good to knock someone into a ditch who would not do it.

Watching my insurance appointed attorney trying to examine him at deposition was frustrating . “Do you brainwash? No…Ok. Do you do child abuse. No…Ok.”

So I took over the questioning and pinned him with dates, times, places, events and Synanon speak. I grew to like him. I decided to see if I could deprogram him.

As he testified Chuck Dederich’s police seized tape discussing beatings, Imperial Marines and future killing was just polarized “court” spoofing and that Dederich played characters and took opposition positions, I produced a Synanon summary of all his “court” speeches which I had reassembled alphabetically by category and asked him to read through it and find one topic where Dederich did not say the same thing every time he spoke on the subject.

He testified he could not find any, but added, “With all your vast knowledge of Synanon, you must know that when he says we are going to smoke marijuana in Synanon he is making it up because you, more than anyone, knows Synanon is against all drugs.”

I asked him if Dederich spoofs when he speaks to the press or does he speak honestly about what is going on in Synanon. He replied Dederich tells the truth when speaking to the media. I then pulled out the transcript of a recent press conference over the Health Department trying to inspect Synanon where Dederich said that they were going to smoke marijuana in Synanon as it was not a bad drug (he already had smoked with Betty when she was dying of cancer) and had him read it aloud.

Two weeks after his deposition, Rod Mullen left Synanon. He ended up giving evidence of crimes to the Department of Justice.


An investigator who worked the Synanon case had spent considerable time for a mother trying to locate the father and her young daughter; the father after the mother won custody years ago kidnapped the girl and disappeared. The investigator now believed he knew the private elementary school the child was enrolled and telephone me to asked if I would be of assistance. I had the custody award entered in the Los Angeles court and obtained an order that the Los Angeles police department do everything in its power to assist placing the daughter in the mother’s custody.

The plan was to cover both gates to the school, wait for the father to drop off the girl and drive off, and then take the girl. But no one saw her. When we were all inside the principal’s office and asked if a girl by her name was enrolled, we were told no and started to leave when the principal asked a teacher if there was a Bonnie Smith (not real name) and the teacher said no just a Bonnie Jean. As we started to exit it struck me– Brae was the girl’s middle name. They brought the girl to the office and it was obvious by the mom’s old photograph–it was her.

The girl, it turned out, had long ago been told her mommy had died. I watched as her mom introduced herself. For this, I charged only $500. Later, both the investigator and myself got a letter from the mother thanking us but adding she now had other bills to pay, we were both well-off enough, and she wasn’t going to pay either of us.

So much for Adam’s rib.

Tony and Sue Alamo Foundation

I had no involvement with Tony Alamo of New Jerusalem Church other than study them in the 70’s when it was the Tony and Sue Alamo Foundation before troubles forced them to move from Los Angeles where their cult, founded at the end of the 60’s, was on the streets. They made money selling elite denim jackets and when Tony landed in prison for tax evasion his wife, an ex-actress, continued sermons on a syndicated TV show.

They moved to the Southwest and after 1982, when his wife Susan died, Tony went from rags to riches, attracting followers by attacking Catholicism, building a multimillion ministry, with a 15-acre compound headquarters at Fouke, Arkansas and locations in California and New York.

In 2009 Tony, formerly Bernie Lazar Hoffman, at age 74, was convicted for violating the Mann Act, taking underage girls for “wives” and across state lines; one bed partner claimed to be 8. As he was walked off to prison, likely forever, as he was sentenced to 175 years, he protested against the persecution of a prophet of God. The girls were daughters of his church followers who believed when he said God had commanded that the girls be his sexual partners. He preached that puberty, not age, was God’s determination when they were ready.

He continued to make jackets for celebrities, including singer Michael Jackson, who wore one on an album cover (hopefully just a coincidence) causing the IRS to seize assets for tax evasion after a court ruled his organization was a business and no longer a church.

But I will remember most when Susan Alamo died in 1982. Tony had his then small clan in a small home gather around her body and for days prayed for her to arise.

In honor of the event, a local disc jockey played on the radio over and over, “Wake up little Susie.”


Escape From the Devil

Escape from the Devil
By Paul Morantz
Copyright January 20, 2012

Neither Dr. Margaret Singer, nor I, ever came across a true satanic cult. But following the movie craze on multiple personalities, I ran across a quacks teaching their patients that they were multiple personalities, and urging them to bring forth different personalities that they could name. I even know of one therapist who hospitalized entire family claiming they were all multiple personalities and build their insurance. One of the Hillside Strangler’s in Los Angeles who murdered a series of prostitutes in the late 70s tried to build a multiple personality defense, even got a psychiatrist to not only buy the argument but write a book on it. Later it was found the killer had done research on how to produce his fake killer personality. The truth is, like satanic cults, there have never really been very many documented.

In one case in the 90s, both claims were presented. But I doubt either were true. In recalling this tale I am limited to only discussing what was testified to and thus public record.

A young looking 29-year-old, who could imitate the voice of a teenager, we will call her RJ, frequently telephoned a mid-nation big city Hotline where she claimed to being a minor being molested by a family member. Someone deduced that she was an adult and she was arrested for misuse of the system. Somehow it was resolved by arrangements wherein she was bused to Los Angeles to live as a nanny for a husband and wife who were both psychotherapists and who would treat her.

The wife- therapist, who allegedly drank a bit, was excited at the idea of getting a multiple personality patient to work with. Sometimes RJ, who had been raised by adopted parents, slept on the floor by their bed as if she finally had a family; sometimes she slept downstairs on the couch. Eager to please wife therapist, RJ would make up personalities and bring them out at request and give them names. This, unfortunately, is not an unusual reaction for patients who therapist try to convince have multiple personalities .And the husband – therapist, with his wife asleep, often came downstairs to grab some chicken to eat but ended up snacking on the breasts and thighs lying on his couch. According to testimony, she also went to his office and had sex with him behind closed doors.

The story RJ had told as to the source of her problems, and her cries out on the Hotline, is that as a child she had been adopted by a devil cult and the leader passed her around for members to have sexual rituals with. She never retreated from the story.

Eventually she got pregnant with husband therapist and in a phone conversation tape recorded by her machine, he was harsh at this news, complaining that he couldn’t believe at his late age he was led into this calamity by his thing. In anguish, RJ drove off in the rain, smashed into a tree and lost the baby.

Wow I thought, what a case. Under Calif. law a tape recording is not admissible without permission, but I was prepared to argue that since he knew the answering machine had come on before she picked up the telephone he knew of the recording. But I handled it by playing the tape at his deposition, and then after he heard the tape, I questioned him, assuming correctly having heard the tape he was not going to deny what was on it. Thus admissiblity of the tape was no longer important.

The problem occurred sometime later when I found out RJ was now having a sexual relationship with her new therapist who was treating her for the damages caused by the husband – wife therapist team. This, too, was not unusual or unsuspected. There have been cases of therapists getting turned on by their patients recollecting being raped, and then raped their patient. One of the damages for a patient who has a sexual relationship with her therapist, is that as she was lulled into believing not only is she well, but is desired by her therapist. That can be addicting, and the patient may look to reconstruct that type of relationship in future therapy. In the 2nd case, it was alleged therapist prompted that their relationship was real.

When I discovered this,, I felt that while it was all explainable, and consistent with human behavior and damages from sex with a patient, how was she going to be seen by the jury, particularly if it also does not buy the story of her being raised in a devil cult. Might they just decide she brought this all on herself and ignore the ethical violations. I didn’t think that was true; she was definitely a double victim but I was not going to be on the jury.

I decided the best way to handle this was to quickly settle the first case before they found out about the 2nd case and then settle the 2nd case before they found out about the first case. With that mission accomplished, and packing up the files I saw records indicating that RJ when she was around 14 was taken by her stepdad to a therapist. Not likely stepdad would do that if he had been in a devil cult where she was passed around for sexual rituals. And while she testified to it, I suspect something happened, more than just the experience of child abandonment by her real parents, but I’m clueless as to what it was.

Last I knew, RJ became a therapist.

Branch Davidians

David Koresh’s followers chose to perish by fire in l993, as had the SLA had so chosen 19 years earlier, along with their children, rather than surrender during the infamous Waco shoot-out. The dying rather than surrendering also was comparable to Jonestown 15 years earlier. If Koresh was not going to surrender, then no one would. This was another example of all must join in dying to validate Koresh’s choice to be a martyr and how the irrationality of the leader becomes rational to followers.

The incident led to some conspiracy theories concerning the government but the event is just another typical totalistic leader choosing to die and have his followers die rather than give up, ala Sadam Hussein as well.

Koresh was born in 1959, as Vernon Wayne Howell, in Houston to a single 14-year-old mother, Bonnie Sue Clark. Considered by some as illiterate and diagnosed with dyslexia, and some say gang rapped when he was 8, Koresh dropped out of School in his junior year.

It has been stated by the age of 11 he had memorized the entire New Testament. He got a 15-year-old girl pregnant when he was 22. After joining his mother’s church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, he was expelled for pursuing an affair with the pastor’s daughter.

In 1981 he joined the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, and after 2 years declared himself a prophet.

In 1987 Koresh challenged the authority of George Roden which led the latter to exhume a corpse to practice for a raise the dead contest. Koresh, with seven armed followers, were found by the police firing guns at Roden, who had been shot and was pinned down behind a tree at the Compound. Koresh and his followers were charged with attempted murder and at trial claimed they were trying to stop corpse abuse, and a jury, perhaps sympathetic to followers, acquitted them while hung on Koresh (not reach a verdict).

In 1989 Roden murdered another would be messiah with an axe and Koresh came to power at the ranch headquarters named “Mount Carmel,” making his name change in l990. In Hebrew “Koresh” means “holiness.” During the siege, Koresh told the FBI his name meant “death.”

After reports of physical abuse, weapons and sexual abuse (under Texas than allowable age of 14), on February 28, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) attempted to raid Mount Carmel only to find guns firing back, resulting in the 51 day siege. .The FBI HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) took over and negotiated release of 12 of the children. But as the firing had left four FBI agents and six Davidians dead, and Koresh, seriously wounded, the writing was on the wall for Koresh. Facing prison, and fearing he might die, it was matyr time and all shall follow, burned alive by fire, no one exiting.

I was considerably angry at the time. It was the first cult event that the media had not contacted me for an opinion, a realization that younger reporters were now the news gatherers. But far more disappointing was that the government did not know what to do. And United States Atty. Gen. Janet Reno apparently didn’t have any right information to contact the right experts for advice; such list included Dr. Margaret Singer, Dr. Robert Lifton, or me.

I always believed if I had not been in the hospital and had been in Jonestown I would have prevented the killings and suicides. This was an easier call. Surround Koresh and try to make him surrender, i.e., humiliate him in front of his followers, and they are going to all die. I always thought at least governments learned from history, although I suspect today, given 9/11, there are now abundance of experts to be contacted along with the Rand Corporation.

They never should have surrounded Mount Carmel in the first place. Instead, wait for Koresh to leave the compound and then seize him. After the mistake of the raid, Reno’s plan to finally force there way in should not have happened without some sort of plan to safeguard the children, such as an effort to get people secretly inside, or just wait it out until Koresh died of his wounds. Face saving, charging ahead, was foreseeably going to get them all killed and did–76 total, including 17 under the age of 17.


Heaven’s Gate

Four years after Waco and 19 years after 900 drank Jim Jones kool aid, followers of Heaven’s Gate’s founder Marshall Applewhite, were cajoled into drinking phenobarbitol-and-vodka cocktails per a sales pitch to “shed their containers” and rendezvous with a UFO that was trailing the comet Hale-Bopp. They also put plastic bags over their heads to cause asphyxiation if the drugs failed. The body count in Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego was 39 and included Applewhite and his wife.

I heard of this group for the first time just after this 1997 mass suicide was discovered when a journalist called to advise me of it and get my opinions. Profiling Applewhite was not difficult. When I was told male followers had castrated themselves, I said to look for a sex-related event in Applewhite’s life that caused him trauma and from which the group came into existence. I said he was preaching sex was a sin, his marriage was platonic and the males to honor him removed their organs.

It was later reported Applewhite had been a college music professor but a homosexual affair with a student got him fired and cost him his wife and children. From there he became a mental patient, met a nurse with whom he would form a sexless relationship and start Heaven’s Gate, claiming they (now called Do and Ti) came originally from another universe. They did not have sex. Thus to follow his choice and rationalize it, followers renounced sex and a group of males submitted to castration.

As to the mass suicide, I said the space ship story was the sales pitch and Appelwhite did not believe it. I said he either had a life threatening illness or believed he had one, or was tired of his own mental illness. He wanted to go, so all must prove that this is right decision and follow. It was later reported he had represented he had a terminal illness, saying he had 6 months to live from cancer and his body was disintegrating. The autopsy revealed there was no cancer.

His victims, as usual, were not poor and were well uneducated. They were middle class, tireless workers, making good money by building commercial websites in order to support the nine-room mansion where they had resided.

Center for Human Problems

The Center for Human Problems, was a lesser known small group of therapists that practiced, in Tarzana, California, its founder’s theory on its patients. This in of itself was malpractice as it was founded by a non-licensed theorists, Jay Richard Kennedy, who was God to his licensed therapist followers who brought him the money. Kennedy provided his live therapy theories by video tapes. While quite older, he also had controlled the licensed women therapists underneath in part through sexual affairs.

The Center pushed patients to donate to Jay to aid his work in “saving mankind” and for similar reasons to provide funds to pay center bills, all in addition to regular therapy charges. All of which violated APA ethics. As with most such groups, parents were considered the root of pathology and outside relationships wwere discouraged.

Before becoming guru to therapists who then controlled patients, Kennedy had been a stockbroker and renaissance man, doing a bit of everything, including, ala Hubbard, being a writer.

He wrote the 1955 film “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” And the novel, “Prince Bart: A Novel of Our Times.”

In the 1970s, he studied psychotherapy and then created the Center.

When I sued them on behalf of two patients, one ordered by Kennedy to sell his business, thankfully the Center was insured, the carrier not knowing it was in the hands of an unlicensed self-appointed therapist, who unlike Hubbard, failed to ever call it a religion, maintaining his theories to be scientific and not religious. I pointed out that exposed them all to treble damages and attorney fees (California punishment for doing without a license that which a license must be obtained to do), and the case settled. One of the follower/therapist recanted, went legitimate and ended up the therapist of one of my clients. In her medical report she confessed her own role in doing harm while she was a “true believer” and had first hand knowledge validating the charges of inappropriately controlling lives.

Kennedy died in 1991 at age 80.


When psychologist Lawrence Cohen first did not want to be Jewish- type-casted he changed his last name to Corey. When the therapist became born again Jewish, he changed his name again, this time to Cohen. As always, the small group of patients had to rationalize and affirm the decision of its ill founder. Thus he converted his non-jewish patients to Judaism, his sales pitch being that Judaism is the only “psychotherapy” that can succeed, the proof being that Jews all through out history had preserved in the face of horrible persecution.

While not a practitioner, I am of that heritage, so I had a particular disdain for the man when I filed suit on behalf of two followers who had not dated but he still ordered to be man and wife and took pleasure when with my help his license was revoked.

The crazed doctors’ followers purchased condos all in the same building, buying at the same time a condo for him. On Saturdays he marched them to the local synagogue. It was claimed he had a sexual relationship with a patient/follower but if so she did not come to me for representation.

During the deposition of my female client at he defense lawyer’s office, she became so emotionally hysterical during questioning that she ran into the lawyer’s private office and knocked everything on his desk onto the floor.

After the case was over I remember being in a plaintiff’s law firm and seeing framed newspaper stories on the large jury verdicts they won. I never really was involved in the practice of law; I just had cases that were causes and survived long time periods without payment by maintaining a home office which had no such luxury for a giant waiting room with plaques. I thought if I had a waiting room what would I put on the walls. I decided it would not be case money outcomes but copies of all the therapist licenses I had revoked. Cohen’s would have been dead center.

He tried to defend claiming all he did was all religious conduct, not therapy; but when I produced his billing to his followers medical insurance for psychotherapy he was dead in the water.


Aum Shinrikyo

Aum Shinrikyo sect, founded ironically in the Orwell year “l984″ by Shoko Asahara in Japan, in l995 committed one of the worst of all destructive cult acts, leading Dr. Lifton to go back to Japan and write a book on the group. The sect outdid the Rajneesh salad bar caper by releasing sarin nerve gas in Tokyo’s subway pursuant to a Manson-like con on his followers– the need to bring on an Armageddon. Aum Shinrikyo succeeded in killing 12 and injuring thousands. He was sentenced to die.

Born Chizuo Matsumoto, Asahara studied acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, and in 1981 was convicted of practicing pharmacy without a license. As had L. Ron, he then started a religious sect, changing his name.

The sales pitch to get his followers to release the gas was right out of the Manson-DeFreeze-Dederich “How to” book—This version of Helter Skelter was for the high purpose of causing the “overthrow of the government and making him Emperor of Japan.” But later, it was suspected to be an effort to “divert police attention” from investigating the group for the disappearance of the Sakamoto family.

When reading the accounts of the family disappearance I stopped cold on a sentence saying the husband was a lawyer investigating the group. He had “disappeared” with wife and daughter.

It was later learned that on November 4, 1989, followers murdered Tsutsumi Sakamoto, a lawyer working on a class action lawsuit against Aum Shinrikyo, along with killing his wife and child. Five day earlier Sakamoto was successful in persuading Aum leader Shoko Asahara to submit to a blood test in order to examine Asahara’s claim of “special power” inside his body.

After the sarin gas attack, it was established that the Sakamotos had been assassinated by Aum Shinrikyo and Asahara was convicted of that crime as well.

The culprits entered their apartment as my old friend Tex Watson had done with his Manson mates 20 years earlier. Tsutsumi was struck on the head with a hammer, his wife Satoko was beaten. Their infant son– Tatsuhiko Sakamoto– was injected with potassium chloride and face covered with a cloth. Tsutsumi and Satoko were also injected with the potassium chloride. Satoko died from the poison, Tsutsumi Sakamoto died of strangulation. The 3 bodies were placed in metal drums and hidden in three separate rural areas in three different locations so as to appear 3 independent murders, their teeth smashed to prevent identification, the bed-sheets burned and tools tossed into the ocean. Their bodies were not found until confessions revealed the locations.

Outside of Sakamoto’s family no one could have taken that news as hard as I did. Sakamoto, as was your’s truly, was known as the “anti-cult lawyer.” He had previously successfully led a class-action suit against the Unification Church for assets transferred to the group, and for harm inflicted by worsened family relationships–A victory similar as in Molko on similar charges and against the same defendant.

Sakamoto was just 33 when he was killed, the same age I was when I got the snake. His wife was 29 and daughter was 14 months. I realized when I learned of his demise I still being alive was not something you would have not bet on; that probably the media had kept me alive afterwards making cults fear the publicity my death would cause, no one wanting the investigation my murder would start. And John Van de Kamp went on to be state attorney general. Not a bad protector friend to have.

I also thought of my long ago fiancé, so afraid for her kids she had left me in fear after the snake. That ripped me apart every day of my life. Now, how could I ever say or think she was wrong. I sobbed when I learned of the family’s end. I sobbed again writing this. To the Sakamotos, “I say a little prayer for you.”

If there is an after life expect to find me and Tsutsumi one day playing gin rummy, arguing over a discard, his wife and daughter playing with my border collies.

I don’t remember how long ago it was, whether even if it was before or after I learned of the Sakamato family murder. I know it was after I learned of their disappearance.

My street is rather dark but from my living room a car parked in front of my house still caught my attention. Four persons, dressed in uniform tuxedos, all exited and were at the vehicle’s rear with the trunk open. From musical instrument type cases they appeared to be removing and assembling what seemed to be automatic weapons and rifles. I froze like the famous deer in the headlights and thought it is finally happened. They are coming for me. When I had daydreams of this moment I always imagined I would drop over my fence into a neighbor’s yard and run for next fence, hop over that and keep fence hopping. But in those daydreams I could do that.

This was not a day dream. In panic, I finally charged out the front door down my grass hill towards them, thinking my only chance was to surprise them, capture a weapon and defend myself. If I am killed maybe I will get one or more first. I got halfway there when I saw that what they had taken out of the musical carrying cases were in fact musical instruments. They were a Mariachi band, headed to perform at a party down the block. It was after all, Cinco de Mayo day.

The Cesar and Chavez

In l976 Charles Dederich formed an alliance with another leader of a revolutionary community, a man who envied the loyalty and trappings Dederich had accomplished—Cesar Chavez.

The Chavez Family had moved to San Jose in late 30’s during the days of The Grapes of Wrath. Cesar became a leader in the Hispanic Community Service Organization and in l962, when field hands were treated like the dirt they worked in, he formed the United Farm Workers union with Rev. Jim Drake and Gilbert Padillla. Chavez led the UFW on a strike in September of 1965 that lasted 54 months, the opening battle of a 22-year war. Like Synanon the UFW called its fight “the holy war.” Chavez would order strikes at the moment a crop was ready to be harvested, demanding more money, and for members treatment as something other than farm tools. In 1968 as Chavez ended a Gandhi-like l25-day fast for nonviolence he was visited by Robert Kennedy sporting a UFW button on his label. Chavez responded with a UFW border registration drive that brought 200,000 people to the polls for Kennedy.

Chavez invented the “secondary boycott” going beyond the growers to markets that sell the grapes, setting up picket lines outside the stores and recruiting idealistic college kids to join the marches. Chavez’s views were similar to Dederich’s: “Either yu fight to the bitter end or you don’t get in to it at all,” Politics was a street fight: “If you get hit, hit back.” Chavez was victorious, the growers surrendering and signing a collective bargaining agreement in July of 1970 and its union membership jumping from a few thousand to more than 80,000.

In 1971 Chavez moved the UFW headquarters from Delano to La Paz, a collection of old buildings scattered near the railroad tracks in Keene, a one-gas station town in the Tehachapi Mountains, 30 miles east of Bakersfield. Like isolated areas selected by Dederich, it was blue-sky land where hawks flew. Those who followed, including the legal staff, donated their lives to the union for $10 a week. But in l973 the growers struck back by signing new agreements with the more cooperative Teamsters Union, a powerful entity to join forces against the UFW. As several UFW members were killed Chavez went to Europe to argue his case, even getting an audience with the Pope.

Like Synanon, the UFW became family run, Chavez’s brother and sons all having high positions. Everyone checked with Cesar before making a decision. Some referred to him as the God of the Movement who must control every aspect. Chavez, like Dederich, believed in importance of community– he was partial to the idea of a kibbutz–and also liked to experiment with different lifestyles. It was only natural that he would develop a close association which Charles Dederich.

In l976 Chavez barely lost on a bid to pass into law a proposition he favored. He became paranoid, blaming his own for not doing their jobs. Purges of selected scapegoats followed. Chavez believed Synanon had the answer to creating the community and commitment he dreamed of and no one in his union could tell him he was wrong. That year he visited Dederich at the Home Place in Badger.

Chavez was an awe. He saw an organization bringing in millions of dollars a year. He saw Dederich as a famous man who pioneered self-help methods and he envied the efficiency of Synanon jitneys, autos and motorcycles transporting smiling faces endlessly to their chores. He was most impressed with the fact that no one criticized the thoughts of the leader. The Old Man, Chavez decided, knew how to create a community.

In turn Dederich was flattered by the adulation from one who had obtained popularity representing the underdog and who in Dederich could see some of himself. He wooed Chavez by giving him buses, cars and food and advised him if he really wanted to turn La Paz into a Synanon-like community Chavez should import the Synanon game.

Dederich taught Chavez how use the game to solve problems and to create a community that followed one voice and one policy. Many at La Paz argued against its implementation but Chavez ordered them to play. It became a means for Chavez to look for spies within the organization and to control his followers. Those not committed or in total agreement could be identified. The game was used to attack those perceived as potential enemies. La Paz developed its own version of containment and people often were required to get permission to go off the property.

Following Dederich’s arrest for conspiring to murder me, Chavez appeared at a Los Angeles Synanon press conference to publicly give Dederich his vote of confidence.

By l981/l982 an exodus of key staffers at the UFW had begun, some saying Chavez’s effort to form a spiritual community modeled after Synanon had turned La Paz into a prison. The experience had been so painful that many UFW staffers were reluctant publicly to talk about it.

After many years of use, Chavez publicly admitted the game—invented by his good friend who was now a convicted felon—had not worked. By then it was too late. Another Shangri-la had bitten the dust.


I had a lawsuit against a psychiatrist who used his very intelligent patient to trade his stocks and then became partners with her when she discussed buying an apartment building, all which are in violation of APA ethics (doing business) with a patient. Named as a defendant was the psychiatrist’s partner, a psychologist.

I had a case before against the psychologist related to improper sex claims and he telephoned me and said if I would dismiss him he would testify against his partner, but if I did not dismiss him he would testify for him. I told him to take a flying hike and then went on and won the case.

This eventually became for me a moral issue. The psychologist who had offered to sell perjury was L. Jerome Ozeil.

In l989 two sons, Eric and Lyle Menendez, murdered their parents, Beverly Hills residents Jose Menendez and his wife, a former beauty queen, Mary Louise (“Kitty”), for their inheritance; the bodies found in the den so bloodied it was to suggest a “mob hit.” They had been eating blueberries and ice cream when attacked.

Despite my lawsuit against him, Oziel was used by TV shows to talk psychology and thus the Melendez brothers came to him for treatment. He taped recorded their confessions and offered to testify at their trial; the California Supreme Court ultimately allowed in two of the 4 tapes Oziel made—recorded notes– for his protection due to claimed threats, a narrow exception to the patient therapist privilege.

My dilemma was I believed the Menendez brothers were sociopaths and I really did not want to help them. I also knew Oziel was a person who would willingly commit perjury for his own benefit. I did not want to get drawn into the Melendez case but lawyers are “officers of the court” with a duty to promote the truth.

Finally I made my decision. The lead defense lawyer was Leslie Abramson whom I had worked with in the public defender’s office. In fact, Leslie was the first lawyer I learned from and role modeled. I decided she was entitled to the information. I called, and left on her machine a message I had damaging information concerning Dr. Oziel.

She did not call back. I decided that I had executed my ethical duty in leaving the message and thereafter remained silent. Leslie, it turned out, didn’t need more information. The woman who taped the Melendez confessions, Judalon Smyth, took the stand and testified she was given an IOU from Oziel for 500 sex acts, Oziel forced the confessions and had “brainwashed” her.

Further the defense admitted the killings but claimed it was self defense, charging that the parents were going to kill the kids and the father had sexually abused them.

Oziel, who was already on probation with the State Board of Psychology for an improper “dual relationship–” exchanged therapy for construction work– was filed on again by the board just before the second Menendez trial for allowing the woman he was having an affair with access to Menendez therapy, improperly gave her prescription drugs and assaulted her. Also alleged was that Oziel had sex with his baby sitter, giving her also prescription drugs and assaulting her.

The prosecutors (second trial) did not call Oziel to the stand, just played the tapes. Oziel in l997, left California, and surrendered his psychological license.

The tapes ultimately undermined the defense, as it contained no mention of any sexual abuse. The brothers were convicted and sentenced to life.


Not all therapy sex cases were men on woman. A female psychiatrist brought her
female patient home to live with her. A young male tennis player went for help in resisting women because he loved his fiance. His older woman therapist, instead of helping the problem, would page him late at night to come over for sex.

My last sex case involved a young girl living in a drug rehab for problems from taking too many anxiety pills. Her non-licensed counselor, a former drug addict, seduced her. The Rehab’s insurance claimed no foul as he was not a therapist. I responded yes…but he was doing a therapist job and his lack of license exposed them to treble damages and attorney fees. I also pointed out he did this also at another facility and that you have to watch ex-addict counselors carefully as it was shown by testing in the 60’s that members of Synanon–the creator of the methods modern rehabs use–did not lose their anti-social personality, but learned to parrot in response to pressure.

The carried faced the fact I had both helped establish the law against sex by counselors and taken down the first ever drug rehab. I was not to bother writing the complaint, they were sending a check.

Around the turn of the century I engaged in a conversation with an attractive woman with the amazing James Bond character like name of Aphrodite Jones at an art gallery who told me she was an author. I then obtained her last book–The Embrace: A True Vampire Story– to read which surprised me in that she had made no comment when I told her what my legal career involved. The book, it turned out, was the story of a cult in Florida known as the “Vampire Clan” in which the followers believed they could be given eternal life by the bite of their tall 17 year old Vampire leader Roderick Justin Ferrel.
When Ferrell decides to leave poor and rural Eustis, Florida, about 20 miles northwest of Orlando, with his followers of misfits and loners, he decides to rob and kill the parents of Heather Wendorf who with others were planning to leave with Ferrell for New Orleans (perhaps Rod read too many Ann Rice Novels) without knowledge of this plan to finance the trip.

Ferrell took only a young and friendless 16 year old Scott Anderson who idolized him with him and tells him his plan and orders his participation. The father, Richard Wendorf was asleep on the couch while his wife Ruth showered. Ferrell beat Richard multiple times with a crowbar, and then he bludgeoned Ruth to death, bashing her head in. Ferrell became the youngest in the United States on death row (not to be confused with the record company), a sentence later commuted to life imprisonment without parole.

While I can make an argument that Scott once inside froze against the wall and would not participate should be given a Gold Star for his ability to resist, Florida, however, had no sympathy and instead gave him life imprisonment since his entering the house knowing the plan made him guilty of conspiring. They felt he should have tried to stop it. If he had so tried, the diminutive Anderson would be dead. No one considered the influence Ferrell had over Anderson. When I closed the book I had plans to go to Florida and try to help Scott, but unfortunately some litigation stood in the way and then I became ill and was forced to retire. Ironically I am blood transfusion dependent, which means I, for real, live off the blood of others.

Ferrell’s mother, once herself a follower of her son, was later convicted of enticing a teenage boy into sexual rites with her.


Following the conclusion of the 2nd Gottuso case I met a woman, Regina, who represented she was a doctor from Siberia visiting the United States. I showed her around Los Angeles a bit, being very curious to discuss with a Russian what it was like to grow up in a totalistic environment and then one day be granted freedom. Our relationship was not amorous. She returned to Russia and over a year later returned to LA and I opined this time she was “green card” hunting. Despite her wishes, I would not enter a relationship. I said if she ever became a citizen and then still thought I, 20 years older, was the love of her life call me and we will make a date.

Just that happened in November of 2003. And after having dinner with her however in December at a Russian restaurant I became ill with food poisoning. When I advised her a month later I would not see her because my brother was going through a bone marrow transplant she responded, “your brother is going to die so get used to it.” A familiar chill came over me. Then I found my e-mail hacked with messages sent to women, whom I had e-mail addresses, to stay away from me because Regina and I were “engaged.”

When I confronted her she threatened that I should keep quiet as she would do anything to survive. Further, she let me know she knew where family members were and actually went to an apartment of a former girlfriend to ask questions about me.

Eventually, I was contacted by 2 former Russians who told me that after she had left Los Angeles she went to San Diego and married a 67-year-old artist, who then went to Russia with her and also came down with food poisoning. Suspicious, the artist told her to stay in Russia and he was going to divorce her. She responded by claiming to the police in San Diego he had held her prisoner in his home, raping her three times a day for 3 days. He was now convicted and his two Russian friends were doing investigation to try to get the conviction set asid and a trial had learned about me. They had uncovered she had “marks” in various cities and states, seeking to seduce for green card/money. I apparently was one of them.

I called his lawyer, stated my name and said I was his star witness. I prepared my own declaration for his motion for new trial, declaring her threats to me and most importantly that she had contacted me one month after the conviction and had never mentioned to me that she had ever been married let alone raped. I further said that she was so strong no 67-year-old man could rape her. The court set aside the conviction and set the matter for trial. The prosecution then dropped the charges. I gave a full report to the FBI. The last I knew, she had disappeared.

A friend said to me that he was sorry I had to go through all that and I responded I was glad. “I was her mistake. She would have gotten away with everything and taken everything he had.” It was one more time, I said, I had helped someone escape, in this case, from a conviction for a crime he had not committed.

My first job, as it was for many kids, was delivering the morning paper. But my father was concerned with my safety and ended it.. Then as a senior year at college I was the co- sports editor, along with Lance Spiegel, and had daily responsibility for putting out the U.S.C. sports page. But that was more fun than work.
So arguably my first job was during my first year of law school. Our class had a big break in the middle of the day and somehow a person I met on campus talked me into taking a job as a noon duty aid at a predominantly black elementary school named after its street—32nd St–watching kids eat and play over two lunch periods. I was called “coach” and supervised play time. The kids were great. I also knew for many I might be the first white person they had real contact with and I wanted to make a good impression. I understood the best way to get along with kids was to not treat them like kids.
I remember the cutest third grader who I always stood in line for to get her orange juice. I asked some girls once how they knew I had a hot date later that after noon and they replied that I was wearing new shoes. One fifth grader, the best athlete, calling my attention to a lady going by in shorts, asked in a conspirators whisper, “Coach, did you catch them legs”
“”Hey,” I scolded, “that is somebody’s mother.”
“We’ll she sure ain’t mine.”
Then one day on the playground /the laughter died as the news flashed– Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. I clocked out in the office and then headed for the gate, nervous that my car was parked several blocks away and I was probably going to be the only white man in the vicinity. When I reached the gate, there was about 12/5th and 6th graders waiting for me, all having not returned to class after the bell ending lunch period had sounded.
“”Coach,” a tall girl with braces said, “We are walking you to your car.”

They then formed a tight circle, grabbed my hands, and lead me to my car (a green 69 Triumph GT6). It remains that moment I am most proud of so naturally the school would also give me my funniest memory.

In 1967 (the year of OJ) U.S.C. decided for the first time to have song girls and looked for campus volunteers. Celeste Fremon, now a renowned journalist, became the head of the group and is today considered the mother of all song girls. I was friends with the entire group, which was not entirely accepted by loyal Trojans. Many complained that U.S.C. all-male cheerleading was a tradition, and further the girls did not compare well to crosstown rival UCLA’s more experienced pom-pom waivers. So one day I wrote in my column:
“The first time UCLA played USC it lost 72 -0. A few years later when they got the courage t to try it again they got beat 56-0. But the 3rd time, they tied. So give the girls a chance.”
One of those brave girls–Claudia Pawlan—two years later invited me back to the 32nd St. school to visit the classroom where she was now a teacher.

At the time, my shoulders sort of slumped like his, I had similar wavy hair and mustache, and as his was at that time my left wrist was in a cast. The kids on the playground were not around when I worked there before so looking back I should have not been so surpised that a kid walked up and said, “are you Joe Namath?
I could see the kids before my eyes spreading the news and pointing at me.
So I waived.
But one kid—Billy– close to me when I worked there, recognized me and asked if I would later visit him at his class.

I sat down in Claudia’s class to observe her teaching when a boy left his seat, came to me and asked for my autograph. I couldn’t help it… this was too funny. I signed his name. The next thing I knew the entire class was lined up to get my signature. While Claudia controlled her giggles, I took center stage and gave the class one of those “education is more important than sports” speeches.
I assumed Broadway Joe wouldn’t mind.
When I left the class I went to Billy’s class. As I approached the door his teacher, aware I was coming, immediately gave Billy permission to go out in the hallway and talk to me. We chatted a bit, I was happy he remembered me and our friendship. “Billy,” I said. “After I am gone you have to clear up this Joe Namath thing and tell them who I really am.”
After saying our good-byes I turned to head downstairs and heard him say as he reentered his room, “See… I told you he was going to come visit me.”
This site’s popularity has surprised me. Per the counter after several months there has been 32,000 hits.

But no one should he lead astray. Every person as they are bad decisions, stories they would just as soon not run in the Wall Street Journal.

I have two in particular, over which I have felt such guilt, they may actually be factors in my making many of the decisions in the “Escape” stories; a desire for absolution.

Both occurred close in time during my youth. Chris, AKA Shauna, the dancer at the Kitten Club nearby the U.S.C. campus, was the fantasy of the male student body. I was the lucky one she connected with, at least certainly my friends thought so. I did, too, but not because silicon was still a rarity, but for the cookies she would bake, and for the little sweet girl she was, disadvantaged, without much education, but she could dance.

One night after I graduated law school she called and asked I come get her from a party. She spent the night at my place and suddenly said to me she needed to talk. Tired, typical often of a man, I said I wanted to sleep and could keep to the morning.

In the morning, she did not talk and I did not ask what it was she wanted to talk about. I drove her home in silence. Nor did I follow up. A year later I would find out that after she got home she committed suicide. Apparently, she feared she had breast cancer and did you know how she could support herself if surgery took her off stage.

It doesn’t seem to me that even at that young age I might have been able to give positive suggestions or encouragements. But I had chosen to go to sleep.

I spent the summer studying for the bar exam living in a single on the beach at Playa Del Rey. The area, which bordered Los Angeles International Airport to the north, was then the rockbed of beach volleyball. Other than breaks to play my life was organized around studying and bar review courses, even turning down invites from Chris to go to parties.
I rolled out of my bed at 3:13 a.m. at the sounds of gun shots. Playa Del Rey along the ocean was not a heavily populated area. My building with about 12 units was all that existed on the ocean side of this street. Beyond it to the north the street transformed to sand and a creek. Across was a halfway house for young addicts, modeled. coincidentally by the grandaddy of such houses and the subject of chapter 6. To the south were several other apartment complexes. As I walked the street I found nothing and noticed no lights on anywhere. It seemed I was the only one awoken and that unlikelihood for a moment made me doubt what I perceived.
I went inside to call the police but did not. I realized by the time they got there and I gave a report it would be morning and my study schedule would be burdened by lack of sleep. I had gone too far in my regiment to interrupt it just as the exam was approaching. I hadn’t found anything. Maybe some kids had just tossed firecrackers from a speeding car window to scare the ex-addicts at the halfway house. I went back to bed.
Two days later my studying was interrupted by knocking on my glass door. Two police detectives asked me if I had heard anything that night. They explained that a woman had arrived at LAX at midnight and then disappeared. A young man at the halfway house yesterday had found her purse in an adjacent field. I told them what I heard and then they confided that another tenant had also heard the shots.
The next day I was disturbed by loud honking and screaming. A man in a convertible wanted everyone on the block outside. He demanded someone tell him what happened to his sister. I watched his hysteria from my glass door. I realized my decision had been selfish. Wrong. To this day I don’t know what happened. I was never contacted by the police again. But at that moment I wondered if I had called the police could that woman have been saved. It was doubtful I assumed. If this was a robbery and she was shot and driven off chances were she was dead when I wandered the street. Still, what if the police stopped the car and she was still alive in the trunk. Playa Del Rey had only one exit road, Jefferson Blvd.


The woman asked if I could help her daughter back from Synanon. She said she found her 18-year-old smoking marijuana and took her to Synanon. But now they would not let her see her daughter or speak to her. I asked the dates she took her to Synanon

I then pointed out that was after the rattlesnake?

“They said they didn’t do it,” she explained.

I thought to myself, I will get her daughter out… I will offer them a trade.


My new client explained that after finding her boyfriend in bed with another girl she sliced his tires. He responded by breaking a windshield. Back and forth they went on until she said he was going to burn. You can threaten a lot of things in Malibu, but fire is not one of them. She was arrested. Reading the arrest report I spotted one of the things she did was put a rat in his mailbox.

“Where did you get an idea like that?” I asked. After she answered I stated she apparently did not know who I was and then I told her. She responded,

“We’ll better your my lawyer than his.”

“Mr. Morantz, have you taken any precautions to protect yourself?”

“If I answered that question I would have to change them, would’nt I?

“But I bought a pet mongoose.”

“Did you hear that 1000 Synanon members just committed suicide?


“They had to keep up with the Joneses.”

In 2006 I was contacted by an attorney representing his legal partner, will call him Bruce and the partner June. She had been a long time member of a small philosophy/cult, a remnant of the 60’s on the West side dedicated to philosophy and teachings of 17th Century Dutch philosopher Baruch de Spinoza ( and later Benedict de Spinoza).

His ideas, while controversial in the Hebrew world, stirred no uprisings. He did not seek to profit from followers and lived a solo life as a lens crafter. His popularity grew after his death. Bruce was seeking an expert against the philosopher’s present day cult of followers but the best, Dr. Magaret Singer, had passed. He wanted me.

It is typically required that one have a psychological degree in order to testify concerning psychological subjects. But I suggested making a comparison to juvenile detectives and probation officers who had been allowed based upon experience to testify as to the common characteristics of gangs and their typical behavior. The judge ultimately ruled I was “more than overly qualified” and allowed me to testify, making it perhaps the only lawyer in history to so testify as an expert on brainwashing and common characteristics of those who would implement the process. The report I wrote became the seed for “Common Characteristics of Totalist Communities.” June did a very good job of organizing it.

I would testify, per documents I read and testimony given, it appeared in l969 a man commenced group sessions using the Dutch man’s philosophy as a psychology, seeking his support from controlling members. A woman 35 years younger than he would marry him and after her death she took control, and, I testified, the evidence indicated those who would not follow her tenants, seek a “personal” relationship or left were shunned, as illustrated in a letter from the woman leader stating one was with them or against them. She claimed everyone had to give all of themselves, “the work can be no mistress to no man…You cannot serve two masters and neither can we. You are for the work or against it. You either have the common denominator of wanting to know your self which includes the study your desires or you do not agree with us in doing this…”


After testifying a totalist community is often marked by a “you are with us or against us” philosophy” on cross I was asked if didn’t President Bush Jr. say that, too.

My response: “Yes.”

Following my testimony the case settled, but I doubt if it approached what the case was worth. My involvement actually had been frustrating, if there had been another expert, I was more valuable as a case consultant if in fact my advice would have been taken. The complaint was not plead correctly, they did not amend it, certain things could have been done to box in the insurance company and take advantage of tits incredible mistake not to initially defend the case (which could make them have to pay a judgment in excess of the policy limits, and a jury trial should have been sought. But to give legal advice would have been taking away the impartiality necessary to being a truthful expert.

Sadly, the expert on the other side was formerly an expert I used, having read a paper he wrote concerning a therapy cult (See Escape from Center For Feeling Therapy) that I batttled for at least 5 years. There was no way he could testify for the group if he had read the same documents and or heard the same tapes I had, but I learned Bruce did not turn over my brief or the tapes in pre-trial discovery. Further, my former expert was wearing a yamaka suggesting a recent born again conversion. Well within his rights, but eliminated him in my mind from using as an expert for plaintiff’s again, as he would attackable by suggestion he was just against “other” religions.

In 2007 I was involved in seeking to reverse a prior court ruling allowing one of 3 daughters to be a very wealthy mother’s overseer. In aftermath that daughter hid the mother from my client even telling a nursing home not to let anyone know the mother was there, including the police, or allow without her permission any visitation.

When we filed to ask the court to overturn its prior ruling it was claimed the mother did not want to see my client and I after a long investigation I ended up writing a report detailing how the mother’s experience as a prisoner during the Holocaust before she migrated to America, led to the development of some not so mentally well daughters. While claiming the situation had cultish qualities, and the daughter in charge may be controlling the mother, who only was allowed to see 2 daughters’ family and whose photos alone were in her room, I stated the situation might be more akin to the well known cases of private nurses who secret their patients and then have them sign over their assets.

The brief ultimately led to changes in the court view and at the time I left the case the court was considering an independent guardian.
*………………………………………………………….*……………… ………………..…………………………….*

I have always enjoyed a good oxymoron. I even made up a couple myself:

“rap music”

“UCLA football”

But the best I heard was not intended and came from another graduate of my alma mater, filmmaker and father of film computer graphics, George Lucas.

At the end of the final Stars Wars, Ian McGregor crosses light beams with Darth Vader who while fighting tries to recruit him to join the dark side. Skywalker retorts that he is for freedom and that you are “either with us or against us (you are not free).


I, myself, was and am part of a cult. During the fall, on Saturdays, we dress up in cardinal and gold and go to a cathedral called the Los Angeles Coliseum where we stick two fingers in the air in a victory sign, sing “Fight On” root for Trojans to kill the enemy and for the outsiders to “fumble.”


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Last, not a case, but an irony. As a 9-year old child I cried when one of my early hero’s, Captain Nemo, died at the end of the Disney 194 movie of Jules Verne’s “20,000 leagues under the Sea.”

But as an adult when I saw the movie the again, I was awe struck. The 19th century captain, highly intelligent and egotistical, after his family had apparently been murdered by some government act, invents a submarine and recruits homeless sailors for a crew. Worshiping him, the crew carries out orders to use the submarine as a fake sea monster that rams and sinks warships, the sales pitch being to protect against wars, but is really about revenge for his family by killing countless hapless sailors.

In the end, mortally wounded, Nemo takes his submarine, the Nautilus, to the bottom of the sea to die, his crew with him to share the experience, so loyal they fight for right to die with him. Verne, I concluded, over a century ago when he wrote the book in 1870 understood the phenomena.

As for the public back then, true to form, it was so upset the depraved Nemo died, that Verne brought him back 5 years later as having survived in his book, “Mysterious Island.” Nemo was claimed then to be an Indian nobleman fighting the British Empire, something not stated in the first book.

Unfortunately, Janet Reno apparently never saw the movie, or read the book, or if she did, as Werner Erhard might have said (See Escape from est) she didn’t “get it.”

And, somehow not surprisingly, in this decade a famous film animated fish was named after him –Nemo– You can never keep a good sociopath down.


2011 produced its own cult story as this book was being written, a Texas jury convicting polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs of child sexual assault in a case stemming from two young –daughter-of- members trysts labeled “spiritual marriages” and sentenced him to life in prison plus 20 years.

Typically of many sociopaths, Jeffs acted as his own attorney after firing seven attorneys. He refused to cross-examine the state’s witnesses, and instead evoked images of the civil rights movement and religious freedom. He made an hour long objection defending polygamy, and twice threatened the judge and court with punishment from God.

Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl and an audio taped his sexually assault of a 12-year-old. As did Charles Dederich, Jim Jones, Richard Nixon, and others Jeffs taped his sexual and others instructions to young women and followers to preserve for history he was a great prophet.

His group FLDS, claiming 10,000 members nationwide, is one of many past and current radical offshoots of Mormonism, which itself has totalistic features, but most religions do, particularly if there is community. As with most Mormon splinter groups, Jeffs advocated actual polygamy and proclaimed, ala George Bush, Jr., he is God’s spokesman. Women dressed in frontier-style dresses and hairdos from the 19th century as well as seeing underage girls walked about pregnant.

Mormonism, which itself has some totalistic features, but most religions do, particularly if there is community. As with most Mormon splinter groups, Jeffs advocated actual polygamy and his role as God’s spokesman.

He is certainly not the first Mormom self appointed prophet to do that. More notable was the “Prophet of Blood” Ervil LeBaron, who ordered the killings of many of his opponents, per religious doctrine of blood atonement to justify the murders. He was eventually sentenced to prison for orchestrating the murder of an opponent, and died in prison.

Similar to Jeffs he had at least 13 known wives in a plural marriage, several of whom, as were with Manson and DeFreeze, involved in murder rampages from Mexico (killed his competing brother) to Salt Lake designed to take over resisting flocks.

Eventually Ervil sent an armed army into town of Los Molinos in an effort to kill a rival who was not there. The town was shot up anyway and destroyed, two men killed. In prison, LeBaron wrote The Book of the New Covenants, with orders to kill per a hit list he wrote. Around 20 copies were printed and distributed. Clearly having Manson abilities, upwards of 25 people were killed per his orders from prison.

Typically the Mormon founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., may have set the standard. Like with Synanon, early Mormonism was put down and in response violence was “justified” per God’s desire for retribution, “blood for blood.” Rather than hanging, capital punishment he preached was better if you shoot the defendant or cut off his head and “There are men standing in your midst that you can’t do anything with them but cut their throat and bury them.”

Smith Jr.’s successor, Brigham Young, like Smith, Jr., thought thieves should have their throats cut. Even Dederich only said beat them up badly. Not surprisingly, Utah existed from 1851 to 1888 executed murders by decapitation. LDS Church leaders taught the concept of blood atonement—certain sinners blood must hit the ground– into the 20th century and it was responsible for Utah allowing execution by firing squad.

Smith, Jr. in 1844 was the mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, and running for President of the United States when jailed in Carthage, Illinois on charges of ordering the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, a newspaper, whose only edition claimed Smith was practicing polygamy and that he intended to be a theocratic king. Like in the wild west movies, a mob broke in and killed him. Brigham Young then added an Oath of vengeance that God would “avenge the blood of the prophets on this nation.”

And then there was the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the greatest cult crime until 9/11 and the responsive Iraq invasion.

From 1857 to 1858, President James Buchanan sent U.S. forces (“Utah Expedition”) to put down a possible rebellion in Utah by Mormons. At the time Utah was a theocratic democracy (arguably it still is) lead by Brigham Young. The Mormons, fearful of attack, organized the Nauvoo Legion, manufactured fire-arms, sharpened sabers and converted scythes into bayonets. Young declared martial law. While some skirmishes occurred no all-out battles took place. The Mormons were heroes or terrorists depending on view. They kept U.S. troops awake with night time raids, cut trees to blockade roads, destroyed the river fords and set fire to the grass with wind blowing towards the enemy and stopped trains thus preventing provisions delivery.

Into this frey, innocently wandered a wagon train of families from Arkansas– the Baker–Fancher party– headed for California led by “Colonel” Alexander Fancher. After arriving in Salt Lake City, the travelers stopped to rest at Mountain Meadows. Filled with Synanon-like-paranoia, the Mormon militia, led byIsaac C. Haight and John D. Lee persuaded Southern Paiute Indians to attack the wagon train. Mormons dressed as Indians joined in. The date of the attack was ironically “September 11,” 1857.

The settlors, like fighters at the Alamo, encircled and lowered their wagons, digging shallow trenches and piling dirt, building fortification. Seven were killed and 16 injured, as they held the siege off for 5 days before, running out of water, food and ammunition, surrendered. Fearing Mormons had been recognized and truth might complicate negotiations of the Utah War, William H. Dame gave the order for an event similar to one a century later known as the Mai Lai Massacure in Vietnam, to wit, no witnesses must live. Militia officer John D. Lee under a white flag truce told the Arkies they could be escorted safely 36 miles to Cedar City under Mormon protection in exchange for turning their livestock and supplies over to the Indians. After walking the settlers a distance from their camp, Mormon forces hiding n nearby bushes and ravines attacked and killed all the adults and older children (totaling about 120 men, women, and children). Seventeen children, all younger than seven, were spared. The militia was sworn to secrecy and the Indians were blamed.

The graves, like most massacres, were carelessly done, leaving bodies to be eaten by animals. Nearby families took in the children. Investigations halted during the Civil War, but after John D. Lee was convicted and executed.

Jacob Forney and U.S. Army Major James Henry Carleton conducted investigations that had determined Mormon involvement. Carleton accused Brigham Young, although Mormons today say his letter to let them pass was not received on time. Young was arrested but never charged.

Of interest, five months earlier apostle Parley P. Pratt was shot in Arkansas by an estranged husband of one of Pratt’s plural wives. Many Mormons saw it as Arkansas bigotry. Mormon leaders responded that the Second Coming of Jesus was imminent, and that God would exact punishment against the United States for persecuting Mormons and killing Mormon prophets. It has been stated Brigham Young met with Paiute Indian chiefs on September 1, 1857 and encouraged them to fight against the U.S. Army, offering all of the livestock then on the road to California, which included that belonging to the Baker–Fancher party. The Indian chiefs, at the time declined to steal.

It is generally held Young’s use of inflammatory and violent language, ala Dederich, in response to Federal troops, added to the pscyh leading to the massacure. Young stated in public forums afterwards that God had taken vengeance on the Baker–Fancher party.

Starting in 1988, the Mountain Meadows Association, consisting of descendents of Baker–Fancher victims and the Mormon killers designed a monument in the meadows, completed in 1990.

In 2007 the 150th anniversary of the event was maked by a ceremony held in the meadows. Approximately 400 people, including many descendants of the murdered and Elder Henry B. Eyring of the LDS, attended. In 2011, the site was designated as a National Historic Landmark but unlike what occurred eventually after the Holocaust, the Church never offered descendents financial compensation. In 1984 Brigham Young University won the college football national championship despite rules students could not have sexual contact without being married.

I, myself, enjoyed many skiing trips to Salt Lake City, until a tree killed Sonny Bono. I admire some of the good works of Mormons, but also I have been told first hand tales of shunning those who don’t do as they are told. Anyone that thinks the Constitutional mandate to separate state from religion is alive and well in Utah is in a word, naive.

I would go now to the history of the Catholic Church and other spin offs but this book is long enough.