Escape From est (or How I Saved the Los Angeles Police Department)

Escape From est (or How I Saved the Los Angeles Police Department)

by Paul Morantz
(c) April 2010

“Once upon a time, long ago in a close by county, I saved the Los Angeles Police Department.”    Sort of sounds like a space odyssey, doesn’t it? Something you wouldn’t ­mention unless you frequent institutions where inmates call themselves 007 or Napoleon.  Once in a while, however, I have fun reciting it and then letting others decide.   Am I right?  Did I once save the LAPD?

­This odyssey, whether earthly or not, began for me back in late1974 before I was yet 30, when I filed a lawsuit (Renfroe vs. Golden State Manor) wherein I represented skid row alcoholics who had been kidnapped and sold to nursing homes in order for the defendants to steal their social security money and commit a fraud on Medi-Cal/Medicare. (See Escape from Golden State Manor).  That case would be the start of an unusual 25-year life style where my day began and ended in the same fashion—with a death threat.

With proceeds from the settlement of that case in l976/77 I purchased my first home in Pacific Palisades, a 1100 square foot bachelor pad which had a nice backyard for my 2 border collies Tommy and Devon.  It turned me from a part time writer into a full time lawyer and I was hired by the law firm of Donald H. Cohen in Beverly Hills as its primary trouble shooter.  After a short while I had a fiancé named Trudy, her adopted kids and many barbeques.   Life seemed grand.  Or at least on course for that middle class American Dream.

­Around June of 1977 the publicity from the nursing home cases led to my ­first “cult case”—Synanon.  When my first client called me from a hospital to thank me from saving her from becoming “One of them” I embarked on a career study of cults and “brainwashing.” [1] I wanted to understand why she believed that (See Escape from Synanon I).

I read every book I could get my hands on dealing with the subjects and as a result learned a lot about groups I was not yet litigating against.   But seeing that could be an eventuality, I kept files on different movements.   One that concerned me greatly was Werner Erhard, founder of est in l971.


You wouldn’t think a small time con artist in 70’s polyester suits would be seen as potential public enemy No. 1.  Especially since his criminal record was in the public domain and accessible to all with little research.  But Erhard would simply acknowledge his past and say let’s all “move on” as he had done.  He would have you believe that he was the living proof that anyone could change his/her skin.  And the times seemed just about right for that kind of jargon. est didn’t exist in some compound (ala Moonies, Synanon, Jonestown) so Werner  could keep mobile and target larger diverse crowds.  He understood public relations and image.  He understood brainwashing and was able to sell America on the idea of a long weekend behind locked doors where a trainer yelled, blamed your parents and convinced you that you made life-long lousy decisions based on their poor belief systems.  No one was allowed to use the bathroom, the environment was controlled, critics were taken head on and cathartic planning had as its goal a dissipated ego-egg shell squashed human beings, crying and confessing, barfing into bags; all mercifully ending with hugging and songs by candle-holding former graduates who welcomed you to the membership of those who “got it” whatever “it” was.

Normally, what is taught in religion, philosophy or politics is not of paramount importance to the study of totalistic cults as all beliefs are allowable under the First Amendment.  You learn themes presented in movements only to understand the belief systems injected into followers that explain resulting actions and the carrots that are held out as rewards for required obedience.  By example by understanding theories of Helter Skelter you understand how beliefs motivated murder.  Or how a suicide bomber believes he will be awarded young virgins for his  virtues.  Whether the ideas are true or make sense is irrelevant as all ideas are protected under the Constitution.  You have the right to believe whatever you wish.  In my practice it was the cult’s process of conversion that was at issue, i.e. were new beliefs voluntarily accepted or psychologically manipulated— not the package sold.  The crime was to forcibly cause the belief through a thought reform process.   The freedom to believe is the freedom to choose your belief; there is no freedom to force it on others.  And  also while ideas are protected by law, implementation of ideas is not.  You can believe a race should be eradicated, but you can’t put the plan into action. What is scrutinized is the cult’s art forms of converting someone involuntarily into accepting a new belief while at same time convincing the person believe he has accepted the belief voluntarily on it merits. It’s an art form that looms as one of man’s greatest threats if he fails to understand its simple make-up.  In the wrong hands it can cause great chaos, even end the world.

But est also had a philosophical package one had to be concerned with regardless of how the belief was consumed.  It was the Anti-Golden Rule-Rule.  It was, essentially: “Do unto others as you would not have them do unto you and do unto them first.”  In other words, You are responsible to yourself only—the “Me” generation. “Do unto others what profits me and leave them to take care of themselves.”

Ironically, this was at the tail end of the 60’s Cultural Revolution which had as its opening goal the great moral reformation. If anything, it was born from the Golden Rule, but the make-over was to explore not just politics, religion, living conditions, clothes, and music– where the golden rule should flourish–but instead extended questioning all that was seen as archaic– including the holy grail: an alternative to the conventional therapy which had so far aluded man kind, despite Freud’s good intentions.  Out of the disarray and rebellious times, various cults, alternative lifestyles and forms of self-help arose.  Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, the fathers of Humanistic Movement said go west and build your selves.  Spinning on Emerson, it was Let your true self out and all will be well.  Timothy O’Leary, the pied-piper, instructed all to get to this blessed alternative state of consciousness by means faster then a speeding bullet and by whatever works.

By the late sixties, several movements had grown strong out of this search such as the attack encounter sessions of Synanon, Primal therapy’s focus on reliving past pains and Scientology’s auditing process.  In Northern California, Esalon became a haven for the new age counseling and religions to strut their stuff before wanting audiences.  A new industry was spurned.  The bongo beatniks of the 50’s who had become drop-out hippies in the 60’s were now in the 70’s the “Yuppies” looking for quick cash and a brand-new BMW.  Instead of 60’s consciousness the 70’s was all about the “Me” generation.  The search for the perfect high (60”s) was replaced by the search for the perfect “benefit,” though the boundaries often merged and how you got there didn’t matter.


The ultimate Kingpin of the Human Potential Movement was Jack Rosenberg, an ex-used car salesman from Philadelphia with a couple of criminal convictions for fraud.  He dabbled in Scientology, was aware of the Synanon process and spent time as a trainer for Mind Dynamics.  He was charismatic, handsome, successful and discovered in the 70’s that self-help was the hot shelf product of the times.   When Mind Dynamics came under criminal investigation for pyramid schemes [2] Jack broke away and, with what he learned from Mind Dynamics and from some Scientologists, developed his own program.  He changed his name first to Kirk Von Savage and then later to Werner Erhard and started “est (erhard seminar trainings). ” [3] It became an instant success in the 70’s with the middle class yearning for “benefits.”  Weekend trainings took place in hotels and the like where the doors were shut and going to the bathroom was disallowed.   It was a philosophy of no good, no bad… just is.  People were taunted with the goal of getting it while being called assholes and other names for the way they lived their pre-est lives. As in typical MaoTse Tung thought reform participants had to confess their sins and were put down until they did completely surrender to the idea of how pathetic they were yet how great they could be if they followed Werner into the light. [4]

est began to make millions, and expectedly the wealth was not shared with the working class.  Instead it remained in a complicated non-profit-to-profit corporation scheme that wound up in an IRS investigation.  This gave est, as with most totalistic movements the advantage of a cheap-to-free-labor force.  A follower was taught he could get benefits by helping est succeed so by just being around Werner was compensation enough.  So est people volunteered at the phone lines to call friends, family or anyone to convince them to enroll or to come to a graduate seminar.   The money was there to pay these workers but then why do that?  Per Erhard each was responsible for his space, and Erhard filled his with cash. It is the worker’s job to be responsible for filling their own space.  In est if someone worked for nothing that was not Werner’s “responsibility.”   est proclaimed each person the master of his universe and responsible for what happens to them, whether raped or inheriting a fortune.    Under this philosophy one could do as he or she wished because if it hurt someone else that was that person’s responsibility and what he or she really wanted.

Erhard had big ambitions that also made him more dangerous than the typical guru of his times.  His biography was highly publicized.  This and John Weldon’s The World of Est (1977) were very revealing.  Erhard stated his goal of est becoming the worldwide philosophy.    He had plans to get est taught in schools and offered free training to any government agency that would take it. [5] He wanted mainstream acceptability and big friends.  Like Synanon, est got programs into the prisons which est could point to as government validation. Unlike Synanon, however, Werner never acknowledged using brainwashing techniques.  But it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see the comparisons between Erhard’s peer-controlled confined-attack training and Chinese Thought Reform practices.  All one had to do is read.

Internally, Werner controlled his followers.  People were encouraged to direct all their time and thoughts to est and him.  He used Scientology’s e-meter (a makeshift lie detector) on his staff and family to make sure they were loyal and dedicating their time to him.  His temper was highly volatile and he often flew into rages and broke or ripped things apart.  Criticism by others received reprimands and punishments, some of which were physical.    On occasions he struck people, women included, and was once arrested for assault. [6]


By l978 I had hoped to destroy est.  I had a simple plan.  Someone who took the course would come to me and I would file a class action claiming correctly that est was providing psychotherapy through unlicensed individuals (trainers).  I would seek an injunction and under the better business statutes could claim an attorney fee as well to be added to class judgment.  As the acts were intentional I could claim punitive damages.  I could seek back interests. Acting without a required license can also triple the damages awarded under California law.   Settlement with est was never part of my plan.  Obliterate was my goal.  But I had a problem.  I never got an est case. [7]

I set up an appointment with the state Medical Board and presented the case that est was practicing unlicensed psychotherapy and should be shut done as unlawful.  They agreed with my legal position but said they didn’t have the money to enforce the law.  They explained they raised money from therapists dues and the State Attorney General bills them for any of their expenses concerning upholding licensing laws and in a short time est with its army of lawyers would wipe out their budget.  I replied: “Then sue the Department of Justice, not est.” The laws requiring a therapist license, I explained, were not to give licensed therapists a monopoly on providing services, but to protect the public from quacks.  Sue the State, I said, for not doing its job. Finally a board member said that it was an interesting idea but the fact was California citizens would rather have their gurus than law enforcement.  They were not going to do anything about it.

I turned and left believing I probably interrupted their morning coffee break.


I went off on a Maui vacation to play volleyball and heal a heart broken (fn6).  There I met two life long friends-to-be, Shawn de Mille and Anne Southerend, and at bond fires held their attentions with my tales of Synanon and est. While we were enjoying the beach, a young mayor of a new small Hispanic farm community north of Fresno, called Parlier, was taking the est training in San Francisco and believed he got it.  The mayor visited Erhard in San Francisco and told him that his young town was struggling with growth and economic issues.  Erhard said he would save the day by training the entire community for free.  Parlier would become the first “estville.”

est trainers soon arrived in Parlier to set up free est trainings and to talk with the community leaders.  est “graduates” followed to support the trainers and to make friends with the community. As might be expected an “underground” movement grew in Parlier wanting more information on the polyester invaders before handing over to est, in effect, the city keys. Inquisitive citizens started looking around for someone who had experience with what they thought might be a cult. They checked in with Dr. Margaret Singer in Berkeley, California, the nation’s leading expert on cults and brainwashing.  She gave the resisters two phone numbers.  One belonged to a psychologist in Berkeley, Jessie Miller.  The other was mine.

So on a warm evening in l978 Dr. Miller and I arrived in the town of Parlier by separate transportation.  We both knew Werner had a shot at success.  If he made them believe and follow orders, the town could become an est success story…more food on the table, civil organization and beautification—just like he had predicted in his book.   Had not Hitler made the trains arrive on time?   Happy faces would mask the new marching soldiers committed to a new town and family.  The word family would expand to friends, community and finally brothers and sisters dedicated to the spreading of est.  And from the appearance of success, and delayed discovery of its true price–freedom, the publicity would ignite more towns to sign up for free transformations.

If you understood Werner you knew Parlier could be classified as the first domino.   We believed it and believed it had to be all stopped here.  The alternative was to watch a spreading virus applauded by mass servants as it advances.

Quietly, without fan fare, on the dusty western streets of Parlier for a few nights in a town where English was not the major language, freedom of thought was to once again to be the battle prize as it has and will be again.

I would like to say I did something heroic…stole supplies, blew up vehicles and train tracks, kiss senoritas…but it was none of that. In fact I did very little but explain and answer questions to a small committee and observe.  I met with the concerned secretly and explained what I knew about Erhard and est, what his goals were, and how brainwashing is achieved. Dr. Miller did the same. They listened.  But when it came time to act they did not need much help from us.

On Friday night Town Meeting the community circled an est trainer who from his pulpit lectured on the great things Parlier could accomplish with est trainging:  Tree lined streets, successful farms, flowers blooming along refurbished plazas.  He would pause in his speech and on cue est graduates dispersed in the crowd would cheer and try to get their darker neighbors to join the cheering.  In that one instance of observation I knew I was now witnessing what happened in Nazi Germany years before my birth.  I knew I was seeing just how easy it was.  I felt the hair standing on my neck.

But this was not Munich.  It was a poor Christian street-savvy farming community that could spot a con. Erhard had mischosen.  Maybe he should have gone for Beverly Hills, Malibu, Marin or some other wood-tubbed outdoor spa community where bored upper middle class muses with spare time seek to assure themselves how “in” they all are or how philosophical and trendy each is becoming with each added “benefit.” The big issues in Parlier were not so grandiose.  They sought food and a roof for their families and not until then were they to contemplate  transcendence.

In the middle of the trainer’s speech on how Parlier would transform into a beautiful rose garden a citizen interrupted and in Spanish said, “The only problem Parlier has is est.  When are you going to leave like we ask?”

After the crowd roared approval the Trainer commented this was not an est meeting but a Parlier meeting.  A second Spanish voice from the crowd responded, “If this is not an est meeting why then are you the monitor?”

Dr.  Miller and I looked at each other and smiled.  Parlier would not fall. But before the night ended, the Trainer tried several failed sales pitch for est.  And one he used as promotion was a statement that the entire Los Angeles Police Department had agreed to be trained by est.

I was more needed back home.

The Los Angeles Police Department

I returned to my Pacific Palisades home but before I could contact the Los Angeles Police Department it contacted me.  2 LAPD intelligence officers, Detectives Lynne Cottle and  Dale Hollis were aware of the est deal.   They came to see me and explained that est was indeed arranging to train the entire Los Angeles Police Department for free. They knew about brainwashing and about Werner Erhard but said that their unit, the LAPDID (intelligence gathering), was currently disfavored because of abuses (by example they investigated John Lennon), were not listened to and was about to be disbanded by the new police chief Daryl Gates. They said they also knew about me and the work I was doing and asked if I would contact Los Angeles police chief  Gates and warn him about est. They asked me to “save the Los Angeles Police Department.”

Put it that way, of course, and it’s an offer I can’t refuse. My first step was to write police chief Gates.  I stated my background and Werner’s criminal background and goals ( including esticizing Police Departments) in support of my concerns. A Meeting was set up by Gates between myself and the under chief wherein I explained more about est and how thought reform is accomplished. I advised the police force was in grave danger. I explained that when Scientology came under investigation there were several law several police officers – Scientologists–who ended up charged with taking copies of police files on Scientology to Scientology.  I said that when it hits the fan on Werner it would be a guarantee that there would be LAPD officers spying on LAPD for est.

I explained that approximately a 3rd of the police officers would not be affected gravely by the experience.  Their reactions might be from a waste of time to some benefits from self evaluation.  Another proximate 3rd, I stated, might benefit by a personal introspection if est does not come to dominate the officers lives.  But domination was a realistic outcome given est uses its graduates as a free workforce and that all participants will be continually contacted to be persuaded to participate in more advance est training and/or events (this time with a fee).  The free training had to be seen within the overall goal of getting the officers to swing their alliance to est and become est followers.

The final third, those so recruited or said to have “gotten it” after the first session, may find their lives dedicated to est which in turn would alter possibly forever their life choices and commitments.  Some participants, I said, may end up getting into trouble with the law, breaking up with their families and/or losing friends. I indicated they may adopt a type of vocabulary which by its nature of speaking in clichés (a result in all cults) reflects a reduced mental capacity while making the participant believe he/she has increased mental potential. Ultimately, some officers, I explained, could become psychotic, develop medical illnesses and/or have serious mental health issues upon the realization that Werner and est are frauds, should they be fortunate enough to finally reach that conclusion.

The thanks Gates sent me for my looking out for the LAPD came in the form of a copy of his official letter he issued to all LAPD officers. Therein he stated, and I learned for the first time, that the LAPD had not made any arrangement for the est trainings, but the Los Angeles Police Protective League, i.e. the police union had.  Gates made it clear in his letter that he and LAPD had nothing to do the proposed est training programs, neither sponsoring it or approving it, and had no opinion concerning it. The letter made it clear the arranged est sessions were the doing of Los Angeles Police Protective League, was not required by Los Angeles Police Department and any person who chose to attend any such training was making his or her own personal choice to do so.

I immediately wrote back Gates that he had written a very nice “save your ass” letter but asked when was he going to do something to protect his officers? They needed at least to be warned or otherwise protected from potential psychological damage. Further, LAPD was itself in danger should there be a mass conversion of thought by its members.    I offered to match Erhard’s offer and said that I would hold for free deprogramming sessions right after est programming sessions in which I would explain to the police participants the context of their experience and criminal history and goals of Werner Erhard.

I did not hear back from Gates, the under chief or from anyone else. So I started again from ground zero but this time I took my cause to the Los Angeles Police Protective League.  I found the people who made the arrangements and they explained they thought the LAPD would gain in community relations.  As  est had some popularity and was trendy, they thought participation might help LAPD’s public image by showing that officers were trying to improve themselves just like everyone else. They thought police and community thinking would be brought closer together and on that point they were certainly right.   I then explained what that similarity of thought might be, everything I had told Gates and LAPD, my experiences, readings and what I saw in Parlier and knew from study of other totalistic movements.

I definitely had their attention and concern. They agreed they were going to look into the matter in more detail before they further proceeded, but upcoming that weekend was the first training session.  The hall for it had been obtained, the first police officers to go through it had been selected and thus they were not inclined to cancel as all preparations were complete. I argued they had to cancel until they investigated further because they were putting officers at risk. I promised there would be some psychological casualties, changes in allegiance and disrupted families as a result of just one training and those risks were greater than the harm from the certainty of inconvenience from late cancellation, even the loss of money spent in the preparation. But it became apparent to me no matter how hard I argued, the Los Angeles Police Protective League was going forward with at least the first training. Ultimately those deciders would have on their conscience the results of what happened but I doubted they would care. I doubt there were follow-up investigations or that anyone has since wondered what happened to the sacrificed cops.  Not likely was there a follow up study.  Meanwhile I went on and looked for a way to slam the door.

I decided  that since the training was going to go forward, maybe I could use it as an opportunity to cause enough embarrassment and adverse public opinion to cancel any further est training of LAPD officers.

Because I had earlier brought to Los Angeles County’s attention that skid row alcoholics were being snatched out of the legal system and sold to nursing homes/mental wards as a Medi-Cal/Medicare/Social Security rip off scam, and because I was known to be fighting Synanon, I had at the time media and law enforcement creditability.   I telephoned reporters I knew at CBS, Los Angeles Times, the now defunct Los Angeles Herald  Examiner and other outlets and arranged a press conference, the subject of which was “Is the Los Angeles police department about to be brainwashed?” I brought in a psychiatrist, Dr. Frederick Hacker, familiar with movements like est as well as organizations that were information clearinghouses against cults such as Cult Awareness Network (“CAN”). [8]

I laid out the facts, history of Werner Erhard, what happened in Parlier and what was about to happen to unaware LAPD officers looking to show the public that they, too, could be “groovy.”  I raised the question if this was really the training the public wanted for those dedicated to protect and serve. I made my predictions as to what would happen.   As for the public, I said, they were paying $350 for what the prisoners of war in Korea got for nothing.

The media broadcasts and published stories were better than I had hoped for. They not only raised the questions of whether or not LAPD was about to be brainwashed but what was the American public doing by its own participation?

I telephoned the LAPD psychologist and asked him if he was concerned with est’s reputation for attack therapy and tearing down defenses in its training courses. He admitted he was aware of some of the methodology (“you are no good,” “you have made the wrong choice’s all your life”). I asked him to be present during the training for protection of the officers. He agreed and arranged to attend.

One question I had was how seasoned officers would react to trainers saying that crime victims—and not the criminals— were responsible for acts of violence. “If you were raped you wanted to be raped. ” This might, I thought, be a hard sell to police participants who had visited a few crime scenes.  However, when I made my investigation following that first training I found that this philosophy had been omitted from the training. This confirmed my general opinion that Werner was more dangerous because the dogma was not sacrosanct to him and he had no problems modifying it to fit his audience. Most totalistic leaders would stick by their ideology and arrogantly never back down.  This characteristic often limited how far the movement could grow, but it did not limit Werner who in my opinion was far more concerned with the all mighty dollar/power than convincing anyone of any particular sales pitch virtue. [9]

I then arranged a second press inquiry into the reactions to the first session to continue the public debate.  After all the police belonged to the public, not the Union or Gates.  I asked the police psychologist who attended if he saw therapeutic practices.  He answered affirmative. Then why, I had asked, didn’t he have the police officers in attendance arrest the trainers?  His face slacked to silence and his lack of answer was answer enough for the media.  When asked if he witnessed brainwashing techniques the psychologist responded that he saw the techniques of tearing an individual’s defense’s down but he did not see the nature of the new beliefs being installed.  Dr. Frederick Hacker, who had counseled the Hearst family during the famed 1974 kidnapping and had his own anti-terror center in Vienna, filled in that blank saying the belief injected was a simple message—“est is great.”

And thus more headlines ran across the country again raising the issues of what was the Los Angeles police department doing and was est brainwashing our young officers and public?

This turned out not to be the type of community cooperative public confidence building the Protective League had been looking for and the est-LAPD program abruptly ended. There was never was another LAPD Protective League-est training.

The publicity it seemed also affected the middle class love affair with est. More incidents educated Americans and brought the subject of cults to the surface.  For awhile, Charles Dederich and Jim Jones with their hit forces, attacks, murders and attempted murders and suicides made “cults” and “brainwashing” the number one topic in the land.  Even Patty  Hearst was released from prison.

Eventually, a lot of criticism about est circulated.  It was made fun of in several movies, particularly “Semi-tough.”  Werner countered with change.  Criticized for promoting selfishness he declared he would end world hunger by stating all we had to do was think it and create a space for its end in our minds. He established the hunger project, non-profit of course, which solicited donations for this purpose.  Mother Jones magazine did an expose showing how the project was a recruitment tool for est and how the money was going to est pockets, not hungry children.   est claimed  the money would be used to “educate” on hunger. The article was perhaps the most ever appropriately titled: “Let Them Eat est.”

In the 80’s est came under the fire of litigation.  A heart attack occurred in a session and a trainer told everyone to leave the suffering person alone as it was his responsibility to work it out.  He was holding the space of a heart attack.  Other trainees claimed psychotic episodes from the training intensity. This would be consistent with findings since the l950’s that the intense attack on self in brainwashing can cause targets to go psychotic. [10] Again Werner made a change.  A softer and milder Forum replaced est training in l983. [11] He made a purchase of the materials from the non-profit foundation. [12] Then Werner himself came under attack with dirt tossed around by his ex-wife claiming abuse during a divorce. One of his daughters on 60 minutes announced he had molested her.

And so the doors of est shut.  [13]

Werner and Associates sold the Forum to the Landmark Educational corporation [14] and today he lives abroad.  There are reports he says he claims he had to go into seclusion for fear that he is in danger from Scientology. [15] It is said he still collects royalties from Landmark and has other programs going in the U.S.


Looking back I don’t know what part my role had in est’s demise.  I just know what happened in Parlier and with the Los Angeles Police Department.  And that there was a personal component in it all strong enough to make me remember the whole thing again when I saw the second Daniel Craig James Bond movie. I doubt that my special ex ever knows what I did or the motivation she provided.  I have some pride I saved all those LAPD families, despite Gates.  But looking back, what I did, at best, was delay a flood still pushing against a cracking dam.

While est may have lost its popularity, and Maslow criticized his own Humanism Movement, the Me generation went forward. New organizations like “The Secret” fill the gaps and fixations with “self” have become even more mainstream.  One cable show recently had the audience vote on the best speech by a would-be self-help messiah.  Ironically, my own relative had a song used in the show.  I hope that show had a short run.

With the help of You Tube and FaceBook, etc. the Me Generation twisted into, as another journalist coined, “The Look-at-Me Generation.”  Many have never heard of the Golden rule.   President John F. Kennedy’s 1960’s vision of a nation asking what it can do for its country now has evolved to how do we take advantage of anyone, including those actions to and by nation  leaders.  It is as if est lives.  Certainly, est philosophy can be argued part of the philosophical cultural changes that have led to the Machiavellian like planing that has led to financial scandals and changes in morality.

Gates and me

After the police-est training was stopped I wrote another letter to Gates saying that terrorism was a real problem and that his response to any wrongdoing by LAPDID should be cured by correction and not elimination of intelligence gathering.  I explained that cult movements were always planning something and intelligence could save the day.  Gates, expectantly, did not write back and the LAPDID was dismantled.  I doubt if Gates even remembered my letter after 9/11 occurred.

I got my moment with Gates sometime around l992 -1993. I was in a restaurant with a lady when we were asked to leave because the room was being turned into a special event. An entertainer explained to me they were doing a comedic roast of police Chief Daryl Gates.  I smiled and said “I’ve got one for you, made it up just now.”   The comic said he loved it and promised he would use it but unfortunately I could not hang around to hear it.  It was a private event and I doubted the Chief upon hearing my name would order another dinner set.  So it is not likely the chief ever knew who the author was when the crowd responded to the joke I had left:

“What does Chief Gates have in common with Emperor Nero?”

“They both fiddled while their cities burned.”

(Gates  was forced out as chief after the Rodney King beating and the riots that followed.)


I spoke again to Trudy in l988 for about a year. She was happily married. Then after reading on this site she called in fall of 2010. Her son visited me. It was nice. It has also passed.

The Final Irony

In the end the story has a prophetic ending that still unnerves me. One of est’s chief operators and friend of Werner later broke away and formed his own “Group,” soliciting est followers to come with him.  What followed were allegations of controlling people’s lives and abuse. One class, offered for a price to its students, taught followers how to “sell” by having them go out and “sell” idea of joining the group to others for a price. [16]

About a decade ago a client hired me to sue this group, alleging that the Founder had female members brought to him privately so they could learn how to be worthy of a man like him.  Each, it was claimed, was not to let it be known to others of their private sexual relationship.  Many women eventually sued and the Founder/group settled with several on condition they would not talk with others about the sex/suits unless subpoenaed.   To my knowledge, I had the last and only open case on these charges at the time I became involved.

During the case, I had difficulty in getting other alleged female victims to talk given that part of their settlements required they would not talk unless subpoenaed.  Depositions take money, plus it is difficult to could get them done timely to respond to motions. While I had a motion pending that challenged the legality of being able to pay off witnesses not to talk without a subpoena as part of a settlement, I tried to also get information from witnesses who had not been so paid.

One man, whose wife chose to leave him and be with the founder (they had kids), agreed to speak to me (his wife refused). I asked how he got involved with the Group and he said he met the founder when both were at est and when the man was Werner’s bodyguard.  When the Founder broke off and formed his own Group the man went with him and became a bodyguard for the Founder. I then asked how he became a member of est.   His reply went to my heart.

He said: “I was a Los Angeles police officer,” and at that time the Los Angeles police protective union made a deal with est to train the Los Angeles police Department.  He went on to explain that a controversy arose that ended the trainings but that he went through the only program they had.  After that, he explained, in substance, he ‘got it’ and his wife followed.

He was surprised by my low voice begging for his forgiveness: “I am so sorry. I am so sorry. For you, your wife, your family. I could have found another way. Somehow I could have stopped it.  I didn’t try hard enough.   Please forgive me.”

He had no idea what I was talking about.

So I told him this tale.


[1] See my report on this site on common characteristics of Totalistic movements under Cults. I prefer terms “totalistic movements” and “coercive persuasion.”

fn1[2] Mind Dynamics was led by William Penn Patrick, whose Holiday Magic and other marketing schemes got in trouble with the federal government as Ponzi schemes as the marketers were more interested in selling franchises than products. It presented Jose Silva’s “Silva Mind Control” program as a large seminar, a name more honest than the labels put on self-help groups that would grow out of it.

fn2 The group evolved to “Leadership Dynamics” and one session, a subject of lawsuits, is described in the book: “The Pit: A Group Encounter Defiled,” and later made into a motion picture called Circle of Power, starring Cindy Pickett (who later became a friend of mine), illustrating how ego-destruction, cruelty and group dynamics transformed its participants into loyal followers.

fn3 Today the group survives as Lifespring. There have been several lawsuits for psychological abuse including wrongful death against the organization. It has been accused of continuing some of the monstrosities described in “The Pit” including the use of animal feces. Like est and Scientology, Lifespring abuses have been the subject of CBS 60 minutes program.

fn4[3] Werner liked using first names and not capitalizing, thus “est.”

fn 5[4] In the training several processes led people to believe they got it even though they did not understand it. Group confessing tends to merge participants with the group and the long hours and intensity can lead to a shared peak experience (cathartic highs) which the participant mistakenly credits the spoken wisdom rather than the emotional triggers. Further, no one wants to believe they wasted a weekend and several hundreds of dollars.

fn 6[5] As public schools turned emphasis to hunt for benefits the national scholarship class production dropped.

fn 7[6] One person was allegedly held out of a window by his feet at the CSB5 headquarters in San Francisco. His wife claimed she was choked.

fn 8[7] Also in l978 I came to a point where I realized I had crossed a point of no return with Synanon. I knew that they knew how much I knew about them (conspiracy to commit terrorism). I also knew about Synanon’s Imperial Marines hit team (see History of Synanon Violence). I needed to talk to my fiancé, about her kids, our future…but that weekend she was attending an est seminar. She would say later, “she got it” only to later recant when she arrived at a Santa Monica hospital in October of l978 but that’s another story. But with regards to est this event did makes things a bit more personal.

fn 9< name="8">[8] CAN later filed bankruptcy as a result of legal actions brought by Scientology and other actions. CAN allegedly participated in involuntary deprogramming which I myself did not approve of even though I had spoken to many who said the fact they were kidnapped by their parents had saved their lives. I did not feel that any one group had the right to self determine who needed involuntarily deprogramming and who did not, although sometimes such actions were successfully defended in court by claims it ? Scientology then purchased the CAN name in bankruptcy and is now behind Cult Awareness Network.

fn When I contacted Lance Brisson who worked for County Supervisor Baxter Ward (Ward held televised public hearings on the nursing home scandal and Brisson was my contact), he said he believed me and would look into it. He also told me to calmed down as I sounded a little zealous. And I realized I probably at that time was.

[9] For further understanding of sales pitch concept see my publication on the Common Characteristics of Totalistic Movements under “cults” on this site.

fn 11[10] See footnote 6

fn 12[11] Use of the bathroom was still disallowed. It also brought realization to for-profit gurus that brainwashing was not necessary to get rich. Just package it nicely, supply a charismatic speaker and the needy true believers will find you.

fn 13 [12] The est training was put on by a profit-making corporation which was owned by the non-profit corporation. Erhard was employed as a “researcher” by one of the corporations on salary. This was presented as a shield during his divorce. The structure itself and the accountant who set it up both came under IRS scrutiny. Erhard arranged a personal loan, documented by a very critical Fortune magazine article at the time, from a Swiss bank, which let him purchase the ‘est’ training and various other assets from the two corporations. Werner lost to the IRS and additional taxes were paid.

fn 14[13] One of the allegations made by his ex-wife, sources stated, in addition to the physical abuse, dealt with group sex. She has also stated she had been kicked on the ground by Werner, he once shook his son , St. John, and he was using cocaine. Werner claimed his alleged abused daughter received value from their relationship.

fn 15[14] This group, too, has been sued for causing psychological injury.

fn 16 [15] Scientology has documentation suggesting a policy of fair game–those who are opposed to Scientology are open to destruction without retribution and another policy of stamping out squirrels—defined as those who modify Scientology practices to form their own splinter group. It has been reported that before his death L. Ron Hubbard was not too happy about est. The move to Europe by Werner may also have been tax investigation motivated.

fn 17 [16] My client’s settlement agreement prohibits me from naming this group but allows recitation of facts and opinions alleged. So “Group,” “Founder” and “Client” are used in place of real names.