THE FALL OF SYNANON 4 (THE DEPOSITION OF CHARLES DEDERICH)
by Paul Morantz
(c) September 2010
(Note when Author of Rise and Fall of Synanon Rod Janzen wrote his book he declined the offer to read this deposition)
Visalia, Nov. 10, 1981
“Please, Mr. Dederich. Please answer the question. But he just sat there and stared at me. “This is a deposition,” I said. “The law requires that you answeryou’ve been convicted alreadyyou have no fifth amendment protection.”
But he just sat quiet, arms folded, as if the rules did not apply to him. I began to sweat nervously. He was surrounded by his followers, all standing by him, shaved heads, white t-shirts covered by blue overalls, glaring. “If you don’t answer, I said quietly, almost whispering, afraid, “I will have no choiceand it’s not something I want…but I will have to ask the court to hold you in contempt. The judge could fine you or jail you”
They acted on cue, having what they waited for–a threat. And the jail word…what the Founder once was put in because he stood up for them. In mass they left his side, crossed the table and circled me, tighter until I could barely see him. I was getting smaller.I wanted to leave. And then I was saved by a 7:30 a.m. wake-up call by a friendly Holiday Inn operator.
But there wasn’t the usual relief where you say thank God it was only a nightmare. It was time now for the real thing. And I feared maybe the nightmare was only a hint of what was to become. First a small breakfast, if I could hold it down, a review of notes and it would all began. For five years he had in been in my thoughts when I awoke and when I went to sleep. After listening to so many of his tapes I knew his reasoning process. Sometimes when stuck in L.A. traffic I could hear his voice. And I imagined I had likewise been on his thoughts for all those same years. We never saw each other until the court proceedings began in l979 and continued to the summer of l980. Then he was always seated in his wheelchair behind dark glasses watching me as I testified day after day for several weeks. No words were ever spoken. He listened as I told my story. Now I was here to get his.
I showered and dressed. For a moment I wish I had taken the gun offered me before I left Los Angeles in one of those small eight seat jets certified to get you air sick. Take a gun to a deposition? That might be asking for trouble. But then they might all be packing, wearing their sidearms on their hips like I had seen on video. But if they did it would be just to intimidate. I had heard their ex-head attorney Dan Garrett brag of doing that on tapes I had listened to. If they do decide to be packing I decided I would demand they take them off or I would adjourn and go to the Judge to get an order they do so. I walked slowly from the room as if I could put it off by delay.
It was a cold morning but thankfully the lack of sleep seemed to be of little effect. The adrenaline was pumping as I followed the familiar not so impressive freshly vacuumed carpet down the hallway, through its turns, to the conference room. As there were no early morning flights from Los Angeles to Visalia I had stayed at the hotel many times for next day court appearances. This was hardly a showcase hotel for Holiday Inn. But Visalia isn’t on a lot of vacation lists. In fact, the Holiday Inn offered a community hotspot, a dance floor with an actual live band, homegrown of course. At not too great an expense the hotel had given us a conference room for the deposition. When I entered I observed a table I thought fit for playing cards, hardly more. The court reporter was already there setting up for the big bout. She asked for the case caption. I handed her two legal documents with captions from two different cases, the last two I had against Synanon for damage claims. Ross, et. al vs. Synanon Foundation, Inc. and Eidson, et.al. vs Synanon Foundation, Inc
Dan and Marion Ross sought the return of the monies they gave Synanon over 15 years, including deeding over their home, for them to live in Synanon for life. They claimed they were forced to leave because they would not participate in changing partners, all couples switching mates every three years. They also wanted the return of $25,000 they gave to Synanon for lifetime care of Marion’s elderly mother. Dan wanted damages for being lifted by the ear and tossed physically out in the street when during a Synanon Game he refused to increase his lifestyler contract to Synanon to pay for his support.
Synanon denied it had to return what it termed religious donations and argued Dan Ross remained in Synanon long after the physical altercation so he couldn’t have been damaged.
The Eidson family sought damages for an incident in November of l977 (See True History of Synanon Violence and how it Started). Ron Eidson had refused to apologize for a series of tense road confrontations with Synanon members along a road in the Badger Mountains above Visalia near The Home Place, one of Synanon’s large ranch style facilities and where the Founder lived. Ron Eidson was visited on his home front porch by a group of shaved head men in overalls, hit over the head with a rifle stock, kicked and beaten while he was on the ground, all in front of his wife and four kids who were held at gun point.
Earlier that night Synanon doctor Doug Robson in a tape recorded call warned Eidson to apologize or something bad was going to happen to him. Robson—subject to Hippocratic oath– appeared gleeful that Eidson refused. A Synanon log identified a jitney that soon took off and who was in int.
Synanon denied it was responsible. They had flooded the line-up with similar dressed head-shaved males and the family had not been able to pick out the suspects.
The court reporter asked me for my card. She knew nothing of what the cases were about, the relation of the parties, most of all she was ignorant of the special connection between me and the deponent.
I sat down, pulled out a yellow legal pad and a pen, lawyer’s tools at depositions before the invention of laptops. I spread out outlines and key documents so they were readily available. Four evidence books were stacked on my right. I was ready as I could be. But then I had been preparing for this moment for five years. It was more than just the cases. I wanted to understand why. So much chaos. So much hurt to so many. Yet so many had been helped. A beautiful dream lost. How did it come to this?
A door far to my left opened and my eyes drifted. The moment. Charles Dederich walked in assisted by a cane. At least he’s out of the wheelchair and sober I thought. He was accompanied by Synanon lawyer Phil Bourdette and Gary Gibeaut of Shields and Smith, a defense firm hired by Farmers, Synanon’s unfortunate general liability carrier which was involved in the defense while reserving the right to deny indemnity as the allegations in the cases were intentional, not negligent. California law does not allow insurance companies to pay for intentional acts and policies exclude such acts. But insurance policies contract also to provide for a defense and thus carriers often defend until it is ruled the acts were in fact intentional as matter of law. There was the possibility a jury could find Synanon guilty of only negligence for the intentional acts of its residents.
No entourage at all. Nothing like my dream. At first I was shocked. Then I realized the last thing the Old Man would want was anyone in Synanon to see him have to answers questions by me or hear what he might say.
So in solitude and quiet we commenced. But the tension in the room was so thick the court reporter, still not knowing why, felt her neck stiffen.
“Would you state your full name for the record, please,” I said.
“Charles E. Dederich.”
I went over the ground rules, done at every deposition, like legal rites. A court reporter, I explained, would transcribe what was said this day and therefore we must only speak one at a time as she can only listen to one of us. A booklet of what was said would be provided to him and he would be given the opportunity to correct any perceived errors but that as I have the right to comment to the jury that he made a change it was in his best interests to give his best testimony this day. I advised he should not answer a question unless he completely understood it. I told him to let me know if he did not understand a question and I would rephrase it.
“I might state for the record,” he interrupted, “that the series of massive strokes a couple of years ago left my memory completely unreliable. Some things I can remember with great clarity, some I can’t.”
“Are you taking any medications?”
“I’ve taken a lot of vitamins, a modified nitroglycerin derivative…Nitro-Bid…. which regulates my heart. I’m taking something to keep my blood pressure down. I have others … Don’t keep track of all my medicines.”
I advised he could ask for a break any time he wanted. Then we started.
He acknowledged he was the Founder of Synanon and creator of its methods. He admitted, “Part of my job in Synanon was to pressure people to make them do things they did not want to do… That’s a pretty good description of my job.”
“And was that your role in accomplishing the vasectomy notion?” I asked.
But no answer came. Bourdette objected claiming it was irrelevant to the cases and instructed Mr. Dederich not to answer. I expected this. But I wondered how far Bourdette would go. While there was no judge present to rule on the objections, the process is to later take the matter before the court for ruling and if the objections are found improper Mr. Dederich would then be ordered to return for more questioning, something I knew the Old Man would not want to do. And usually instructions not to answer are improper. While at trial a question must seek direct evidence of a fact, deposition allows exploration. A question only need relate to the subject of litigation; that it has a possibility of leading to the discovery of admissible facts. As a punishment for not answering, Dederich and Synanon could also be ordered to pay for my time in making the motion as well as my travel to Visalia but I knew that was not a concern to them.
I also knew Dederich liked to talk. I knew he wanted to answer.
I tried again. “And was that your role in accomplishing Changing Partners? But again Bourdette gave the same instruction.
I took a different approach. Rather than identifying the various notions I asked about them in general. He then admitted that when he yelled about a notion in a game or on the wire, or at think tables, he had the ability to sell the notion to the community.
“Mr. Dederich, did Changing Partners grow out of the pain you suffered at the end of your previous three marriages?”
“I would be able to say that it grew out of my life experience from the cradle up to that point.”
“Would you say that is also true of most notions in Synanon?”
“Yes, I would.”
At that moment I knew I understood Synanon completely. I knew his childhood, his every day of his life and I knew that it all rooted back to l917—the year his father died in a car accident (See Birth of Charles Dederich and Synanon).
It was later and Dederich seemed to be remembering back, some times enjoying the questions.
With pride he said, “I’ve never had any — — any reasons to — — to doubt that — — that if a person will — — according to the way the — — the person will live according to the way we live in Synanon, he — — in the vernacular — — he won’t shoot no dope.”
“Have you ever heard the term coercive persuasion before?” I asked.
He didn’t seem surprised by the question. “Yes, of course. Yeah. Oh, certainly, I’ve heard it probably all of my life. I’m fairly well educated.”
“Did you ever do any reading on coercive persuasion?”
“I don’t recall whether I did or not… My only experience with it has been like buying in automobile. If you want coercive persuasion, just go out to a used car lot, you’ll get all you want. ”
“Were you a good salesman?”
“You often have referred yourself also as a manipulator, have you not?”
“Oh, sure. That’s a nice word.”
“In the early days of Synanon, when you talked to those in the psychological fields who came to observe did you ever discuss using elements of coercive persuasion?”
“I — — no, I don’t recall anything. I might very well have…”
“Have ever heard coercive persuasion being referred to as brainwashing.’?”
“I — — I — — I don’t think there was any reasons to do it or — — you know, coercive persuasion is — — is some — — that particular notion is somewhat similar in meaning to the word brainwashing. All right. Let’s go from there…I was in the business of washing brains, people with dirty brains came to me and said, ‘Oh, Great One, wash my brain so I don’t shoot no dope no more,’ and I did it to them and a — — they thanked me and then went off and didn’t shoot no dope no more. Brainwashing is another silly thing. I’ve never seen a brain washed In fact I’ve never even seen a human brain, you know.”
I asked if he knew the elements of coercive persuasion.
It’s not a field that I would be — — have any interest in at all. I guess I was born with a wonderful talent for it like other salesmen.”
“Are you able to explain the methods Synanon used to brainwash a dope fiend into not wanting to shoot dope?
“No, I couldn’t do that.”
“Would you say that the Synanon game (synanons) was a part of that process?”
“Well, of course…. And some of it would be by feeding them and giving them a place to sleep. I — — don’t know. You’d have to ask somebody who’s brain was washed in Synanon. Mine wasn’t washed in Synanon. I got washed before.”
“Was part of the process to cut off communications between a newcomer and the outside, his relatives?”
“That is, I think, essential.”
“And inside the Synanon environment, you control the information?”
“Yeah, of course, dope is bad…You know, things change, like believing in Santa Claus.”
“Did you ever make a statement that the greatest tool of Synanon is fatigue… that if you keep someone up long enough you can make them believe anything?”
“I don’t recall saying that. That does not mean, of course, that I didn’t say it. I — — I don’t know. I’d have to do a lot of thinking about that.”
“In the early days of Synanon, did you believe that it helped rehabilitate dope fiends to have them develop a sense of pride in Synanon?”
“Oh, of course.”
“And a sense of dedication to Synanon?”
“That’s one of the good things that came out of the Night of the Great Cop-Out?”
“I don’t recall that connection. I don’t recall that connection at all. I might have — — might have made some comment.”
“To rehabilitate you wanted them to feel part of a group together?”
“I think it’s very important — — always did think it’s important that people feel a part of something.”
Dederich admitted he rigged games to sell an idea and he sold the idea “Trust was another way of knowing (Act as if). He admitted Slug camps existed (punishment camps for negative thinking). When I asked if Synanon used role models to change behavior Bourdette instructed him not to answer. He did the same when I asked if Synanon used rewards to alter behavior. And again he instructed Dederich not to answer when I asked if punishments and/or verbal haircuts were likewise tools he used.
Oddly when I asked if in the early days to aid rehabilitation and to increase holding power, Dederich created an image of outside enemies of which Synanon members had to protect themselves Bourdette let him answer. Either that or Dederich just started talking before Bourdette could object. This was not an easy job for the lawyer. His client enjoyed speaking and was used to giving instructions not taking them.
“I probably did. It’s a device that as a father and a grandfather I’ve used, and all parents, you know, the boogeyman will get you if you don’t watch out.’ You tell that to infants so that they don’t run out in front of an automobile after dark and — — and get their head smashed or something like that. It sounds reasonable that I would do that.
“Did the boogeymen include government officials?”
“Bad government officials depend upon point of view. I’m kind of an old fashioned patriot and I — — I have more of a positive view of most government officials then they probably deserve.”
“How did you generally pick your boogeymen?”
“I don’t know. We’re not getting any place.”
Bourdette then instructed him not to answer any more “boogeyman” questions. So I asked straight out if the concept of enemies included those who wanted to harm Synanon in any way?
“It would seem — — it would seem very — — very reasonable that I would have even known that so long ago. Heaven knows — — I probably have known that ever since I — — I could read a little bit. A common enemy is a great unifying force.”
“And so even in the early days of Synanon, you talked a lot about people who wanted to harm Synanon, did you not?”
“I don’t recall talking a lot about that. It depends on what you — — I don’t know what a lot is. I might not have talked about it for weeks at a time or hours at a time. I haven’t the vaguest idea.”
“Do you recall when you first moved to Santa Monica the city became outraged and charges were filed against you… did you accuse them all of being prejudiced because you had blacks living with whites?”
“Did I say that?”
“I must have said it, ’cause it was true. I was told that.”
“And when Synanon attempted to move to Malibu but you could not get a permit, you again accused them of being against blacks living with whites?”
“I might have. I probably did because that’s pretty obvious in our society.”
“And you repeated that accusation throughout Synanon’s history when someone opposed?”
“I probably did. I always considered Synanon one of the pioneers in integration and I was one of the few people who got his name in the paper that married a black woman in those days. Now it’s quite common.”
“Is it correct that through out Synanon’s history, wherever it moved, zoning problems occurred?”
“Not always, but — — quite a bit of the time, probably not — — it would be probably comparable to Armor’s or Swift’s trying to put up some kind of a packing plants in some sort of a neighborhood. Zoning and where you’re going to run your business has now got to be another mess in our time and — — and its — — as I say, it’s not — — it’s not a matter of much concern.”
“But when it did happen, you felt it was because people were prejudiced against you?”
“Yeah, I suppose, prejudiced against, ignorant about Synanon, you know, just — — as I say, these are not matters of much consequence.”
“You say not matters of much consequence. But was it a part of the package that led you to the notion of a Don’t Tread On Me’ posture?”
“Well, I — — it — — it’s — — one — — one defends oneself against aggression coming in from the outside in various ways. You’re making a large thing about the Don’t Tread On Me posture. We play with words in Synanon, we have a good time. You have to be a very — — a good spoofer to stay in this ridiculous business …
“Did you tend to make that type of analogy when you talked in Synanon?”
“Well, I make every kind of analogy you can imagine. I’m an analogy expert… I don’t recall putting it into the Articles of Incorporation. Part of my entertainment repertoire is that — — is sort of a sit-down comic.”
I steered the questioning to Synanon II.
“I remember,” he said. “we were numbering Synanon for a while, we got kind of Synanon I, Synanon 2, Synanon 3–as the numbers began to get too high, I started to go into Synanon 3 ½ and 3 1/4 and so on. These are mostly jokes.”
I ignored his ignoring the distinctions. I focused on Synanon II’s recruitment of squares. Finally, he recalled the time but said the idea of recruiting Squares wasn’t a “shift”in direction but an adding on to Synanon of new notions.”
He rocked back and added, “Well, naturally, it was — — it was my desire to — — that Synanon expand in — — in what ever directions it seemed to be taking like any other small — — or like — — like any small organization trying to get larger and as Harvard University might have been back around the time of the Revolutionary War, I suppose but — — but I, I — — I’ve forgotten to question.”
By then, I admitted, I had, too.
He smiled for the first time and said, “You give me questions, I forget, if you give answers, I’ll forget and we will neutralize this whole silly thing and go somewhere else.”
I smiled back and then asked the court reporter to read back my question.
He then answered:
“As the organization became larger, we of course had–had need for people of — of a greater education and smarter and — -and so on, of course. We were getting up to the point where we were quite an organization and at–attempting to run the whole thing with a lot of people who managed to get as far as the sixth grade and then quit was getting a little bit hairy. So of course we were on the look for good–good people, as any organization, I suppose…
“Squares tend to stay longer in Synanon then dope fiends.”
I asked him about his skills in getting donations and he responded with pride.
He remembered the Penny a Month Club. “That was my notion,” he said. He had eliminated prior game dues so as to use guilt to encourage Game Club members to voluntarily donate more money then they had been paying in dues. He spoke of gaming lifestyler’s to donate more than their contract for living in. He compared his actions to the chief executive officer of any charity. “I probably did it almost every time I had an opportunity…Synanon games are a good platform for that…I remember taking $10,000 from Marty Levitt…a nice piece of change. I heckled him into it. I’m pretty good.”
Dederich said part of his pitch was telling squares that giving to Synanon was investing in their home. Each, he said, would become a proprietor, an owner. This was a key admission for me. The Ross’s were claiming they had donated their home on such representations and then were squeezed out for refusing to participate in changing partners. Dederich added, however, no one had right to ask for money back because it was an experimental society and they all knew it could change.
I asked if the foresee ability of change would include vasectomies or changing partners and Bourdette instructed him not to answer. I asked was in that foresee ability he might ask they kill their first born child and again Bourdette instructed him not to answer
I asked if he developed devices to encourage squares to move in.
“I don’t recall,” he said. “I probably did. I don’t know what they might have been. I suppose any — any time I was talking to people who did not live in Synanon, I was trying to get them to do something for Synanon like move in or anything else they could do to help. I’m a pretty good promoter.”
His promotions included, he said, pointing out Synanon was nonviolent, had better schools, better environments for marriages to last and was drug free.
I turned the questioning to the abolishment of graduation. I asked if he had become concerned with Synanon’s success once dope fiends left the organization.
“I don’t recall,” he responded, “ever making any representations that we would produce a cure and that a person could then go out somewhere else and–and–and live another kind of a life and–and get by. I don’t recall ever making any such representations. I–I was content with the one notion, if you want to–if you don’t want to–if you want to live a life free from drugs and crime and the attendant nuisances, stick around at Synanon, it’s a pretty good life.”
I asked him about the term the squeeze and he said was it was something in all organizations: “Behave yourself or get lost.” I asked if the squeeze was once called a purge.
“I can’t, “ he replied, “there were so many words that had their run like ‘It will emerge.’ ‘Purge’, I guess — ‘purge’ probably had a run. That’s a good word.”
“Do you recall,” I asked, “making statements to the effect that the ‘squeeze is like squeezing the rotten fruit off a tree and that when people leave we will grow stronger?’”
“I might have,” he answered. “ I don’t recall. I probably thought that. I–that’s kind of a reasonably intelligent way of assessing any kind of group, you get rid of the bums, the organization prospers. Everybody knows that.”
He admitted he could do it by yelling, firing, demoting or gaming. “There’s hundreds of ways,” he said, “to make it a less desirable place for less desirable people.”
He acknowleged people were gamed for going to a movie off property, for having long hair, for not doing their jobs.
Dederich talked openly of his power to make people conform or leave. Doctors, he said, had told him he needed to give up smoking and misery loves company. So he “whined and howled,” got “bad tempered” and raised a “lot of hell” until everyone gave up smoking. He said he busted his wife for smoking in the bathroom. Then when he decided to lose weight he did it all again to make them all lose weight. Those who wouldn’t go along got out. Smoking and dieting notions were squeezes.
Synanon 3 became the subject.
He stated Synanon never said it had a cure, and you could get by without it. It was not a religion in early days and one did have to believe it was a religion in l975 to stay.
By 1977 people in Synanon could make choices but they had to be affected by the way he thinks to live at his house. He acknowledged he punish people by sending them out to work or busting them. He acknowledged that he intended carom shots, punishing one to send a message to all. He admitted saying that if you kept people awake long enough you could make them believe anything. And then he said people were stupid to think that in leaving Synanon they could start all over.
We discussed good and evil. Did such exist or depend on morality of a given group.
“I have no idea what a criminal act is. I—I know that—that, you know, peole commit acts tht some people think are crimes and think—some people ting are evidences of patriotism or religious fervor or—and so on. I can’t come to terms with that…I don’t know when violence is good or bad—like I don’t think anybody else does.
The deposition turned back to the subject of the New Militant Posture. He admitted visiting the Imperial Marine camp with his wife Betty.
“Did you ever try to promote the concept of a militant religious posture for Synanon from 1975 through 1978?
“Well, I– I.-I have always tried to promote or sell or elucidate the notion of the Church militant-you know, the Church militant is a very old notion, and I can same for you if you like the rather mellow bar told quote on Word Christian soldiers,” if you like. I mean, it’s an old idea, and – and of course, something that I would-there is-there is a militancy that — that is good in all organizations, of course.
As to whether some nonmembers should use physical violence to protect Synanon Dederich said he could not remember but he could not rule it out . “’I don’t know what I did. “
On slugs camp, Dederich said “I think if people began to behave like slugs they got sent to the slugs camp and they stop behaving like slugs to get out of the slugs camp, sleeping on the coal, coal ground in a tent, you know instead of a nice comfortable bed and so on.”
On changing partners, vasectomies and abortions, as to each e was instructed not to answer including if Liz Missakian became so upset she had to be given a tranquilizer.
But he did answer that as to all decisions regarding anything of importance in Synanon they were all done only after serious thinking and he never did too much off the top of his head.
I asked him to define Containment.
“The word containment as it was used to be very brief would mean containing Synanon’s energies and assets, money and everything else, within the body of Synanon to the degree that it is feasible in the light of enlightened Synanon interests”
It included discouraging people from going off the property and says he might have referred to outer society as pollutions.
When Dederich spoke to the press he intended to be honest. I then gave him the health press conference and asked that he read through it to see if he said anything therein that he did not believe and he refused to do so.
Dederich acknowledged he expressed the idea that people who spoke negatively about Synanon could not visit their relatives on Synanon property. Even if they had paid money to Synanon to care for the relative.
“Well, I-I-I started to take a very dim view of– all of the media some years ago, I don’t know exactly what time was. I I have been hospitable towards them and and a very open with them, entertain them, given them access to do anything, records even, everything they wanted and he turned around on me in the frank and I I just I adopted a view of the of the the irresponsible, vicious press which I hold to this day. I don’t want anything to do with them. —————,
Dederich did not recall any meetings with members of Scientology to recall some effort to bring him together with somebody in Scientology. Doesn’t remember the Church came to Synanon and gave counseling on how to deal with people who are critical of reorganization.
I read t it is December 1977 Month of the Hunt memo where says there in investigations lead to aid individuals who stole, consulted or asked for help. Dederich said he could not recall the memo but thought it was a good idea. The memo contained “the word seems to be getting out that when one leaves Synanon where your life was saved and you were supported beyond your means you leave in debt. The debt can be paid back by various sorts of favors. People who do not acknowledge the debt or remain neutral when we are in need become our enemies and when we are annoyed, it is not good to be our enemy “
“That’s got a nice ring to it…. I don’t see anything wrong with that…… sounds– looks very good to me.
“I agreed (not good to be an enemy of Synanon) with that at the time. It might be a good idea at this time– to point with –with som pride to our 23 years of existence– our record of nonviolence is probably the greatest of any group that’s run something like 20,000 rough index through its doors. It’s very enviable .
“I know that some time around this– this letter for some 20 years or 19 years we had no problem with that — with attacks or anything and that somehow the word got out that you could have a lot of fun bike going to a Synanon house and beat people up or destroyed property or something like that and so we adopted a – made sort of a ‘Don’t Tread on Me ‘posture and it worked well. We had — — I don’t think we’ve had a total of 5 incidents of any kind of violence nothing — — nothing serious nothing at all serious.
“I spoke at it where — — wherever I spoke added I don’t recall specific locations, think table, whatever that is. I I probably did. I can’t pick 5 minutes out of my 69 years and locate them for you.
I asked him if he were to learn that approximate 30 instance of violence had occurred between 1975 and 78 would his opinion change.
“”I—I– I. would have to–I don’t know what variety of mechanisms we have available to us in 20th century America to determine that. I–I–I would believe that. ..”
“Mr. Dederich, if somebody got hit several times in the face and had bruises and contusions about their face and had to be hospitalized, would you consider that to be violence?
“I–I don’t I the very way you describe that –do we have 50 or 30 people that were hit in the face and head bruises and contusions or hospitalized?”
“Well, I would say that you have quite a few, yes.
“I I don’t think– for instance, I know that people get bruises and contusions in football games, and that’s not– those are not considered acts of violence. I I don’t know what you’re really talking about “
“What about hitting a person over the head with a gun, would you consider that to be an act of violence? “
“Have we– it depends on how hard, what kind of gun, what the situations were, was it an accident. ..I can’t answer questions like that.”
“Mr. Dederich, as I understand it, you correct me if I’m incorrect, that the ‘don’t tread on me ‘posture was a desire to get a message out that people were to leave Synanon alone because various members of the community had been attacking Synanon members in your opinion; is that correct? “
“Yes, that’s kind or short form, but that’s right…
“We did– we did we did stop the violent attacks on Synanon, as I recall over a period of …
“…In Synanon, we had a string of -annoyances. We — — we were subject to to media violence in the very early days of Synanon down in Santa Monica …. and later on other kinds of — of violence, let’s say, were directed at Synanon — and then then the big media violence came out starting with –with the Examiner case. That is beginning to abate and now we’re we’re a target defendant, w;ere now subject to the– to the –to legal violence. –\\
‘These things are no surprise to me. . I — I -I -went into kind of an unusual business and attracted the attention of a lot of knots in the country and nuts keep coming up all the time. We’re- we’re in the midst. of it right now. This will abate. I don’t take it seriously. I don’t even feel I have to get active anymore. I think the kids can handle it. It will all go away. And that’s the history of our –I don’t know what the next thing is going to be, but is just kind of a nuisance.”
Media violence he described was vicious attacks and legal violence were foolish and unjust lawsuits. As to the question if media and legal violence were caused for the “don’t tread on me” posture.
“I think violence is violence. I — I’m not in the business of nitpicking. That is for lawyers and judges and courts. That is not my business. I I don’t I don’t separate things out like that. Violence is violence whether it is legal violence, media violence, physical violence, robbing and stealing, destruction or property, as all the same thing. And it is just kind of nuisance, one of the cost of doing business for –for a person and my business. We attract attention.”
This included, he said, violence against Synanon defined as including Santa Monica’s attempt to keep Synanon for moving into the National Guard armory . He included mad dog Saturday when the police came down to the Delmar club.” He acknowledged Synanon had ran into many zoning violation cases and that was part of it too.
Bordette instructed him not to answer to questions about the Dinuba punks being part of it.
He continued…wanting to let me know he was right by saying the Don’t Tread on me worked, he guided everything, but still remembering to add his speeches were spoofs, the security force was something else to do like—like another—another fad, you might says, another activity, like—while we were doing that, other people around the country were all fooling with Hula Hoops. The I—I—would say they’re quite similar.
Was he the head of National Guard?
“I suppose in the same sense that—that—that the President of the United States is at the head of th Wac division of—of Fort Riley in Kansas. I don’t know. I—I certainly didn’t take it very seriously.”
Then back again. He “undoubtly” made a Don’t Tread On me posture because “when I was chief execuitive officer decisions of that magnitured, let’s say, would—would, of course, be made or at least confirmed by me. We-we—it was just aa –continung things, as I –as I tried to explain, ‘The nuts are after us again, let’s act this way for a while. They’ll get tired of it,’ and they have. The have…
“I think it’s kind of spelled out. Adopt a “Don’t tread on me posture, put up a big face—false face and you scare the nuts away. It worked. It worked.
When asked if pan was to warn people not to mess with Synanon as you will get hurt he claimed lack of memory but he approved of it because “as I pointed out before over and over again, I’m one hell of a good executive and not too much ever went on in the organization that I ran that I didn’t approve of. I don’t know everything that went on, of course.
As to Ron Eidson case CED had given that earlier away when deposed by ABC lawyers Bob Fremlin and Tris Brown. It is for that reason, plus Synanon documents on the attack, particularly by Dr. Doug Robson, led to my concluding this case was in bag and allowed me to pursue questioning of Dederich to get his history
‘”I– — I — I remember some incident very vaguely about– about some– you know, some hillbilly clowns living up in that neighborhood scaring the life out of a bunch of our girls on at least one occasion on the short road between the strip in the home place, and I– I. think that– I think some measures were taken so that he wouldn’t do it again. The dramatic affect a beating him up and heating with the gun but in front of his, quotes, ‘wife and child.’ Unqoutes, is one way of saying it. Another way of saying it is a couple of guys made it clear in the only possible way to a bumpkin like that, ‘capital don’t mess around with our girls and frightened them to death. We don’t want them frightened in your bumpkin way. You have behaved that way to make them think that they were in danger of serious bodily harm, like rape or other our violations to their persons and– and so on.’If that person had been allowed to continue and we hadn’t done something about it, I suppose we would’ve had to move out of that area. Now we can’t sell 1800 acres of land in one place and 360 in another place just because a bumpkin gets out of hand from reading idiotic stuff in the media and watching it unintelligent. We can’t do that, you see.”
CED continued on saying that whatever he did…it stopped the violence as he had defined it (including zoning law and media stories) against Synanon, except for lawyers. The new “violence” he described was attacking on legal front. “Next it’ll be engineers or butchers.”
He claimed Holy War was not a serious term but acknowledged people took him serious when he spoke—“ it is an awesome responsibility, counselor, but I accepted gratefully.”
He acknowledged the New Religious Posture tape seized by LAPD was probably played on the wire and he doesn’t know if he made similar speeches in games are not. When asked if he made such a speech over 30 times would be expect to be taken seriously, Burdett instructed him not to answer. He was also instructed not to answer if it was significant that his New Religious Posture was used as a Unicept teaching drill by Steve Simon to the Synanon National Guard.
When asked if he knew his court statements on obsession with violence, which he claimed not to recall any more, were being given to the Synanon National Guard would he stop it, he again was instructed not to answer. And he was also so instructed when asked to verify a written “We might have to sacrifice someone” policy.
During the ABC deposition Dederich had said he doubts that the Dinuba Punks were beaten that bad because Synanon had the only ambulance in the area and they were not called. I asked him if he expected people who were beaten up by Synanon members to ask for a Synanon ambulance but again Bourdette instructed him not to answer.
Having heard his prior testimony re Eidson this time Dederich claimed he was then under Sinequan. When asked if he approved of this type of message communication Bourdette instructed him not to answer as irrelevant. Then Dederich added he would not approve the hitting “before the facts.”
There was a moment of brevity. I asked Dederich if he was looking for fanatics and Bourdette interjected, “Mr. Robinson could use a few more.” It took me a moment to realize his joke. He was referring to U.S.C. coach John Robinson. Burdette added I thought you describe yourself as a U.S.C. fanatic… as also in that newspaper article where you describe yourself as a football cultist.”
Remembering an analogy Dederich once used, I turned Bourdette’s jab into a question and asked CED if he used football as an example where it doesn’t matter if you obey rules but only if you win. But he testified he didn’t recall making the statement.
When asked if he could remember directing his desire to physical violence be taken towards individuals designated as Synanon enemies he said:
“I don’t know. I— I– I. have the vaguest idea. I had no memory of any of the stuff you talking about.”
He said he no longer remembered his state of mind in 1977. “I’ve had massive strokes.” So I asked if he found out that he had so acted would he approve it? He said that was “unanswerable.”
I went over the court (think table) summaries where Dederich talked about using violence in comparing itself to the Mafia. He denied memory of making such statements and was instructed not to answer if he approved of such statements being made in Synanon.- When asked if whether or not it was true that when he made his statement that when he played the game there was no more in the game out of game. He responded, “maybe yes, maybe no.”
He was read Bill Crawfords l976 family report:
“Weapons were introduced into Synanon in large part this year, to a large degree this grew out of Ted Luckncsky caper. In fact, all whole security force began to grow up after Ted’s attacks on Synanon. It’s vertically or then as we became more successful unless the underdog we are born to become more of a target and were becoming less reliant on external forces like police departments.
“It doesn’t hurt to remember that there 17,000 or more disgruntled ex-residence all roaming around ticking like time bombs because any one of them can become a Ted Luckancasky or Gil Faucette, all ready to bite the hand that feeds them.
“We have one armed uniformed security officer at this time, but all public safety people and many other men and women in the community are learning the martial arts, baton handling, crowd control techniques and other self-defense measures.”
Dederich said he could not remember approving or disapproving the speech but stated also he could not think of any reasons to disapprove of it. He also said it was accurate getting out his answer just before Bourdette could instruction not to answer.
The Family report also said they shave a head of a gas siphoner in Santa Monica as well as two guys in Tomales Bay accused of running two girls off the road. Bourdette instructed him not to answer if he approved of these forcible head shaving actions.
I tried to get Mr. Dederich to acknowledge if they wanted to change a drug addict behavior in Synanon they used role models, haircuts, pull-ups gaming and general meetings to point out inappropriate behavior but Bourdette instructed him not to answer. I also tried to get him to admit that people who showed what was deemed appropriate behavior were given various rewards including praise, better jobs and better living conditions but again Bourdette instructed him not to answer.”
Bourdette claimed not to know what the relevance was. I responded, “I think you do, Phil. I think you see the relevance.”
I continued on with the Crawford report. “Ron Eschenaur punched out Gambonini this year and he went to jail for his troubles. And the Synanon Eviction Co. became a force again with Lou Delgado and Ed Siegel heading it up. And once again at the Clump we had to evict some tenants who behaved very badly, and this eviction was done to circumvent the legal procedures which are just too slow sometimes, and we got rid of some unwanted pot smoking, disturbing tenants when we elected to take matters into our own hands. And we have a team with someone as big as Lou Delgado on it and somebody as mad as Ed Siegel, you’ve got a hill of an eviction team.”
Dederich was instructed not to answer whether or not such approval of the Gambonini beating and forceful evictions were proper. When asked if those were examples of the “Don’t Tread On Me” Posture he replied he did not know.
Dederich denied remembering saying on NBC that bombs could go off in the homes of Time magazine employees and as to what he said to Connie Chung about the guns having not to do with Time magazine at that time but if they came to do us harm we would probably do them harm first, he said:
“I don’t recall much of what I said to Connie Chung. She—she– well, it’s a bit since, and I thought she was one of the most beautiful human beings in the world when I was talking to her, I didn’t pay any attention at all to what she said, I was just looking at her… she was so gorgeous then, you know, it would be like some girl trying to make sense talking to one of these new kids or older one, Harry Bellefonte, you know. Most women would have a hell of a time keeping themselves together if they were talking to Bellefonte. I had the same problem with Connie Chung.” Berry
“Like my Olivia Newton John?” Bourdette answered; “yes.”
Phil then said, “I keep trying to get Mr. Morantz to come up and visit us, but he won’t.”
Dederich: “He will some day. Were very hospitable. He doesn’t know what he’s missing.”
Bourdette: “He wants to take a soak.”
Dederich: “Hot or cold… we have both.
Bourdette: “Right… we even have weights up there, he could continue his weightlifting practice.
Dederich: “Oh, is he a weight lifter?
I finally said not like Bob Pitzley (my old high school classmate who was then a bodyguard for Mr. Dederich).
It was nearing the end and I made an attempt to sort of conclude it all up. In a series of questions and answers Dederich admitted that he had used his promotion ability and sales ability to convince people not to use dope anymore. And he used such forums as the games, general meetings and think tables to accomplish same. And that was true concerning pushing or promoting childlessness, changing partners, hobby lobby, dieting and all notions. When asked if he used any different tools for any different notions he was instructed not to answer. He acknowledged that he could “patch” into a game to influence it.
And so there it was. Combined he had admitted the tools he used to get Synanon members to follow his notions. He said he did not know “where I was going with this,” but the record had already been set as to those same tools being used to promote violence.
I turned to simpler things. I asked about Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“In the very early days of Synanon, I think my reading of — — of Emerson’s — — some of Emerson’s essays and journals had something to do with what — — with Synanon’s emerging structure, I suppose, and philosophy.”
“What about Emerson’s law of compensation that good people get good things and bad people get bad things? Did this become part of Synanon’s philosophy?”
“One might mouth that. I wouldn’t say that’s a policy of Synanon, you know. Some of the best people in the world, you know, finish their meager lunch and bingo go out and get run over by an automobile or — — and then wind up a bilateral amputee.”
“Did you use that philosophy to explain that negative things happened to people who do bad things to Synanon, like the judge who put you in jail?
“I would — — I — I don’t know — — what — — what are you trying to get at, that I — — that I believe that his wife bonged him over the head with a — — with a pair of fire tongs because he put me in jail? Is that what you’re suggesting?”
I asked if the New Religious Posture tape was still played in Synanon but Bourdette instructed him not to answer. Dederich said he did not want to read it. He believed it was a “pep talk.” He didn’t recall if he had a particular message. When I asked if it was a militant posture he was trying to communicate Bourdette instructed him not to answer.
But after reading it to him his words: “I think we must do that. We must do that. I think they taking this kind of posture will decimate our population once again, he admitted that all his notions such as giving up cigarettes, aerobics, dieting, childlessness or changing partners, would result in a certain amount of people leaving rather than going along. As to whether or not he was suggesting the same would happen to his militant posture notion, he said:
“I– I don’t know what the context is. I -I don’t know. I suppose I was …
And when I asked if it was good to have those people who would not follow leave he said :
“Oh, yes. I’ve– I’ve only lost in the organization I put together many years ago about two people that I regretted for more than 15 minutes. That was so long ago, I can’t remember…—
With that statement I knew the deposition had been a success. What had happened was told and told by Dererich himself. If anyone in future ever wanted to know the hows and whys of Synanon, it was all here, all put down by a court reporter in two days in a Visalia Holiday Inn.
I went on with the tape and when he heard his describing the Dinunba punks and the San Francisco Ponce that he said he supposed he knew what he was referring to. Bourdette instructed him not to answer if he thought those beatings were a good thing.
Dederich said he did not remember if Doug Robson became the head of the Imperial Marines but since he said so in the tape, “I guess he did. I don’t recall… if you have documents that say he was, I guess he was. I have no recollection of it.
I went over other violent incidents Dederich discussed on tape but he claimed no memory.
Dederich reached a point where he began to feel exhaustion. He complained of the preceding and in that moment I became merged with all that had gone before. I told him as a motion would be made over questions he was instructed not to answer he could adjourn now as he would be back anyway.
Dederich said , “Go to court if you like, but that’s it.”
I again offered him adjournment and he said that he was trying to say he was exhausted. Then he blurted:
“You and your friends did this to me in the Santa Monica court and almost killed me years ago — — several years ago and you..you are not gonna do it again.”
“Friends of mine?” I asked butt his response was only that he could not take any more being deposed. He was tired. He said he could not concentrate but would try as to any question Phil doesn’t object to. I pointed out I can’t control his objecting and Dederich said that neither could he. I knew I had been right. He wanted to answer all questions.
I went over a few more incidences, like Ben and Dottie Parks being dumped in a ditch for not changing partners, but he claimed no memory. I asked if he knew that he asked for that on the wire and that it did happen afterwards, if that would be a reason not to have a tape like the New Religious Posture played on the wire. Bourdette said,”Oh, Christ, objection…” and instructed him not to answer.
I started to wrap it up. I asked Dederich if all the physical altercations would suggest by their common denominator of telling the non-Synanon members not to mess with Synanon suggest that the actions resulted from the Synanon communication system in all its forms. Bourdette instructed him not to answer.
But it was too late. Earlier I had asked if based on his knowledge and expertise as the creator of Synanon, and its form of communications, if over 30 incidents of Synanon violence occurred (88 known) would he conclude Synanon members took his words seriously. His answer, while avoiding question, said it all and it came off the record.
“Was there that many, Paul.”
It was the first time he said my name.
“Yes,” I answered.
He the had looked down in silence. He never answered the question and there was truly no need for him to do so. So I didn’t repeat it. His deposition had answered really all questions. And so the deposition ended. The usual stipulations were made on correcting the deposition. If ever a deposition took place before or after where the lawyer examined the man who ordered him dead I do not know. I never saw or heard from Charles Dederich again.
The Eidson and Ross cases then settled. So there was no need to make a motion to compel answers for the 105 questions he didn’t answer per Bourdette instructions. And truly he had answered enough. Further, there was a stipulation that the ABC depositions of Charles Dederich were part of the deposition and their lawyers had been quite thorough and the answers just as riveting and revealing (see Summary of Charles Dederich ABC depositions).
I heard when Dederich returned to Synanon he spoke highly of me and predicted that one day I would join Synanon. When told this I laughed, and said to a reporter, “Truth is I had joined long ago.”
Years later Bob Pitzley called me and asked as Synanon had failed if I could help him. When I was in high schoold Pitzley and his best friend once had a spitting contest on my car, a l957 Bel Air, while parked at the Dingham Dog on La Cienega near Melrose. All I could do then was watch and say thanks for the car wash. As I knew there was not much I could do then so did I now. I never heard from him again.
In 1997 when Charles Dederich died Phil Bourdette called me and asked if I would attend the funeral. He thought that it would be a statement if the media saw that I had enough compassion and understanding to actually attend to pay respects. I thanked him and said I would but that I thought I would be accused of public grandstanding and that there would be some Synanon members in their moments of grief who might be very angry at my attendance. I thought one day on my own I would visit the gravesite but it never came to pass.
Today I am still younger than CED was when I deposed him. Despite all the talk of his health back then the Old Man fooled us all as he lived to see past 80, something I won’t.