by Paul Morantz (C) January 2012

In 1983 all the old timers started signing lengthy declarations talking about the great things Synanon has done, just leaving out the last 9 years. Typical was that filed by Ted Dibble who spoke how before he entered Synanon in 1962 he used drugs and committed crimes, how hospitals had failed him but Synanon had not. That was probably a true statement, but Dibble could not come to terms with the fact that Synanon had ended, and the current heads of the organization were concerned now instead with how much money they could gather for themselves. He talked about the game, “act as if,” humiliations, boot camps all turning him from negative to positive, but could not acknowledge that same system was then used by Dederich experiments and squeezes, including the implementation of violence. He also was not exactly honest when he said Dederich had only thrown two people out of Synanon, unless you consider that others carriying out the acts somehow made Dederich not responsible. He further said that the “squeeze” was to get rid of sad or gloomy people, leaving out what made them sad and gloomy.

He wrote that “decent, civilized behavior is taught by demonstration in Synanon.” Tell that to Alvin Gambinini, Ron Eidson, Tom Cardeneau, Clifford Zipppari, the Dinuba punks, Phil Ritter and some 80 other victims of Synanon’s demonstration of civilized behavior. Dibble said their slogan is that they are “Everybody’s Good Neighbor.” He offered no explanation for why that view was not shared by the neighbors.

And Dibble acknowledged he heard the October 5, 1977 press conference, so he heard Dederich’s threats, and willingness to use weapons, and bragging they had ended their position of no violence. But this, of course, was not in his declaration.

He throughout argued the think table and game polarization theory, clueless to the fact that Charles Dederich in 1978 himself testified at deposition that he gave the orders to be carried out not directly, but by telling the community what he wanted them to do at think tables and games and leaving it to his followers to execute his wishes. As one judge, intelligently concluded, think tables and games were mental exercises; but they were also the giving of orders.

No judge paid much attention to these Dibble-like declarations. It didn’t matter what the past was, but what was the present. The tapes and think table summaries were too clear. Further, I took the think table summaries and rearranged them by subject matter and showed that Dederich said the same thing on every subject every time he spoke. What the courts found more interesting to read then these declarations was Synanon’s own memorandums on their violent encounters, and proof of Synanon’s destruction of evidence and cover-up.

It is easy to feel sorry for Dibble, and others who wrote similar declarations. It is not easy to acknowledge an organization that may have rescued you, and then you dedicated 20 years to it, really no longer exists and had become something that had to be stopped. Fortunately, there were many other Synanon members, equally saved, equally dedicated, that recognized Synanon had become the opposite of the values it once taught, and that people were in danger until it was stopped. Many of these people had as much love for Synanon, as Dibble did, but had learned from the early Synanon right from wrong. With much pain, they spoke out as to the truth, even knowing they would be hated by those they loved.

Happily, in the end,, the doors closed and free thought allowed, today most former Synanon members accept those who spoke out, realizing they did what was was necessary.

On October of 1983, the most important event leading to the end of Synanon occurred in a Washington DC court room. When Synanon vacated Washington DC, following the arrest warrants for Charles Dederich and Howard Garfield, Synanon tried to get out of its purchase of the Boston House and obtain a refund of purchase price. In defense, the owner, Stuart Bernstein, claimed Synanon concealed that it was a violent organization which harassed its tenants and threatened them with violence if they did not move out. Bernstein made a motion to dismiss Synanon charges because Synanon had been destroying evidence relating to its violence and then covering this up by perjury. The court, the Hon. Judge Leonard Braman, presiding, heard 11 witnesses and reviewed 78 exhibits over 10 days.

The court found the evidence destruction had occurred. It noted that the materials that were destroyed went to the issues of whether not Synanon was really a nonprofit corporation, but a profit corporation, which would make the attempted purchase illegal as out of zone. The court noted whether or not it was nonprofit turned on the issue of whether or not its policy contravened Public Law policy. That policy would be violated if Synanon had a policy of terror and violence. It was further contended Synanon reflected its monies to private usages. The judge noted Synanon contended the games and think table sessions were therapeutic exercises while defendants argued they were calls for violence. Personally, the court expressed its opinion that the games and think table sessions were used for “both” purposes.

By example of it being for orders, the court pointed out that the first example was the murder attempt on Paul Morantz. The felony, the court noted followed over a year of bitter denunciations and excoriations against the legal profession on the part of Dederich. These denunciations were particular with regard to Paul Morantz. And this occurred on multiple occasions. While Larry Akey, like Ted Dibble, and Dederich, testified it was hyperbole, the court found Dederich’s reiterated incitements were willfully instigating the felony. The court noted it was beyond coincidences that Musico, Kenton and Dederich entered pleas in the Morantz case and noted that the court that took the plea had to be satisfied there was proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the government could make a prima facie case.

The court noted similar utterances occurred before the attack on Phil Ritter and that the tapes were useful to look at the incident of the beatings of the Dinuba Punks and Tom Cardineau. The violence translated to a policy of militancy against trespassers and that Dederich spoke about doing violence to trespassers.

The court found equally serious the tapes on changing partners and noted that Liz Missakian admitted she was on the verge of quitting Synanon but finally accepted it.

Finally, the court called attention to Dederich’s deposition taken by Synanon (see fall of Synanon I– – Garfield Garrett blunder) where CED admitted in response to questions by Garfield he used think tables and games to promulgate policy.

Yet, the court noted its conclusion was not the real issue of the day; that it sufficed that Synanon perceived the tapes and materials harmful so it proceeded to destroy the materials and then cover up the destruction. The court noted that the bulk of the testimony pointed at Steven Simon who took the Fifth Amendment as well as did Miriam Bourdette, Michelle Albano and Dan Sorkin. Further Synanon attorney/members, Phil Bourdette and Dan Garrett also took the Fifth Amendment when questioned about the evidence of destruction. So did Jady Dederich and Ron Cook. While the court can draw no inferences, it pointed out the fact was that the testimony of Bette Fleischman and George Farnsworth to the destruction was uncontroverted It was further confirmed from deposition testimony of Bernie Kolb. Chris Haberman who was implicated also did not testify nor did Dorothy Garrett. Nor did David Benjamin or Walter Luebel, both who were named participants.

The court thus found by clear and convincing evidence there was willful destruction and alteration of materials accomplished under the direction of Steve Simon (the Harvard graduate who Abraham Maslow in his course on the humanistic movement said go west to Synanon to find the new therapy). Further, that the destroyed materials related to violence, money, sexual subjects, guns and other matters and that the destruction was set off by the arrest for the murder attempt on Paul Morantz. That in a trailer, Steve Simon, Dan Sorkin and Chris Haberman spent 2 weeks destroying tapes.

The court further found that following the November 21, 1978 police raid that discovered the New Religious Posture tape, Sorkin, a pilot, and Steve Simon flew several times with boxes of tapes to Kerhunkson, New York, where the tapes were hidden in a rented basement. Some of these tapes were later burned.

The judge further concluded after Dederich was arrested in 1978 Simon and Phil Bourdette gathered up tapes and think table summaries that were scattered in various facilities at Synanon. Then in April of 1979 George Farnsworth was told to delete data from the computers inventory on transcripts and tape references. This was done with the knowledge and approval of the legal Department and was specifically approved by Phil Bourdette. The court found such conversations did take place. The court found the destruction continued in the summer of 1979 relating to case discovery requests in the ABC case and in the Morantz case. Over 20 people were on the project to listen to tapes in order to make erasures (former Pres. Richard Nixon would have been proud).

None of this was a surprise to me, because we could not believe how long the gaps were in tapes turned over to us. We used to laugh and say what jury do they think they are going to fool?

A 2nd request, the court concluded, of Farnsworth to purge the computer was made on April of 19 79 and a 3rd in January of 1980. In the summer of 1980 Bette Fleischman was engaged in a full-time secret project of Simon’s to erase and alter tapes. Often Fleischman went to Miriam Bourdette for advice as to which tapes on violence should be erased. She said in all cases she was told to do the erasure.

The court found over 100 tapes were erased or altered. These included think table tapes and transcripts from 1977 and 1978. The court went on to note confirmation in gaps in the computer printout while memos described the large amount of tapes at one time existed but now don’t. The Judge further noted a reference to a Charles Dederich tape on Morantz, but that “Morantz” is a missing keyword from the computer. Further, there had been tapes for each think table topic summary, and many were not produced. According to the summaries, tapes titled “Corporal punishment” and “Paul Morantz being greeted by Rattlesnake” had existed but were now missing.

The court further noted that on August 28, 1978 in Formia, Italy, there was a think table session of Dederich that was tape recorded by Fleischman and Irving Goldworm, and was heard by Bernie Kolb. During this session, Dederich exhorted the doing of injury to Morantz and chided a Synanon resident for not so proceeding. The court found that Dan Garrett ordered the tape delivered to him and the court found that it was then destroyed. Further, there was a tape on September 1, 1978 where Dederich directed injury to Morantz and Ritter and that tape was destroyed. The court noted no tapes from Formia now existed.

The court found that Simon’s testimony was false. The court noted that which was destroyed in ABC or Morantz was rendered unavailable. Further, Synanon had a duty to preserve documents likely to be requested. The court noted that all Dederich’s speeches were tape recorded and transcribed by Sybil Schiff. The court noted that the destruction of indexes was compounded by Dan Garrett who said they could listen to all the tapes which would take a couple of years. But the destroyed subject matter Index would have helped. According to Farnsworth, some of the key words deleted were “violence,’ “ Morantz,” “Holy War,” “Time, Inc”. and probably “William Crawford.”

The court further found Atty. Andrew Weil in the ABC case objected to turning over tapes and then gave a response it does not have subject matter Indexes which Simon had admitted not only existed but was over 300 pages. The court found that Simon’s false testimony was with the affirmative/collaboration of the Synanon legal Department. And that the cover-up was aided and abetted by the legal Department. The court found this was a fraud upon the court of the most grave and serious proportion, and thus dismissed the complaint.
No one yet new how damaging Judge Leonard Braman’s findings were. But pending since August of l982 was Synanon’s lawsuit to overturn the IRS claim for back taxes for 77 and 78 due to Synanon policies of violence, and raiding the nonprofit funds. DOJ attorneys Frank Hertz and Tom Lawyler, along with myself, had aided Bernstein expecting if he proved the evidence destruction, the Tax Court, per rule of collateral estoppel (Synanon cannot retry an issue it tried and lost) would have to take judicial notice of Judge Bramon’s findings and adopt them.

On February 9, 1984, Judge Charles Richey, famous for his rulings in the Watergate case, must have felt de je vu, when the motion came before him to dismiss Synanon’s tax case due to Judge Braman’s findings of tape evidence destruction and all the evidence of Synanon documents stating its leaders had advocated and participated in violence.

Applying the findings, Judge Richey ruled Synanon’s tax case had to be dismissed because of Synanon’s “fraud upon the court.”

For these reasons, Judge Richey said it is not necessary to rule on the summary judgment motion that from Synanon’s own documents Synanon’s reign of terror was conclusive as a matter of law. While not necessary to his ruling, Judge Ritchie noted the voluminous exhibits obtained by ABC and Morantz, raised serious questions concerning Synanon’s financial operations and created a “chilling portrait of an organization that advocates terror and violence.” He noted approximately $7 million of corporate money was distributed to Synanon officials during 1977 and 1978, reported salaries and bonuses and consultation fees.of 2 million went Charles Dederich and his family. Plus the officials received noncash benefits including the residence known as “Home Place” in Badger California (the rebuilding of Rome), access to a fleet of recreational vehicles, including boats, planes and motorcycles and brokerage services plus a two-month trip to Europe.

“More disturbing than this evidence of fiscal improprieties, however,” Judge Richey continued, “are the repeated attacks and threats of violence committed by Synanon members against those perceived as enemies of the organization. These incidents are tied to Synanon’s leaders, at the very least by rhetoric and sometimes by participation or ratification as well.”

The judge cited as an example the “New Religious Posture” speech which warned that people can get “killed dead. Physically dead .” He noted Dederich and two Marines were convicted of conspiracy to murder Paul Morantz.

“Mr. Morantz, an attorney who filed suit against Synanon on behalf of 2 former members had been bitten by a 4 foot Rattlesnake when he reached into his home mailbox in October of 1978. While Synanon officials were in Formoa, Italy in the summer of 1978, phone calls were made back to the United States to try to arrange Morantz’s assassination.” He noted Synanon leaders organized the “Imperial Marines” and the “National Guard” and called for “Holy War” against its enemies. Synanon leaders were linked with a large number of beatings and other acts of physical violence and some have been convicted.

Synanon still argued its innocence claiming that the statements could not be taken serious given Synanon is a “gaming community” and those who committed violence acted on their own. The court was not impressed with Synanon’s “gaming explanation” but found it unnecessary to rule due to the evidence destruction, the court adopting Judge Brayman’s findings in the Boston House case. He noted that the Judge had listened to 11 witnesses and received 78 exhibits into evidence, 8 of the 11 being called by Synanon.

Judge Richey noted that Synanon had filed this case against the IRS knowing it had willfully destroyed the most probative evidence of its true claims to tax exempt status. The court noted that on October 1982 Synanon sought to obtain admission that no relevant information had been denied the IRS; that Phil Bourdette had said in court they had given the IRS everything, that he repeated that in an affidavit filed in May of 1983; all while Mr. Bourdette knew that extensive campaigns of destruction had rendered the IRS audit “a charade.”

Further, the court in 1983 had made two orders for Synanon to account for any destruction of materials and Synanon failed to acknowledge its scheme of destruction and concealment of materials perceived to be damaging.

Judge Richey ruled that the public interest of conferring the “privilege” of tax exemption – – “which amounts to a subsidy from the public coffers” – – on only the deserving organizations demands the drastic sanction of dismissal in this case.

Synanon had also argued that the government was discriminating against it in enforcing its tax laws, but Judge Richey found no basis to support said claim. There was no showing that anyone else who did the acts that Synanon did was not targeted. As to Synanon’s complaint that civil and criminal investigators corroborated, the court found this was no basis for relief. While stating it would have been proper to find that Synanon should lose its tax status for its violence, the court ruled that it was not necessary to so rule, because Synanon had destroyed evidence relevant to the issue and that was sufficient to dismiss the case.

This, would lead to the ending of Synanon, 8 years later after all appeals were lost, a world long changed since the 1962 entry of Ted Dibble came to an end.