The True History of Synanon Violence and How it Started.
By Paul Morantz
Author’s note. The below descriptions of Synanon violence were compiled mainly through Synanon own’s documents,depositions, tape recordings and police reports. These incidents per the documented admissions were used in Federal Court to remove Synanon’s tax free status for conspiracy to commit terrorism a case United States won on summary judgment . No trial was needed for what what had been the most sophisticated of destructive cults. The attack on me is omitted–subject to a different post–True Story of the Rattlesnake in the mail box.
The last book on Synanon, The Rise and Fall of Synanon by Rod Janzen so downplayed Synanon violence and failed so miserably to tell the Synanon story this site was created so Janzen’s false citation of history would not be the final word. The author, Rod Janzen, was offered all the documentation I have but declined it because his book was near done and because he didn’t want to know the truth might be something different than what he already wrote and was ready to be published. He never interviewed me in doing his research, clear proof he did not want true facts. A journalist follows the story. Janzen was something else. He ran from it. Many of his sources who led him astray, denying the true extent of violence, are named below as doers of the violence themselves. Janzen is a supporter of commune life who refuses to believe coercive persuasion exists so he does not have to question his life choice but admits he never studied it and does not know what it is. This publication is dedicated to Janzen. To correct his book and for real journalists to take heed. For verification Janzen blew it see comments written below by former Synanon members Mary Inskip and Keith Wright.
Dr. Doug Robson, the administrator of the violence, was also never brought to justice and Seattle allows him to practice medicine. That he was never jailed, in my view, is one of life’s great injustices. His wife Mary, delivered a threat that they knew where my mother lived. So Mary, this is for you, too.
Still, the main point of this is education. To understand forces that led people wanting help and/or wanting to give help to become crusading terrorists is the point of this site, and leaving the true story of Synanon for historians (something Janzen was not interested in).
“We have a foundation policy of not leaving property during security incidents. If and when we make exceptions to this policy, it must be with the consent, consultation and cooperation of our full-time Security Department. Sending groups of Synanon people off property on missions which are physically dangerous and of questionable legality is extremely expensive and must be done when indicated using our very best equipment, thinking and personnel.”
“We are very new in exercising our present aggressive posture. Many mistakes will be made in these activities, and some people are certain to get hurt. There is not excuse for making these mistakes or suffering any casualties with anything less than our best effort.”
Dr. Doug Robson, head of Imperial Marines
In 1974 Synanon, with its new wealth and lifestyle, had become impatient with its old methods of newcomer rehabilitation. With the IRS claiming Synanon was a lifestyle and no longer a charitable drug rehab, Synanon looked for new basis for tax-free charitable status. One act in 1974 was to declare itself a religion. They also wrote this explained why no one leaves and people obey. Hand written was the question who would be God, a jest as obvious as the answer. The other move was to convince courts and probation officers to send juvenile delinquents to Synanon to participate in the Punk Squad. The problem was that the street-wise kids were not as amiable to the Synanon process as old time addicts. These kids didn’t want off the streets, they wanted back on them. And they talked back. Physical violence it was found got quicker obedience, made a more meaningful carom shot and became the tool of choice to correct the behavior of the punks. Its use demanded the respect that Founder Chuck Dederich had taught the residents to long believe they were entitled to. The use of violence on punks was in part because they were not Synanon members, just temporaries sent by the court or probation officers–there for a fee and to maintain tax-free charitable status.
After 16 years of keeping Synanon non-violent for fear of what might happen or public reaction, the ability to rage was finally free and the clock was now ticking; it was only a matter of time before the same respect and obedience would be demanded from all, in and out of Synanon. The whole world would be taught that bad boys get bad things. And as Dan Casriel had noted in his 60’s book Synanon, despite living proper lives psychological testing showed long time members to be still anti-social. Were they just parroting, waiting for the good old days to return. Would the square’s who listened in awe to the fiends’ stories emulate them? The answer to both questions was yes.
In the early evening of March 3, 1975, in Marin two young men, Ronald Pearson (26) and Michael Clancy (34) flew their model airplane on hilltop property adjacent to Synanon. They had been told it was all right with the owner, Herb Cabral, but hadn’t notified him of their presence. Clancy, a South San Francisco printer who lived in Novato, usually flew his model airplane on Sunday afternoons at the Cheese Factory. Pearson was into models too, working at Rankins Hobby Land in Novato. They got there well before dark but around 7:30 p.m. they found the wind was blowing in the wrong direction and decided to pack it in. As they were leaving their car got stuck in mud at the top of the hill and after trying in vain for 30 minutes to free it, they tried flashing lights and honking the horn for help.
At the time, Synanon cars were running up and down the road looking for what they believed to be two bounty hunters, one of whom was on parole, out trying to get custody of one of their residents. Cabral came out to find out what the Synanon people were doing on the easement road.
Clancy and Pearson finally headed towards the roadway to flag down help and met Cabral who then took off to verify their car was stuck. As he did about 10 Synanon residents had gathered. As Cabral left, the number of Synanon members present seemed to multiply like in a scene out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Only these birds were bald, dressed in overalls and carrying clubs and ax handles. One had a tire iron taken from Cabral’s jeep. Pearson and Clancy were told to shut up by the arriving mob, then taken by force into a paneled van and driven to Synanon.
While they were transported, a waiting Dan Garrett told Dederich, “I think we ought to break a few legs and then will have our lawsuits and everybody will learn their lesson. Maybe.” Dederich replied maybe they would if they resisted. “But you don’t have to break, you know, any legs if you’ve got 10 guys handling one guy. Now you can bruise ‘em a little bit if you’re angry at ‘em. I want to capture these guys.” Dederich said afterwards they could call the sheriff (their friend Montanos) and say these guys were exposing themselves in front of our children so they had to take action.
At that point Pearson and Clancy were brought into the Stew Temple. Three guys grabbed an arm of each as they were pinned against the wall and searched, their pocket contents thrown to the floor. Voices amongst the Synanon crowd shouted, in mimic of Reid Kimball’s old general meeting taunt, to break their “fucking legs.” Dederich asked which one was on parole. Then a Synanite realized these were not the bounty hunters. Dederich continued on anyway, saying they were in trouble if they fuck around. Clancy cried out that they had not been on Synanon property but Garrett responded it was enough that they had been on private property. Garrett ordered that Pearson and Clancy be videotaped. Dan Sorkin directed they sit on the floor. Garrett said they were in trouble and better recognize it “before you get hurt.” Now they know to stay the fuck away from Synanon, not to be in the vicinity anymore. Dederich added they would get the license number of their car and they would be chased down and “wish they were never born if they caused trouble again.”
Finally sheriff deputies arrived and removed the model flyers. They wrote a report calling what had occurred a possible kidnapping by Synanon. But no arrests were made. The matter was simply ignored by authorities.
The next day, March 4, the frenzy continued. At 11:30 a.m., Synanon resident Tom Quinn was driving his truck on the Marshal- Petaluma Road towards Walker Creek. He was approximately 200 yards west of neighbor Alvin Gambonini’s ranch and doing 35 mph when a purple truck came around a bend towards him at the same speed. Forty to fifty yards away two-thirds of the oncoming truck swerved into Quinn’s lane. Quinn bore right a few feet and thought he had to make a choice between direct collision or going up an embankment. But he had to do neither as the truck just as suddenly swerved back into its own lane and drove past, having been in Quinn’s lane no more than a few seconds.
Quinn could not make out the license number, but got a look at the driver, white with dark hair, in his late 20’s or early 30’s wearing a white undershirt. He believed two people were sitting next to him. Quinn did not know what the driver’s intent was and noted he had not turned around or tried to pursue him. Still he felt only his Viet Nam experience and training had kept him from running up the embankment or losing control of the vehicle. He reported it immediately to Mike Garrett, Dan Garrett’s son, a reserve deputy for sheriff Montanos and Head of Synanon Public Safety.
Synanon vehicles took off in all directions, calling in spotting of purple trucks. It was not an official Hey Rube. Garrett said they were just going to get license numbers, but when purple trucks were spotted Hey Rubes were called back at Synanon and more vehicles took off. At 2 p.m. it was reported that a purple truck was seen in Tomales. Even though the truck Quinn complained of had been traveling towards Petaluma, located 20 miles from Synanon, by 2:20 p.m. Jitneys carrying 30 Synanon residents descended upon the quiet town of Tomales and surrounded a purple truck parked in front of Diekmann’s General Store. The arrival caused quite a stir as there had been little communication between the locals and its strange new neighbors since their arrival 11 years ago. For many it was their first contact with the entity they feared would grow and overrun the county.
The driver of the truck, 20-year old John Jensen, exited the store. When confronted, he denied he was who they were looking for, saying he had been at work all day at this family’s ranch. Quinn was not there to make a positive identification. When another purple truck drove down the street a Synanon van took off after it and stopped it in front of Tomales High School. The driver was a teen-ager who stated he had been in school all day. By now 70 Synanites were gathered in front of Diekmann’s as a smaller opposing force of townspeople formed along the sidewalk protesting Synanon’s vigilante tactics. Synanon members claimed they would find the culprit; one of their family could have been run off the road, hurt, even killed. As time passed, the scene became uglier; bitter words exchanged. Finally Charles Rogers-Martin, a 30-year old Tomales artist, was punched in the face by Ralph Esposito. Local townsmen ran to his support. As the police were called the Synanon contingent prepared to leave but the citizens pulled their cars behind the jitneys to block their escape, a move Synanon would later emulate. It was a now a stand-off between the locals and Synanon worthy of a John Ford movie. It ended only when lawmen from Marin and Sohoma arrived. Synanon people told sheriff deputy John Brunswick that locals had moved to hit Esposito and he just happened to hit first.
At 3:30 p.m. Quinn arrived in Tomales to identify the vehicle. He noted that this truck had a white camper attachment in the upper rear quarter of the truck which he had not seen on the one that had passed him. The sheriff asked if the driver of the purple truck resembled the one that passed him. Quinn could not be sure.
Dederich at the time was flying with Dan Sorkin and escorts were sent to the Novato Airport to bring them back. Fearing infuriated Tomales residents, Synanon went on 24-hour security alert.
The local town newspaper, The Point Reyes Light, ran the headline: “Synanon Plays the Game with Tomales Townfolks.”
On March 6, 1975 CED referred to the “neighborhood fracas” in a memo to Mike Garrett. He felt they were getting a better grasp of these matters but he did not think they should go looking for someone who committed some sort of horror against them with no description or license number. If they know who the culprit is they can chase in hot pursuit, otherwise it is the sheriff’s job. He concluded, “things are looking up.”
For Synanon The Siege of Tomales had drawn first blood. The taste appealed to Dederich and Esposito was singled out for taking action even though the disorganization of the incident was criticized.
Soon thereafter in Marin, Richard Brockunier crashed a Synanon motorcycle and returned to Synanon for medical attention. He was beaten before being turned over to the sheriffs.
Three incidents in a row, yet the Marin’s Sheriff, Louis Montanos, saw nothing wrong, maintaining both his friendship with Dederich and several Synanon security men serving as reserve evening Marin deputy sheriffs.
The locals were upset but Dan Sorkin said there was nothing Synanon could do to change that. “We will continue to operate as we have. Dederich said they don’t believe in the Kitty Genovese syndrome, referring to the New Yorkers who watched and did nothing as a young girl was murdered on the streets.
And so, while not yet so named, The Holy War had begun.
On May 20, 1975 the Public Safety Service Log 9:50 p.m. entry by Tom Cardineau referenced a SWAT alarm call to the easement access road to Synanon which traveled through Cabral/Gambonini’s properties. Synanon member Erick London saw a truck traveling in reverse before three males got out and climbed a hill on Herb Cabral’s property leased from neighbor Alvin Gambonini. London blocked the truck with his jitney while waiting for 20 Synanon members, including Ron Eschenauer, to descend upon the scene. It turned out to be Cabral’s son Nick with two friends. Nick yelled at them “to leave us alone…we are on our own property.” Eschenauer determined they had no choice but to return to the Shed.
Dederich read the log report and wrote the next day to Dan Garrett’s son, Mike, Head of Public Safety, wanting to know exactly “where these people were boozing, what was the nature of their behavior which triggered a SWAT alarm” and why it was thought that there was no choice but to return to the Shed? Dederich opined “it would seem to me that we could threaten and or carry out citizens arrests or remove them bodily from our access road, and put them either on their own property or on the Marshal-Petaluma Road, or do all kinds of things to prevent reoccurrence.
“Between (rancher) Gambonini and these dingbats, our neighbors are getting to the point where they are beginning to constitute an annoyance to decent people.”
Mike Garrett took his cue and wrote back that he advised the parties in the incident that in any “creep emergency that we should be concerned with the lesson involved more than the legal technicalities. This means that Nick Cabral and his rowdies should have been taught not to constitute a public nuisance even if there wasn’t a legal way to do so…”
Tom Cardineau who made the initial log entry on the incident four months later split, never thinking three years into the future such alarm and rules would be applied to him.
On May 29, 1975 a young 22-year-old Santa Monica resident named Mark Thompson, who lived with his parents and worked at Westside Volkswagen, walked on along the Santa Monica beach with his 19-year-old girl friend Patti Denton. Thompson thought the Del Mar building might be vacant so he hopped the fence and climbed the fire stairs to get a full view of the beach. He was spotted by Gita Endore, daughter of Synanon biographer Guy Endore, who notified Skip Ferdeber, the writer of the pro-Synanon articles in the Los Angeles Times. Thompson was assumed to be a burglar and suddenly found himself grabbed and pulled through the window while a startled Patti watched beyond the property fence from the promenade. “Run,” Thompson screamed and run Patty did. But Dederich’s daughter Jady’s husband, Ken Schiff, sent residents chasing after her and she was brought back to the club. A Venice man, Glen Courier, alighted from his car and seeing the girl chased tried to come to her rescue. He was brought to the ground by Synanon residents and taken into the building, then later released.
Lou Delgado interrogated Thompson, yelling to intimidate him. It was tape-recorded. Present were Reliable Mortgage’s Ed Siegel, Skip Ferdeber and attorneys Howard Silber and Jay Becker who latter ironically joined the District Attorney’s office. Delgado told Thompson to shut up and instructed no one call the police yet because “if we have to hurt them first, we want to do that, then later we will call the police.” Delgado told Thompson “I don’t go in your house to look out at the street so what nerve do you have coming on our property to look at the beach.” He turned to the other Synanon members and said “you should have thrown him off the fucking balcony …” and then to Thompson, “you goddamn creep.” Thinking Thompson was going to cry, Delgado called him a “goddam baby.”
Other residents said they didn’t believe his story and one said “we are going to fuck you up, Buster, if you don’t start telling truth. We’re going to get the word out that we do not want people fucking with Synanon. Real fucking simple.”
Thompson said he thought Synanon was a good organization and Delgado replied it was and they keep it “nice and clean from fucking thieves and creeps.” Thompson implored he had no intention of doing any harm and Delgado said, “We do! We have all intentions of doing every bit of harm to people who trespass on our property. We break their fucking heads, first of all, how about that? Just for walking, jumping over the wall. That’s enough for us.”
Delgado said they wanted to put a “hurting” on this guy before he is turned over to the police whom they would tell Thompson had jumped the wall and tried to rob us so we crashed his chest in. “Like we’ve been doing.” Fortunately for Thompson, a Synanon member said they should let the police handle this one and Delgado agreed as he decided too many people were asking questions to do anything to him. Delgado then went to interrogate Patti Denton but she refused to state were she lived or give them any information until the police arrived. Someone shot out she was a “smart ass cunt.”
When the police arrived, Skip Ferdeber made a citizen’s arrest of Thompson for trespassing.
Tomales Bay, June 9, 1975
Alvin Gambonini had lived in West Marin all of his life. A diminutive 53-year old farmer with a wife and three kids, he had quit school when he was 14 and worked one of the two large ranches he would inherit by supplying dairy and beef products along with hauling topsoil and gravel. The other, the King-Cabral Ranch, was leased, had been for twenty years. The ranches had been in his family for 70 years. His property bordered both Synanon’s Home Ranch and Walker Creek properties for approximately a two mile stretch and Synanon had an easement through it to the Marshall-Petaluma Road. The nearest town, Marshall, a one-store town, was seven miles away.
Gambonini, who was described by one writer as a “bowling ball of a man,” was not always a Synanon enemy. Like most ranchers in Marin, he kept to his own family and didn’t meddle in the affairs of others except to be hospitable. When Synanon first purchased the Home Ranch in 1970, the Gamboninis were invited to dinner where Dederich gave a speech saying they were, like the sign on their trucks said, everyone’s good neighbors. But Dederich warned nobody fools around with them and nobody ever beats their attorneys.
Alvin’s son Robert taught Synanon kids how to chase and show cows, eventually Synanon besting his son in competition. Alvin once loaned them his cattle truck so they could haul cows to the Point Reyes Fair. He donated all the gravel Synanon wanted and gave plow lessons by doing an entire Synanon orchard. In return, Betty escorted them through the Dederich home.
Then in 1974 it all changed. Synanon claimed hunter friends of Alvin, members of the Sparrow Gun Club, shot through a window. Herb Cabral reported Synanon was piping water off the Creek running through the canyon on King -Cabral Ranch to their own. On another occasion Synanon removed fertilizer from the same property. Locals had trucks stolen by Splitees. Then Synanon began to build another road through the ranch and Gambonini took action to stop it by locking the gate. Five times he found the lock cut. Synanon widened the existing easement road, threatening to sue Gambonini if he interfered, and placed a “Synanon” sign outside the Gambonini property close to the road. When Gambonini used the road himself, Synanon members told him to get off or complained that he was driving too fast. Synanon was now stopping cars in the area it deemed suspicious. It was not unusual to see fifty Synanites combing the area in trucks, on motorbikes and on foot if some dubious character was reported.
But it was with the arrival of the Punks in 1974 that made Gambonini one of Synanon’s biggest thorns. Runaways came to his house in the early morning hours, some shaking, some crying, most with tales of horror and abuse. They had traveled along the creek, or through the hills, afraid if they used the road Synanon would catch them. Several stated they had been warned that Gambonini and other farmers would shoot them if they ran off, but as one black girl who made it to his house said, “What do I have to lose?”
Gambonini got them back to their parents, sometimes buying the bus tickets himself. He and his wife kept a collection of letters from thankful parents in several states, some paying back Gambonini’s expenses. Seeking assistance for the kids from Sheriff Montanos, Gambonini found, strangely was to no avail. Deputies even advised him he could get in trouble for aiding the escapees. When he asked Montanos for protection from Synanon in the area, Montanos said someone would have to get killed before they would do anything. Once when he called the Sheriff’s office about a runaway a lady answered and accused him of being like everyone else in the area, having it in for Synanon, and hung up. Gambonini, like other locals, knew Montanos hired Synanon members as reserved deputies so he didn’t push it. Montanos even got Garrett and Dederich permits to carry concealed weapons. Gambonini’s tenant Cabral had written Gov. Jerry Brown about the treatment of the children but received no reply. Gov. Brown Senior had rescued Dederich from jail in the early sixties and passed a bill to make Synanon an exception to medical license requirements.
On this night, June 9, l975, Gambonini, returning from a late motorcycle meeting in San Rafael with his wife Doreen, son Robert (15), and daughters Doreen (13) and Alvina (10), decided to check the King-Cabral Ranch per the request of Mr. Cabral who was in Portugal. Gambonini drove up and parked his 1974 Impala by the barn when he saw a pickup truck with a Synanon logo parked with no lights on. He shut off his own lights and looked around from his car seat. He had no idea of what had transpired earlier that evening in the Synanon Stew Temple during a Monday Night Game. This was a management game, for directors and Big Shots, and having it on a Monday night was no longer a requirement. For a moment the game had been interrupted by the sounds of shots from Innerface Canyon causing members to rush out of the Temple. When they returned Dederich scolded them for scurrying out with no plan. For about twenty minutes he raged at Synanon enemies. They should break the legs of people who fuck with Synanon. The elders were cowards and only he, Chuck Dederich, had ever stood up to confrontations, others deserted, only he was a man. Those on the outside, he said, should think Synanon members are crazy so they better not mess with Synanon. He analogized to the Mafia. “Would anybody mess with the daughter of a Don?”
The game broke at 11 p.m. and thirty minutes later a pumped up Ron Eschenauer on a motorcycle was met as he entered Walker Creek by Eric London who had been engaged in a 10-man stake out since 10:30 p.m. at the gate at Walker Creek Ranch to see if they could catch who was repeatedly sawing down their sign. He reported Gambonini’s car had just stopped by the sign. London used his CB to notify the Connect. Gambonini was still in his car with his family when lights suddenly shined on the vehicle occupants. Eschenauer asked Gambonini what he was doing there and the farmer replied it was none of his business. At that Eschenauer grabbed Gambonini and threw 10 to 15 jabs into his face. Another man reached into the car and grabbed for the ignition keys but Mrs. Gambonini grabbed the keys first as Alvin held his door shut when he saw more men arriving with clipped hair and bib overalls.
The Gamboninis felt their car jolt violently as Ray Hitchcock, on Eschenauer’s orders, rammed a Synanon truck into the Impala, driving it into a ditch as the occupants screamed. It was something Dederich had advocated in games and on the Wire; that one could just take a vehicle and drive into somebody. That would stop him.
Before the Gamboninis could recover, arms reached in as three guys tried to pull Gambonini out. Alvin resisted, fearing for his life as he heard one scream, “We are going to finish you tonight, you two-bit farmer.” He saw ten feet away one shaved-headed man holding a picket ripped from the fence and another with a knife. He wrapped both of his arms tightly around the steering wheel to prevent his removal while more blows hammered his face, screaming, “Give me a break, give me a break.” His wife tried to cover his face with her hands while the younger Doreen kicked at the assailants from the back seat.
In the melee, Robert, unnoticed, got out of the car and outran the Synanites, one of the chasers wielding a knife, to the Cabral’s house for help. Cabral’s son Victor was home and, thinking he could stop them, he jumped into his pickup with Robert and headed for the scene until he saw thirty Synanites and turned instead to cross the bridge and go for the Sheriff. But the road was blocked by a Synanon dump truck– a donated old army truck– and they found themselves the target of a bottles and rocks bombardment. Synanon people reached for the truck door but Robert and Victor locked it in time. Victor jammed the truck in reverse and sped back through the Synanon mob to his house where he called for the Sheriff.
When Dan Garrett’s son Mike, now Head of Public Safety, arrived, he saw complete mayhem, an ultra-violence scene he would later say was something out of Clockwork Orange. Several people were jumping on the Impala hood while another kicked at the windshield. One person was on the back of the Impala trying to break the rear window with a fence post, another beat on the car with a flashlight while others were throwing things and screaming for Gambonini to get out. The farmer’s family were all hysterically crying as Gambonini sat stoically in this seat, his face and shirt covered in blood.
The younger Garrett told Alvin to cool it, it was all over, but stay in the car. He spoke to Eschenauer who admitted what he did. Mike told him it was a mistake and he would probably go to jail . He relayed the true facts to his father who then came to the scene. “How is it going, Alvin,” the lawyer said. Gambonini looked up and said, “Nice bunch of people you got here.” He didn’t know it yet, but one tooth was cracked, another chipped, a muscle in his arm was torn and his face would have two permanent scars, one underneath his nose and the other left of his lip.
Sheriff deputies finally arrived but made no arrest at the scene. Synanon’s incident report boasted that Dan Garrett almost convinced the deputies a case should be brought against Alvin. He said the farmer was gunning his engine as if to run them down so Synanon members tried to pull him out of the car in self-defense. He also said Gambonini had had been interfering with Synanon’s free rights to passage on its access road.
That night John King, Cabral’s partner, got through to Dederich on the telephone to complain of the beating. Dederich responded that the Cabral kids “would be next.” The next day Eschenauer and the others involved were summoned to Dederich’s office mansion, the Red Room, and were honored for their actions. Eschenauer became a member of the Circle and received a place of honor at the Old Man’s table plus new housing in one of Synanon’s most luxurious housing near the Red Room. His visible rewards was a giant carom shot.
Two days after the attack Dederich sent Mike Garrett a letter wherein, after commenting what a great guy Sheriff Montanos was, he wrote:
“Don’t be confused by my rantings in and out of games about our security procedures. That’s what I do. I am proud of you and the way you are pulling this whole thing together, and am particularly pleased with the way you and your worthies dealt with our neighboring pig the other night.”
Dan Garrett stated on the Wire Gambonini got just what he deserved. In July Garrett filed a legal action to keep him off their easement. The suit claimed the farmer made indecent gestures to residents, including Synanon women and children. Gambonini filed suit for the beating.
Despite Dan Garrett’s spin, which Sorkin announced as the official Synanon story, Eschenauer, Hitchcock and Eric London ultimately were arrested. However, they each were allowed to plead nolo contendere in March of l976 to misdemeanor assault charges and were given two years probation. Hitchcock and London received $500 fines. Only Eschenauer, who was fined $250, had to do time, 15 days. A small price for Synanon Sainthood. He was now a folk hero and a role model who, like the Founder, had been willing to go to jail for Synanon.
Steve Camino had a relationship with an older woman Alice Carter at the Ranch that the community did not approve. Alice was the ex-wife of Dr. David Griggs. Ron Cook on July 5, l975 arranged to give him an oral haircut but when he resisted, Cook ordered him placed on the bench to be tossed out. He continued to resist and was physically struck by Cook and Sorkin. Dave Gilmour hit him hard enough to break his own hand.
On July 15th 1975 at 4 p.m. two young men, Richard Marino (20) and Calvin Smith (19) were driving to Point Reyes in a red pickup truck and turned onto Synanon to inquire if the access road led to Novato. They were told to immediately turn around and get off the property. After they passed two 11-year old Synanon girls bicycling, the girls alleged their truck swerved over the yellow line and pointed at them, although the truck did not come close. A Hey Rube was called and 2 ½ miles down the road a yellow jeep carrying Alan Cayo, Dave Gilmour, Rick Genson and Leon Levy pulled Marino and Smith over. Levy and Cayo pulled Smith out, tied his arms behind his back with a belt and threw him onto the pavement. Marino tried to start his truck but Gilmour blocked its path with his jeep. Marino tried holding on to the steering wheel but was taken out of the truck forcibly by Levy, Gilmour and Genson, while Cayo yelled they were both “under arrest.” Warren Katz and Charlie Snoke drove up in a jitney, blocked the truck from the rear, and joined in. Levy grabbed Marino by a leg, Katz by the neck and Snoke by his hair. vGilmour, having watched PC 832 training films, determined he better subdue Marino as he might have a weapon. He swung his security flashlight aiming at Marino’s head, totally aware he might cause “severe injury,” but as he swung Marino moved from his spot and Gilmour hit Snoke on the head instead. Genson told Gilmour to rap Marino’s knuckles with the flashlight so he would release the steering wheel. He did and both men were now subdued. Dazed, Snoke sat down on the road and Genson tried to stop his bleeding with his shirt. Later Dr. Doug Robson taped up the laceration on his head.
Handcuffed, Marino and Smith were transported back to Synanon in the jitney. Smith started talking so Gensen grabbed him by the shirt and told him to shut up or he would be shut up. Smith kicked at him so Genson punched him in the stomach. They were told they were under arrest. In Barn I they were pushed around through a crowd and then seated for interrogation by Dederich, Sorkin and Mike Garrett. Smith had some cotton in a bag that he carried for an ear infection. Synanon took it as proof he was a “hop head.” They tore his shirt to see if he had needle marks. Synanon removed beer bottles from the back of the truck and a small box under the seat that appeared to have marijuana in it. Sorkin said not to call the police yet and directed a Synanon bald head. Their heads were held and shaved with electric shears. Photos were taken before, during and after to be posted around the Foundation (posting photos was becoming a way in Synanon to both encourage members to take action and to stifle dissent). One man suggested they shoot them.
Deputy sheriffs finally arrived and took custody of Smith and Marino. They refused to make arrests as Synanon members were demanding. Detective Norm Johnson recalled the Tomales incident and said, “You can’t take over a town and stop three cars to see if you got the right one.” Officer Richmond told Mike Garrett they cannot take the law into their own hand. Another officer said they knew all about their big legal department but they still had to follow the law.
One of the deputies drove the red truck to Point Reyes and while doing so he noted the truck tended to swerve to the left and right of the roadway, the type of movement that had scared the bicycle riders. Marino explained the problem was from over-sized tires on the front of the pickup truck. The deputies recommended to the District Attorney that kidnapping charges be filed against the Synanon members but no action was taken.
It was to be known in Synanon as the Incident on the Marshall-Petaluma Road. Dan Sorkin called the refusal to arrest “humiliating.” He also thought there should be no crowds in the future when police arrive. Dederich agreed it was humiliating and felt they should fall back from these incidents and regroup their thinking. It was proof further that Synanon could not depend on law enforcement to protect them.
In December of 1975 Marino and Smith filed a lawsuit against Synanon.
In the year-end Synanon report, old-timer and ex-musician, Bill Crawford wrote, “we tracked down and caught two guys who were trying to run our kids off the road and they ended up with a lot less hair than they started out with.” He further described that before the year was out they had shaved the heads of two trespassers, one found on the beach, and another caught in the South Caves and a gas-siphoner (shaved his beard, too). Photos were taken. Crawford said, “We have the unique way of dealing with these people.” The alleged gas siphoner, William Hammer, on January 17, also had his mustache shaved and was held prisoner, with his boots removed, for 8 hours. He was told if he tried to leave, his legs would be broken. In charge of Hammer and shaving him was my old high school classmate Bob Pitzle. When the police came, Pitzle admitted what they did but added they fed him breakfast. No arrest was made.
On September 26 another gas siphoner was caught and had his head shaved in a general meeting in front of newcomers.
In l976 Dederich officially directed if a newcomer comes in for an interview and talks back he should be knocked on his ass.
In March of l976 Newcomer Mike Gould was suspected of stealing parts to a motorcycle. He was followed in San Francisco, Synanon learning where he lived and who his friends were. Finally, exiting his house he was attacked, beaten and told, “Tell your friends not to fuck with Synanon or this is what will happen.”
In July of l976 Ted Lukjancyk, a famous artist, who had emotional problems stemming from a youth in a Nazi concentration camp, called Synanon and said he was coming for sculptures he made when he was in Synanon that Dederich had kept. Not on his medication, he was hyper, and made threatening statements and demanded a car be sent for him and that he be treated according to his station. An alert was put out for him and later he was spotted on the road heading to Synanon. When cars halted him, Lukjancyk abandoned his car and ran off. Synanon patrols, many armed with clubs, searched for him. Lukjancyk found a hiding place in some bushes and was fortunate the sheriffs found him first. He was later treated in hospital for brain lesions that had caused his abnormal behavior.
To Dederich the incident emphasized the need for a real security force and real weapons.
Reports of what happened on December 2, l976 at 11:30 a.m. are diverse. Synanon records give a different version then the alleged victim did to the police. The victim under any account was very strange and the Synanon participants response memos were consistent. Synanon people have been gamed to be honest amongst themselves and if they believe the memos are private would usually want it known if someone was physically roughed up for Synanon. When the records are for fabricating a cover-up story that is also usually clear.
What is known for sure is that on November 27, l976 Robert Graeme, a splitee, came to the Del Mar Club, accompanied by a woman and a child, wanting to return as a lifestyler. According to residents he was noisy and abusive. DeRosa said Graeme was making a scene and during the interview used “nasty” language. Dede (The founder’s son) asked him how much money he had and Graeme said $40,000. DeRosa smelled liquor on his breath and told him to come back and try again in 60 days. Dede told him to bring $20,000. Graeme would say DeRosa became physical with him. Synanon records say he was escorted out.
Synanon members said Graeme made several telephone threats including one on December 2, l976 wherein he also said he was coming in that day. DeRosa said come by and they would talk. A meeting was held in the front lobby to prepare for his arrival. It was decided they would “shake him down” and find out what he wanted if he was rational or subdue him if he wasn’t. Dave Gilmour was to be positioned where he could shoot Graeme if necessary. Percy Tickles and Mike Flynn were in outside vehicles with CB’s to radio his approach. Jim Jollett and Ray Acuna were to shake him down for weapons. 10-15 males were to loiter by the door.
Graeme exited his 1967 Mercedes and entered Del Mar dressed as a minister complete with a white collar. With him was a bodyguard, Jack Harding. As he walked up the stairs Ray Acuna and Bill Farry circled behind him. He handed DeRosa a couple of business cards. They were led to the Connect where Jollett reached for Graeme’s briefcase and said he was going to search it. Graeme cursed, saying he would not be searched and tried to pull the case away. Jollett then grabbed his wrist holding the case. Harding screamed to let him go and grabbed Jollett’s wrist. At that moment Gilmour called a Hey Rube and Bill Farry cried out that Harding had a gun. Farry and Acuna grabbed Harding and Jollett, freed, grabbed Graeme from behind in a bear hug, pinning his arms. Sandy Glickman placed a baton around Harding’s neck as Farry removed his gun, mace and electric beeper; he handed the gun to Gilmour who emptied the bullets.
Tickles then handcuffed Harding and Glickman did the same to Graeme. Harding immediately said he was “receptive” and would cooperate. They were taken to the Chair Office where Dede and Walter Lewbel were. Then Chuck Dederich, wearing overalls, entered and looked at them personally and said they should be taken down in the basement and have their knees broken and then thrown off of a cliff. He told Harding he was in “big trouble.” As he exited he said, “Get rid of him (Graeme).” Dederich then gave instructions to disable their car and Mike Flynn, Farry and some other residents went out and slashed the tires. Flynn pulled some wires.
Graeme was then taken upstairs to the lobby, handcuffed to the stairway and warned by Farry if he moved or spoke he would be punished. Bill Crawford took pictures of him.
On verification that he was a licensed investigator Harding, who was continually apologizing, he was freed after about 20 minutes and given coffee in the lobby while Graeme was moved to the interview room still handcuffed.
Graeme told the police after they were handcuffed they were taken to the basement and hit. Then in another room he said he was held and struck in the face by DeRosa. He said tufts of his hair were pulled while others struck his chest, ribs and stomach. When handcuffed to the stairway, he said, each time he tried to speak he was kicked on his right side.
Most of the Synanon people reporting denied the violence. But Glickman did report he saw Jollett pull Graeme’s pony-tail and Farry said he heard that DeRosa had hit Graeme in the ribs with a night stick.
The officer who wrote the report noted when he arrived he observed Graeme had bruises and a swelling under his right eye and that both Harding and Graeme’s wrist were swollen as if they had been handcuffed. Upon telephone directions from Dan Garrett, Synanon made a citizens arrest of both Graeme and Harding for trespassing. But later, as the residents admitted there was permission for Graeme and Harding to enter, those charges were dropped.
Also in l976 a youngster was believed to have stolen from a Texaco station and the Wire talk was to go find him and take care of him.
The Synanon Eviction Committee, per Dederich’s orders, threw unwanted tenants, particularly pot smokers (Bernie Kolb would search apartments) out. One was tossed over the balcony with his belongings following. In the year-end Family Report Bill Crawford boasted the actions were done to circumvent the too-slow legal procedures.
Crawford at 1976’s end reported, “weapons were introduced into Synanon in large part this year, to a large degree this grew out of Ted Lukjancyk caper. In fact, the whole security force began to grow up after Ted’s attacks on Synanon.” He said as they became more successful and less the underdog they were becoming more of a target and thus “becoming less reliant on external forces like police departments…
“It doesn’t hurt to remember that there are 17,000 or more disgruntled ex-residents all roaming around ticking like time bombs because any one of them can become a Ted Lukjancyk, 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.”
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 2 girls off the road. And Crawford continued:
“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.”
The violence appalled Jack Hurst, Synanon’s first President, a 10-year board member, oldest remaining dope fiend and once Dederich’s favorite. Hurst had gained enough popularity and power to be a strong competing voice. So Dederich busted him to truck driver. Now the man Dederich once called a son had split.
At about 7:00 a.m. on the morning of February 20, 1977 two 17-year-olds, Tristan Mulrooney and Mark Way, arrived in Santa Monica for some early surfing. Way parked his l968 green Volkswagen van by a street meter near the Clump garage across from the Del Mar Club and took off for the ocean. Mulrooney, however, had just gotten off work and decided to get some sleep in the van before joining Way. At 9:25 a.m. a Synanon woman reported she saw a drunk coming out of the South Cave. It was reported by Sylvia Crawford that he had urinated all over the wall. A Hey Rube was called. According to the Santa Monica Director Jim O’Donnell, Chuck Dederich, Jr. (Dede) gave the order to rough the guy up.
Mulrooney was still asleep at 10 a.m. when he felt the van sink towards the ground. He looked out the window and saw the van was surrounded by shaved headed males in blue shirts and overalls. One, Pete Hyman, had an 18-inch screwdriver and was attempting to release the latch on the wind-wing of the van. Another was puncturing the tires. A crowd was gathering of about 40, including Director Jim O’Donnell. Mulrooney screamed for them to “stay away” and threatened to call the police. In return the Synanon members began kicking at the doors of the van. Mulrooney lay low, praying they would not get the van open. A police car arrived ending it temporarily. Mulrooney exited and found three tires slashed. While the police attempted to get explanations, Mulrooney went to the beach to get Way. When they returned a tow truck had arrived. Unfortunately for the kids, when the tow truck arrived, the police stupidly left.
Way rode up front with the tow truck driver while Mulrooney stayed back in the van. When he heard a commotion outside the van Mulrooney peered out and saw Synanon people looking as if they were preparing to get Way out of the tow truck. Thinking the police were still there, Mulrooney made the mistake of exiting the van. Ed Siegel, just under 5 foot nine inches and 175 pounds, the former head of Reliable Mortgage, now a leader of Synanon, played macho man and shouted to the mob, “Let’s just drag him out of there and beat him up.” Another screamed, “lets beat his face.” Immediately, the group attacked. They beat Mulrooney about the face and body until he fell to the ground and then they dragged him into the South Cave parking structure. There a crowd of 30 began to kick him repeatedly. Bernie Kolb, who a decade ago witnessed the Santa Monica bulldozer attack, watched and heard Ron Cook shout he wanted “teeth.” Two passersbys, Sekular Elliot Neal and Poltroneri Melody Ann watched in disbelief. Ann went into the garage and begged them to stop but was ignored. Synanon members screamed at Way in the tow truck that if he ever returned to the area again they would kill him.
One Synanite alone begged them to stop the beating. She was Ron Cook’s mother, Cyril Lutzky. She tried in vain to pull attackers off, jumping on to the back of Ed Siegel. She screamed, “This is not the type of place Synanon is.” For her efforts she was dragged off and taken back to Del Mar where Bernie Kolb was instructed to get a game going to deal with her. She was to be made an example of as the type of people who straddle the fence and hold Synanon back. She was warned, a carom shot, not to ever take a position against Synanon again.
The group attacking Mulrooney disbanded only when the police returned. By then old-timer Bill Crawford had taken photos for Synanon of the beaten Mulrooney to place on the bulletin board. Officer Barcoft asked Siegel what had happened. The little macho man said Mulrooney shook a fist at residents and made verbal threats so, “then we went over and beat him up.” Resident Sanford Glickman said Mulrooney started it and “we did what we had to do.” He said sixty-five Synanon residents would back his story.
Mulrooney was hospitalized, his face lacerated, eye swollen, his temple darkened, abdomen and back swollen and discolored.
The police were gone with Mulrooney and Way but the mob’s thirst was not yet quenched when at noon the same day a l967 2-door Oldsmobile entered the same Cave parking lot across from Del Mar. In the vehicle were four young blacks, Anthony Gene Rivers (21), Joseph Alfonso Morgan (20), Audrey Teresa Ward (17), and Elizabeth Ann Milton (17). They had drank a little Colt 45 malt liquor and were going to the beach. Morgan parked saying he was going to try to locate his cousin. A man approached and told them to leave as a crowd of about 20 was growing. At first, the four youths rolled up their windows. Morgan then exited and said his cousin used to work at Synanon and asked to speak to the director. He was told, “Shut up, nigger.” Rivers got out and said they would leave. But by then it was too late. They were told to get back in the car. Now the crowd had grown to 50-60 strong. And it already had the taste of blood.
Someone screamed, “Let’s not wait,” but was silenced. A white truck with “Synanon—The People Business” written on it pulled up to block the Oldsmobile from leaving. Two white vans followed.
After about fifteen minutes they were coaxed into exiting the vehicle and made to lie down on the ground. Five to seven persons held each down while they were questioned. Among those watching was Bernie Kolb. Morgan’s head was pulled up by the hair and both were made to answer, “yes, sir.” Rivers thought they were the police as a tape recorder was taking down their responses. The Synanon people took all their belongings, wallets, money and keys. A resident started kicking at Morgan’s left arm. Another ripped a necklace off of Middleton scratching her neck. They moved the Oldsmobile to the opening of the parking lot and members tore up the interior while others took pictures of the four and the car. Synanon members told Anthony they were going to “kick your ribs in,” and “you mother fuckers are not to talk unless we tell you to….if you or any of your other friends come here again we will kill you.”
They commented they had been ripped off before and as the police don’t do anything about their problems “we have to take the law into our own hands.”
After four or five pictures were taken the kids were told they could go. Then someone asked to “let me get one in.” An order was given by a male black resident to “fuck their face up, kick them in the face.” At the command, the kicking and beating of faces and bodies begun. One Synanite, Jim Deitch, later reported seeing teeth flying. When it stopped, they were told to get out. On the beach, the kids were told Synanon would leave their car. Some in the crowd, wanting more, got in a few more licks.
Ward and Morgan made a run for it successfully to Ocean Avenue. Middleton was knocked down but made it to Pico Blvd where she caught a bus at full speed. Rivers ran, too, but was not as successful. He made it to 1800 Appian Way when he tripped and fell in a parking lot. A group of 30 to 40 male and female residents, including a cook still wearing his white apron, gave chase, caught up and threw him between some cars, kicking and punching as Rivers tried to crawl underneath a vehicle. They wanted to kick his teeth out. Passersbys gathered and yelled for them to stop. By then Rivers was unconscious, waking up later to the welcomed stares of the police.
Ed Siegel proudly told the police they could find the Oldsmobile on Pacific Coast Highway. Officer Teglas in his report noted the similar incidents earlier that day and said the reports should be read together. If they were, somehow, the message was not received. Misdemeanor assault charges over the Mulrooney beating were filed and Ed Siegel and a few others plead nolo contender. One of them was Mike Flynn. He pled even though he had not thrown a punch. He was told to do so by Synanon attorney David Gomez. The pleas ended any further investigation. Way and Mulrooney through their Uncle, attorney John Mulrooney, filed a civil suit.
The same day, February 20, it was also happening in Visalia. Eddie Stevens (20) had two days off from work so he and Roger Walker (19) went out for a drive in Stevens l968 Pontiac GTO. At 4 p.m. as they neared the Badger property Stevens got too engrossed in chit-chat with Walker and missed a corner. The GTO slid off the road and ran into a Synanon fence, knocking down two posts. The starter failed in the soft dirt and they could not get the car moving.
A couple of Synanon residents came out to see if they were all right but then became angry when they discovered the damage to the Synanon fence. Soon a crowd of about 30 developed, many arriving by motorcycle, several wearing pistols. Mike Garrett and Dave Gilmour, wearing guns, arrived in the Synanon ambulance. Stevens said they were all right.
Walker and Stevens were then suspected of being the two men who had been reported earlier to have “hotrodded” past Liz Kenton “harassing her a bit.” Someone cried out, “We ought to make them eat dirt.” On cue a resident grabbed Stevens by the hair, pulled his head back and threw dirt in his face. The other residents laughed; one bellowing the boys didn’t know who they were messing with, another saying they should drag them out, beat them and say they got hurt in the wreck. Other cries were to just kill them. Stevens replied they didn’t want any trouble and they would fix the fence or pay for it.
The keys from the Pontiac were removed and the two youths were made to sit in their car until the sheriffs arrived. They were told to shut up and never “harass our women again.” When they lit cigarettes they were told to put them out and again told they didn’t know who they were messing with. A man with sunglasses walked up and threw beer cans in the back of the GTO. Others walked along the road, found empty beer cans and bottles and threw those in the car. When the sheriff deputies arrived Synanon members said the youths had tried to hide the beer in some bushes after the crash so they put them back. The deputies gave Stevens a sobriety test and determined he was not drunk. They made no arrest but took the kids to Orosi. A deputy told Stevens to come back the next day for his car as it was getting too dark to do it then. The deputy never thought to have someone escort their return for their protection even though the boys during the ride told them they had been threatened and thought the guy with a forty-five was going to shoot them.
That night the boys went to the home of Ed Heida (21) and told the story. Stevens asked for Heida’s help getting his Pontiac back as Heida had an El-Camino pick up that could tow the Pontiac out of the dirt. And Stevens and Walker were afraid to return by themselves. Heida agreed to help as did Randy Frazier, (21) a friend of friend Ed Heida who was at Heida’s home. The next morning around 9 a.m. Stevens, driving a Catalina and Walker returned to Heida’s and they all took off in the two cars. Heida, with his friend Frazier, stopped and picked up Allen Dowling (20) in the El Camino. All of the boys were from the town of Dinuba and were forever to be known in Synanon lore as the Dinuba Punks.
Arriving in the two cars they saw a yellow Synanon Ford Courier pickup truck sitting at the gate. As the Pontiac was missing they thought about calling the sheriff and asking for their help and a tow truck. Then they asked the residents in the Courier where the Pontiac was and were told it was in a garage at the airstrip but they would not get their car until the fence damages were paid for. Stevens told him they were going to fix the fence. The man said sure and gave directions for them to go get the car, saying it was parked on the left a ways down a hill at the Strip.
Stevens drove to the Strip with his friends following in the El Camino, not knowing that Bill Dederich (Chuck’s brother) had relayed the order to Mike Garrett to beat them up. They drove north along the Strip, past the barracks and tents but could not find the vehicle. Stevens started to suspect a set –up and turned his car around to head back up the hill, the El Camino behind him. He was about a hundred yards from the turn-off to go up to the main gate when he saw a large white Synanon truck coming from the south followed by 40 to 50 persons carrying a variety of weapons including clubs, baseball bats, pipes and rifles. Walker thought it was more like 100 to 150 of them. Stevens took off on the dirt road for the main gate entrance. The truck tried to block the gate but pulled up too far leaving a small gap. In the time it took the driver to move the gears to reverse to completely block the exit Stevens had floored by onto the county road and took off.
His friends didn’t make it. The exit was now blocked and the mob was cursing. The boys made the mistake of rolling down their windows to explain they were just there to get a car. “Do you have the money to pay for the fence?” a resident asked. Heida said he didn’t have any money and it wasn’t his car that hit the fence. He had just come to help. “Your friends are gone,” came the reply. “If you want the car you have to pay us for the fence.” Another screamed for them to get out. They didn’t move. Then came the shout, “Let’s beat the hell out of ‘em.”
A resident reached in and opened the door and they were all dragged out; Frazier by his hair. The windshield of the El Camino was punched out and the headlights smashed. They were tossed into the air and dropped to the ground. Frazier felt his thigh struck with what he thought was the butt of a gun. Heida was held by the hair face down on the ground, his arm pinned back and kicked repeatedly in the head. All were beaten and kicked severely by the mob. They perceived being hit with blackjacks. Dowling was lifted and held by four men while another kneed him in the gut and others threw punches. Heida could hear the man with the walkie-talkie ordering other people to drive off down the road after Stevens and Walker. Heida stopped fighting back and went limp and a voice cried “that’s enough.” Heida got up and was kicked a few more times. The residents took away the boys’ boots and told them to run to the gate, their car would be a mile down the road and never to come back again. Frazier was carried out to the road. At the gate they were pushed around. Heida was hit across the back with a baseball bat and told to run. Now it was raining.
Bloodied, Frazier and Dowling ran down the road, climbed a fence, went up a hill and hid behind rocks. They sat and watched three trucks take off down the road in the direction Stevens had escaped. Then they continued up the hill and across some mountains towards the Badger Store. Heida ran to the fire station just a couple of hundred yards away but no one was there. As he was up the driveway he saw his El Camino go by with two residents in it followed by the yellow Courier with two more residents. Then he heard the metal of his car being pounded. From a hiding spot behind some bushes he saw the Courier return with all four residents so he went down the road and two miles farther found the El Camino. His wallet was in the car with all his money still there. There was a dent down the middle of the hood and on both sides. He drove down the road toward the Badger Inn and found Dowling and Frazier.
At the Badger General Store at the intersection of Highway 245 and Eshom Valley Road 465, Stevens and Walker asked Martha Dunlien to use the phone. She pointed to the outside phone booth and as it was raining she invited them to come in after their call. Stevens entered the booth and called the sheriff’s office. Afterwards he walked up on the porch to ask the locals to get a gun and rescue their trapped friends while Walker called his Dad. In Dunlien’s full view three truckloads of Synanites arrived. 10 to 15 residents emptied out carrying ax handles and sticks. One had a foot and a half rusty iron bar.
Walker’s Dad, who was visiting his own father, was listening to his son asking him to get his gun and his cousins, when the phone was suddenly without warning hung up. While his Dad wondered what happened his son was kicking the first attacker twice in the chest. But there were too many of them. Led by Barry Levine, the Synanites pulled Walker from the booth and plummeted him. An older resident had already grabbed Stevens on the porch and held him while two others fired away, one working his face and forehead. Stevens broke loose and got inside the Inn door. His attackers then joined Levine doing Walker. Dunlien came out screaming for them to get off private property. As she was joined by mountain men gathering to defend the boys the Synanites quickly departed. Dunlien then called local fireman James Hall and the sheriff for help.
Hall and his wife Sandra, who lived at the Badger Fire Station, were over at the Sierra Inn Store when they got the call. When Hall arrived, he found knots on the boys who had been beaten. Sandra administered first aid to stop the bleeding. They were all cold and scared as Synanon vehicles kept driving by. Then, remembering her daughters were home alone, she returned to get them. As she passed the Synanon property, she saw a big yellow truck by the gate with several people next to it holding clubs and other weapons. It was helter skelter.
As Sandra returned to the Inn the El Camino pulled up behind her. In it were Heida and Frazier and Dowling—muddy, shirtless—from the road, beating and rain. Jim Hall saw lumps and knots on all their faces.
The Dinuba Punks were taken first to Alta Hospital in Dinuba but as it lacked facilities to handle that many emergency patients, the Woodlake ambulance transferred them to Kawea Delta Hospital in Visalia.
When Detective Sgt. Bob Byrd arrived at the Strip, he saw what appeared to be six Synanon “policemen” armed with Smith and Wesson .357 magnum pistols and night sticks and several Toyota jeeps converted into “patrol units” with installed two-way radios and armed with weapons. Byrd took notes as he had been lately receiving citizen complaints that Synanon people were patrolling the area and stopping drivers, forcing them to exit and explain their presence. Mike Garrett approached and explained Synanon had taken the Pontiac as payment for their fence damage. Byrd responded that was not legal. Garrett produced 12 individuals who were involved–one being Dave Gilmour–but all said their attorney, Howard Garfield, had told them to remain silent.
Dederich approved the incident, it was getting out the message: “Don’t fuck with Synanon.” Dan Garrett criticized only Levine for going off the property without approval.
Synanon tried to file trespassing charges on all the boys, giving the story that they had refused to leave, swore and challenged them to a fight. As the boys could not adequately select from the Synanon population who the attackers were the case was dropped. There was no investigation; no inquiry to determine what role Synanon leadership had.
Unlike what I would do, law enforcement did not patiently await or hunt down splittess who might have the answers. And they never thought to inquire about Synanon’s taping system, monitor the Wire or get a search warrant.
On the night of the attack on the Dinuba Punks, Synanon cars rambled up and down the roads on security checks. They saw that people were gathered at Jim Hall’s home and believed he might be organizing a counter attack and put him under surveillance. Hall had met some friends at the Badger Inn to celebrate the first rain and the party continued over to his house. A few days later Hall noticed Synanon vehicles parked across his house on Synanon property. The vehicles were switched every few days. He tried switching his CB to channel 14, Synanon’s channel, to ask what was going on but he could not get an answer. He used his rifle scope as binoculars and found that people in the vehicles had binoculars watching him. They waived at each other.
The next morning Hall called Synanon and was called back by Dan Garrett. Garrett would not confirm that he was being watched and Hall asked if he was in danger or trouble. He was worried that if he walked outside with a rifle it might be misconstrued and someone might start shooting. Garrett said, “You are in trouble because you’re on the wrong side.” He suggested Hall come down and make friends with Synanon people rather than hang around with the Badger locals.
After the conversation, the surveillance continued and Hall monitored it on his CB radio. He could hear them referring to it as the North Gate Stakeout and describing what they could see that the Hall family was doing. His wife Sandra once saw a resident on a motorcycle cross their property. He was wearing a gun. Once James Hall said into his CB, “You can get some rest today because I have to go to Dunlap and feed the cattle.”
Later Hall found out Synanon was using infrared equipment to watch him at night. He was concerned as he had kids aged 10, 8, 3, and 1. He and his wife had seen the targets used in the Synanon Shoots: human dummies dressed in fatigues. Sometimes they got the Wire on their CB and heard Sorkin refer to Synanon’s Goon Squad, sometimes calling it The Avengers. Occasionally Sandra heard orders on the CB to get guns and ammunition to certain locations.
The surveillance ended after 10 days. Synanon then sent a letter to the Tulare Rangers asking that Hall be fired because he held vigilante meetings at his house. And once in a while the Halls heard hooting owls at different points on their property that seemed to be answering each other. Once Sandra came home and found her spice shelf cleaned and reorganized.
Art Warfield, one of Marin Sheriff Louis Montanos’ two Synanon residents he appointed reserve deputies,1 reviewed the incidents of February 20th and on March 2, l977 wrote Ron Cook, Dede and Jady:
“We are our own worst enemy. Our own lives were in jeopardy by our own people by the flagrant use of firearms and our attacks upon enemies so violent as to endanger lives. We do not know how to subdue without lethal force…At the Home Place innocent vehicles just trying to turn around on our property were pursued by our people…Two of our Strip residents involved in the defense against the attack by the Dinuba Punks went far beyond the pale in beating them up, which could have resulted in serious injury or death…Barry Levine took off in ‘hot pursuit’ after the Dinuba Punks resulting in an incident which could result in serious lawsuits or jail sentences…At the Home Place weapons were given out indiscriminately by untrained people resulting in a rifle fired through one of our walls, weapons brandished in a manner dangerous to our people; a loaded gun was pointed into a resident’s face to demonstrate how a safety works, a loaded 45 automatic was aimed at a person’s hand and the trigger pulled.”
Warfield also complained that the sheriff’s department was called concerning a suspicious vehicle right after the Founder had specifically instructed they were not to call the police. He proposed a chain of command and methods for mob control. “If we do not, we will seriously injure or kill someone.” To work, the idea needed support of Synanon management. He proposed training a National Guard, consisting of 28 males, to be held in reserve for use in case of emergencies.
The Board read the memo and agreed with the need for training. But Warfield’s idea of a National Guard was passed over in favor of Dederich’s own idea of training a select group of men in weapons and attack procedures. At first the concept was labeled the Mini–Marines.
Dederich’s plan had already taken shape before Warfield’s memo. In February Dederich and Betty chatted with Carl Anderson, head of the Synanon Shoe Department. Anderson was an ex marine sergeant who always exaggerated his military experience and bravado. Now again acting macho, Anderson spoke of defending Synanon and fantasized about “taking a dozen of these guys off some place to specially train for a month.” Dederich thought about the idea for a couple of days and decided he liked it. And Dederich always turned his fantasies to realities.
In a letter of February 24th 1977 CED effectively drafted Carl Anderson back into the armed services, instructing him to round up 15 to 18 candidates from which Dederich would pick the final dozen. He told Anderson to select a suitable campsite at the Strip across the highway from the airfield. The Foundation would supply the equipment he needed. Anderson would have full use of Dederich’s secretarial staff for paperwork and help in locating equipment. Walter Lewbel, Dederich’s chief dog robber, would also be at his disposal.
The area selected was located on the far side of the road from the Strip nestled in a valley called Depot Flats. There the training could not be seen from the Strip or from the road.
News of this elite force was to be spread quickly as Dan Sorkin boasted of the plan on his Wire show and became the topic in the Stew. Thirty-three men and one woman sent in applicants to Anderson to join what was thought to be a new reserve or SWAT team. Hopefuls wrote of their experiences in previous Synanon violent incidents and of their qualifying abilities such as experience shooting weapons or martial arts. Many wrote that Synanon was in danger and they desired to defend it.
On February 27, Dr. Doug Robson, a five year Synanon resident and a past director of Synanon Health Services, sent in his request to be part of the Synanon Marine Academy, boasting he had been part of many Hey Rubes over the past two years including the Siege of Tomales. He said he was six feet tall, 180 pounds, could do ten miles in 75 minutes and was a licensed Synanon Interchange Polarizer. He fired thousands of rounds since he was 5 and spent one year in a YMCA rifle club. He was an experienced camper and had played varsity football in high school. He had received a successful vasectomy and thought the academy sounded “fantastically fun” and “it is rare that something so serious and so urgently needed is also this attractive.”
His then boss, Dr. Harvey Hecht, wrote Robson on March 2 complaining of his desire to become a Mini-Marine. Robson had not consulted with him and Robson had previously signed up to provide emergency room service at Kaiser hospital in Los Angeles for the next twelve months. Hecht felt Robson had problems working in Synanon and reprimanded him: “So far it looks to me like you have not learned anything.”
On March 3 Anderson advised Dederich he had picked up some surplus gear in Sacremento and a few items from the Camping Locker and General Store in Tomales. He had given instructions to Ron Eschenauer to purchases from Surplus in Santa Monica. He felt they would have most items they needed by March 11 and they could be ready to bring “this Force into existence by mid-April.
On March 9th a new form of communication began in Synanon. Dederich started Think Table, also called Court, where he would sit, sometimes during meals, surrounded by Big Shots, talking about his philosophies and ideas for the direction of Synanon. A microphone hung over his head and his conversations were broadcasted on the Wire and tape-recorded in the Wire room in order to be replayed on the Wire. Jady instructed that everyone was to listen to it. Designated scribes, college educated to assure accuracy, recorded written summaries of what Dederich said and maintained them in a booklet entitled Think Table Summaries. The Wire room logged the court speeches which were to by picked up by scribes at lunch time and filled in with brief summaries of what Dederich said. If assistance or clarity was needed, the scribe was to talk to the person logging at the wire, or later, when they came into existence, CED Fellows. The scribes turned them into a designated person for the final copy.
It was important to preserve it all so future scholars could examine Dederich’s genius. Since l975 Steve Simon was in charge of the Synanon Archives and the Think Table Summaries and tapes were added to it. While Synanon efforts were under way now to try to get Dederich awarded a Nobel Prize for his contributions to society, the Old Man at Court spoke continually of beating up thieves beyond recognition, taking pictures to show others, and if necessary maybe “we will kill a couple.”
On March 10th Joe Musico wrote to Carl Anderson giving his Viet Nam credentials. He had been a member of the Military Police and Special Forces, with weapons training in the M1, M16, M50 M60 M79, AK47, grenades, rocket launchers, sawed-off shotguns, crossbows, 45 and 357 caliber pistol’s and knives, plus hand to hand training which included parachute drops, night fighting, “silent fighting and hand ripping techniques” along with search and destroy training involving booby-traps, snares and basic demolition. He also had training with attack dogs. Musico’s bravado was already legendary from his game tales of soldiers killing unpopular sergeants and necklaces of “gook ears.”
On March 20, 1977 Anderson issued his own draft orders, copying same to Dederich, selecting 16 chosen to report to camp on April 3, 1977 to what now was being called the Synanon Imperial Marines. Sometimes in Betty’s honor, as her cancer was getting worse by the day, it was called Her Majesty’s Imperial Marines.
Included were Musico, Lance Kenton (the youngest Marine at 19), Allen Hubbard, Jim Troiana, Jack Miller, Ivan Ujueta, Mike Gimbel, Arnette Jamison, Wendell Stamps and the enthusiastic Dr. Doug Robson. Each was to forthwith have a physical examination by the Synanon medical staff. On March 31 Drs. Sid Frank and David Griggs sent Anderson a report on the health and physical condition of the proposed Marines.
On April 1, Ivan Ujueta wrote to Anderson that while there is no such thing as a ninety-day Superman training course he felt he could inspire the Marines to drill and train after the camp ended. He would teach fighting techniques and blows that can “cause a knockout, take down, dislocate and brake joints, cause a paralyzing effect on the body and take a man’s life.”
The Marine recruits arrived in Depot Flats on April 2nd, 1977 at 12:30 p.m. to start their training. They didn’t get off to the best of starts, one overslept, Ivan Ujueta and Joe Musico got into a battle on the way up and they had to stop and fix a flat tire. When they arrived Carl Anderson welcomed them and then cut short a lunch with a yell of “Fall in.” They marched for a while and then changed from overalls to work clothes and commenced setting up camp. By night they had pitched a big tent for the recruits and a small one for Anderson and another set-up as a cooking station. They were instructed they were on containment from the rest of Synanon. They slept in sleeping bags with air mattresses but some went flat. Some recruits used rocks as pillows.
A broken window was found at the San Francisco house on April 3, l977 and a group of youths outside were suspected of tossing a brick. They were jumping around cars in a lot and generally not respecting property. A Hey Rube was called. Thirty to forty males came pouring out and chased them to the streets and beat up the ones they caught, putting several in the hospital with the Synanon label–The San Francisco Punks.
The same day as the beating of the San Francisco Punks the training commenced for the Imperial Marines. They arose at 6:30 a.m. and started with a 2 ½ mile job. Some became dizzy and Jimmie Troiano had to ride back in a jeep. After the run they cooked their own breakfast—scrambled eggs and grape nuts with milk–eating out of Army issue mess kits. Then they went to work setting up tables, step ups, platforms and cooking gear. Foam mattresses replaced the air ones. That evening they played their first game together and Wendell Stamps got into an ego battle with Dr. Doug Robson.
On April 4th a tape of reveille blasted the Marines awake at 5:45 a.m. for another 2 mile plus run, this time everyone making it. After a breakfast of grape nuts and brand they unloaded more goods for camp and built obstacle courses. Wendall Stamps and Lance Kenton cut short in their lunch to go rattlesnake hunting. When they found one, all the other recruits came charging up the hill to see. Afterwards they had a class on fires and learned to use an extinguisher. For dinner they ate spaghetti and spinach. The next day they did Joe’s suicide course walking on chains, ladders and ropes. Several fell, striking rocks and getting minor injuries. Dr. Robson doubled as recruit and doctor.
On April 6 they arose to reveille at 5 p.m. and ran three miles. At breakfast several complained there was dirt in their milk. Later they buried a dead cow covered with flies and maggots. They worked with bows and arrows plus slingshots specially provided by Charles Dederich.
The camp developed a routine. They ran the obstacle courses and climbed rope. Push-ups were ordered for mistakes. The Marine recruits did martial arts contact drill with one guy throwing punches and the other blocking. They learned an 8-point blocking system. They built muscle by pumping heavy rocks, improvising ala Rocky. They marched and Wendell Stamps taught them some counter columns and other squadron moves. Each was given KP duties. Only the Wire located near the camp connected them to the community. Equipment included hatchets, firearms and aluminum lockers to be filled with munitions easily thrown on the back of pickup trucks. Musico designed an Imperial Marine shoulder patch. Dederich boasted that in one year’s time they would have a force of 200 Marines who could be “very dangerous.”
Intrigued by Kenton’s earlier catch, snake hunting became the popular sport in the Marines’ time off. It was status to bring one back and Joe Musico and Lance Kenton were the best at catching them. Each had experience. Musico had caught snakes in Vietnam and eaten them, even made a belt out of their skin. Lance had kept rattles in his room. On April 9 the Marines caught a 4 ½ foot rattlesnake, stuck a knife through its brain and pulled out its teeth. The next day the Marines had a whole day off and most spent it snake hunting. As the camp continued, the Marines penned up over a dozen rattlesnakes, most of them three to four feet long. Most were let go; some were skinned and eaten. During training Marines would hold the snakes down with several sticks while the rattles were cut off for souvenirs. There was never any indication the snake felt pain during the removal. Sometimes they put them in holes about three feet deep. When they put a rattlesnake in a confined place they noticed that after an initial attempt to come out they became content and remained until someone put a hand in there. They were attracted to body heat and struck. The general belief was that they were lethal. Once a rattler leaped on Musico’s chest and he ran.
Art Warfield and Dan Sorkin on April 12 asked Tulare Undersheriff, Max Foster for a permit to carry concealed weapons. Sorkin said he was a distinguished broadcaster with a national reputation and gave as references Chuck Dederich, Dan Garrett, Oakland Sheriff Richard Hongisto (stayed in Synanon) and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone (a friend of Dederich and Rev. Jim Jones). He said the climate of religious discrimination in Tulare caused by those against the Synanon airfield had caused him to fear for his life and he needed to protect Dederich when he traveled. He feared, he said, a revenge attack by the Dinuba Punks. Foster turned them down and told Warfield the permit he had from Marin Sheriff Louis Montanos was no good in Tulare. Sorkin reported the meeting was “humiliating.”
On April 13 the Marines dressed up in Sunday uniforms and went to the Shed to listen to the Chairman’s game. Dederich announced that Ed Siegel was added to the Board of Regents. That afternoon Ted Dibble visited the Marines and talked about security. He explained that when they had a “caper” they had to have people trained to keep a cool head and be able to give and take orders. The next day they were visited by Chuck, an ailing Betty and her dog robber Bobby Kohl. They stayed about a half hour and Chuck had a good time firing some rounds with the Marines. Betty looked very old and tired from her losing fight with cancer. Later in the afternoon Dede and Steve Schiff came by. After they left Jady (Chuck’s daughter) came to the camp and walked around by herself.
Other guests came by on April 16, to join a game and exchange old “war stories.” April 17th was another Sunday day off that was again spent by mostly catching rattlesnakes. That evening they went to the Strip and took a shower. On April 19 their morning run increased to 4 ½ miles. At 11 a.m. they worked in a woodpile before doing the obstacle course and pumping rocks. That night each was given security shifts. Several women visited on April 20th and Wendell Stamps thought they seemed comfortable despite the fact they were around “13 smelly half dressed sex starved men.” For dinner they had leftovers and liver.
On April 21st Steve DeRosa visited and announced that residents would try to sneak into camp and make the Marines looked like assholes. After dinner the Marines established one-half hour guard shifts to the night. When noise was heard all were awoken and laid in wait for about an hour before returning to sleep. On April 23rd it was decided the Marines were moving too slowly during their aerobics so they retired to a three-hour motivation game.
On April 25th they went on the longest run going all the way down to Murray Flats returning over a steep hill. When they returned Matt Rand came by and lead a class on the recent Directors Conference which had concluded that Synanon was full of many people who were like circles with flat spots that needed to be rounded out in order for Synanon to keep rolling. Afterwards Anderson gave the Marines an oral haircut for not having their areas in shape. Then their commitments were gamed until 11:30 at night. The next morning six marines went to the Home Place to “jerk off” in a bottle. Kenton and Stamps took their bottles down to the laundry room. Stamps could not get in so he gave up the toilet to Kenton.
On April 26 the Marines did a Unicept using the words “fear,” “discipline” and “Imperial Marines.” One concept that materialized was the notion of kamikazes. They called their new home the Hard as Rock Camp. On April 30 they watched a video, “Wind and the Lion.” Two days later they had a run off property to a steep hill they had to walk up. Kenton then took the lead to take them down a cliff which all barely made. On return they did some martial arts, gaming and marching. News arrived that Betty was slipping in and out of consciousness and the Marines made a decision to go to the Strip as the rumor was she would not make it through the night. They put on their uniforms, hopped in the jeep and took off as soon as possible.
At the Strip they showered and dressed for dinner and talked with other residents about the Marines and their purpose. Art Warfield told a story of Betty resting in the party room with Dederich by her side. The bed was in a circle of residents and Chuck was talking to Betty who was in the room, crying at times. Betty looked up at her husband and said, “you’re all wet.” Chuck took her hand and said she was going on a trip and he was going to help guide her on her away. The ceremony, said Warfield, was peaceful and beautiful. A bird flew into the room and perched above Betty’s bed. Chuck said, “look, a messenger is here to take you away.” Betty looked up at the bird and smiled.
Afterwards the Marines participated in games with other residents. At 11 p.m. everything was stopped and Warfield announced that Betty had passed on.
It was announced as a peaceful trip without pain. Now they had to get on with living. Betty will never leave Synanon. She would be forever in its history and memory. Another ceremony for Betty was scheduled for 9 a.m.
The Marines awoke at 6 a.m. to practice and were ready to listen to the Betty ceremony on the wire at 8:30. The program commenced with songs written about Betty’s life. People cried remembering the Magic Lady. Marine Troiana recounted how he had told Betty he was proud to be a soldier and to protect Chuck and Synanon. The Marines chimed in that they all felt that way.
In Los Angeles, Mayor Tom Bradley proclaimed a Betty Dederich day in her honor.
By May 1st training at Depot Flats had returned to its normal routine and they spent an afternoon shooting arrows. The next day a class was given on how to improve night vision and another involving the formulation of patrol and combat patrol missions. This day a call went out for more running shoes as theirs were wearing out rapidly. Runs were now up to seven miles a day. A communication wire was strung along the camp to connect by CB radio. The morale was high as the Marines were pushed beyond old capabilities.
They played games with the community on Thursdays at the Strip and Sundays at the camp. When wives visited, they used the guest tent. Enjoying it all the most was Robson, the physical contact drills stirring nostalgia for olden days of football and wrestling. In the past, however, he always had a hard time opening up and becoming part of a gang. This was an opportunity to do that, to live intimately with his buddies, to train and game together. He had wanted to learn martial arts for years and liked that The Old Man was calling their experience a model for the physical side of the Synanon Religion. He wrote in his journal that he tried to motivate the others but as usual they needed to hear CED say it, presenting the big picture, before they listened. At the camp Robson also acted as the doctor, reporting Hubbard had a right injuinal mass since his vasectomy and a small hernia . On May 1, he wrote Dede he regretted having to leave the training even for something as exciting as the upcoming Doctors Conference. He wanted to bring something from the Marines to it, have the doctors experience part of the physical discipline the Marines were learning. He would teach it. His idea was accepted and the emphasis on the Doctors Conference became physical excellence and martial arts; to bond the doctors as a cohesive group.
Art Warfield came to Depot Flats on May 4. He ran the course with the Marines and then spoke about their future and how they would be responsible for training future Marines. They would always be known as the first group, the tip of the arrow. He talked about Dederich’s friendship with Cesar Chavez and Synanon’s possible merger with the United Farm Workers Union. Marines would then go to La Paz, train future marines there and demonstrate the Synanon lifestyle. The work would be dangerous as Chavez has lots of enemies, more than Synanon. In effect, the merger would double the amount of their enemies, increasing the need for the Marines. Wendall Stamps wrote that if anything “comes down” in Synanon the Marines will be the first on the front line. “This is something,’ he jotted down, “that I have never really taken under consideration. Some day someone will die for Synanon. I wonder if I will be there or even be the one.”
On May 6 the Marines learned procedures in interrogation, search, mobilization, apprehension, weapons, mob control and response– — “what to do when.” Anderson that day wrote Jady the group was learning to obey orders and protect the First Family of Synanon. They were being taught that Synanon was home and learning Synanon history. Another Unicept drill was held using the words “organization, “Synanon security systems” and “Synanon Professional.” From it came concepts of loyalty, trust, sentry, vasectomy, power, search and tactics. In order to talk the talk they must walk the walk, do what they say, not just say it.
The next day my old high school chum Bob Pitzle showed the Marines a film on the United Farm Workers. They listened to a tape of Dederich saying Synanon might buy some property that the UFW might live and work on. Marines would demonstrate to them the Synanon lifestyle.
On May 9 Dr. Robson taught a class in field medicine, having the Marines practice by dissecting animals. The next day Dederich joined a Marine game and lectured on the prejudice against Synanon. The Founder spoke of how Synanon always blows the times when they could do things right, but now the Marines would not fail. Their process was a test of commitment for the entire population. He promised them new dress uniforms. There was talk of a women’s corps of Imperial Marines. A plane passed over and Dederich said he wanted to go see it. It was brand new, worth, Dederich said, $850,000, a twin engine turbo prop Cessna. Dederich got in his Big Red Caddie to go see it, saying, “Never look too interested in something you would like to buy.” Later the Marines undressed for video feedback on their bodies.
The Marines on May 11 became the first recipients of the first edition of the collected writings of Betty Dederich. On May 13 special robes were ordered for the Marines and it was requested Steve Simon set up an interchange for the Marines emphasizing their enthusiasm to go through these “rites of passage” in order to take a new role in Synanon. Commencing this day Dederich‘s Court conversations included discussions of martial arts, security and Her Majesty’s Imperial Marines.
The Marines shot a squirrel for dissecting on May 13 and on May 15 Kenton, Musico and Stamps went for a walk and played kick the can with an old beer can. Warfield stopped by and talked of security. Kenton and Musico wanted to tell them the Marines were more than that, what Dederich had told them, but somehow they couldn’t get it out. So they all spent the rest of the afternoon working out in martial arts.
On May 17 Rod Mullen volunteered to help teach the Marines rock climbing and on that date the obstacle course was built up from items past donated and maintained in Surplus. Anderson requested a decent truck capable of holding 15 men plus whatever gear they needed. He suggested the Marines could renovate an Army surplus truck.
It was also on that day an event occurred that would lead to a call for combat. Willie Grayson, a 17-year old punk, had fled taking a Synanon vehicle and $50 in cash. On May 18 Rod Mullen discussed with attorney Dave Gomez the idea of Buddy Jones and a few friends going out to make a private citizens arrest or possibly one pursuant to his Marin reserve officer status. Gomez said it might be better to ask the police to come along. But Dede and Attorney Dan Garrett instructed Rod on the Wire to tell Buddy to find Grayson and get the car and the money back but not to call the police under any circumstances. They began checking places he might go. The same day the Synanon Board decided that 10 to 15 peers of Willie Grayson would be ejected from Synanon as a demonstration to encourage newcomers to take care of each other and not allow these events to reoccur.
Eventually Grayson called from New York and said the car was at a hotel at the airport. Fred Porter also allegedly stole and his house was staked out by Jones’ fellow Marin reserve deputy Art Warfield. Grayson was followed to Detroit and Marines later would be dispatched to teach him a lesson.
The Imperial Marines, who Jady called “my father’s personal fledglings”, created a motto– Eternal Vigilance– to be placed on a special medallion. They continued to train, learning to be a fighting team that can operate in all weather and terrain conditions. Security procedures now included setting up a War Room with an adequate locker to hold 24 axe handles and flashlights and designated women scribes to write down everything that transpires. A patrol leader made detail plans and preparations for combat patrol. Missions included raids (destroy or capture) and ambush. It was the patrol leader’s job also to report on the mission’s success.
On May 19 Dr. Robson lectured the Marines on rattlesnake venom, showing what it does to a human being. He described the variables in the poison toxicity, including the size of the snake, its age and whether it had recently discharged venom or not. He described the symptoms from snakebite, including the pain, swelling, weakness, nausea and shock. Whether the victim survives, he said, may depend upon the victim’s size, the speed of absorption and how soon the victim gets anti-venom. Two months later the evil doctor Robson would be staring at me in court.
The next day ex Times reporter Skip Ferdeber briefed the Marines on their lawsuits against Visalia Times, the City Manager of Woodlake and various individuals on the Tulare Planning Commission.
Dederich at Court said he had fallen in love with martial arts and the next notion was for everyone to do it, a test for people to prove they are part of the religion. He also wanted the Marines to study Synanon for a month and on May 27, 1977, the 52nd day of training, Anderson met with Steve Simon to set up a study of CED for the Marines. The next four weeks were spent half in physical training and half concentrating on the religion, which Anderson said “is Chuck.” The goal was to create for the community strong bodies with “Synanon- educated spiritual minds.”
On May 25 Doug Robson gave a class on treating wounds and soft tissue injuries. The next day Wendell Stamps wrote in his journal that his friendship with Lance Kenton was based on unconditional love or friendship. Three days later, on the 57th day of camp, Chuck spoke about the fact that forty-five percent of the population was there over five years and he wanted to get rid of 200 of them. It would be good for Synanon to get rid of the dead weight and keep only the people who really want to be there. Some of the Marines worried good people will leave with the bad. They had never seen that happened in Synanon but Chuck was talking like he was going to pick names out of a hat. Wendell Stamps thought it would be better to have a test to separate those who were unwilling to fight for Synanon.
At the end of each day a trainee was selected as the asskicker for the day.
On June 5, Musico asked after camp was over to stay on at the Strip to teach future Marines and assist in providing emergency responses. At Think Table Dederich talked of his sheer delight at having Big Mooks like Bob Richardson and Bob Pitzle accompany him as bodyguards when he travels all over the Valley especially during this period when they were fighting the “ungodly.”
Surprise came on June 9th, when Carl Anderson copped out in a stew that he really had not remained in the Marines more than four years and had exaggerated his combat experience. He realized he would have to repent and clean up his mess.
On June 13, 1977 it was decided that the Imperial Marines would help teach doctors martial arts. Joe Musico proposed to the Board that at its June 26 meeting it reconsider the idea of an additional Synanon National Guard and place him in charge of training it. He feared that Marines otherwise would have to work with untrained and undisciplined team members when executing a security maneuver. In four months he said he could train a 120 men and women in 80% of the security classes. Lance Kenton and Wendell Stamps proposed they be in charge of putting 16-to-18-year-old boys through a ninety-day training similar to that of the Marines. They signed their proposal “Yours for Marine expansion.” A plan to teach martial arts to the entire community was signed “Alan Hubbard and Ivan Ujueta, For the Synanon Imperial Marines.” They said they could train 600 people in one year to the level of competency of the Marines.
The board accepted all three proposals and stated everyone must learn the same uniform style of martial arts, basic enough so that all could participate and achieve excellence. Later it was named Syndo and teaching it became Ivan Ujueta’s full-time job. In the do Jo and out of the do Jo became the new dichotomy. Musico’s National Guard training was to be a series of 18-day training courses at the Strip. Art Warfield was placed as head of Foundation Security with Imperial Marines assisting.
Dan Ross was the last of the lifestylers, working out, employed as a stage hand on the Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. By June of l977 Synanon wanted people to work in and not have one foot in and one foot out. Dederich realized that if one wasn’t totally dependent on Synanon, he was not as likely to fight for it. Working outside of Synanon was now a punishment.
Ross had been a game club player in l969. Attracted to the vibrancy and enthusiasm, he along with his wife Marion, a cook for the Los Angeles School board, sold their house in l972 and moved in with their 13-year old son Sheldon. His original contract called for him to pay Synanon $650 a month, but to avoid being gamed for being a minimum lifestyler he always paid at least $50 more. In l976 his contract was raised to $1,000 a month. When Marion’s father passed leaving $25,000, he gave the money to Synanon, which allowed Marion’s mother to move in for life and be cared for. Dan had also donated $7,000 earlier that year.
Ron Cook was not well-liked in Synanon. Dederich gave him power in turn for his needed accountant skills and Cook liked to emulate Dederich in games. And Chuck often bragged about his gaming skills in getting people to make large donations.
On this June day Ross was in the gallery watching Cook viciously tell a girl to smile more in Synanon or “get the fuck out.” Then he saw Ross watching and said he and his wife were not decent people. Ross came down and was rebuffed to enter the game to defend himself. But when he started to walk away Cook changed his mind, offered a seat and said, “Wanna play?” Ross sat down and told Cook if he had something to say he should say it to him and not others. Cook said he would “get him” and sent someone to review his finances. When he found Ross still had $10,000 left in his own account he demanded, a la Chuck, he “throw it in or get the hell out.” Ross said he had donated enough and he was a good Synanon person. Cook said that’s it and instructed others to throw him out. Someone said, “You really want us to throw him out?” and Cook said yes. Four men came over and picked him up and put him in the lobby. When he tried to return he was picked up by his ears and shoulders and was only put down when Betty Eschenauer screamed for them to do so.
By then Ross was bleeding and his shoulder was in pain. He went to Kaiser’s for treatment and rather than embarrassing Synanon he said he had been wrestling.
Chuck came on the Wire and blasted Cook for going past the money. But then as he had done over the Root Beer Incident years ago (he poured rootbeer over a woman in a game breaking the no violence rule of the game), he came back on the Wire and reconsidered. As no one had stopped Cook, he said, maybe this was the way it should be for resisters.
Dan and Marion, married for 32 years, afterwards discussed leaving Synanon but Dan didn’t want to be viewed as a coward who couldn’t stand up to the pressure. Also he feared his son and mother-in-law would be turned against them if they left.
The tape of the Cook-Ross game was replayed on the Wire several times in order to become a carom shot.
The marine training camp was completed on July 2nd 1977 and on July 7th the Marines did a Foundation Tour, spending two days at each facility drilling local security teams and demonstrating martial arts. They also participated in Shoot. On July 5th, Joe Musico’s National Guard and Lance Kenton’s Mini -Marines were combined into single group training for adults and minors at the Strip.
On July 5 an attempt was made to steal Ron Cook’s motorcycle and it was complained that no one did anything about it. Rather than calling the Marines, a bunch of newcomers handled it. Later a red alert was called and the Marines made a 5 hour search of the property.
The next evening at 7:50 p.m. a man in his early 20’s with brown hair, a short Fu-Manchu moustache and two top left teeth missing drove his light blue mustang by the Del Mar club and made a threat against Dederich: “Tell your leader to get out of California or we will get rid of him…you guys should let your hair grow and leave.” As he drove off, Manny Laloma got his driver’s license.
At 1:30 a.m. the information was relayed by Manny Laloma to Visalia and Art Warfield then got on the Wire and gave Loma a verbal haircut for not reporting the threat immediately. Warfield notified Walter Lewbel in Tomales Bay who arranged for immediate extra security around Dederich in Badger. At 6: 45 a.m. an alarm was sounded at the Shed in Visalia. Chuck got on the Wire and said he wanted Santa Monica to mobilize and find the guy. Marine leader Carl Anderson was put in charge. For 24 hours no one was to leave the property unless absolutely necessary and no one was to travel alone. A 24-hour guard was set up at the front gate.
In the early morning of July 6, Ed Siegel, Jim O’Donnell, Kathy Coons, Marine Dr. Doug Robson, Red Williams and Mike Kaiser held a meeting to discuss going out to find this person. Williams, an attorney, warned that bringing him back to Synanon was kidnapping. Dan Garrett and Chuck came on the Wire and said to bring him back to the club anyway. Dederich said, “Don’t kill the asshole, just break his legs and bring him in.” Jim O’Donnell was put in charge of the group to go find him. He was instructed to have two guys hold him while another worked him over. Ed Siegel called Dederich to confirm the plan and at that time Garrett came back on the Wire and changed the plan. They were not to bring him back. The objective, the lawyer said, was to get the guy, to “hurt him badly on the spot; to tell him that he can’t mess with Synanon and get away with it and to let his friends know this also. We should hurt him badly.”
After Legal ran the suspect’s license and got an address and name, Michael Chavez. Art Warfield, as a reserve deputy, used his access to the Marin Sheriff facilities to get addresses and other information. A map was examined to determine the exact location. Doug Cameron used connections to determine there was no phone at the suspect’s home. Seventeen Synanites were dispatched in three vehicles to a Texaco gas station where they transferred to three Synanon unmarked cars without Synanon logos or numbers (they were waiting to be sold). Included were O’Donnell, Marine Dr. Robson, Pete Hyman, Bill Ross, Larry Fisher and Warren Katz, all wearing wool caps. Red Williams instructed that no one was to talk about the incident when they returned except as to him only so the attorney- client relationship would protect the debriefing. A tape recorder was set up in the Executive Game Room along with 25 chairs for the mission return. William arranged to be called when they returned. He would be busy taking a legal deposition in another case.
The squadron drove past the home of Michael Chavez’s but could not see his car. Later it was found that Chavez had sold the car to a William Alvarez and it was decided he might have been the guy in the car making the threat.
On July 7 at 11:15 p.m. residents reported some kids outside who said they like hair long ridiculed them. Pete Hyman and some other residents got them into the South Cave parking lot. There was a white girl, a 16-year old Hispanic and a 22-year old black man, Bill Williams, who lived in Santa Monica. The males were taken to the ground by Hyman, Larry Fisher, Andy Cretella, Ron Robinette, Manny Laloma and Ray Acuna. They slapped them around and warned not to speak remarks about Synanon again. Ron Eschenauer and Laloma then gave Williams back his identification.
That same night another expedition, including Doug Cameron, Ray Acuna and Percy Tickles went to the home of Bill Alvarez to look for the car that had driven up to the club on the 5th. Not finding it they then went by Chavez’s mother’s home but also could not spot the vehicle. They drove to Alvarez’s home but didn’t see the vehicle and all returned to Del Mar at 3 a.m. Earlier residents had gone to Chavez’s father but he said he didn’t know where his son was staying. They went to his purported place of work in Hollywood but could not find him.
After the debriefing of the Chavez-Alvarez hunt the tape of it was sent to legal and Carl Anderson. Dederich was upset over the way it was handled and that the culprit had not been brought to justice. Over the Wire he threatened to fire Warfield, Anderson and all security people and replace them with Marines. He placed the Foundation on Red Alert. Imperial Marines were sent to Santa Monica after guarding the Home Place for 24 hours. Upon the night of their arrival Marines Hubbard, Richardson, Ujueta, Kenton, Musico, and Stamps did a surprise mock raid on the Del mar Club, storming the front door. Despite sirens sounding, they all got in except Musico. The existing security team had failed and would have to be revamped.
The next afternoon around 3 p.m. Billy Williams returned with some friends and they shouted outside they were going to blow up the building. The Connect was informed and residents were sent out to look for them. He couldn’t be found so a security meeting was held at 4 p.m. which included Dr. Robson, Cretella, Fisher and Katz to plan his apprehension. Katz reported he thought Williams lived in a van parked in a parking lot of the Monica Hotel. At 4:15 p.m. Robson discussed strategies on a blackboard to “lure” him out. Synanon would send its own van into the area full of residents who would report on Williams movements while additional men surrounded the club waiting for the word. Williams was not located which was fortunate for him. The Marines had landed in Santa Monica by the next morning.
On July 11, Anderson wrote Dederich an apology for lying and overstating his military experience in order to keep up his “macho image.” He added the Marines had “been more than anyone could hope for” and the process had just begun. “Now to wire up the rest of the community—and fight for what we know to be a better way of life for the Synanon folks.”
On July 14 the Connect log stated:
“Rumor has it that the Imperial Marines will be attacking Tomales Bay some time today or during the night. Every one should read up on the security alert procedures.”
Anderson got a chance to redeem himself on July 19, 1977. Sue Wehmeyer reported a man, approximately 25, at the San Rafael Civic Center in Marin made a threatening statement to her about burning Synanon down. Anderson returned at 9:30 a.m. with her and Bob Richardson to the Center and she pointed out Charles Morin. Anderson made a call at 11: 15 a.m. and requested more Imperial Marines. Musico, Ujetta and Miller were dispatched on motorcycles. Rod Mullen and Buddy Jones were notified. Upon arrival the Marines dragged Morin into the bushes and beat him badly. Afterwards, Musico had trouble starting his motorcycle in the get-away. The security logs reported “the Marines and Carl Anderson have returned. They had ‘a man to man talk’ with our friend at the Civic Center and taught him a lesson.” Musico and Ujeta bragged of the beating to Bernie Kolb. Musico told Flynn he broke both of Morin’s wrists.
An excited Anderson got on the Wire to tell Dederich, joined by attorneys Garrett and Garfield, immediately of the mission’s success. Dederich realized that although the Wire was a private radio station, its signal still could be picked up by people outside Synanon, particularly on radios close by. “Carl,” Dederich said, “You don’t know what you are talking about. It sounds like you are talking about a dream you had last night.” Anderson caught on and said yes, he was dreaming. Then he told Dederich the details of his “dream, ” how the Marines had wonderfully beat up this asshole at the San Rafael Civic Center. After that others reported on the wire their roles in beatings by saying, “I had a dream….”
Fearing reprisals over the Charles Morin beating that night stake-outs were established. A jitney with ax handles was at the Powerhouse entrance, another vehicle in back with two men inside, a woman placed in the Inn. Two-man operated Synanon vehicles were to challenge and stop all cars on the road. Orders were given that if any vehicle came on the property all entrances were to be blocked and the vehicle driver confronted. Lynn Worrell provided a description of Charles Morin in case he came looking to retaliate. Worrell said he was white, about 5’9,” a drooping face, scar on nose, walks with a dip and may now have “possible broken ribs, wrist and shoulder.” (In five months, Worrell, herself would be the subject of an incident report).
The next afternoon Synanon hosted a lunch for Imperial County Municipal Court Judge Harold Chaille. Just before it got under away a Red Alert was called as a threatening call came in. Imperial Marines reported to various command posts. Dan Garrett and Buddy Jones came on the Wire and instructed, per the Civic Center incident, if anyone comes on the property they must do anything they could to take care of him, “even if we have to shoot him.”
On July 21 a voice-activated tape recorder was set up at the switchboard to record all incoming phone calls. An unloaded rifle was placed in the bus in front of the Connect with the written directive, “If necessary, will load and take whatever action is necessary.”
In Santa Monica on the 20th a series of phone threats were received, one to burn them out and another a boast that Dederich could be picked off with one shot. Vehicles checked out persons spotted near the club and at 2:10 a.m. car 750 was dispatched on a mission to 1432 East 62nd street with Dr. Robson, Mike Flynn and two others. At 3:50 a.m. Larry Fisher and two other residents left in a beige Plymouth to look for Billy Williams at a home address they now had on Ocean Ave and to check again at the Monica Hotel.
On July 24 in Santa Monica Michael Guidry, a black Santa Monica resident said he was walking along the 1800 block of the Santa Monica beach between 3 and 4 a.m. and was accused of having burglarized the Del Mar club. Synanon claimed he was spotted on fire escape by the dinning room and the aerobics room. His friend, Matthew Hayes, got away. Guidry reported he was beaten to the ground by 7 residents, kicked and thrown into a vehicle and taken back to Del Mar. Synanon records say he was brought in, taken downstairs, grilled, “messed up by our people and told not to mess with Synanon.” They made him lie down on the floor and spread his legs as they kicked, punched and slapped him, demanding he confess. He didn’t and they took him outside the back of the building onto the promenade and told him he had ten seconds to disappear or they would beat him again. He went to the police and made a report but when the police followed up they could not find him. As he had been previously jailed on an assault with a weapon charge they didn’t spend much time looking for him.
The Marines continued to drill, fights sometimes breaking out and injuries occurring. Kenton, considered the best martial artist, hit Stamps hard in the eye. In a century class practicing apprehension a Marine complained Stamps almost broke his wrist.
The talk of guns continued, magnums high on the list. Marine Hubbard wrote Anderson on July 21st that during an alert there were no guns at Walker Creek at 12:30 PM when Buddy Jones arrived. If a true “hostile and armed penetrator” had entered they would be totally helpless and the entire facility could have been slaughtered. They should have a gun locker on every piece of property.
A chain of command was established for Alerts at all facilities. They played War games ala the Manson family. Director/advisors wore blue hats and armbands; captains black hats/armbands; soldiers red hats/armbands and trainees yellow hats/armbands. Each facility had a practice Red Alert, complete with Red Alert sirens, at least once a month. Marines sought others out to man posts and guided penetrations so trainees would have to apprehend them. After a July 24th mock raid on one camp, Marine Wendell Stamps woke up with the note on his bed that said, “Your dead.”
Per policy all threats to Dederich or Garrett or other Board members were to be taken seriously and called in to Foundation Security. Every effort was to be made to apprehend or follow the creep. Strangers were to be greeted cordially but if they threatened or became abusive, they were not to “threaten the creep or warn him of what is about to happen. Then use overwhelming force.” Such persons were to be frisked, spread eagled on the ground and secured by belts, ropes, or shirts. Wrist locks, finger locks and bar hammer locks were to be used. The person was to be told to be silent and if more than one they were to be separated and not allowed to talk to each other. “We want only simple direct answers to specific questions.” Prisoners were to be quickly moved out of public view. “Don’t allow unplanned, unintended violence.” As the Wire was in fact a radio channel no talk on the Wire, as Anderson had done, was allowed about any acts committed by Synanon residents that might be illegal. Captured intruders were to be photographed both before and after the beating.
In July trespassers entered the Del mar club but when the alarm went off the men ran off. In a committee meeting of July 18, 1977 attended by Warfield, Siegel and Garfield, Siegel, the wanna-be tough guy, complained the Synanon residents should have let the trespassers have it. It was discussed that in Synanon if people don’t respond exactly the right way, “they are assholes”.
Dederich, Garrett, Bill Dederich, Dan Sorkin, Ed Siegel, Ron Cook, Dede, Jady, Warfield, Ginny Schorin and Dorothy Salant Garrett attended the Board of Directors means of July 26, 1977. The minutes state: “We are going through a period of religious persecution and escalating violence. We must protect ourselves… And if necessary, take the law in to our own hands. We must train more people who could do this for our community… Put groups of 18 through… Best and strongest first… Eventually everyone.” Immediately another group of 18 were sent to Marine training. Garrett researched into Synanon getting a California license as a guard service.
Anderson wrote on July 27, 1977 that the Marines were to protect the community from the “ever increasing hostility and dangers…would have an eternal vigilant attitude toward the escalating threats we face from the enemy in and out of Synanon.” He directed a CB communication link between all facilities and Texaco stations where unmarked cars could be obtained.
But on July 29, the Board, including Dederich, Garrett, Sorkin, Siegel, Cook, Dede, Jady, Bill Dederich, Ginny, Weisbrod, Missakian, Dibble and Macys Burke took up the issue of Anderson’s errors, particularly his blunder about possibly implicating Dederich by talking to him about the Morin beating on the Wire. It was decided this was not the man to head Synanon Security which ran all security personnel including the Imperial Marines and the National Guard and the search was begun for his replacement, someone smart, reliable, trained and gung-ho.
Two days later Dr. Robson timely wrote Dr. Harvey Hecht that he had happily supervised Red Alerts drills lasting a total of 36 hours. On several occasions he took or went with groups to East and South Central Los Angeles to investigate individuals believed to have threatened Chuck’s life. After the Marines mock raid in Santa Monica he helped develop new security procedures. He bragged he was involved in “three smaller confrontation with drunks who we dealt with for abusing our home. Finally I was asked by our lawyers to come to court during the Moncharsh, Meriwether hearing (effort by me to get two members out–see Escape from Synanon II).” It was there he saw me for the first time.
His letter caught attention. On Monday, August 1, l977 Dr. Doug Robson was requested to come to the Home Place and interview for the position of Head of Synanon Security Forces. The next day Robson was given the post. Only Garrett and Dederich were higher in the chain of command. In addition Robson was the doctor in residence at Badger.
On August 6, Kenton and Arnette Jamison proposed additional 15-day training periods for “fanatical Synanon men” in protecting the property. And on August 16, 1977, while I celebrated my birthday with my fiancé, despite the news that Elvis Presley had died that day, it was decided in Synanon that all soldiers would be given instructions on the effective use of ax handles. The next day Dr. Robson announced on September 14th the first National Guard camp would begin a two-week massive dose based on the Imperial Marines experience. Jady’s husband Ken Schiff was to be in the group, along with Warren Katz, Peter Hyman and another Synanon M.D., Dr. David Schwartz.
Also in August I received a call from Susan Eklof, secretary for attorney Ned Burleigh, who represented Venice Family Planning Center. My client (See Escape from Synanon I) in addition to suing Synanon was suing the clinic for referring her to Synanon. The secretary was very upset over a call she had made to Dan Garrett to ask if he would stipulate to a new deposition date for their client, Shirley Goldenstein in the Raines case. She told Burleigh of Garrett’s response and he told her to tell me. Garrett, apparently thinking she was my secretary, responded:
“I won’t stipulate to anything with Mr. Morantz. I guess Mr. Morantz doesn’t understand. I am going to get him, and if I don’t get him my children will get him, and if my children don’t get him my grandchildren will get him.”
In August Chuck Dederich applied to the Sheriff of Tulare County for a permit to carry a concealed gun.
On August 17, a man claiming to be resident Yvette Leodora’s brother, Al Ford, came on the property drunk in San Francisco. After reviewing an incident report by Jack Pedruzzelli, new Security Chief Robson on September 2nd wrote back there should have been “more of an incident to report.” Robson wrote he was trying to articulate a No Threat Policy:
“Synanon people greet all visitors to our home with a smile, handshake and offers of assistance…A few real assholes will take advantage of us.
“When we find ourselves being abused and threatened in our own home we should respond without any threats or other warning… There is no need to have any conversations or arguments with people like this. Slam them down on the spot. Take them back into the warehouse and teach them some manners. Then, either you get their identification or somehow verify their identity. Finally, promise them that if we ever suspect that they are causing us any kind of trouble in the future, we will come and get them for a much more advanced course in good manners.
“In the future, I expect you to respond to these situations. Bums like that must have unquestioned respect for our home.”
The very day Robson so wrote, two nephews (brothers) of resident Annie Bragg, known as Queenie, were helping her move her furniture and belongings. One, Curtis Robinson, a 24-year old six-foot black man, was suspected as he left of stealing Robert Haynesworth stereo set. Synanon residents drove off to try to find Curtis. Other residents held his brother Chauncy Robinson in custody and then beat him so bad that Queenie later called hospitals to see if he had been admitted. The next day Santa Monica police arrived with both brothers to make arrests for assault and kidnapping but the brothers could not identify the culprits from all the same dressed, shaved head look-alikes. A difficulty Synanon would exploit in the future.
One of the police officers complained that the police used to have good relations with Synanon but they were out of line with this one and that it seemed there had been “too many incidents” lately. Residents thought his tone was “nasty.” Jim O’Donnell asked that he refrain from talking about Synanon that way and asked another officer why this one was acting so rude. The police were given no more information but instead referred to Phil Bourdette in the Synanon legal department.
Curtis Robinson asked Queenie why his brother was beat up and she told him not to pursue it and to never come to Synanon again. If he did he might get hurt.
Robson on September 7th wrote complaining that no Synanites had helped Annie Bragg move themselves, saying: “If this sixty-year-old arthritic woman was really such an asshole that she deserved no help in her move, we probably should have thrown her out without her belongings.”
Robson was most concerned that residents went off on a mission into Watts without consulting him first, writing:
“We have a foundation policy of not leaving the property during security incidents. If and when we make exceptions to this policy, it must be with the consent, consultation and cooperation of our full-time Security Department. Sending groups of Synanon people off property on missions which are physically dangerous and of questionable legality is extremely expensive and must be done when indicated using our very best equipment, thinking and personnel.”
“We are very new in exercising our present aggressive posture. Many mistakes will be made in these activities, and some people are certain to get hurt. There is not excuse for making these mistakes or suffering any casualties with anything less than our best effort.”
Like all memos, Robson’s was cc’d around the Foundation and a copy was delivered to attorney Howard Garfield at the Strip. That same day Garfield wrote Robson about all the violent incident reports sent around the Foundation. He asked to stop the memos, saying, there was no reason for people in Synanon to know about these things. Only he should have a copy of the reports so the record of their actions could be placed and protected in the legal department file. Eight days later Robson implemented Garfield’s request by directing the gathering of all reports that could be “used against our people” from files at Connects and various directors offices and delivery to Robson. In the future, ordered Robson, any such reports were to be sent only to Howard Garfield to be maintained under the guise of the attorney-client privilege. Ten days afterwards David Ross forwarded to Garfield all the incident reports re violence and gave written procedure instructions to all facilities that all such information in the future is sent directly to Garfield alone. They thought they had done the job but they had relied on what Dederich always ridiculed—dope fiend labor.
It would be one of many of Legal’s ultimate blunders. See Fall of Synanon I and II.
Effective September 1, 1977 Steve Simon directed Think Table Summaries be posted on bulletin boards at all facilities in order to reach a wider audience. Simon told all directors to arrange them in an “attractive display placed prominently on the public bulletin board in your facility.”
At Think Table on September 2, l977 Dederich talked of changing times and Synanon’s preparation for militancy. “We have,” he said, “the Imperial Marines and we carry guns.”
On Sept 5, 1977 Dederich delivered at Think Table his definitive speech on Synanon’s New Religious Posture: To physically respond to all aggressors, to crack bones and deliver the message that if you mess with Synanon you can be killed dead. Physically dead.
He said he wanted an ear in a glass of water and alluded to Musico’s game talk of having a necklace of ears in Vietnam by saying there are a few in Synanon who would like to get him one. People in Synanon, he said, were excited by the new notion and those who were not would be squeezed out, replaced by people intrigued by the idea of a militant religion.
The biggest enemy he said were not dingbats like the Dinuba Punks, but lawyers, those with thinking tools who want to take Synanon’s money. They were the ones he wanted. The true enemy. Synanon lawyers sitting around him agreed and spoke of the one who was the most evil, most unscrupulous and most out for the money—me.
On September 7, while Do Jo’s were being built in Tomales Bay, the next twelve members were selected to go through the second National Guard training on October 2nd. And on September 16, the twelfth day of the first National Guard camp, Steve Simon led an all day Unicept drill session with the recruits analyzing Synanon’s new militant posture based on excerpts of Court, the current legal battles, recent confrontations and the National Guard experience. He provided a September 12, 1977 compilation of Dederich’s Court speeches from which he explained, “Many of the philosophies we are trying to institute now are an outgrowth of Court.” A year later, after Court tapes surfaced, Simon would manufacture false Synanon documents saying Court was an outgrowth of the game and not intended to be relied on. He also destroyed tapes and for this eventually went to prison.
Listed in the compilation were Dederich’s statements from May 13 to and including the ultimate September 5th New Religious Posture speech. Simon presented Dederich’s quotations concerning the Marines, Martial arts, security, guns and an aggressive Militant Religion, including Dederich saying similar theories Manson and Cinque would use to motivate their “families–” the country is “decaying morally and towards a police state;” “Everyone should be ready;” “Man is becoming savage and are preparing for militancy by carrying guns;” “The new posture will decimate Synanon’s population but attract people looking for a militant organization;” “Don’t fuck with Synanon;” “People in Synanon seem to like our militant stature.”
Simon’s Unicept quoted new slogans that had developed. “We are the police.” “No threat policy.” “No such thing as a drill.” “We might have to sacrifice someone.” “Syndo.” “Break his fucking kneecaps.” ” Send me an ear.” “Hey Rube.” “Dinuba Punks.” “War Zone.” “Synanon Swat/Response.” Dr. Robson later reported the Simon’s Unicept “was a real high point in which the group made many connects regarding the place of Syndo, security, aggression, and discipline in our religion.”
Three kids from Novato, Bruce Vollert, Charles Whitebead and John Tait were stopped when driving by Synanon’s secondary entrance on Shoreline Highway in Tomales Bay on September 10. They were held captive and beaten before turned over to the sheriffs for trespassing. No charges were brought. They filed a civil lawsuit three days later.
On September 14 Albert Quinones, a minor, locked himself in a bathroom with a gun he had taken out of Dede’s desk at the Strip. Dr. Robson, David Gilmour and Fred Tent arrived by ambulance at the scene. Robson decided it was more important to safeguard Synanon then the issue if Quinones would harm himself. He decided it might be better if the police were called as it would not look good if the incident ended with the shooting of a minor child under their care after he had stolen one of their weapons. Afterwards Robson discussed the incident in and out of the game with Dederich, his son Dede, and Missakian, and wrote he learned that his decision to call the police was wrong. “I now understand,” he wrote to Dederich, “gut level, that we are willing to handle essentially any incidents on our property including ones calling for us to use premeditated deadly force without calling the police.” He promised that weapon training for himself and other residents would be top priority. He also understood that they had to have security on their weapons.
On September 27 Dr. Robson chose the next twelve residents for two weeks’ National Guard training in which he was in charge. They were told the training was a rite of passage and all may not pass. Included were Buddy Jones, Larry Akey, another Synanon M.D., Dr. Sid Frank, Wire operator Irvin Goldworm, legal investigator Chris Haberman and Ben Parks. Instructors included Warfield and Marines Robson, Kenton, Ujueta and Jamison. Running it like a boot camp, Warfield taught how to block cars and pull people out when they grab a hold of the steering wheel. They practiced chasing vehicles and had mock raids to teach prevention of infiltration of the property by the enemy. They played war games and practiced red alerts (under attack). And they were trained to beat people while delivering the message, “Don’t mess with Synanon and tell all your friends.” Kenton explained weapons.
Do Jo’s were being set up at every facility. Presently there were 80 Syndo students with 7 certified Syndo instructors and 11 more instructors in training. Dr. Dave Schwartz was leading the class in Santa Monica. Plans were discussed to organize a police academy at the Strip under Warfield and Jones. Robson, Gilmour, Rand, Katz and Fred Tent attended a state C.O.S. powers of arrest program and Fred Tent attended a P.C. 832 course making him eligible to be another Montanos reserve deputy sheriff or security officer. On October 23rd Marines Lance Kenton and Arnett Jamison did a three-week tour of all the facilities to fine tune the Alert systems. Forty men were considered now trained to take part in security missions.
In the National Guard training Ben Parks listened as it was explained in a classroom, led by Dr. Robson, they might be called upon one day to go into an outside neighborhood and get an enemy where he lived. If caught, Synanon would deny involvement. Participants who had already done it discussed the details with Parks. And he heard Joe Musico talk about the idea of one day using a rattlesnake—they were plentiful—to get an enemy.
Dederich’s tapes of a militant posture were replayed constantly on the Wire. And both Jady and Dede had given orders that it must be listened to. Even in the bathrooms. The station’s DJ, one-legged Dan Sorkin, when he wasn’t playing tapes, would talk of enemies and how they were going to kick some people’s asses and teach them not to fuck with Synanon. He reminded constantly, “Don’t call the police; don’t leave the property.” He amplified whatever the Old Man said.
Other incidents happened in 1977. Clifford Zeppieri , a Punk, planned an escape but he was caught hiding in a basement where he had taken shelter from a storm. As Dederich had said on the Wire anyone who steals when they leave should be hurt, Clifford was taken to the Ranch for a general meeting of about 150 men led by schoolmaster and mountain climber Rod Mullen. For a full carom shot effect it was broadcast over the Wire. Mullen spoke about no one hurting Synanon and said they will teach anyone a lesson who tries so all will know not to “Fuck with Synanon.” Six men then came forward, including Pete Hyman and Warfield, in front of the room and began the beating as the whole foundation listened to Zeppieri ’s screams over the Wire. While held in hammmerlock, Lynn Worrell reported, 5 to 6 members punched him in the face and stomach, breaking his nose and breaking or dislocated his arm.”At first he screamed,” she said, “and then he just cried silently.”
A girl cried out for them to stop and she was seized and dragged from the room. Hyman threw no punches on orders of Robson, since Hyman had been involved in missions Robson didn’t want him to be seen hitting in front of witnesses. Zeppieri had a bloody nose and injured arms. Hyman after leaving, was overridden as to guilt and testified to all his missioins in deposition.
In Santa Monica, the Del Mar basement had become the place for trespasser beatings. Mike Flynn attended five of them ordered by Jim O’Donnell at the instruction of Dr. Doug Robson. The procedure was to hold the victim while his ribs were worked, photos were taken and “Don’t fuck with Synanon,” was yelled. Twice Flynn broke his hand. The second time Dr. Robson attended it. Ron Cook ordered Flynn to hit a man who threw a bottle on a tennis court, saying, “This is what we have to do with these creeps.” Newcomers who sassed were “knocked on their ass.” Bill Ross saw a trespasser taken to the basement and worked over. Pete Hyman and Bill Ross caught two black guys suspected of being on the fire escape. Two guys held each while Manny Laloma put gloves on his hands and worked them over. A newcomer who had split returned and begged for re-admittance was handcuffed and placed on a chair in the basement and while a Synanon doctor held him down was beaten while photographed by Bill Crawford.
Dean Aegon split and borrowed tools. When they were not returned, guys were sent out to “fuck him up.”
Lifestyler Dan Ross reported a newcomer in Santa Monica refused to put out a cigarette. He was beaten in the lobby; kicked and slugged while on the ground, his head bloodied. Charles Dederich was on the premises and walked by. “I hope they broke his leg,” he said.
Up north, Sylvia Crawford claimed she was accosted. The Marines cornered the accused in a field and beat him up. Returning, they were stopped by the police but when they denied knowing anything of the beating they were let go. People who stole from Synanon were often lured back on the property by a phone call asking for a favor and then beaten by Marines. Once when it was a minor who stole, Lance Kenton, the youngest Marine did the luring and beating, watched by Wendall Stamps and Pete Hyman.
In late September at Oyster Point Joe Musico told Bernie Kolb, the director, that he often puts on a wig, takes a car and goes out looking for splittees to beat up. Musico said he was doing it on his own time. He was trained for this, he said, to get Synanon enemies and those who stole. Kolb told him to stop but Musico said he took orders from Kolb only relating to construction, not security. Kolb told Warfield who responded Musico must have gone nuts and he would take care of it.
The State of California’s Department of Education approved a Synanon course in security officer training including instruction in the use of firearms and the power of arrest. This despite the fact that since 1975 four lawsuits had been filed by victims claiming they were physically attacked by large numbers of Synanon residents and one recently claimed they were seized and detained unlawfully by Synanon “security guards.”
On October 2 a ten-day resident at Oyster Point, Joseph Denault, became agitated when he came off his prescribed Haldol. It was not an unusual experience. Dr. Sid Frank even counseled if some newcomers were on certain drugs they may revert to crazy behavior in a week to ten days. Art Cook asked Bernie Kolb to give him a hand calming Denault down. Unsuccessful, Kolb got a black eye and Denault ran to the Warehouse. Kolb called for Musico’s assistance. When Musico saw Bernie’s eye he began to pound Denault with punches and karate kicks. Kolb called him off. Denault was babbling, apparently psychotic, so Musico attacked again. His face bloodied, Denault was taken to and sat on the bench designated for leaving people. Denault jumped up again and Musico beat him to the ground. Musico and some others took him to a mental hospital. When Musico returned he told Kolb he had convinced Mr. Denault not to return to Synanon. Kolb asked Joe how he did that and Musico replied, “I broke his arm. I broke his arm over my knee.”
Musico made a report detailing the Denault beating down to the very last karate blow. In the summer of l979 when Musico was facing trial for attempting to murder me, paralegal Rick Runcie, in front of Bernie Kolb, tore the report up into pieces and threw it in the wastepaper basket. But a log description on the incident, however, survived, reporting that Musico “dealt” with Denault on the way to the hospital.
In October Synanon held a press conference to state they would not allow inspectors on their property and would investigate the sex life of any State employee who tried. Synanon would teach them how to investigate by investigating them in “ways they never dreamed of.” And as to any who did come on the property Dederich said they would surround each with “Ten guys twice their size and say go ahead and inspect punk. Like that….That’s the way it is…”
Where in olden times Dederich would brag of donor lawyers who would take an offensive defense, now he spoke to reporters of a new threat. One far more serious. He and Garrett bragged of people, like the Dinuba Punks and the San Francisco Punks, they had taught a lesson and how kids at Synanon could be knocked on their ass if they were sassy. It was obvious Garrett and Dederich had lost it. They had done their Synanon rhetoric so much before adoring audiences that they could no longer converse otherwise and had lost the ability to see how they might be judged by those not conditioned to Synanon ways. Garrett, given a permit by Marin Sheriff Montanos, was packing a gun, he said, so he could become more familiar with it. He was positive he was going to have to shoot someone someday and didn’t want to blow off his hand due to inexperience. Dederich said Montanos and Tulare Sheriff John Wiley had both given him permits to carry a concealed gun but he felt uncomfortable wearing one. He liked instead to handle his piece when he watched TV. He had several in his desk and maintained one in his vehicle’s glove department. He told the press if he had a flat tire and two punks came up he would “ shoot one and make the other change the tire.”
As to punks Mike Kaiser explained there were a bunch of wild animals and when they misbehave “we might… just knock him on his ass to teach him a lesson. “
Most shocking to the press was the announcement that the State of California had approved Synanon training courses, led by Art Warfield, to license armed security guards.
In response to the conference, Jim Nance, head of the State Health Department, said the agency would not be deterred and that Synanon’s threats were reminiscent of Nazis and McCarthyism.
The horror of what was happening finally hit Mike Garrett. On November 1, l977 he split and went into hiding, fearing a Synanon that he believed was becoming “murderous”, and his own father who he thought was a “dangerous man.”
On November 11, l977 two kids from Exeter, David Havens (19), a fire fighter, and Steve Brown (19), a visiting marine stationed at Twenty-Nine Palms, to be forever known together as the Exeter Punks, around 2:45 p.m. were driving in Brown’s brown Mustang to Hartland to try to find Haven’s brother when they passed Synanon. Having consumed about 6 beers on the day, Brown made the unpardonable sin of yelling out “asshole” at a Synanon Mexican-American worker. They continued on to Hartland looking for Brown’s brother having no idea that the worker had taken down their license number and description nor that a Hey Rube had been called and Synanon vehicles had been dispatched to track them down.
While Havens and Brown were in Harland Mountain House owner Jim Goodell saw a blue Synanon Toyota jeep with four occupants pull into the parking area and look at his car. Goodell came outside to find out what the interest was in his car. Dave Gilmour responded they were looking for a brown mustang and they had checked his car which was a brown GranToranado. He explained some kids had hollered some profanities and now they were going to “break their legs.” He repeated the boast. Gilmour then gave Goodell his card and said to call him if anyone came on his property and did something Goodell didn’t like. “We’ll lay for them and we will break their legs.”
The kids left Hartland and drove through Badger headed for the Badger California Division of Forest, a fire station, where a friend worked. Around 4 p.m. about a mile and a half outside Badger Havens heard tires squeal and turned and saw a blue Toyota jeep with a Synanon logo was driving fast behind. After another mile an identical blue Toyota jeep joined the trailing vehicle. Havens thought about Brown’s wisecrack and said maybe Synanon was after them. Brown said no way. The Mustang reached the station and Brown turned up the driveway hoping Havens’ friend would be there but nobody was. The two jeeps had pulled up behind blocking the driveway. Havens and Brown exited hoping someone—anyone—was at the station. But they found the doors were locked. All the firemen were at a control burn.
Now a Synanon truck had joined the jeeps down below. Scared, the boys walked towards the Mustang as five Synanites walked up the driveway. One had a pistol strapped to a belt and was wearing a badge and sunglasses. As they approached the boys five to six more Synanon vehicles drove up and about twenty shaved-headed men in overalls gathered at the bottom of the driveway.
Havens asked to go up to the Captain’s House about 100 yards away to see if his friend was there. The man with the gun, badge and sunglasses said no. He asked if they were the one who badmouthed a Synanon member and they lied and said no. The man looked at a sheet of information giving the Mustang description and that of the suspects. He said they were bringing the guy who was shouted at up and if they were not the ones they had nothing to worry about. He then checked the Mustang for weapons.
The insulted resident arrived in a blue Ford. He identified Havens and Brown as the culprits. Someone shouted “Get em.” Brown was hit on the side of the head and knocked into the Mustang. He tried to kick his assailants but they grabbed his legs, pulled him out on to ground and beat him with fists and legs. Havens was knocked to the ground. He covered his face while they kicked and punched. Brown got up and tried to make a run for it but got only ten feet before he was brought down again on the sidewalk. All he could do was try to cover his face and stomach. Havens heard someone say stand him up so I can get one in on the ribs so they’ll remember not to come around here again. Havens wasn’t sure that they weren’t going to kill them.
Brown still cried out he was innocent but the blows still fell. When it was over an attacker walked over to Brown and said, “You tell the people down in the valley not to fuck with Synanon.” Then he hit him one more time in the face.
At that Brown managed to run away from them. From fifty yards away he saw the attackers pile in their vehicles and leave.
The kids could not identify the attackers and no meaningful investigation was made. No charges were brought.
The incident was just a warmup for what would happen that evening.
Visalia, Calif. November 11, 1977:
“Wake up, ” his wife Doris screamed at 11:15 p.m. “They’re banging on the door. They’re trying to bust in.”
Ron Eidson, age 38, stirred slowly, trying to shake off the effects of sleep and ulcer medication as he pulled his burley 5’11” 260 pound frame off the cot on the back porch where he and his son, Jeff, age 15, had been sleeping in hope of catching the coyotes who had been after the sheep. Eidson expected it might be Synanon and the two reached for their weapons — Ron a 30-30 Winchester, Jeff a 12-gauge shotgun, as they went around the side of the house to the front. The headlights of two vehicles were spotlighting the house.
Was this really possible? It all seemed so bizarre. Just a few months ago, Eidson had moved his family to Badger because it was a quiet friendly place with a population of only about 75, a good place for his wife Doris (37) and kids: Jeff, Greg (12), Randy (19), Kathy (9) and the twins Pat and Pam (14). It had been worth the 48-mile drive to Visalia each day where he worked as transportation manager at Gifford Hill and Co. A trucker all his life, he liked close communities and was proud of the title “redneck.” He was a throwback to the days of the Code of West, a character who would fit in Lonesome Dove or ride alongside John Wayne.
When he first moved in he was not concerned that his home was located between the two Synanon facilities, The Home Place and the Strip. But then community relations grew thin when the locals objected to Synanon’s plans to build up their airstrip without community approval. The zoning battles had begun and Synanon had filed lawsuits against the county and those it deemed prejudiced. And driving on Highway 245, he saw Synanon people firing at the human silhouettes on their target range. He had heard the story about the Dinuba punks and about how Synanon’s chief lawyer had bragged about the beating at a press conference the previous month. He had heard that Dederich had threatened to beat others.
Eidson’s first personal encounter began nine days earlier at 6:15 PM while driving his family back from Visalia in his Bronco when a small blue Courier pickup truck with furniture in the back pulled out in front from The Home Place. As the truck was going slow Eidson turned on his brights to signal pass. After taking the turn off at the Hartland-Eshom Road towards the M-Bar-J, the truck pulled to the right seemingly to let Eidson do so. But when the truck made a quick move left as he was passing Eidson slammed his brakes and both vehicles came to a halt. Eidson heard a black male, Steve Granger, in the Courier call him “a son of a bitch.” Eidson started to step out but the truck took off. Doris told him to leave it alone and the girls said they wanted to go home but Eidson was mad and pursued. He turned on Drive Creek Road, passed the truck, halted at a stop sign in front of Martha’s Mountain House, a local café/saloon, and exited.
Eidson stepped in front of the Courier to stop it, ready to fight if necessary. He asked Granger to repeat what he said on the road. Granger said he hadn’t said anything but Eidson said he had. He asked the driver, a woman, her name and she replied “Rhonda Marks.” He then told her to drive off and that he would call Mr. Dederich to complain. Eidson did drive out to Dave Morton’s store for a phone book but then changed his mind about the call. Doris suggested he forget it and he agreed that was a good idea.
Back at Synanon, Rhonda Marks described the incident in a memo to the Foundation Security Chief Dr. Doug Robson. She apologized to Robson for being to frightened to get the license number and concluded, “This was a lesson on how not to let your fear in the way of recording more facts so that we can go get assholes like this guy.”
The next night at 9:20 p.m. Eidson was driving his kids back from Visalia in his GMC 4-wheel drive and again passed The Home Place. He spotted a Dodge van with a Synanon emblem parked on the roadside. It had pulled over for mechanical adjustments. Suddenly the van started up and pulled to the right and Eidson, paranoid from the last night, thought it was going to spin around and ram him so he swung around and brought his car nose to nose with the van. He got out, again ready to fight. It did not matter that he was outnumbered. He could see in addition to the male black driver, Pierre Gaston, 4 or 5 others in the van. If anything it made it fairer. He asked Gaston for his driver’s license and he refused. “Then get your ass out here,” Eidson shouted, “because I want a part of it.” Instead, Gaston hit the gas peddle so hard he spun out and ran over Eidson’s right foot.
Eidson went home and telephoned the incident to the sheriff. The next day he went fishing in Mexico. In Synanon, Gaston, like Marks had the night before, wrote a memo to Dr. Doug Robson. His conditioning to cop out led him to sheepishly admit when Eidson asked him to step out, “I took off like a scared rabbit and kept going until I got to the Strip.” Fearing some kind of siege, Buddy Jones ordered residents to get ax handles when they went to pick up the foodservice people at Home Place. Garrett came by to be briefed. It was decided to talk to Robson in the morning to determine what further action to take.
Doris Eidson worked as a terminal manager at Interior Transport in Visalia and usually rode back with her husband from her job. But as Ron was in Mexico she drove back on the evening of November 4th. As she approached The Home Place, Jeff shouted, “Look out, Mama,” and pointed at a blue Toyota jeep sitting at the gate. The jeep took off and tailgated them up the hill. Frightened, Doris sped to 55 mph but the jeep remained only eight to ten feet back. Worse, over the hill she ran into a Synanon roadblock involving a vehicle and about eight residents. Afraid for their lives, Jeff told his mother to keep going, even if it met running them over. Doris, a Badger PTA member, drove off the road spun dirt and gravel into the air and sped past the block, forgetting to stop and pick up a babysitter for her younger kids and going straight to the ranch. She turned in her driveway and could hear a vehicle approaching. She presumed they were trying to figure out where she went and/or lived. In her home she called the sheriff. Deputy Mawhiney, who had investigated the Dinuba Punks affair, contacted David Gilmour of Synanon security. Gilmour admitted they had tried to stop the car, as it was recognized, to find out who it was who was harassing their people. Mawhiney warned Gilmour not to take the law into their own hands.
The warning was ignored. Suspecting the man they were looking for was rancher Clarence Matlock, around 8 p.m. that evening eight Synanon residents drove a crew-cab pick-up to Burl Ray Gann’s cabin at Isham Point and asked Gann if Matlock lived there. With Gann was Millard Smock. A Synanon member said Matlock had been harassing their women and they wanted to talk to him. If that didn’t work they would break both his arms and legs. If the problem is still not solved they would kill him.
At 10: 45 p.m. Donald Deeds heard what he thought was an airplane or a car and came outside the ranch of his father, Clarence Matlock. He saw two pick-ups parked down by their animal shed and saw flashlights flashing. He went inside and told his Dad and they grabbed coats and guns to investigate. When they were outside the Synanon two-car patrol led by Buddy Jones drove up. They had been taking Pierre Gaston to various ranches to identify the man who had stopped the Syna Gaston looked at Matlock and told Jones he was not the man. The rancher told them they were on private property and he knows they saw the no trespassing sign at the gate. He asked what they wanted while his son Donald Deeds, his gun in hand, kept them in view from the porch. Gilmour got out and fell down on some pine needles, got up and said he was looking for Cherry Flat Road. But when he picked up his hat Matlock saw the Synanon emblem and knew they were aware where Cherry Flat Road was. He told them to get out and shined a flashlight in the face of another Synanite who also exited but now returned. Jones pulled his coat up to reveal his gun and said, “Son-of-a-bitch.” Matlock responded, “If we came on your property would you beat us up like you did those boys. I should break you guys the way you broke up those Dinuba boys.” Jones got out and came around the truck but backed off when he saw Matlock’s strapped .44 magnum. In the pick-up Walter Lewbel placed his rifle on his lap, put a shell into the chamber, pointed it at Matlock and cocked it. From the porch Deeds pointed his weapon and warned Lewbel not to get “cocky.” Lewbel said back to Deeds, “Don’t you get cocky either.” Matlock told his son to go inside and call the Sheriff’s Office. As he did the Synanon vehicles took off. No deputies ever came and Matlock and Deeds stayed up most of the night.
After later interviews with Matlock, Gann and Smock, Det. Bob Byrd went to Synanon to ask to see Chuck Dederich, Jr. who had been mistakenly identified as at his ranch by Matlock. Det. Byrd was met by attorneys David Gomez and Howard Garfield. They told the Detective Dede was in L.A. and no one fitting Jones’s description lived at Synanon. Chris Haberman then escorted Det. Byrd from the premises. District Attorney Jay Powell rejected further investigation as he believed the Synanon member could claim self-defense since Deeds and Matlock had guns. He ignored the fact that Ganns said they admitted they were looking for Matlock earlier in order to break his legs.
Three days later Eidson returned from Mexico and learned what had happened to his wife and Matlock on November 4th. The next night at 10:30 PM Jeff was watching TV when he heard a car coming slowly down the road. When he saw it was a Synanon vehicle approaching their driveway he rushed to his parents. Doris telephoned the sheriff while Ron grabbed his Winchester and went outside and put a bead on the driver. As had happened at Matlock’s, the vehicle turned and backed off the driveway. Eidson never got to a full view of the Synanon emblem on the car and had to consider they might be just lost hunters. He had never aimed at any human before and although his gun was never cocked he knew he might have shot had he seen the emblem. For Synanon, it was mission accomplished. They now knew the identity of their man.
Sheriff Mawhiney, still giving Synanon the benefit of the doubt, gave Eidson David Gilmour’s name and Eidson called him on November 9th but was told by Synanon he was not available. A Synanon representative returned the phone call three times before getting a hold of Eidson around 7 PM. The representative was Dr. Doug Robson. He identified himself as Head of Synanon Security. Robson tape recorded the telephone call for Synanon hstory.
Eidson said he would like to square things away but an argument developed over who was at fault on the road. Eidson gave his version of the incidents, even admitting he was wrong in coming back and stopping Rhonda’s car, but Robson made it clear he was not interested and said “… I’m not here to argue with you…There isn’t any question at all you know regardless of what anybody wants or thinks that the roads are going to be safe for youngest girl or our oldest you know residents and what ever we have to do will be done in order to make that the case… We don’t intend to have it happen and will do whatever we have to do to stop it. I just want that to be perfectly clear…We’ve got a huge corporation and we intend to have these roads absolutely safe… We are a bunch of religious fanatics and we’ll do what ever we have to do.”
“You want to tell me what you intend to do?”
Eidson suggested a meeting of the drivers to hash it out but Robson said he wasn’t interested. Robson suggested if Eidson has a complaint in the future he bring it to Synanon as they are stricter with their people than the courts are. Robson bragged that they do not drink, smoke or tell lies but they let everybody know “exactly what we are going to do.” They make people behave themselves, “we have to have those kinds of controls…“we keep an eye on them like a hawk,” but they would also make sure the family is not stopped on the road and terrorized by someone who had “gone way passed the money and we don’t intend to have it happen.” Rhonda Marks, he said, was a square college graduate audiologist, not a dope fiend kid that one of the “local rednecks can hassle or mess around with…” Pierre Gaston, he said, was a “candy ass” who was treated outrageously and did not respond “as they expect their people to under that kind of abuse.”
Robson said Eidson should have realized Gaston was not waiting for him when he saw women in the vehicle. “I mean we could have guys in there, you know, four of them 6’6” you know.”
Taking Robson’s comments as a threat, Eidson called the sheriff and deputies came out and placed their own taping equipment on Eidson’s phone. It captured Robson’s next phone call when it came late on the night of the 11th.
“This is Doug Robson again. You remember me?”
“Yah,” Eidson replied with a yawn. “Just woke up… I take sleeping pills. What can I do for you?”
“I kind of informed the family of your explanation of these incidents. You know with the cars and things.”
“Yeah, the Synanon family. ”
“Okay. Your people.”
“Are you kind of awake yet.”
“Yah, okay I am awake. I just have to take pills here.”
“Well this is a deal. There is a lot of people that are still pretty upset and if you’re interested I think that you know we could kind of make peace, but I just wanted to check and see if you were.”
“No, I don’t make deals.”
“I just think you uh you know that you owe us an apology and a lot of other people did so you know I’d hate to have some hotheaded person you know go out and do something that everybody would regret when it doesn’t take too much of a deal you know to apologize when you kind of fly off the handle and get out of line a little bit. ”
“You know you people are unreal if you…”
“Okay, I’m not going to argue with you. I just wanted to make an offer… that’s all. Goodbye.”
The phone went dead and Eidson, still groggy from his sleeping pills and ulcer medication, returned to the back porch cot.
Now he was awake again, his wife shouting. Despite the glaring headlights he could make out two vehicles and four persons, all with shaved heads and bib overalls. Some had gloves, others ski masks. And they were armed. A black man with an earring shouted from his porch, “We’re from Synanon and we’re here to get our apology.” Eidson, holding his Winchester at waste level, told them to leave or he would shoot. He and Jeff slowly made their way up to the porch while the black man cursed. They were tired of fucking with Badger people and they were going to set at example the black man said. They were not leaving without a written apology.
Two more men came out from behind the shed, one with a sawed -off riot gun. All were white except for the one on the porch and all were screaming for the apology. One said they are going to kill everyone in the house after they were through with them. Seeing a gun pointed at his father, Jeff took aim at the holder’s stomach. It was a standoff until Doris, remembering a suggestion from a deputy sheriff, came out with a camera. Then things happened.
One tussled Doris for the camera and Eidson reached for the man and cried “Let her go.” Jeff readied to shoot the one with the shotgun but somehow didn’t. He would not get another chance as another sprang up and wrestled for his weapon. Eidson realized his family was in danger and their safety came first. He told his son to surrender his gun and get in the house. Then he ordered his wife to follow. Now he stood alone. When the man with the shotgun ordered Eidson to hand over his Winchester he complied. His weapon had never been cocked. Both Eidson guns were taken over to a log, emptied and left. “Were going to kill you,” one screamed. “And we’re going to shoot every son-of- a -bitch in Badger.”
Inside Doris told Jeff to try to take pictures from the window while she called the sheriff. The other kids remained in their rooms too terrified to move, some on the floor by the foot of their beds. Jeff disobeyed his mother; afraid if he took pictures they might shoot his Dad, then all of them. He went for another gun instead. But by then it was too late.
Outside, a concern was voiced that the sheriff was called. The black male said, “We don’t have time to kill you but were going to work you over good. We will be back to finish you and your family off if we have any more problems with you.”
Eidson felt two attack from behind and turned and fired back punches. The others pounded him again from behind and once more he wheeled and returned blow for blow.
The deputy sheriff on the phone heard Doris scream as she saw the attack through the window. “Hurry…they are going to kill him.” Jeff ran out with the other gun but the man with the shotgun told him to get back in the house or it would be all over for everyone. Jeff obeyed, a fact that would haunt him the rest of his life. His father was now in the arms of 2 Synanon men, one working over his belly and ribs with rapid, professional appearing punches. For a moment it stopped and Eidson raised his head to see if he could strike back but saw instead the butt of the shotgun slamming down above his eye. He fell back into a pair of arms and passed out.
He awoke moments later on the ground twenty yards away, still being punched and kicked. A gun butt was hammering between his legs and to protect the intended target, his groin, he managed to turn over before falling again unconscious.
Jeff could see the shadows of the blows on the trailer across from their house and hear the sounds. He counted at least 5 taking part in the beating. Finally they stopped and returned to their vehicles and Jeff ran out. Eidson came to again and saw the crew cab pickup heading straight towards him. Jeff stopped in paralyzing fear but at the last moment the vehicle swerved and drove off. As Eidson stumbled to his feet his son handed him his rifle. “Get them, Dad.” Eidson raised the weapon but was prevented from shooting by the blood in his eyes that clouded his vision.
Eidson struggled indoors and made his way to the bathroom sink, returned to the living room and collapsed. A sheriff’s car finally arrived. It had passed the Synanon vehicles on the road but the deputies did not think to stop them because they had not been informed of what was happening at the location they were directed to go to. Upon arrival, seeing Eidson’s condition, one deputy asked Eidson if he wanted him to call for the Synanon ambulance as it was closest.
Eidson was hospitalized for two days at Exeter Memorial Hospital. For fellow patients he had the Exeter Punks who had been beaten that very same afternoon of Eidson’s attack. When shown photos at the hospital Eidson picked out Dave Gilmour as the one who held the shotgun and Walter Lewbel as the “professional” hitter. Gilmour had done double duty that day. He was arrested on November 16 along with Lewbel and Daniel Harrison.
Unfortunately for the Eidson family, the criminal investigation fell to the pattern Synanon lawyers had found successful in other cases. Synanon legal first diluted the small local district attorney office with motion after motion to tire the deputy DA’s out and making handling their other cases increasingly more difficult. They sent Gilmour look-alikes (Sorkin announced on the Wire a Dave Gilmour look-a-like contest and a grow – a – mustache–for – David Gilmore campaign involving males with any resemblance and similar builds) to the lineup to confuse Eidson and the tactic succeeded. He could not pick out anyone beyond a reasonable doubt from all the similar looking shaved headed blue overall men. Synanon produced countless witnesses prepared to testify Gilmour was somewhere else that night. The first preliminary hearing ended after two days when the Judge’s mother became ill and it had to be rescheduled in front of another judge, all the while Synanon claiming the prosecution was mere Tulare County harassment against Synanon for constructing and using a 4,500 foot aircraft runway just north of Badger.
There was no second preliminary as the District Attorney on the eve of commencement dropped charges on January 10, l978 claiming lack of proof against all but Gilmour. And the local DA shocked the Eidson family by dropping the remaining charge against Gilmour to a misdemeanor (requires no preliminary). By then Eidson had a permanent scar above his eye and permanent back problems. The worst came next when Synanon won a motion to change venue claiming that the publicity and feelings of locals would prevent a fair trial in the area. Rather than travel, the district attorney dropped the case altogether. He could not see the trees in the forest and didn’t think justice in the case was worth pursuing in another county. The victory led to wild celebration in Synanon and increased the belief that Legal was invincible and they could get away with anything, maybe even murder. Chris Haberman, the chief Synanon investigator for the case, stated on the Wire:
“Eidson had pulled over two Synanon residents on two different occasions in order to chastise them for allegedly running him off the road. And according to Synanon sources, the story was completely untrue.
“Synanon residents decided to get the word out to the Badger community at large. We said the roads will be safe. Our women, children and citizenship will be safe on the road at any time of day or night.”
For the Eidson family it seemed the nightmare would never end. On any given night they could hear people on the property imitating chickens and coyotes, flashlights blinking in the distance. They were not alone in the harassment. The same was occurring to other residents as if by force and fear there was an effort to convince all ranchers to leave. Rancher John Cox said they came close to his window with chicken calls. Other times they used a megaphone in the distance. And he once saw a Synanon man feeding Howard Fullerton’s dogs so they wouldn’t bark. His own dog was taken and returned sheared.
The Halls also continued to hear hooting howls from different directions for several months. So did Matlock. In December Matlock’s dogs were all poisoned. Matlock had to take every one of them to the vet. One died.
Sometimes Eidson fired in the direction of the sounds. Once, after getting off about ten shots he thought he heard someone moaning. On another, he aimed at brush 200 yards away where man-made chicken sounds were emanating. After the shot, he heard commotion and someone scampering off. Eidson turned to Jeff, smiled and said, “I’ve never shot at a bald-headed chicken before.”
But the harassment continued. A fire was started close to the Eidson house. Synanon investigators went to his place of work to ask questions about him and did the same at the home of his and Doris’s elderly parents. Once while driving past the Home Place, Eidson saw a Synanon man aim is rifle at him, panning his vehicle until it was out of sight. Several nights they awoke to kicking sounds on their door but the culprits always ran off.
Eidson tried to stop it all and get justice by hiring a lawyer, Phil Hornburg, to file a civil suit but the attorney scared of reprisals and being overworked by the Synanon lawyers withdrew. By now all the local attorneys were afraid of Synanon, its wealth and its lawyers. None would take Eidson’s case. His family was without redress, living in fear, until one day Eidson tried to get legal help outside of his terrified community of lawyers. In l979 he found a lawyer, Ed Martin, in Los Angeles willing to help. Martin, in turn, called me. And so an attorney who Synanon tried to murder was now flying to Visalia to bring justice to their local rancher. I found I had a lot of friends in Visalia who welcomed me.
Later when deposed by Bob Fremlin and Tris Brown (SEE FALL of Synanon II), Charles Dederich summed up the incident as follows:
“I—I—I– remember some incident very vaguely about — some you know, some hillbilly clown living up in the neighborhood scaring a 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 — think that I think some measures were taken so that he wouldn’t do it again. The dramatic effect of beating him up and beating with the gun butt in front of his ‘wife and child,’ 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, ‘don’t mess around with our girls and frightened them to death. We don’t want confrontation 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 violations of their persons and -and so on. ‘If that person’ had been allowed to continue and we have done something about it, I suppose we would have 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 … the media and watching it on television. We can’t do that, you see.”
(for more see Fall of Synanon
The same day of the attacks on Eidson and the Exeter Punks, splittee Bill Ayala, stole a car and some clothes. Larry Fisher and Percy Tickels took off in an unmarked car to Bobby Kohl’s home to see if he was there. Then, as Willy Grayson had done before, Ayala called from New York to say he had left the car behind the Sheraton hotel at L.A. airport. Warfield and Jones went to New York on airline tickets purchased through the Santa Rosa Travel agency. They made calls to people in Ayala’s former neighborhood to try to locate him, threatening them to force revealing information. Ayala was then dealt with.
Dederich insisted that he have uniform security teams trained right away and on November 18 the State of California gave permission for Art Warfield and Phil Bourdette to teach and certify people in security officers powers of arrest and firearms.
Fran Warfield and Ronna Munford addressed the Tulare Rotary Club on November 28 that life in Synanon was” fulfilling.” They said Synanon was being maliciously discriminated against and they would begin a “very aggressive investigation into the lives of the people we’re suing. When asked about recent violence, Mrs. Warfield responded: “Frankly, if someone tries to mess with Synanon that way, they’re going to get a run for their money.”
On November 24th, 1977 Dr. Robson phased out the nightmen as a security force as they had not “caught anyone in 18 years”. The better work, he wrote to Liz Missakian, was that in the past month “we have been off the property 5 times from San Francisco to New York and nailed 4 individuals who took things from us.” Robson complained, however, that most of their operations were carried out by large untrained groups of volunteers, not professionals, who talk too much and create too much of a disturbance in doing their work. They were unreliable. He wanted more Marines rotated to positions he could better use. He wrote Missakian:
“There is no doubt that we are going to be involved in extremely dangerous, sensitive, direct actions in the foreseeable future. The question of whether we to do it right with relatively little danger to the people involved and Synanon is not yet resolved.”
On the same day, Dr. Robson reported there were 75 weapons in the Foundation and they were using 3,000 to 4000 rounds of ammunition per month for training, Shoots and other activities. Robson requested in armorer, gunsmith and weapons instructor. He spoke so much on the Wire about his desires for weapons that finally on December 1 Missakian wrote to Robson that she had listened to one of his many conversations on the Wire concerning guns and uniforms and was concerned Robson kept mentioning what Dederich and Garrett want done in this area . “I don’t know,” she wrote, “ whether we want to keep associating the Old Man’s name with guns and the like over the Wire OVER AND OVER AGAIN!”
Robson had planned to winterize the National Guard Camp and reopen it in December, but as he wrote, “since we have decided to declare an all-out war on the ungodly in Tulare County, and I am the in charge of direct action, I think that rather than open the camp we will use Lance and Arnett, and about 12 people at a time to harass and investigate the people we don’t like down here, starting with Fred Batkin, Barney Reed and Ron Eidson. We will probably incorporate some Guard training into the daily activities of the Holy Warriors.”
Batkin and Reed were designated targets by attorney Howard Garfield. Batkin was a supervisor against the Synanon airstrip, contending Synanon needed a permit to operate it while Synanon claimed the county; promised such use when they bought the land. Holy Warriors, claiming to be part of SCRAP as this could be deemed political action, followed him in the Batkinmobile (had banner: “Taxpayers Investigating Batkin”) wherever he went taking pictures. When not in use it was parked in Visalia. Legal had obtained Batkin’s address and gave it to Dr. Robson. Everyone was told not to use the word “harassment” as it was too “hot” a word, but instead to use the word “investigation.” Barney Reed had spoken up against Synanon. The plan was to destroy Reed’s business, the Badger Inn, by sit-ins at tables and bar stools each night with each resident ordering one glass of milk and making it uncomfortable for locals to attend. Sorkin gave a blow by blow description of the sit-in over the Wire and he and Walter Lewbel called for more people to come down to the Inn and harass. They were to wear overalls with Synanon patches to make locals uncomfortable enough to leave. And when they did so Synanon vehicles sometimes followed. They also visibly took down license numbers in the parking lot. Reports from the Badger Inn were phoned in every 15 minutes and logs detailing the success of the harassment were maintained by the Harvard trained psychologist Steve Simon. It was called Participants in Inconvenience at Barney’s and kept in the Holy War File. Simon, himself, participated in harassments at the Inn. So did Marines Kenton and Jamison. There were confrontations with local patrons and near fights.
The police stopped a man accused of firing a shot from the road. While detained, in front of the police, Dede came forward and kicked him in the shin. A trespasser was roughed up, put in a truck and driven away.
On December 9, Robson filed his report for November calling it the Month of the Hunt. Investigations, he wrote, led them to eight individuals who had stolen from Synanon, insulted or harassed Synanon people. These efforts took them from coast to coast. Robson reported he was establishing a network of ex-residents in San Francisco, Tulare, Los Angeles, Detroit and New York leading to a flow of information against these people. He wrote the word was getting out that “when you leave 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.”
Robson believed they now had an efficient system for recording security incidents information and added the procedures to the Directors Book. It would be almost two years before the mistake on relying on dope fiends to implement those procedures would be realized. Robson advised Ron Cook that their work in the field in November coupled with their future training would help in organizing for future similar activities. As the Holy War was heating up he continued to prefer, rather than establishing another National Guard Camp, to use Marines Kenton and Jamieson in the Holy War Team, which included six people at the Strip engaged full time. After morning orientation Holy Warriors did investigations, sit-ins, escort work, recorded compilations and follow-ups. On the weekends fifteen other volunteers from the Home Place and Strip joined in the local operations to harass the local Badger taverns.
Lynn Worrell entered Synanon on April 4, 1971. Per her affidavit, she worked for Synanon security and was aware of the philosophy to go out and hurt people who were enemies of Synanon knowing if caught and they were to take full responsibility. In December of 1977 she decided to leave and drove a Synanon vehicle to her mother’s house to discuss it with her. Synanon saw this as a problem, given that she knew too much and had personally witnessed beatings. So when she returned, on December 10, 1977 she was taken into a room and held against her will for 3 days, sleep and food deprived. She was questioned by Paul Fleischer, Wendell stamps and Sue Humphrey as to why she drove off the property. Imperial Marine Stamps and Fleischer started knocking her to the ground slapping her and choking her. Dr. Doug Robeson and Atty. David Benjamin also questioned her as to what information she had as to people who had done beatings.
Jerry Tent took her on a walk said that if she did anything to harm Synanon they would see to it that her “legs were broken” and that no plastic surgeon could repair the damage. She also said Lynn would find herself over a cliff. Lynn was released on Dec. 14, l977.
She gave evidence and sued.
In December Supervisor Fred Batkin, harrrassed and followed by Synanon members for months, chose not to run for election as supervisor and Barney Reed, after Synanon nightly sit-ins drove away patrons, closed his tavern. Kenton joyfully radioed in the closing on his CB. So did Barry Levine, shouting, “We did it.” Fireman James Hall heard all the celebrating on his CB. Sorkin led a celebration on the Wire. Robson in his December report bragged how the Holy Warriors were so successful. Those participating, Robson wrote, “remarked that the experience impressed them for the first time with the seriousness of the Holy War and our Alert status.”
The same month, Ben Parks, a National Guardsman, reunited with his wife Dorothy. They both decided they could not make Changing Partners work. Dederich, his wife having died, took a stranger–half his age– as a mate and the ordered all Synanties to particiapte in the experinece and swap mates.
Neither Ben nor Dot liked their new selected mate and they still loved each other. They knew that meant they would have to leave. Dottie, as she was called, was assisting a woman who was dying of cancer. Perhaps identifying her with Betty, Dederich became enraged that they would leave, came on the wire at 10 p.m. and said they should be dumped in “a ditch” miles from nowhere. The Parks were sitting on the bench when directed to the Stew Temple where they received verbal abuse and threats. Leaving the room, Ben was pushed. Then they were taken by Marine Jack Miller, Marine Mike Gimbel and Wayne Carlson (who was carrying a gun) and driven off in the back of a pick-up truck. Miller said he got his instructions from Dede and Ron Cook. They were driven to a vacant field 11 miles from the nearest town. Miller kicked Dottie’s feet out and she fell. He had been instructed to do more, but didn’t. He said if the Parks returned ”we will break your back.” Soon Miller himself would leave over Changing Partners.
Just before Christmas Synanon discovered that Lynn Worrell, who had once broadcasted the description of Charles Morin beating, had been taking Synanon vehicle 791 to visit her parents. A search of the car found she had some legal notebooks with newspaper articles and declarations I had filed in Raines and Manchester and a box of blank checks indicating she now had a personal bank account. They also found a letter that revealed she had visited and stayed overnight at her parents over Thanksgiving. Fearing she was becoming a spy she was held and interrogated for three days without sleep or food while she was struck and warned that if she ever talked they would get her and her family. Interrogation on Dec. 13 was done by attorney Howard Garfield and Dr. Robson. They wanted to know if she had talked to Time Magazine, Tulare County officials or Paul Morantz.
A general meeting was held for Worrell. It was taped and played over the wire. A speaker wanted to make one point clear:
“Most people that do what she has done…bad things happen to them. You know, they fall and hurt themselves. They’ve been shot in robberies, or terrible accidents happen to them. And that’s what happens to people that do bad things against Synanon, that have been here or that have not been in Synanon…Terrible things happen to them. It’s just karma, you know.”
“Hey,” shouted another. “It’s compensation.”
In the last week of December Time Magazine came out with its story on Synanon and to the foundation’s surprise it did not praise changing partners but said the once respected drug rehab was now just another “kooky-cult.” Dederich was not going to be Time Man of The Year and he saw his Nobel Prize dream evaporating. He was enraged and ordered his legal troops to immediate action. Synanon issued a press release quoting Dederich as saying that while he believed in the freedom of the press. he vowed that “when any news outlet gets out of line with us, we will do everything we can do to punish it. ‘ DON’T TREAD ON ME’– our country is built on that premise, and so is Synanon.
Dan Sorkin on a news show called Doug Brew “the dirty little creep that came here as a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and stated he wanted to find out why Time Magazine is “such an anti-American organization.
Two days before Christmas Dederich came on the Wire and made his Time for a Battle Cry speech. It was taped and played again and again. People in Synanon, he said, were getting their first experience at a media attack. It was nothing new to him; he had been fighting them for twenty years with virtually no help. He said Time Magazine is his cause and Synanon’s cause but that Synanon’s cause has only really been the work of about ten people when it should be the work of 100 people. He announced they would sue Time for the right to pursue their careers. Dederich pointed out he was now financially independent but they were not and their livelihood is now being seriously threatened by “these filthy bastards… these filthy bastards… That includes, for instance, the dirty, rotten, little stinking punks from Time who came in here and enjoyed our hospitality.
“Synanon has within it — – and this is not messianic nonsense — – the plans to save the goddamn world. But almost every religion or movement or philosophy which has any chance of making any improvement at all in the human condition is smashed at the outset.
“Why don’t people do something about these filthy rotten bastards? Why don’t people fight them? They can’t. That’s one of the reasons why Synanon is so goddamn precious. No one in America can fight these people. No one. They are not organized, they don’t have the money, they don’t have the brains, and so on. Nobody else has any weapons with which to fight these filthy rotten bastards. We do! That’s why we are so goddamn precious, as precious as anything there is in this nation. We’re going to dig them out of Time magazine. We’re going to find out who they are, who their mistresses are… We’re going to find out which one of them is screwing sheep. Really. We’re going to find that out, you know.
“This is the enemy. The enemy. We must destroy the enemy, because they have goddamn near destroyed us….
“If anybody tries to kill my country, I’m going to kill the dirty bastards, you see. That’s the way it is. There are guys in Synanon, maybe at this table, who were called upon when they were younger to go pick up a gun, risk their lives, get wounded and everything else. They didn’t fight for this.”
Garrett, he said, did not go to war for these dirty bastards. Nor did his grandfather who won the Congressional Medal of Honor and got his leg shot off do it for this. They went to war for what Synanon is trying to reconstruct.
Dederich also said the splittees who gave interviews to Time, after Synanon had save their lives, “should be destroyed. Really. They are faithless rotten stinking punks who came to my house — – your house — – accepted our hospitality, we saved their rotten lives, and then they go over on their side…They are the enemy. Don’t forget it.
“I am where the fun is. Always have been. Here, there is an opportunity for everybody. They are not going to put Synanon out of business. There are too many of us now, you see…
“I even think that if anything untoward happens to one of our important people, there’s a bare possibility that somewhere within Synanon there are some guys who would make it right. I think so. Finally.”
Dederich said that he and Garrett might be targets for assassination and he was going to let them know that if anything funny happens he will whip his organization into a “frenzy.”
“Sounds like movie stuff? But that’s the way it is. This is serious business… Serious business.”
Synanon was going through a reformation. It would, he said, be in as good a shape within the next two years as it was when they moved from Ocean Park to the National Guard Armory. “That’s when the guts were required. We moved right into the open jaws of the people who dam near devoured us with no weapons, no money and no nothing.
“Within the next two years, we will get into that kind of fighting trim and moral shape. We could regain that. None of you people have seen that. You weren’t here.” Dederich said it was now up to them as only they could let Synanon die. He had his financially but if they wanted theirs they would have to fight. “So, keep squeezing. Keep squeezing. Get the shit out of our house. Get it out, or transform it, because the only part of the hen’s shit we want is the white stuff. We don’t want the rest of it. That’s what we used to say in Maumee.
“All right, I’ll go back and play a little Chopin”
On December 28 Robson put his desire for guns in writing to Dederich proposing they obtain 45 caliber Colt automatics (at $234 each) which he believed to the best combat handguns, 12 gauge Remington model 870 police pump shotguns ($50 each), 23 caliber Ruger mini-14 carbines with a twenty shot clip effective from 250 to 300 yards ($200 each) and Winchester rifles with scope as a long range weapon (cost $350 each). Special weapons and a year’s supply of ammunition should be purchased for the Chairman’s Office at a cost of $7,037. He wanted combat weapons and ammunition for 8 to 10 persons, weapons and ammunition to train 50 more, plus more to train 150, all at a total costs of $50,311. On New Year’s Eve Dederich, with Garrett and Lewbel present, told Robson to push forward with the weapon and ammunition purchase.
In January of l978 members submitted applications to bear arms and Robson revamped his proposed arsenal costs to $70,000. On January 17, six days after the lawsuit against Time Inc. was filed, Robson wrote to Lewbel indicating there were 31 firearms in Tomales for 650 people. San Francisco had none for 125 people. The Home Place had sixty people and 37 firearms with 142 more on order including 55 rifles, 55 shotguns and 37 pistols. The Strip had 140 people and 19 weapons. Santa Monica had 124 people and one rifle. Robson’s plan was to have 73 rifles, 87 shotguns and 75 pistols, a total of 235 or one per every fifth person.
On January 13 Synanon purchased $48,285.42 worth of weapons from Markell Gun Supply on Judah St. in San Francisco, plus two additional orders. A purchase of $11,316 of weapons was made at Ames Guns in Santa Monica. Three orders were made at California Gun Specialists in Lindsay, California. Requests had been made by Synanon to various gun shops to make bids. The San Francisco Gun Exchange refused to participate out. As the news broke Synanon admitted to a total of slightly more than $62,300 which some reported was the largest single such purchase in Californian history. It caught the attention of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Ex-felons are not allowed to possess guns. Synanon retort was that California had given it permits to teach police powers and firearms in Badger and it was training a private police force to protect it. The need, it said, was in part due to the frenzy whipped up by Time Magazine and things were so bad, Dederich told to press that he and his family are considering leaving, ala Jim Jones, the United States for their safety.
On January 20, Art Warfield personally picked up from Markell 56 Remington 12 gauge shotguns, 12 mini 14 caliber rifles, 10 Ruger 22 caliber rifles, 7 Remington 308 caliber rifles with scopes, 22 rifles, 24 Colt 45s, 3 lightweight 45 caliber automatic pistols, 7 22 — 45 caliber conversion kits and 65,000 rounds of ammunition. In making its delivery Markell did not wait the required legal 15 day grace period between purchase date and delivery of hand guns (the state law did not apply to long guns) claiming it thought Synanon was an exempt government agency. Upon discovery of its mistake it asked for a temporary return of the guns.
Later the Department of Justice would put the arms purchase at $307,000 and state it included armor piercing bullets. It appeared to many Synanon was either readying for war or expecting an invasion.
January 17, 1978. Tomales Bay:
Kim Myers first entered Synanon on September 18, 1971 at the age of 17 at the recommendation of his father because of his use of LSD and marijuana. He became good friends with Bernie Kolb. Three years and three months later, while working landscape he was bitten by a stray dog and given a tetanus shot. Dr. Sid Frank said he needed more shots but he did not want them. He was called into an office on December 3rd, 1974 and ordered to get more shots and when he refused he was told to sit on the bench. About eight residents gathered, including Marine Jimmy Troiano, and he was ordered to have his head shaved. He was lightly pushed down the stairs towards the barbershop but managed to exit and split, staying at an old girlfriend’s house for a week. He wrote Chuck Dederich a letter saying what happened and got a return phone call from Russ Mumford saying Synanon apologized and Chuck said he could return anytime he wished.
Myers held no grudge and after he returned to taking LSD and marijuana he thought about rejoining Synanon. On January 11, 1978 he drove to Badger in his pickup truck and stopped at the gate below. He also knew of the some of the changes in Synanon and had fantasies that he might talk to Chuck and get it back on the right path. At the gate he was greeted by Marine Ivan Ujueta and asked to speak to Chuck Dederich about financing a rock band, afraid to tell then say why he really wanted to talk to him. That was the only idea for an answer that came to mind. Ujueta told Meyers he had to make an appointment. Myers got in his truck and drove off towards Fresno but when he realized he was running out of cash and gas he headed to Tomales Bay, parked and went to the connect. He was told to sit on the bench and after several hours Pete Derosa , Leon Levy and Pete Hyman approached and explained that it was now harder to get into Synanon and harder to stay. But Myers was accepted and put to work in the kitchen.
Later he played a game but felt it was different, people feared being squeezed out and hid true feelings. On the 15th he heard Chuck talk about the Holy War and again on the 16th. He observed Synanon had changed from helping people to fighting wars. He read the Time Magazine article and as he had been living outside he believed he had an objective view of the article and thought it partially true. He wrote a letter to Chuck saying his feelings and his belief that pressure isn’t always the best and that Ginny was suppressing her feelings in games for a bigger kick in being First Lady. He didn’t think his letter would be responded to so he didn’t send it but asked instead to speak to Chuck Dederich.
Dr. Robson called Leon Levy and told him to question Meyers. Levy told him Chuck was too busy and to talk to some other people, including Marine Mike Gimbel. They listened and then said he was crazy. Someone shouted, “Let’s hold him” and they grabbed for his sweater but he got away and ran out the back stairs. Dr. Robson told Pete Hyman to search Meyers belongings and then “to treat him sufficiently roughly to discourage any further approaches to Synanon.” Hyman removed the distributor rotor from Meyer’s truck in case he tried to double back and get it while Gimbel chased him halfway down the road to Highway 1. Barry Levine drove up in the Synanon ambulance and asked to give him a ride back to his truck but being afraid he said no thanks. Meyers kept walking, sometimes hiding underneath houses by water; going to the door of one house for help but no one was home. When he was half a mile past the Marshal — Petaluma Road he saw the ambulance was following him at a distance. Behind was a jeep station wagon with six men, including Arnette Jamison and Jan Kaufman, in the back. Suddenly those men piled out to so he ran up the bank, jumped over a barbed-wire fence and ran down a field. After about 200 yards, realizing he could not get away, he finally stopped when Levy cried out they just wanted to talk. He was then taken to the ground and told by Levy they were taking him back for more questioning.
Meyers was placed in the room with chairs and a tape recorder. Levy said if he refused to answer or lied he would hit him. Fearing for his physical safety, he started making up stories. But they were the wrong ones. He said he had been sent there by people who did not want to harm Synanon but felt Synanon was harming itself. He said he thought Time Magazine was going to do another article. Levy said he was lying and swung a closed fist into his mouth, cutting it, and then followed with another punch. Meyers moaned, “Oh, God,” as he tasted blood in his mouth. The others joined, beat him about the head and kicked him while Kaufman and Dr. Frank twisted his ears from the back. Dr. Sid Frank screamed, “Break his fingers.” Someone held his hands behind his back, bending his fingers one by one. Hyman, Dr. Frank and Kaufman moved to the front and hit him with closed fists. When they stopped, Hyman handcuffed Meyers to the chair for several hours. Bruce Levine came in and took photographs for the purpose of showing how powerful Synanon was. Meyers sat crying with cuts on his lip and above his left eyebrow.
Prior to the beating, Hyman notified attorney David Benjamin of the situation, and he conferred with Phil Bourdette. The counselors told them to bring Meyers to San Francisco for questioning by the lawyers. Rod Mullen, Ted Dibble and Arnett Jamison, as Meyer’s old friend Bernie Kolb listened on, developed a plan to take Kim first to the pole barn and show him weapons while confronted by masked residents who would threaten his life should he ever come around Synanon again. Hyman resisted the plan saying it was a misuse of guns.
Meyers was taken to the bathroom and cleaned up. Hyman put a band aid on his eyebrow. Meyers was told he was being taken to San Francisco, to keep his mouth shut and say “Yes sir” or he would be beaten worse. Hyman drove with John Kaufman and Andy Cretella, but only one sat with Meyers in the back. When they got to the Golden Gate Bridge tollbooth, realizing the doors did not lock, Meyers quickly unfastened his seat belt, lunged for the door and flung it open. He got part way out shouting he was being kidnapped. Kaufman grabbed his collar and groin while Cretella got his arm and sweater but they couldn’t completely get him back in the vehicle. Meyers tried to duck out of his sweater as it was ripping. As the shouting drew attention Hyman said let him go and Meyers got away.
A toll bridge officer called the sheriff’s office and they took him and interviewed him. Afterwards a deputy returned him to the toll bridge and told him to go to the San Francisco Police Department. Meyers tried to hitchhike but bruised and with torn clothes he was not very inviting. He finally bummed a quarter and caught a bus. He went first to the hospital across the street from the police and then called the police twice. When he finally walked over to the station Phil Bourdette was there chatting with officers. Bourdette, to explain the “misunderstanding,” said that Meyers was being brought to San Francisco to be given his truck. When Meyers told his story an officer responded, “Synanon doesn’t do things like that.” Synanon, the police said, was in the business of helping people. They ignored the marks and bruises on his face.
The next day officers Mahoney and Morris accompanied Meyers to Tomales Bay to pick up his truck. His rifle from his truck was given back but the bolt was missing and the stock was broken in half. Papers from his notebook which had drafts of two proposed letters to Chuck saying what was wrong with Synanon were torn out.
Bourdette later recorded in a memo that the officers “seemed pleased” with the response he had given. No charges were ever filed.
Robson reported on the incident saying:
“Guns are for shooting people. If anyone is to be intimidated they will be dealt with physically. We must never make empty threats.
“ If we ever transport anyone again we will have them restrained and riding between at least two large guards, blocking their access to the doors.”
Five months from the time of the Meyers kidnapping/beating I would be trying to explain to the San Francisco Police Department that their views on Synanon were wrong. I would acquire their help in the rescue of three minor siblings–The Butler kids (See Escape From Synanon III). The rescue ended with Synanon San Francisco facility being surrounded by 11 police cars with guns pointing at the building.
After the Kim Myers incident Robson wanted fellow doctor Dave Schwartz to be able to carry a handgun as he was one of the better weapons handlers. He had completed a P.C. 832 course, had training in the army and took the special course given by resident Frank McFarlin. Schwartz was now in charge of combat situations in Tomales as Missakian felt Mullen’s role in Meyers lacked good thinking. Robson scheduled a firearms massive dose at the Strip and training on weapons.
Joe Musico wrote to Robson on January 20 on the progress of acquiring 4 guard dogs for the Home Place. He believed they should use German shepherds and estimated the cost to train each dog in the range of $1600 to $8000. The dogs would be already trained when received. Earlier Musico had written Dede dogs had a great psychological effect on people they confront and can be used to stop a fleeing suspect. On January 27 Musico, per the direction of Robson, purchased the first guard dog for $150 from La-No kennels. More dogs were purchased later as kennels were built as fast as possible.
Connie Chung came to interview Dederich about the guns on January 25. Dederich was excited, talking about her beauty on the Wire, admitting his crush on her, perhaps similar to mine was as to Olivia Newton John. Chuck was intent on charming her, telling to her he was to his followers “Big Brother, Big Daddy….I look more like Buddha than Gandhi.”
Chung was all reporter and she sensed a story. Still at first she would not run all she heard Dederich say believing that he must have misspoken himself. But within the next few days she realized that she was on to something and six days later she broadcast the excerpt wherein she asked Dederich if the gun purchase had anything to do with Time Magazine. Dederich replied, “Not at this time.” Chung asked that he explain, and he responded:
“If Time Magazine were to escalate its intent to destroy our religious freedoms and possibly send people to do us physical harm, I think we would probably have to do them physical harm first. We never start anything; we never do and never have. But nobody is going to mess with us. Nobody.”
“I want to make them as nervous about the safety of their children and their grandchildren as I am about mine.”
The interview was followed up by one from Jesse Marlow from NBC that was broadcast three days after Christmas. Dederich was hoping to scare Time into a settlement but he was achieving other results. After talking about changing partners, Dederich told Marlowe the weapons were to protect himself as perhaps the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King should have gotten protection, placing himself in their company. His injured eye twitching, Dederich, looking like Humphrey Bogart before the court martial in the Caine Mutiny, said many people believed Synanon had saved their lives. There were thousands of people who are indebted to Synanon and now extremely angry.
“I have no way of being responsible for, for what they might do… I do not know what these people might do. I don’t know what actions they might take against the persons of the people responsible, their wives, their children, I just don’t know. Um, I and I have no way of being responsible for it.
“Bombs could be thrown into, into odd places, into the homes of some of the clowns who occupy high places in the Time organization. Um, that’s too bad. That’s too bad. I would certainly not institute anything like that, but I have no way of, of preventing it if it would happen.”
Marlow responded that the people at Time would undoubtedly consider his statement a “thinly veiled threat.” Dederich said that that was their problem and added, “I think it’s kind of decent of me to warn them to be careful as I have had to be careful in the past two years since the first unprincipled attack on the part of The Examiner and particular since this one I have to be careful in the ways that quite possibly the Kennedy brothers should have been more careful and Martin Luther King should have been more careful, let’s say.”
A stunned Marlow responded, “Thank you, Mr. Dederich.”
Those in Synanon who watched on television cheered as if Dederich was General Patton, but those on the outside watching the news had a far different reaction. Skip Ferdeber, now Synanon’s spokesperson, mimicked Dederich saying the foundation would do whatever was necessary to defend its home and members. The public was starting to see something inside Synanon had gone wrong. Famed Beverly Hills attorney Stanley Fleischmann realized it, but as his daughter Bette remained in Synanon he knew he had to tread carefully. He wrote a letter to Dederich saying that he would like to discuss what the Founder is saying in the media as he was concerned the public was getting the wrong idea. Dan Garrett wrote back a letter that concluded “Fuck You.” Fleischman had been a donor lawyer to Synanon.
I showed the broadcasts to Dr. Frederick Hacker, the expert in terrorism who had escaped the Nazis as a child and who was used by governments worldwide to negotiate and advise concerning terrorists. It was his clinic that had tested Synanon members for Dr. Casriel in the l960’s and concluded the dope fiends had not changed internally and were still anti-social. Hacker had written a book about fanaticism leading to terrorism. As he watched the newscasts he shook his head, as if viewing a familiar demon.
On February 6, l978 30-year old Michael Lee Franklin finished dinner at the Strip and split from Synanon around 7 p.m. A former Navy man and a local boy he had entered Synanon on November 27, l977 for a problem with barbiturates. After a little more than 2 months he had seen enough and wanted out.
He set up a tent for the night along Highway 245 two miles below Badger. Early in the morning he walked towards Woodlake en route back home to Peteluma. After three miles a Synanon vehicle driven by a woman he believed worked in either legal or ADGAP drove up in a beige El Camino tattooed with Synanon logos. The passenger was a young black man recognized to be a cook named Jerry at the Home Place. Franklin estimated Jerry to be about only 18 but he was big—6’4”, 205 lbs. The residents told him to hop in for a ride. Franklin asked if they were going to town or to the Strip. They said the Strip and Franklin said no thanks. They persisted for a bit and then left.
But after orders were received, the vehicle returned five minutes later, this time steaming down the road, kicking up dirt like a Tasmanian Devil. Franklin had to jump off the shoulder to avoid being hit. The El Camino stopped and Franklin was ordered to get in the car. He was going to the Strip. “No,” Franklin said. “I don’t want to go to the Strip. I want to go home.” They replied he was ripping them off, a charge Franklin denied. They then asked him to hand up his bag to be searched and Franklin said they could search it on the road. They argued for a bit and then Franklin put his bag on the end of the truck and told them to go ahead and search. Jerry exited, saying, “You shouldn’t have anything, you shouldn’t even have the shoes on your feet, you are going to be lucky to get out of here with anything at all.”
Jerry exited and started pushing Franklin who said, “Look, just leave me alone.” Jerry replied, “You know, we could have a bunch of people come down here in another car and they will come after you with guns. Franklin said, “that’s just fine.” Jerry than threatened to call the police and Franklin said that’s okay, too. At that both the woman and Jerry started grabbing for his bags. Franklin pulled his bags away but slipped and rolled down the hill onto a street enjoining the Highway just 15 yards away from the turn off to Drum Valley Road. Jerry took off after him and the fight began.
Franklin was at a disadvantage. He had a backpack on and if he didn’t hold onto his things the woman would run with them to the El Camino. His hands occupied Jerry started in with free kicks with steel-toed boots before throwing him to the ground. There he kicked and kneed Franklin in the face while Franklin, more concerned with his belongings, held on to his bags being pulled by the woman.
Jerry slugged him in the face with his fist about a dozen times, scratching it as well, and tried to shove him into the creek. Franklin tried pulling Jerry down by his collar with his one free hand but Jerry bit it. While he failed the effort got him to his feet and he pulled off his backpack to increase his odds with Jerry. Seizing the opportunity the woman grabbed both the pack, which had his sleeping bag and camping gear and the flight bag which had his cash and food. Franklin grabbled his remaining suitcase and jumped into the creek.
Satisfied the two residents turned towards the El Camino with their booty. Franklin took off running, banging on ranchers doors until he found someone who would help. He received assistance at the home of rancher Ted Oberg on Star Route. After telephoning the sheriff’s office, Oberg drove Franklin to the Aukland Bar where they met up with five deputies. Franklin was still agitated and the deputies could see numerous lacerations, abrasions and contusions about his face, head and hands, plus large abrasions on his legs and cuts on his hands. He had a large swelling on his forehead above his right eye and blood on his face, particularly the right side of his nose. His coat was torn and his clothes filled with dirt and mud.
As he had no money, the deputies arranged for lunch and then took a taped statement. Afterwards he was taken to Deputy District Attorneys Dave Rodriguez and Jay Powell for an interview. At 5:45 p.m. he was taken to the Kaweah Delta District Hospital emergency room and was then given night lodging and an evening meal. By then he was having severe headaches.
The next day Franklin was given a polygraph by Det. Bill Lyon and passed. The detectives then returned to the crime scene with Franklin and could see where grass had been forced down and where someone had gone down an embankment. Photos were taken. They found Franklin’s poncho by a creek, torn. Franklin then remembered that Jerry’s last name was Kinnon.
Afterwards, Detective Rick Logan tape-recorded another interview with Franklin. This time the subject was not the beating but Synanon. In his short stay Franklin had gotten a good handle on the organization, much of it from the Wire. He said he was accepted as a member after his Synanon interview and then they shaved his head and face. He was assigned a buddy whose role was to stay with him, get him orientated and his questions answered. The buddy, he explained, even knows when the newcomer is in the bathroom and when he wakes up. The buddy wants to know where everything the newcomer has was obtained from or the newcomer might be labeled a thief. That, he said, could result in “having your nose broken or being kicked out of Synanon or having your nose broken and then kicked out of Synanon.”
He explained the difference of “in the game” and “on the floor,” obedience, act as if and showing “teeth and fuzz”. He spent the first one and half weeks at the Walker Creek working and then was taken to San Francisco to work three weeks on building rooms and booths for a print shop. After that he was switched back and forth depending upon the job from between Tomales Bay and the Strip. He had a good work ethic and was called a good Synanon person.
Synanon, Franklin said, had a definite chain of command. After Chuck came his daughter Jady followed by Dan Garrett. Then Chuck Jr., called the foreman of Tomales Bay. Another top executive he said was Rod Mullen. Steve Marks was the foreman of the Strip and Lou Delgado the same in San Francisco. At Walker Creek it was Bernie Kolb. A Dr., first name Doug—he couldn’t remember the last name—was head of security and was advised by Art Warfield. After that, he explained, rank largely depended upon years in Synanon and level of commitment.
He said added to the new Synanon philosophy was the idea of making examples of anyone who challenged Synanon by Synanon becoming a “mother- fucker.” He said all the executives have a game and it is put on the wire. That and Think Table is where everything is planned. They are taking on, he warned, a militant aggression with arms because they are paranoid of Time Magazine. Because the Examiner had supposedly infiltrated, and as they believed Time was far worse as it is a bigger corporation, they were paranoid that Time may hire professional killers. So they made a system to protect Chuck, surrounding him with bodyguards. At the Home Place even the cook wore a gun. Warfield and Dr. “Doug,” he said, always wore guns. He said they had three guard dogs. One they were training had bitten his previous master requiring seventeen stitches. “They constantly race back and forth around the property and… ah…God help whoever they find that has long hair.”
If you cross Synanon, he said, you might find some of your limbs broken. If you take them to court they will lie and make alibis for people. He explained how they used lookalikes in lineups. He saw them have people who looked similar to the suspects gain or lose weight to increase resemblance.
Synanon, he said, told residents if the people of Visalia ever got a hold of Synanon person by himself they would beat the holy shit out of him. Synanon’s attitude, he said, was we are Synanon and you can’t do anything to us but we can do everything we want to you.
Then Franklin gave them the most important information of all. What they really needed to know. “Back to this Militant aggression,” he said, “They’ve gone as far as the Imperial Marine training camp which is for about 18 people. There are two obstacle course like in the Navy, maybe a little better.” He offered to draw them a map pinpointing Depot Flats. Franklin told of the Marines training in marshal arts, pistols and rifles including automatic M-16’s. He said the rifles were maintained in a blue locker that was moved around to different locations by forklifts.
Franklin said the Time article didn’t even truly get into what they were really doing. He said, “They actually beat children. Knocking them down onto the floor, kicking them in the hips and side and pushing them around.” He said a child with a mental deficiency was slapped in the face whenever she said “no.” He saw one guy grab her by the breast and swing her around. Everyone, he said, was laughing while he toyed with the retarded girl.
He said if one is accused by a member with seniority the accused is not going to be believed. He also talked about them trying to acquire property in Mexico to use as an escape resort and for Dederich to experiment with marijuana as part of the international religion. By being in Mexico they could grow marijuana but also show they were a religion for the world and not just in the United States.
The early Synanon was based around rehab, he stated, but now it had well-off squares who joined because they didn’t have enough friends or were unhappy so they committed themselves to Synanon. They had most of the high positions. Franklin, at Det. Logan’s request, then explained Changing Partners.
While the interview was taking place, Dan Garrett contacted the department and asked that charges of theft be brought against Franklin for taking Synanon’s things. He said people who enter Synanon agree to forfeit their belongings and Synanon members had to fight with him to get back its items. Garrett refused to divulge the witnesses or location where this occurred, fearing it might lead to an assault arrest. To protect the cook and the woman he said the information was “up for negotiations.” The list of alleged stolen items included a box of Quaker Oats, a loaf of bread and a copy of the book The Tunnel Back. Dr. Mario Milch provided the retrieved stolen property to the sheriff.
District Attorney J. Powell on March 20, l978, the same deputy that had rejected any action concerning the Matlock incident, refused to file any charges against the cook or the woman saying it appeared to him to have been all just an incident between “relatively equal matched individuals in mutual combat.” He made no investigation into Franklin’s assertion that violence was now a Synanon philosophy trickling down a chain of command. He paid no attention to the story of what was happening in Depot Flats. It didn’t matter that the newspapers were full of stories of Synanon’s weapon purchase. Logan’s tape was put away in a closed file. It would remain there even when the next month the Marin County Grand Jury would raise concerns.
And so it continued. Thank you Jay Powell.
In February of 1978, Jeff Eidson got off a shot through his bedroom screen at a man in bib overalls darting out from behind his shed with a flashlight. A month later Jeff answered the phone and the caller identified himself as from Synanon and informed him that they still wanted their apology and if his father did not show up at 11 p.m. that night at the “chains required sign” below the M-Bar-J it would be fatal this time. For the next three nights deputy sheriffs lived at the Eidson ranch.
In February Dederich continued his threats at harm to Time Magazine holding it would force settlement and give the Foundation another public relations victory that would cause the media to fear criticizes it. It was done through the vehicle of a deposition—his own. As it had done against Hearst Synanon had Dederich a co-plaintiff so he could personally take ½ of any settlement without tax liability (personal injury recoveries are not taxable). To pull off this intimidation the Synanon legal department divided up with Howard Garfield alone representing Synanon and Dan Garrett representing co-Plaintiff Charles Dederich. Synanon then took its own deposition of the co-Plaintiff Charles Dederich. Time Magazine’s lawyers assumed it was a trap to force them to participate in a Dederich deposition before they had investigated and obtained sufficient knowledge from which to question him. California law does not allow more than one deposition of a party or witness without permission of the court. So to avoid the rule and claim the deposition a facade no one from Time showed up. They were mailed a copy, however, and therein Dederich stated the danger that because of the irresponsible actions of Time “innocent” people may be hurt. He repeated what he said to NBC’s Marlow that “ghastly” things could happen to the “families and friends of these clowns” through no fault of his or Synanon’s and warned:
“The sons and daughters and grandchildren of my contemporaries who occupy like positions similar to mine in Time Inc. can be plunged into grave danger, grave danger…The newspapers are full of all sorts of terrorist tactics never thinkable in my time. Every night there are stories of torture, kidnappings and things like that.
“I’m not a guy who initiates torture. I happen to be a very nonviolent man. I suppose it is because I’m a coward. I have never hit anybody in my life. Up to now I have never been hit. So, it’s just — – it’s almost inevitable progress that seems to be towards — – an inevitable progress toward some real ghastly situations in this country brought on directly (by the irresponsible Time Inc.)”
Synanon’s taking of the deposition of its own founder went against the general philosophy and beliefs of all attorneys that you never volunteer information and only respond to what has been lawfully specifically requested and to which a response is compelled. Eight months later this ploy by the Synanon legal staff would become a textbook example for that precept, as the ploy would prove to be one of the greatest blunders in jurisprudence history. (See Fall of Synanon 1)
To make the threats seem for real the Foundation directed residents to overwhelm Time editor in chief Hedley Donovan with mail and threats. The letters contained phrases such as “you’re going to pay,” “the sleeping giant may yet arise and kill you,” “you will learn the law of compensation,” “I will see you on your knees for the murders you have committed,” “Synanon has launched us into a ‘ Holy War’ and will unable us to unleash forces which were going to put a stop to Time, ” “Yours for an eye for an eye,” “…bring Time to its knees by any means necessary. This is only the beginning.”
Lance Kenton wrote “yours for the more complete elimination of people like you from positions of influence. In a case you have enough guts to reply, I have left my address. I along with hundreds of thousands of people who feel the same about Synanon, plan to see you reap you’re just compensation.”
In February Macyl Burke and Jack Harrison spread the word to ADGAP suppliers that they better support Synanon or risk losing its business if Synanon goes down. Skip Ferderber wrote to Sorkin that the Holy War “unites people in Synanon as other battled in the days that built Synanon.” Three more lawyers and two investigators were added to staff, residents began volunteering to work for Legal and Time-Killers researched for other articles by Time critical of new religions. Howard Garfield began the War of depositions starting with Donovan.
In PR releases Synanon blamed Time for the KGO coverage and called Van Amburg an entertainer posing as a newsman. ABC, it said, was on “a hate-filled and slanderous crusade against Synanon.”
On February 27 Doug Robson wrote as they train more people to use fire arms he expected weapon errors will happen. Some people had already left their weapons in public places. On March 21, Sheriff Montanos reserve deputy, Buddy Jones became an armed CED bodyguard. Kenton and Musico were put in charge of dog training at the Strip. Marine Jack Miller was put in charge of Holy War scheduling and coordination. Pete Hyman became the head of the Northern Division Security Department.
March 20, 1978. Tomales Bay:
Tom Cardineau, a factory worker in Coram, New York, had been married for just 24 hours when he arrived at San Francisco International Airport on March 19, 1978 with his new wife Donna. They rented a red Toyota Liftback from Budget Rent-A-Car. The plan was to drive up to Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino, to see the wine country. He decided along the way it would be nice to stop at the Synanon Walker Creek Ranch and show his wife where he and his twin brother, Warren, had been rehabilitated.
Cardineau had been addicted to heroin and was not having great success as a patient on the Methadone Maintenance Program so he entered Synanon in November of 1971. At the time he had gone there for help he did not know that new residents would be taught to adopt a belief they had to remain for life. But once in he was continually told he could not make it outside Synanon and if he left he would become addicted again. He wasn’t sure if it was true or not but it caused him to remain for four years. By September of 1975 he was disillusioned with the switch in emphasis from rehabilitation to a lifestyle with demands for obedience. Nor was he happy with the rules on aerobics and head shaving that were being called a religious discipline to which one had to conform to or leave. Not only did he feel Synanon was becoming a cult, people there were calling it just that. He also observed obsessions with security and the roots of violence. He became so unhappy that he decided he had to leave. He felt even falling through the open manhole was better than living the rest of his life in Synanon. He would take his chances. He left with his brother and a friend without telling anyone. Afterwards he sought help on the outside and he did make it. He never regretted leaving Synanon but it had also been his start to his new life and he wanted to show the place to Donna. He knew splittees were not welcome in Synanon so he did not plan to stop. He believed the road bisecting the Walker Creek property off the Marshal- Petaluma Road was public access so he thought he would just drive-through and point out buildings on both sides.
What he didn’t know was the now full-blown Holy War and, as Schein had once predicted long ago, the constant paranoid Wire talk of evil conspiracies and spies who would come, as the Hearst Corp. had once sent, were consuming the community.
At 10:30 a.m. he turned passed the Synanon sign that said, “No Trespassing, Private Property.” The sign had been there when he was a resident. He drove passed the Walker One Settlement, the first group of buildings, which included the pole barns. They went past the Town Hall, than by a small cluster of buildings used for housing and a bath house. They could see the small creek that ran by the housing units and the Trade Center which contained a sheet metal shop, carpentry shop, electrical and plumbing shop. Approximately three-quarters of a mile in they approached one of the sewage treatment plants when a green Dodge jitney pulled behind the rented car with its horn blowing. Cardineau made a turn around at the sewage plant and stopped by it. He recognized the black man getting out of the jitney as Phil Black. After approaching Cardineau’s vehicle Black asked Cardineau what his business was at Synanon. Cardineau said they were just looking around and Black said this was private property and they must leave. He hesitated, looked at Cardineau and said, “Wait a minute didn’t you used to live here?” Cardineau said he did and Black responded, “You fucking splittee scum bag.”
Cardineau should not have been surprised at the comment and thus not offended, but his wife was there and he said back, “fuck you.” Black told him to leave and Cardineau said he was going and took off towards the exit. He saw the jitney was following behind him, its horn again honking. Further down the road he perceived more vehicles were following in behind. Black attempted to pass Cardineau on the shoulder but Cardineau sped up and avoided it. He was by the pole barns, almost off the Synanon property, when Black on his second attempt successfully passed and stopped to block the exit. Another jitney then stopped behind Cardineau.
Black opened the Toyota door and tried to pull Cardineau out. As others had done before, Cardineau resisted by trying to hang on to the steering wheel. A male reached in and took the keys. With the assistance of several other residents Cardineau was pulled out and thrown to the ground. He was ordered to spread his arms out wide face down on the road while he was searched thoroughly. Donna got out but was ordered to get back in the car. Then she was given the keys and told to move the car to the side of the road. After she did so, the keys were taken back. On the road, Cardineau stirred and said, “Donna are you all right?” He was told, “Shut up and get your face back down on the road.” When Donna answered she was okay, Cardineau complied with the instruction.
Chris Benton, who then worked at the school and who had known Cardineau, told him, “We are armed… We have a Doberman who is being sent over here that will tear you apart if you make a false move.” Others joined in with anecdotes about how vicious this dog was. Harvey Litwin said the dog was trained to kill and patrol the property at night. It would not attack an intruder, however, unless told to do so by its handler, Barry Levine. Then it would rip the intruder apart. The dog, according to Bernie Kolb, belonged to Ron Cook. After about a half-hour, Harvey Litwin, who worked at the Automotive Training Center, handcuffed Cardineau.
A few people walked by observing, some laughing. From the ground Cardineau tried to explain they were just there on their honeymoon and wanted to see the property. They would, he said, gladly leave. He asked for someone to please remove the handcuffs but was ignored. Litwin contacted residents and reserve deputy sheriffs Art Warfield and Buddy Jones by CB. They instructed nothing was to be done until they arrived. When they showed up they commented to Cardineau they had been bored until now and were happy to have things livened up. In a serious tone they asked Cardineau why he had come back, what was the matter with him? Warfield then told the others that he and Jones, because of their sheriff positions, had been instructed not be involved and Cardineau would have to be taken elsewhere. Dr. Robson wanted him beaten after he was interviewed.
On Dr. Robson’s orders Cardineau was lifted to his feet and placed in the rear of a Toyota pickup truck which was enclosed by a home made plywood cabin. For company was the Doberman and its handler, Barry Levine. Donna was crying and Bernie Kolb tried to calm her down. Cardineau was transported to the Trade Center deep into Synanon property. He was taken upstairs to the factory office with small desks and a small cluster of chairs designed for school children. To the left was a small coffee set-up. The tables were moved to the side and Cardineau, still handcuffed, was sat in a chair. For about half an hour he was left alone in the room with the Doberman sitting in the corner staring at him. At times, Levine came into the room and stood by the dog. Approximately eight people passed in and out of the room. Cardineau recognized Bernie Kolb. A tape recorder was set up for the interrogation. Cardineau was asked what former Synanon members had he been in touch with in New York. They wanted to know who knew he was coming to California and most importantly who sent him to spy on Synanon.
Cardineau was asked if he was in the employ of Time Magazine or if he had been sent there to assassinate Chuck Dederich. He denied both, said he was worried that his wife was frightened and repeated over and over that he was “not a spy.” He was told he was lying and then Black and Benton both delivered punches to his face, knocking him backwards. In another room Kolb heard Warfield on the telephone asking for directions. Finally, Warfield said, “We will take care of it”. Warfield told Kolb to stay out of it due to his hernia operation. He told the others to take Cardineau to the Pole Barn and beat him bad enough so that others in New York will know better than to come out. Benton was uneasy and wanted to no on what authority they were going to do this. The orders, Warfield replied, were from the Board and not to be questioned.
Benton told Cardineau they were going to release him. They took him outside and put him in the back of Black’s jitney. Benton got in with him and he was driven back to Pole Barn I near the Synanon entrance. There were two pole barns facing each other. They were open barns, three walls only, the opened sides facing each other with a roadway existing between them. The barn to the left stored lumber and building materials and the one to the right was an auto body and painting shop and a motorcycle repair shop. A canvas enclosed one section near the end. It was there Cardineau was taken. Instruction was given to make sure no one else came around the area. Cardineau was made to face the canvas paint area, his back to the open space. Benton removed the handcuffs and then punched Cardineau in the side of the face knocking him down. Benton, Black, Litwin and Floyd Egan punched and kicked Cardineau in the face, stomach and kidneys. A club pounded his hands and feet. Cardineau was conscious, but dazed, as he was carried out and taken back to his car.
Donna had remained in the Toyota guarded by two men. Jady’s husband, Ken Schiff, and Bernie Kolb talked to her nicely and told her there was nothing to worry about. Jones and Warfield questioned her about how she knew so much about Synanon, where she was staying, where did she live and how they got the money to come there. A teacher with children walked up and asked her name. Donna was shocked over an hour later when she saw her husband dragged back, blood all over his face and on his shirt. He was so limp for a moment she thought he had broken arms. The men put him in the car and told him to tell everybody in New York they were not fooling around and to keep away. They threw his wallet into the Toyota. Donna started the car and drove onto the Marshal Petaluma Road towards Novato with a Synanon vehicle driven by Schiff following close behind. When she turned onto the Wilson Hill Road she no longer saw any Synanon vehicles.
They stopped at a gas station and were informed there was no Police Department in Novato. They would have to get in touch with the sheriff’s office but none existed in Novato either. They headed down the 101 to San Rafael and spotted two highway patrolmen alongside the Road. They stopped and told the deputies what had happened. Proof of the tale was visible. Cardineau’s lips were swollen, the left upper lip split. One eye was blackened and badly swollen. There were bruises on the top and both sides of his head, both jaws and both temples were swollen. His right ear was swollen and the color blue. There were one square inch abrasions on his swollen right wrist. No deputies were available to come out to take a report so the Cardineaus headed to the sheriff’s department at the Civic Center in San Rafael. Afterwards Donna drove her husband to the Marin County general hospital where x-rays were taken of his head and ribs. Slight kidney damage was detected and blood was in his urine. Some head injury, but not likely serious, was detected. His stomach was sore and his back painful and swollen, covered with several abrasions. The same was true of the left side of his upper chest. By the next day the left side of his face was extremely swollen and he had severe headaches, for which he was given medication.
Kolb attended the Synanon tape-recorded debriefing set up by Walker Creek director Julian Kaiser. Black, Benton and Egan spoke of the beating. Kaiser complained he should have been beaten when first spotted, a criticism that would be repeated by others on the Wire. The debriefing tape was sent to legal and a game was set up just for the participants. Attorney David Benjamin told Kolb to keep his mouth shut. Jady on the Wire said some people had taken action and this was how they should respond to traitors and splittees on their property. Benton in games began to show some remorse. He had questioned Warfield as to the authority for the beating beforehand. In and out of a game he told Kolb he wasn’t sure Synanon should be doing these things.
Sgt. Riddell contacted Phil Bourdette to arrange to speak to the suspects. The lawyer advised they would be produced but advised to exercise their right to remain silent. Riddell filed a report recommending kidnapping and assault with deadly weapon charges. Bourdette called the District Attorney assigned to the case, Mike Gridley, and found him more lenient. Gridley said he would file false imprisonment charges but not kidnapping and was willing to recognize there might be another side to the story.
On April 1, the Board of Directors discussed the Cardineau incident. In attendance were Jady, Dede, Cook, Garrett, Missakian and Dibble. Jady mentioned that Chris Benton wanted to talk about it in a game to get his feelings out. She noted he had an aggressive attitude about doing it again, was fine with it and prepared to go to jail for Synanon. Jady noted there had not been a game about this incident and without that we cannot “critique these things and improve on them. This one was not handled properly. The guys involved then began to think they had done something wrong and our aggressive posture wanes and they hesitate the next time. We have to keep being aggressive.”
The board also again discussed that they do not call the police. They had stopped this altogether. The only time to call them is “after we have taken our aggressive stand and then report it so it becomes a matter of record. Synanon is being attacked.” It was noted Art Warfield and Buddy Jones should not have been involved as now Montanos has asked for their badges. The question was raised if Synanon wanted to defend their guys each time these incidents happened as the legal department was “strangling and maybe we can’t afford to.” Cook said they have to defend their guys and have to get the word out that Synanon people are crazy and “if we get the word out properly, people will stop coming on our property.”
The decision was made that these incidents must be gamed, the participants allowed to talk about it to so they can put the information out so “we can improve on them and do them properly.”
The board also referred to a TV reporter who got on the property to ask negative questions. The media was attacking Synanon and it was so bad Chuck cannot come home. The minutes stated that the reporter should have been set down, explained what was wanted from him, and if he didn’t agree the residents should have “smashed his camera and thrown him out.”
On April 5, l978 felony charges were filed against Black, Litwin, Benton and Egan for false imprisonment and battery. To publicly illustrate it would not condone such action Synanon announced it would not provide the four lawyers. This actually upset the county more as the taxpayers would have to foot the bill for four defense lawyers and Synanon was not even a taxpayer. They ended up being allowed to plead to misdemeanor charges and received probation. .
Despite the publicity the Cardineau beating received and its similarity, the police in San Francisco never reconsidered that Kim Meyers might have been telling the truth.
Sheriffs Captain Sid Stinson said Cardineau was “pretty well beaten up.” Jones and Warfield were suspended from Chief Montanos Marin sheriffs department. Despite public demand for their badges Montanos refused to outright dismiss them.
Felony charges were filed on April 5. The Cardineau defendants were eventually allowed to plead to misdemeanor assault charges and sentenced to probation with 130 hours community service at a fire station. One had to pay a small fine. Synanon members could read the message the courts in Marin were delivering. You could do a caper, be a Synanon hero, and the sentence will probably be nothing.
Jones and Warfield visited Cardineau in New York and warned him about taking legal action himself. Cardineau never filed suit nor cooperated in any legal actions adverse to Synanon.
On April 6 Robson wrote that if Synanon maintains its current aggressive posture, “we will want to have a core group of people who are fully trained, tested and competent in confrontations, fire and medical emergencies. This core group to be used several ways in crisis situations…The special forces people have increased competence over the past few months. They ought to be able to improve further with staffing training courses at the Strip.”
The wire talk all through l978 centered on enemies, ten to twelve hours a day, eerily reminiscent of Orwell’s l984. The enemy list would change with additions of Time Magazine staff, various newscasters and Department of Health officials. The only constant, splittees would report, was the number one position. That never changed. I, alone, owned it. Eventually, Dederich would talk about me daily, what one splittee called, “a drum beat.” Dederich wanted to know why he was surrounded by a bunch of cowards who were living off the fat of the land. Someone should do something about me physically. Sorkin, the bravado DJ, picked up the cry on the Wire and soon it was mimicked in game talk.
On April 20 between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. at the Golden Gate Bridge, along Interstate 80 in Emeryville and atop the 23rd street overpass on the Bayshore freeway Synanon residents held up announcements of a protest rally to be held that afternoon at Embarcadero Plaza . As a result of driver rubber necking traffic backed up 5 miles for commuters. By 10:30 a crowd of 900 had gathered at Embarcadero Plaza to march along Market Street and back handing out leaflets and carrying anti-Time and KGO signs. The Synanon jazz band played while residents in overalls with shaved heads danced the hoopla during a day-long demonstration. Also participating in support were United Farm Workers, Black Muslims and the Church of Scientology.
In New York another rally was held with 350 marchers going down 5th avenue to the Time-Life Building. Joining Synanon were various ADGAP suppliers, Daytop and United Farm Workers. SCRAM carried American flags and giant “Wanted posters” for “libel and religious persecution” containing photos of Donovan, Time Chairman Andrew Heiskell and President James R. Shepley. Speeches were given from the back of a flatbed truck. Ted Dibble with a megaphone screamed the people responsible are going to “die” and then led crowd chants of “Boycott Time.” A SCRAM bulletin quoted Dederich stating they were putting down an irresponsible rebellion by making people responsible for their acts. “We,” he said in almost Pres. Bush tones, “not they, are the true Americans.” It asked people to write in protest letters and cancel all subscriptions to Time, Fortune, Money, People and Sports Illustrated, sending all refund money to SCRAM.
Synanon was proud of the efforts but it was another example of their growing inability to see themselves as others did. The images just further planted in the public the concept of a cult gone off in its own strange way.
In the spring it seemed Synanon’s actions were not only sending me Splittee/witnesses but allies as well: The Marin Grand jury, ABC, and Time magazine, CBS’s Connie Chung and Dave Mitchell who’s reporting on Synanon would win a Pulitzer Prize. Not to be left out, NBC joined next. Producer Pat Lynch was putting together a Segment 3 broadcast (a special shown over three nights on NBC news) on Synanon. I chose not to be interviewed so Synanon could not claim the show was just the result of my vendetta. So I limited myself to pointing out where she should look. Eventually she went one afternoon on May 2 at about 3:40 p.m. to interview Herb Cabral, Jr. and while on the Gambonini ranch access road she found her crew and van blocked by 10 Synanon vehicles, each with car hoods up as if each was stalled. One resident called it a strange coincidence, comparing it to the Bermuda triangle. After 25 minutes of siege the NBC crew escaped by driving off the road across the pasture and towards the Gambonini ranch. Alvin had witnessed the whole thing and had already called the sheriff. The crew later returned with Gambonini and this time were met by 50 Synanon demonstrating residents, including small children shrieking and holding SCRAM signs and one man prancing around in a gorilla suit. When questioned about the demonstration he shrugged and said, “I’m just a gorilla.”
Then on May 8 George Sinatro of Petaluma reported Synanon members had tried to get him and his brother to change testimony already given as to what they had witnessed. Sinatro reported it in case some action was later taken towards his property or family.
The next day Howard Garfield appeared before the Marin supervisors saying he was a Synanon attorney and “minister of the Synanon religion.” He claimed Synanon was being victimized by the “entertainment the media,” ‘politicians’ and “roving bands of hoodlums.” He stated his Synanon abhors violence and the weapons were only for recreation, sports and self-defense. Garfield hailed sheriff Montanos for his “integrity” but said since 1973 Synanon residents were facing a rising tide of terrorism. He also claimed that the district attorney Bruce Bales had suggested they develop their own security force after the Hearst-related burglary of tapes. He added they would defend their wives and children if it became necessary. As to claimed reports of child abuse he said it was a “witch hunt” and he saw no problem with having kids they try to handle “knocked on their can.” Garfield also mentioned that in 10 years the population could grow to 3000 residents. He said there were two airplanes (a Cessna and Piper) and 14 boats in Marin including a 40-foot Gov’t surplus craft. The real issue is not Synanon, Garfield said, but everyone’s prejudice towards their religious practices.
When he was finished Supervisor Roumiguirre told Garfield he sounded to him as if he had a “persecution complex.” Garfield’s retort was a denial but his words only gave the supervisors greater concern. He called the comments “insulting remarks,” and said, “ If you’re asking me to stand here and be insulted…Its impertinent… I don’t have to be insulted. I do not have a persecution complex.” Barbara Boxer then backed her fellow supervisor telling Garfield she thought he had a “bitter view of life.” She noted his use of terms such as “terrorism” “roving hoodlums” “audacious lies”. Then she said there was a conflict as to what Synanon says and what it does.
When Garfield finished local residents came up and told stories of Synanon harassing them on the road. Irvin Jensen of Tomales told of how 80 residents had harassed his son for mistakenly believing he had tried to force a resident off the road. The speakers said more people would like to come and complain, but they are intimidated.
The same month Synanon resident Mary Inskip listened to Joe Musico talk in a game about how he would kill to protect the founder.
In felony cases a preliminary hearing is first held in the Municipal Court to determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant a trial. On May 17, 1978 at the conclusion of the preliminary hearing Municipal Court Judge Gary W. Thomas reduced the felony charges against the four residents charged with beating Tom Cardineau to misdemeanors accepting the argument Cardineau was not detained with violence and his subsequent medical treatment was not on-going. The judge apparently did not feel being handcuffed on the ground, guarded by an attack dog, worked over by four men or comments of a deputy Sheriff that Cardineau’s injuries appeared severe and sufficient. The issue of whether or not the beating could have been directed by Synanon management was never raised in the proceeding or investigated. All defendants would later plead guilty to the misdemeanor charges and receive straight probate probation with Community service requirements. No one went to jail. The law enforcement/judicial pattern, or lack thereof, continued and it would almost cost me my life.
While the light sentence was handed out, in New York something else was happening. Carrying out an idea that Dan Garrett and Dederich came up with about a year earlier, Synanon purchased stock in ABC, who had earlier done an unflatterng story of Synanon’s gun purchases, and then had residents attend ABC’s stockholder meeting. Sid Finkelstein told the Board that the “filthy, irresponsible attacks by KGO” had caused an “irrational rage” in Synanon residents and that a “lion was now loose in the streets.” If anything were to happen to any of them, he said, they would only have themselves to blame. He mentioned his father had been in Murders, Inc. Matt Rand asked Chairman Leonard H. Goldenson if the company employed security guards at his home or at the home of ABC President Elton H. Rule or whether the company protected their wives that he mentioned by name. A hush went over the room.
ABC announced afterwards it was taking security precautions. It also instructed its lawyers defending the libel suit, Lillick, Mchose & Charles, not to be concerned with expense and to go after them.
Michelle Albano, Sid Finkelstein, Russ Munford, Chris Reynolds and Matt Rand likewise descended on the Time stockholder meeting. Ms. Albano inquired as to what type of security the executives had, whether their families are protected 24-hours a day and if there was any existing paranoia or fear. Reynolds inquired if Time ever used the services of Research West which he called a “spy” group that had done work for the Hearst Corporation. Mumford asked if it was true that Time, before publishing, had set aside $500,000 for anticipated legal expenses. He also predicted as Nixon fell by Watergate, Time will be the first major corporation to go out of business for similar reasons. Finkelstein addressed Chairman Heiskell saying, “Now, I happen to know for a fact, you know, that years ago your wife deserted you…
Synanon meanwhile was in Washington, D.C., purchasing the Boston house at 1711 Massachusetts NW, a 270 unit apartment building five blocks from the White House in order to set up its Distribution Network operations in the nation ‘s capital and to get close to President Jimmy Carter, renaming the building the Embassy. Already Synanon had obtained White House influence through the President’s sister and his advisor Dr. Peter Bourne, a fan of the New Age Movements, who also was trying to bring Werner Erhard and est to White House. Bourne had extended Synanon an invitation to Washington in April.
While the Big Shots were there, NBC’s Nightly News Segment 3 on Synanon was broadcast. The show told of Synanon’s transformation to a cradle-to-grave society, its wealth, rules, changing partners, fears of splittees, weapon purchases and growing violence. It even told of our rescue of Ms. White’s grandchildren (see Escape from Synanon 3). Dederich patched into the Dan Sorkin show on the Wire and made another Battle Cry speech. He said he wanted to organize the Sikhs, the UFW, the Unification Church and Scientology, giving them all space in their Washington Embassy. Synanon sent letters to NBC, ABC, Time and the Hearst Corporation accusing them of McCarthyism and advised an antitrust and conspiracy suit would be filed against all of them. Copies were sent to President Carter, Vice President Mondale and all justices of the Supreme Court.
Synanon applied its usual tactics with the existing Boston House tenants, first offering them money ($800 by May 15, $400 by June 1) to leave early then making a lot of noise and actions to make them uncomfortable and want to leave. While the sale would not be completed until January, in May Synanon residents began occupying the 70 apartments on the six and seventh floors, took over the security desk, had meeting in the lobby, prohibited use of the parking lot, removed the gray “Boston House” insignia from the entrance, kept the door unlocked and had loud games at night. Some tenants told the media they did not want to move but they were afraid. B & R Movers claimed they alone had moved 10 occupants in the last few weeks. Tenant Arthur Grellis , an aide to Senator Adlai Stevenson, complained and one day in the elevator a Synanon man told him to be polite, not make any noise and comply or he would get his “teeth and head bashed in.” When the elevator reached the basement and a shaken Grellis got out the man said to his fellow Synanite, “See how quiet they become would you show a little force.”
The charges of tenant harassment, setting up offices out of zone, not letting building inspectors inspect, actions by the Board of Zoning scheduling hearings, the broadcast of NBC’s Segment 3, news of Synanon’s gun purchases and the threats to ABC and Time magazine executives during their stockholder meetings kept the media outside the Boston House around-the-clock. It ended when Douglas Chevalier tried to photograph Dederich leaving the building. According to two police officer witnesses Garfield grabbed at him and Dederich chased him down the street with a cane. Even though Chevalier said he did not want to press charges arrest warrants issued for Dederich and. Garfield. A Synanon spokesman said Chevalier tripped and fell against a bush while Dederich tried to walk around him. Synanon was abandoning the Boston House because the “Nation’s capital is not a fit place for religious freedom..” They would, he said, file complaints against everyone “in sight.”
Rather than surrendering on the warrants, Dederich and his Big Shots fled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where they began negotiations to buy for $190,000 the Raymond Redding 167-acre farm with a pre-Civil War 10-room brick house just a quarter of a mile of Nation Park land from the Dwight D. Eisenhower farm and historic site where the late President’s widow, Mamie Eisenhower, lives. Ed Siegel wrote letter to all senators and congressmen saying Synanon was leaving as Washington D.C. was not “a fit place…to pursue Constitutional guaranteed rights.”
Dederich and his entourage moved on to Bermuda and then Europe settling in Formia, Italy. There they worked on setting up European Synanon branches. A million dollars was deposited in a bank account in Liechtenstein without reporting it to customs in violation of Federal law. Dederich had his followers try to arrange a meeting with the Pope but Dederich was rebuffed. Then Dederich did something he had not done in 20 years. He took a drink of alcohol, then another, and then went past the money. He got drunk every night and invited the Big Shots to join him.
Word of the drinking got back to Synanon and soon, after many years of abstinence, the parties began and the booze poured.
On June 20, l978, at 11:26 p.m. a woman telephoned Synanon to say a bomb would go off in the Stew Temple at midnight. The building was evacuated and a search by residents and sheriff deputies turned up no bomb.
On July 10 Doug Cameron filed his report on the Investigation of Paul Morantz. It listed my address, my prior address and my brother’s address, plus my vehicle make, model and license number. It revealed I was a journalism major at USC and after law school became a public defender. It discussed my nursing home case where I uncovered a conspiracy to kidnap skid row alcoholics who were then sold to nursing homes who could the bill MediCal and quoted John Lautemann, an attorney on that case, as saying I did all the investigative work myself; that I was a good investigator but get too personally involved. Morantz, Lautemann was quoted, believes what he is doing is right. Lautemann said I also had law enforcement and the L.A. Times in my corner. Cameron picked up that my close ties to Narda Zucchino were established during the nursing home cases. He provided a copy of the article I wrote in West Magazine on David Vinje, a public defender murdered in a bar room hold-up.
David Benjamin then gave details on the Wire in a taped speech called “Good news re Morantz.”
After I obtained the $300,000 verdict in August for the Raines, Dederich called in to the wire from Europe and said when are one of you punks going to do something about Paul Morantz?
Garfield left Europe early very upset. When the subject of violence had came up in a game, Dederich said there wasn’t any and asked Garfield to back him. When Garfield said Dederich knows that statement is not true Dederich asked him to leave the game. He did more that that. He left Synanon.
In July Mary Inskip who had listened to Musico’s murder fantasies in games split . She would come forward later to say in those last months the wire reeked with “Enemy, enemy…Morantz, Pat Lynch, Van Amburg, Narda Zucchino…Why doesn’t someone take care of our enemies? When are you cowards going to do something? It was like a drumbeat…you can’t help but begin to believe it.” Another said in the game the talk was “if you want to do something for Synanon, if you are concerned with protecting your home and families, go out to L.A. and get Morantz. Just don’t tell us who you are or what you did.”
After getting the judgment in the Raines case I relaxed a bit. At the moment I had no Synanon case and considered taking no further action concerning them; to let it all perhaps finally pass. Maybe then I could get my fiance and her kids back. Then I got a call from an attorney in the Marin County Counsel office. He explained to me that a longtime supporter, State Assemblyman Herschel Rosenthal, had a bill in the Legislature that was designed to exempt Synanon from any licensing by the Department of Health. As it was attached to another bill as a rider it had gone unnoticed and unopposed, clearing the assembly and passing every committee in the Senate except for one, the Judicial Committee for which now was upcoming for vote. If it passed, only a governor’s veto could prevent it from becoming law. The attorney explained that because Synanon was in its jurisdiction the Board of Supervisors—including now Congresswoman Barbara Baxter and Diane Fienstein– felt it was politically unadvisable for itself to lobby against the bill. The attorney wanted me to do it for them.
I took the news to Don Cohen and other attorneys at my office. It was their view that I should do nothing. Cohen said, “If they are thinking of getting you defeating this bill… which they perceived as necessary to their survival… may very well be the final act that pushes.”
I spent some time thinking about it. But doing so was really a waste of time. Davy Crockett was there whispering be sure you are right. Serpico. Everything I had done to this point was at stake. Winning the Raines case, notifying the Department of Health that Synanon was taking in people for whose care a license was required, notifying agencies of child abuse, could all be for naught. The passage of such a bill could undo all that I had accomplished and what’s more it could lead to others suffering as did Terri Raines and other children. I was angry almost beyond control at Rosenthal, the type of politician that does favors without any real investigation of the merits of what he is asked to do. I obtained a lists of the legislators on the Judicial Committee. I mailed off packages of documents to each and by telephone I contacted aids for each. Where I was allowed I spoke directly to the Committee member. I booked passage to Sacramento but canceled, as I believed I had enough assurances the day before the vote that it would not pass. I decided then it would be safer to remain non-visible and hope Synanon never realized my role. That decision almost backfired as the bill was only defeated by one vote.
Several key Synanon splittees would testify five years later in l983 that ever since their encampment the Imperial Marines had prepared a “hit list” of enemies to be attacked taken from Think Table and the Wire. The list, according to the testimony, was reviewed and approved by Walter Lewbel. By the fall of 1978, several testified, I was at the top of the list followed by Phil Ritter, Jack Hurst, Bill Crawford, Mike Garrett, Jack Toulchin, Dan Ross and Bobby Kohl.
These witnesses also testified as to what happened when Dederich returned to Synanon from Europe. One testified that Art Warfield directed Joe Musico to find a professional assassin to kill me. Musico, according to one witness, contacted splittee Chuck Jolley in New York who told Musico the “job” could be done for $10,000. Synanon Executives, the witness declared, vetoed the idea as too expensive.
I can imagine Dederich crying out, “Why should I spend that money; that’s what I trained Marines for.” Ironically, the Old Man’s cheapness saved my life.
The witnesses testified that on August 28, l978 a four-hour game was held at the Home Place and broadcasted over the Wire and tape-recorded. Therein Dederich gave an impassioned speech about the lawyers who were draining their life-blood. If someone sues Synanon they should go after the lawyer. If they did this there would be no more suits. Dederich looked over at Percy Tickles and screamed he was no good for nothing. Tickles life pre-Synanon had taught him what to do and he should go out and get “Paul Morantz.” When the game was over, the witnesses testified in l983, Dan Garrett asked to take possession of the tape and logs personally.
A week later, per the witnesses future testimony, the Board held a game attended by Dederich, Ginny, Dede, Jady, her husband Larry Akey, Garrett, Sorkin, Cook, Burke, Lewbel and Dr. Hecht. Howard Garfield announced he was leaving Synanon because he did not want to be part of the illegal activities being planned and then left the game with his CP wife Liza. As if to explain what was bothering Garfield, Dederich stated that there had been a lot of conversation in Formia about enemies. Dederich and Garrett, according to the witnesses, said they had telephoned from Formia to Macyl Burke and Lou Delgado directing that these creeps be taken care of but nothing had been done. Dederich said now it would be done and that as usual he would have to get things done himself. He said he wanted attorney Paul Morantz “taken care of” and Phil Ritter, who was trying to get his child out of Synanon, “taken care of.”
According to the witnesses, Ron Cook said in Formia they all had discussed Synanon’s violent posture and how they were going to take the law into their own hands. Jady complained this type of talk should not go on as it could get her father in trouble. At this juncture, said the witnesses, Dederich and his wife Ginny left the game and Walter Lewbel instructed the tape recorder be turned off. He took possession of the tapes and logs. One witness who testified in l983 stated she stopped monitoring the game at 1 a.m. and went to another room. At 3 a.m. she testified she heard Pam Cook, as she was leaving the game, say “I can do this, I am as good as any man.” Two days later, Kathy Gomez told one of the witnesses that some of the conversations in Formia were about how to get rid of bodies placed in plastic bags.
Dederich left California for Lake Havesu where Synanon was building a private corporation to suck the assets out of non-profit Synanon and into their pockets.
In August Norma Fisher was in a game when someone said he wished he could go out and hurt me. She had heard conversations about me over a 100 times. Later she had dinner in Los Angeles with legal investigators and Chris Reynolds and Chris Haberman. When her first love match didn’t work out during Changing Partners, Reynold’s wife had called her and offered Haberman. She brought up the game talk of getting me and other enemies. Haberman responded saying if that’s the way someone feels then he should just go do it. Reynolds said he knew I lived in Pacific Palisades and that he had driven by my house. Fisher left Synanon by the end of the month. She had come to be cured of dope in l973 but she had tired of the talk of sacrifice. She didn’t want to be a revolutionary any longer. She hadn’t plan to join another version of the SLA.
In September of l978 Lisa Wehmeyer became upset after listening to Musico talk about the violence he was instructed to participate in. Musico even said it was becoming too much. Kolb told her to be quiet as what they were doing was protecting Synanon from the “conspiracy.”
On September 19, l978 I put on the Raines case and Judge Raymond Choate, calling Synanon’s actions outrageous, awarded the Raines compensatory and punitive damages totaling $300,000. Returning to the office I realized I no longer had any Synanon cases. It could be all over and maybe I could return to a normal life. I thought more about getting my fiance back. She had left over my obsessiveness. But this feeling would only last two days.
September 21, l978. Berkeley:
On September 21, 1978 Bernie Kolb was surprised by two visitors in San Francisco facility, Marines Job Musico and Wendell Stamps. Musico said they were on “vacation.”
Later that day, 17 year-old Lance Boyd was outside playing with some friends on Spaulding, a Berkeley street where thirty four-year-old splittee Phil Ritter lived. Boyd observed a red Toyota Celica, approximate vintage 1972, drive around the block two times, eventually parking south of Bancroft and Spaulding. While the engine was off, Boyd thought the occupants looked like they were ready to drive away at a moment’s notice. He observed the driver kept his gloved hands on the steering wheel and that both occupants, young white males in their twenties and wore similar brown leather coats and mirrored sunglasses. Boyd studied them because he thought they looked suspicious and were “bad actors.”
Phil Ritter arrived home at about 5:30 p.m. At that moment Synanon, where he had lived for eight years and was Director of Transportation, was not so much on his mind as was the idea of relaxation and the concerns he had as a member of Greenpeace, environmentalist associations and anti-nuclear arms groups. It had been over a year and a half since he had left Synanon and gone to the police to try to get them to stop the forced mass vasectomies only to be told by law-enforcement they could do nothing concerning consenting adults. He had written a letter to Dederich saying his forced sterilization program was destroying Synanon and forcing him to leave the woman and home he loved and hoped Dederich would come to his senses allowing him to return. There had been no response and since he and fellow splittee Sylvia Heath, who had been a source for the Time Magazine article several months ago, both had attempted to launch investigations by authorities into Synanon.
His recent problems with Synanon were more personal. He finally had won custody of his three-year old daughter but recently his ex-wife, Marilyn, and her new lover, Wire operator Irv Goldworm, two weeks ago had picked the child up at the nursery school and disappeared with her. They had allegedly left Synanon a month ago. Unknown to Ritter they took the child to Tomales Bay and then to (Detroit) Synanon safe house in Minnesota where Irv got employment as a taxi cab driver. What Ritter also had not known was that he had been a recent Wire topic, Charles Dederich stating that anyone, like Phil Ritter, who tries to take a child away from the Synanon school and a Synanon mother should be taught a lesson. They ought to “break the knees” of one of these “assholes.” Garret then broadcasted that they would not put up with Synanon children being removed from their mothers.2
Scarlett Carp was sitting in the living room of the Ritter home and saw Ritter through the picture window pull up into the driveway in his VW bus. Then she saw a red Toyota stop in front of the house and a man appearing to be in his 20’s with short dark hair exit. As Ritter headed towards the door he heard sounds of footsteps behind him. When he looked back he saw a man standing over him with something in his hand, an object he could not make out. What he would remember was the man raising his arm, an object held, and then suddenly repeatedly struck on the head. Initially Ritter attempted to fight back and yelled for help. Then he fell.
Carp heard the screams from the bushes on the driveway and ran out. Neighbor Charles Doggett also heard the screams and ran outside. The assailant was swinging an object to the head of his fallen victim without mercy but with the arrival of witnesses he fled back to the Toyota. Doggett jumped into his own car and chased the Toyota down Spaulding, south on Sacto but lost the Toyota when it sped through a red light at Dwight Way. Doggett said the passenger took off gloves and attempted to duck down under his seat. He could see that both culprits had military style haircuts.
After Ritter was taken to Alto Bates Hospital, his roommate, splittee Gerri Straatemeier, found his wallet in the bushes with nothing removed including the $30 in cash and three credit cards.
The police checked in on the safety of Sylvia Heath later that evening. They ran the license number of the Toyota taken by the witnesses but it came back as nonexistant. The license plate had either been altered or taken from a vehicle other than a Toyota. Detective Bud Stone drove by Synanon San Francisco facility to see if he could spot the red Toyota Celica but had no luck.
At the hospital Ritter could barely talk to the police. The right side of his face was completely blackened and doctors told him not to move and only to talk briefly. In a couple of days Ritter developed meningitis due to the blows to his head and was in a semi coma. His physician, Dr. Nagel, on September 26 informed the police and Ritter’s family that Phil might die. By the next day he had improved, but remained on the critical list.
On September 25, the Department of Health Services Special Investigator Christopher Brett, for whom I was a source, provided Berkeley’s Detective Stone with the list of Synanon residents dated April 30th 1977 and a run down of the $307,000 weapons purchased from Markell and others in January of 1978. Brett voiced the opinion that Charles Dederich had become extremely paranoid to the point of mental deficiency, apparently believing that a race war was rapidly approaching and wanted to be able to defend Synanon’s large land holdings.
On September 27 Gerri Straatemeier and Synanon biographers- to- be, David Gerstel and William Olin, advised the Berkeley police that Synanon does have a fleet of Toyotas often used by the Security Department that they refer to same as a Goon Squad.
Just three months after San Francisco Mayor Moscone, a friend of Dederich and the Rev. Jim Jones, had apologized publicly to Synanon for the police behavior over its display of force in securing the release of the Butler children, blaming the action on information given by me that Synanon was dangerous, the neighboring Berkeley police were placing a watch on Ritter’s home to protect Straatemeier from Synanon.
In Synanon Joey Robson in a game said he thought Synanon had gotten Ritter. Bernie Kolb said to be careful about that type of talk even in a game. Another player became upset and said it was not done wisely. It was stupid. Wendell Stamps became defensive and said it was done very well and wisely.
According to one of the splittees who testified in 1983 she was in a game with Walter Lewbel on Sept 21 when he left to take a phone call from his “brother Alvin.” When Lewbel returned to the game he said he had some good news: Phil Ritter just had a bad accident. After the game was over Lewbel told the witness that he felt “good” about his part in the Ritter beating.
The witnesses in 1983 testified that Marines Joe Musico and Allen Hubbard admitted they were the ones that got Ritter. Musico’s weapon of choice was a wooden mallet used in Synanon for Hobby Lobby.
The attack caused Mike Garrett, Dan Garrett’s son, to surface and contact the Attorney General’s Office. He gave them a 15-page report on Synanon violence.
The news of the Ritter beating sent tremors through the Network of Friends and all of us fighting Synanon. The Network raised a $5000 reward for information leading to the capture of the assailants. Later they would raise it to $7,500. A concerned Narda Zucchino of the Los Angeles Times contacted the Berkeley Police Department for details.
Jack Hurst, Dederich’s former number one boy, told Berkeley reporter Robert Kroll “they’ve gone mad” and requested police protection around his home. Hurst bought a guard dog. But this fact was printed in the media and shortly thereafter he came home and found his door open, the lights on and the dog outside hanging by a rope over a fence. A Wire log following labeled a wire broadcast: “Hurst’s dog.
Those at Time became more nervous. Starting September 24 Time Magazine Chairman Andrew Heiskell was hit by a second wave of hate mail from Synanon residents in order to upset him on the eve of his scheduled deposition. Some of the letters, calling him “Andy” reminded him of the stockholder meeting threats, Others with messages such as; “Hearst settled…why don’t you…if you don’t we intend to make your lifestyle as questioned, harassed and uncomfortable as you tried to make ours and we’ll have a lot more fun at your expense,” “You have not yet begun to feel persecuted as you will in the future,’ “We will legally harass you for the rest of yours days, ” “How is your wife?” “My regards to your wife if she ever returns?” “We have yet begun to fight. We are getting closer to New York.” One letter said the Examiner stories per the law of compensation caused Randolph Hearst to have a crazy daughter (Patty). In all over 500 such letters were sent to Time. And on September 27 two Synanites approached Donovan in New York and said, “We are going to ruin your life.”
I had become used to the phone calls and hang ups; music playing with background giggling or someone asking if I had an answering machine and then hanging up. I had become adjusted to this since the nursing home case. If they were venting through harassment I thought that was a good sign. But now I was afraid. Somehow the other stories had seemed distant, looked at as a lawyer looks at evidence to prove his contentions. But I knew this was different, an escalation. The Ritter attack appeared not to be just a beating, a warning, but attempted murder. If the assailant had not been scared off it was clear Ritter would not have survived. As it was he almost died. The case was assigned to Berkeley Homicide.
And I knew they wanted me more than Ritter. I had started it with getting Terri out and filing suit. I had become the protector of splitees and was using friends in the press. I had won a lawsuit, got children out, started the Department of Health investigation, stopped the passage of their special bill.. Most of all I had put the conspiracy together, the plan of management to have Synanon members attack enemies with attackers trained if caught to deny Synanon responsibility. Worse, I knew they knew it.
Six days after the Ritter attack the reality of my danger sank in deeper. Former Synanon attorney Harold Benjamin, David Benjamin’s uncle, called me and advised that he had heard from sources that Charles Dederich was now calling for an attack on me over the Synanon wire and my home address was being broadcasted. A recent splittee, John Bradford said at the conclusion of his outerview after he said he was going to Los Angeles he was told while there he ought to “break Morantz’s legs.”
It was hard to know what to do first. I contacted Lynn Cottle at LAPD intelligence who said he would assist in getting West LAPD to provide surveillance on my house. I had helped Cottle that year put an end to the police union’s idea of having LAPD officers trained by est in a program that was an offshoot of the Synanon Trip (See Escape from Est). I gave Cottle a copy of the NBC Dederich interview and the NBC segment 3. Cottle contacted Captain Smith at WLA Div. and told him the situation was serious and that I needed protection. Cottle advised of prior attacks and Smith then ordered patrols to regularly check my house. Cottle also contacted the Attorney General’s office. The Threat Analysis Division was already looking into Synanon after receiving a 65-page report from splittees following the Ritter attack.
I called Detective Stone in Berkeley and gave him the information I received from Harold Benjamin. I told him there was no doubt Synanon had gotten Phil Ritter. I gave information on other beatings and also suggested that he contact lawyers for Time Magazine. I indicated they had a “deep throat” source that might be David Ross. I told him that former Marin sheriffs Art Warfield and Buddy Jones were Synanon “hit men.” Stone was aware Warfield had picked up the Synanon arsenal ordered from Markell.
I asked my attorney Hal Marston to call Stanley Fleischmann and tell him what Benjamin said. I knew Fleischmann had been a Synanon supporter, but I also knew he was professional, not a fanatic, and would want to prevent harm. Confronted, Synanon officials would have to deny Benjamin’s allegations and I thought that alone might cancel any plans. I called Dave Mitchell and told him I received word I was next. If anything happened that looked like an accident I asked him to report what I said and to investigate. Mitchell did more than that. He went to the Marin County District Attorney and told him he was sure I would be attacked. The District Attorney did nothing other than say thanks and show Mitchell the door. This was the same office that had refused to prosecute over the Franklin and Matlock incidents; didn’t investigate the Exeter Punks beating and dismissed its only Synanon prosecution (Eidson). The office apparently never heard of a search warrant.
I decided to buy a shotgun and I wanted Synanon to know it. I told Berkeley reporter Robert Kroll that I was doing it and taking other precautions. Kroll printed this in the Berkeley Gazette story “Berkeley beating may have links to Synanon.” The idea was to prevent a planned invasion of my house. Whenever I went outside my head constantly searched all directions, turning my head ala Linda Blair. Knowing what happened to Hurst’s and Matlock’s dogs I worried excessively about my border collies Tommy and Devon. They were home alone each day while I was at the office and I thought of moving them somewhere. But they were also good barkers when someone approached and if I didn’t hear them bark when I came home I wouldn’t enter but go somewhere and call the police.
After his story connecting the Ritter beating to Synanon Kroll received a telephone warning that any further such writing would be at his own peril. Kroll remained defiant and wrote a blurb in New West Magazine citing the Raines judgment and the Cardineau-Ritter beatings under the headline: “Is Synanon in Need of Rehabilitation?”
The hardest thing was my mother. I wanted her prepared. I told her no matter what happened I wouldn’t have done it any other way and I had experienced most things in life. My now ex-fiance congratulated me on the Lynne victory and said her son was going to do a report in school on it. I told her not to let him and to instruct both her kids not to talk about me. I could sense she didn’t believe, thought I was using a sympathy line on her to get her back. That was hardest of all. I loved her, I couldn’t get through and I knew they were coming.
On October 3, Dave Fagel, who was in a custody battle with his ex-wife to get his child out, received a note under his door saying, “Did you hear what happened to Phil Ritter?”
On October 6 Jon Chancellor announced on the NBC nightly news that it had turned over information concerning Synanon threats to Donovan, Kroll and Lynch to the police. He said since Synanon doesn’t like its and other media reports he was now reporting the threats. He called Synanon “the California drug and alcohol foundation which has turned into a controversial cult.”
My home number was not listed, a carry-over from the threats I received in the nursing home cases, but working late at the office there were several calls of concern. Sometimes I was asked if we had an answering service and when I said yes they hung-up. Other times music played.
According to one of the splittee higher-ups who came forward in l983, Percy Tickles after being urged during the game on August 28 by Dederich to do something to me had gone to Los Angeles to attack me. Joe Musico, however, thought Tickles was not competent enough (he wasn’t a Marine) for such an assignment and went to Los Angeles to stop him. He brought Tickles back, the witness said, and told Lewbel it was crazy to attack me because my neighborhood was filled with police. Lewbel, testified a witness, then entrusted the attack to Musico.
Musico recruited fellow Marine Lance Kenton and a plan was developed that would utilize their rattlesnake catching abilities and the knowledge they learned of snake venom from Dr. Doug Robson in their Marine training. Large snakes had more venom and venom built up with time after its last discharge. This one was kept in a sack during a long car ride from Badger. And it was pissed off. Its rattles had been removed.
Paul Marantz, a Beverly Hills resident, who unlike me had a listed home number, didn’t understand why he kept getting telephone calls and hang-ups every night. The calls ended on October 10, l978. The next day Marantz picked up the newspaper and knew why he had gotten the calls.
A lawyer with a similar name but slightly spelled different—me—was bitten by a large rattlesnake placed in mailbox at his home. It was species only found in the Visalia area, particularly Badger Mountains. The vehicle that carried it was traced to Synanon, Badger facility. The vehicles occupants were Marines Musico and Kenton. (See True Story of the Rattlesnake in the mail box.)
After 8 vials of anti-venom at Santa Monica Hospital 11 more at LA-USC Medical Center I rested as a nurse sweetly asked me if there was anything she could bring me. “Yeah,” I said. “Herschel Rosenthal… in an urn.”
Narda Zucchino was first to vist, getting by her press credentials I had known her for 6 years and she had been covering my nursing home case and chase after Synanon for 5 years. She said she hoped Synanon never knows of this and then kissed me on the cheek. For the first since it begin I cried.
As the news of the snake caromed shot the world —Walter Cronkite called it “bizarre even by cult standards”– Marin grand juror Peter Dillon found his mailbox broken into and a KGO reporter found a lizard nailed to her door.
Doug Robson was sent out of Synanon to Seattle where he practiced medicine ever since, his patients not knowing of his era of not healing, but hurting. Garfield was hired by Long & Levitt in San Francisco and would in the future be named to a magazine’s Super Lawyer list.
The same day as the snake attack Pat Lynch when she left her apartment at 8 a.m. in the morning she found herself followed by two Synanon men. When she reached her NBC office they told her they were going to follow her and make her life uncomfortable. The goal of Scram, they said, “is to get your life.” One was my old classmate Bob Pitzle. Alan Broslofsky and Pitzle would later similarly confront NBC President Fred Silverman inside his Manhattan apartment buildings forcing NBC to tightened the security guard around him.
On October 12 Frederick A. O. Schwarz, Jr. wrote Synanon that in light of the violence and the fact that Garrett and Garfield had refused a prior request that Dederich instruct his followers not to “threatened, harass or kill Time personnel” it would not produce Doug Brew for an interview.
The same day Dan Garrett released a statement saying Synanon has been and will always be law-abiding and the stories from the irresponsible media were false.
Six days after I was hospitalized, Dave Gilmour was driving Dan Garrett, Phil Bourdette and Archie Briggs on Dry Creek Road to the Woodlake Airport. About a mile north of the Home Ranch a yellow Scout 708SVU swerved into their lane forcing the vehicle over and off the road. As the passengers recovered from their near-ram anxiety, the driver of the Scout continued on, grinning from ear to ear.
His name was Ron Eidson.
It was time to fight back.
(Author note: In the 1960s Dr. Dan Casriel tested Synanon members and found that despite they talked and acted the good life, psychological testing revealed that many were antisocial. The testing was done at the Hacker clinic. Casriel, who wrote the first Synanon book, So Fair a House, recommended Dederich lesson pressures on older members and provide psychotherapy. Dederich did not comply and Casriel then opened Daytop in New York. With those additions the true self help drug programs started.
Most who came to Synanon were not looking for a violent religion. They came to either get help or give it. The squares (non-addicts) wanted to live with a community of friends. After Synanon closed most would on to live normal lives and many have regretted what they did and or what Synanon did. While some enjoyed the power, most themselves were victims of coercive persuasion. Today, with some exceptions, ex members like anyone else, maybe even a bit superior, and should be welcomed where they go.
Early in this decade Joe Musico was murdered, thrown off a building in a pimp-drug turf war. That was Joe Musico. But he had come to Synanon to be saved from that life and instead was exploited. Lance Kenton was only 11 years old when his father Stan Kenton placed him in Synanon. At 18 he became the youngest member of the Imperial Marines. After his conviction he would lead on normal life and works for actor Charlie Sheen–if that can be called a normal life.)