FALL OF SYNANON II (Garfield-Robson blunder)

The Fall of Synanon II (The Garfield-Robson blunder)

By Paul Morantz

© August 2010

(Dedicated to Bob Fremlin and Chris “Tris” Brown)

Charles Dederich had a complaint. He had amassed a fortune for Synanon by l977– Over 33 million in assets at 70’s dollar value. It was the largest landowner in Santa Monica. In gathering his empire he had the advantage of paying no taxes, being the beneficiary of free donated goods and services of a free-non salaried working force.

It was the latter that was the problem. A work force of ex- dope fiends. They tried hard but they did not have, in Dederich’s opinion, good mental working tools. They tended to Go Past The Money which meant they took a good idea too far as to negate it. The Founder analogized his character disordered work force to having a handicap of just four fingers on each hand.

To try to overcome Dederich started in l967 to recruit squares (non addicts) to guide Synanon. One of those was Howard Garfield (see The Fall of Synanon I (Garfield and Garrett). Garfield, a 1964 Stanford Graduate with honors, was No.1 at Harvard, considered by some the nation’s top law school. Garfield had also been a divinity student. He became first a game club player (non live-in squares came to Synanon and paid dues to participate in the game) and a donor lawyer. On May 29, l971 he was wooed by Synanon to give up a partner position in a Beverly Hills law firm for a $25 a month salary in Synanon. He believed Synanon offered him the opportunity to use his legal skills for the good of mankind.

On May 9, l977 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 media,” politicians and “roving bands of hoodlums.” He stated Synanon abhors violence and their weapons were only for recreation, sports and self-defense.

Garfield 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—a threat to the autonomy of Marin elected government. He said there were two airplanes (a Cessna and Piper) and 14 boats in Marin including a 40-foot government surplus craft. The real issue is not Synanon, Garfield had 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.

Supervisor Boxer had no idea how true her statement was. Since l974 Synanon had been engaging on attacks on “enemies” to communicate to people to leave them alone. Synanon would deny involvement, and those attacking were to be willing to go to jail and not disclose Synanon involvement (See The True History of Synanon Violence and How it Started).

Garfield himself was not in the dark. Below him in the chain was Dr. Doug Robson, arguably the comic version of a want to be Josef Mengele of Synanon. Not quite the Angel of Death, but perhaps the Angel of beatings. He certainly didn’t follow the Hippocratic oath “to do no harm.”

Robson was one of many doctors recruited into Synanon for the unlicensed Synanon medical department, joining one year after Garfield. He and other doctors performed starting in l976 vasectomies on Synanon members of 5 years or longer per Dederich’s notion of childliness (“Giving birth is like crapping a football”). Robson became director of Synanon Health Services. But Robson was not happy being just a doctor. When the cry came for an elite force to battle the enemy Robson saw a bigger and more fun role he could play in the community.

On February 27,1977 Dr. Doug Robson sent in his request to be part of the Synanon Marine Academy, boasting he had been part of many Hey Rubes (groupings formed to deal with possible attacks) over the past two years including the Siege of Tomales (70 Synanites fought Tomales town members in the street over a purple truck driver alleged to almost been in a car accident with a Synanon driver—see The True History of Synanon Violence and How it Started). Robson 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 Dr. Robson doubled as recruit and doctor for the Marines as they began to gather supplies and weapons for training in Depot Flats near the Strip (Synanon airfield in Visalia).

Robson 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 inguinal mass since his vasectomy and a small hernia. On May 1, he wrote Dede (Chuck’s son) 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.

On May 9 Dr. Robson in Depot Flats 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

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 Robson would be staring at me in court.

On 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 and a few Big Shots (such as Garfield) were higher in the chain of command. In addition Robson was the doctor in residence at Badger.

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.”

On September 14 Albert Quinones, a minor, locked himself in a bathroom with a gun he had taken out of Dede’s (Chuck’s son) desk at the Strip in Badger. . 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. After the incident Robson discussed the event in and out of the game with Dederich, his son Dede, and Liz Missakian (Synanon’s “President”) 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.

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.

Robson on September 7th wrote complaining that no Synanites had helped Annie Bragg move, 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 sent of this one to attorney Howard Garfield at the Strip. That same day Garfield wrote Robson about all the 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, he wrote, 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 in writing 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—four fingered dope fiend labor.

This was one of Legal’s ultimate blunders.

After Synanon’s March 1978 massive purchase of weapons from a gun shop KGO, an ABC affiliate, went on the air with the story and for a backdrop placed the Synanon logo over a photo of a man with a rifle not realizing the man was Lee Harvey Oswald. Synanon sued. The defense of the case was assigned to Bob Fremlin and Chris Brown of Lillick, Mchose and Charles who would be tireless in their efforts to uncover Synanon. While I was what the public saw fighting Synanon, these were the guys who got it done.

The lawyers repeatedly served Synanon with request to produce documents that Synanon had repeatedly refused to produce despite mounting court orders to do so and award of monetary sanctions against Synanon. Finally the Synanon legal Department would make another tragic mistake. They assumed Garfield’s direction to gather up all memos regarding their violence and turn them over to Legal Department to be hidden under the cloak of attorney-client privilege had been pulled off (the privilege does not apply to criminal communications). So to appease the court Synanon Legal let the ABC lawyers have carte blanche to inspect and copy all its files maintained in its San Francisco warehouse facility (See Escape From Synanon III) believing that it was “clean.” In doing so, legal forgot that the people assigned to carry out the Garfield-Robson mission were “four-fingered” and would fail as Dederich always said they would. The warehouse turned out to be full of incriminating documents.

It is an old trick to turn over key evidence by hiding it in so many documents that no one will go through it. But Brown and Fremlin arranged for just that–go through it all. People were hired to go in and photocopy the contents of each box and people were hired to look for evidence of violence, day after day, night after night. Slowly, one by one, the Synanon memos on violence and the Imperial Marine Diary of Wendall Stamps came into view. These are the documents cited above and the basis of my recitation of Synanon violence (See • • The True History of Synanon Violence and How it Started).

They also became the memos that ended any question of Synanon’s descent to horror.

Before the memos were found both Garfield and Robson were gone.

As stated elsewhere (See Fall of Synanon I) in September of l978 Synanon was establishing an “embassy” to the White House and causing publicity by threatening tenants of the Boston House, an apartment building it bought to convert into a Synanon House. 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 now abandoning the Boston House because the “Nation’s capital is not a fit place for religious freedom..” They would, Synanon reported, file complaints against everyone “in sight.”

Dederich and his entourage fled to Italy. But Garfield left Europe early very upset. According to a witness’s declaration, 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.

A week later, per the witnesses testimony, the Board held a game attended by Dederich, Ginny(Chuck’s wife), Dede (Chuck’s son, Jady (Chuck’s daughter), her husband Larry Akey, Garrett, Dan Sorkin, Ron Cook, Burke, Walter 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 Changing Partner 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,(See • • The True History of Synanon Violence and How it Started) who was trying to get his child out of Synanon, “taken care of.”

After the rattlesnake on me (See The True Story of the Rattlesnake in the Mailbox) on October 10, l978, On October 12 Frederick A. O. Schwarz, Jr., defending Time Magazine being sued by Synanon for calling it a “Kooky Cult” 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 its writer Doug Brew for an interview.

Following the snake attack on me Doug Robson’s father called me and apologized stating he knew that his son had ordered the attack on me. He said his son was a fanatic and that his family just did not know what to do. Later, Doug Robson’s wife Mary went to a neighbor of my mother stating she was an old friend of the mother of Paul Morantz and wanted to verify my mother was her neighbor. My mother naively asked me why Mary would leave a card identifying herself. “Mom,” I said. “It is them telling me they know where you live. ”

For that more than anything, I wanted Doug Robson in jail. But that was not to be.

Not too long later the rattlesnake, it was decided that it might be best if Robson disappeared. He was moved out of Synanon to Seattle where he has practiced medicine for all these years. At the turn of the century I turned over his above memos to the state of Washington medical licensing agency asking if a doctor who put people in the hospital ought to have a license to heal. But they took no action.

When I first received the memos I turned them into the California state bar expecting action. But to my knowledge they did nothing, preferring more safely to go after attorneys who comingled client funds. I heard word they were too afraid. For years thereafter I turned in my State Bar dues under protest reserving the right to sue them back for failure of the Bar to do its job.

Garfield was eventually deposed. He took all privileges and avoided talking. He looked like he wanted to talk but was very scared. Not of us, but of Synanon. By a water cooler I asked him how he liked private practice. He smiled. It was our only ever communication.

In 1982 after Dederich and two followers had been convicted the Synanon versus ABC case went to trial in San Francisco. Everyone was expecting after ABC won it would sue Synanon for malicious prosecution as per the memos Synanon knew it was a terrorist organization. At one point Synanon offered $60,000 to let it drop its case and not be sued in return for dismissing its case. ABC turned it down. Newscasters had been harassed; a lizard impaled on one door home after the snake attack.

All the memos came into evidence on cross-examination of Synanon witnesses and the jury reaction was such that Brown and Fremlin decided not to even bother with putting on a defense. It was thought if still alive Lee Harvey Oswald had a better suit for being connected to Synanon, then Synanon I was in contact with the lawyers almost nightly after each day of trial to go over the cross for the next Synanon witness. I would check my own files for information I had.

The judge made an order that Synanon was delaying the case to run up ABC fees and limited the time they could continue. But suddenly ABC lawyers from New York appeared and went into chambers and secretly settled with Synanon by paying them 1.25 million dollars.

At the time ABC had finished a screenplay on me and Synanon that was scheduled as a mini series but now was shelved in embarrassment. The reason for all this was that ABC had an insurance policy wherein cost of the defense was deducted from liability coverage. When cost hit the liability amount the policy terminated. ABC was now on the hook for its own defense cost and the carrier wanted large sums of paid fees back. Earlier, when Synanon members purchased stock in ABC so they could attend a stockholders meeting and threaten board members, ABC had told Lillick McHose and Charles to get them and to forget about the cost. ABC was then my hero. Following Jonestown massacre in November of l978 ABC had me on the news four straight nights to talk about cults and violence. But now that the costs far exceeded the liability coverage and the insurance company was demanding reimbursement the ABC insurance policy was canceled.

ABC needed insurance and so they met to negotiate a new premium but in doing so the parties had to estimate the financial exposure of pending litigation. Synanon was the thorn. Not only was there the expense of this case, but Synanon, knowing of ABC’s limited defense coverage was expiring, had filed a 2nd suit which it had held back from service; the implication being if ABC did not settle it would serve it after Synanon lost this case and run up their fees again but this time with no insurance to pay at all for the defense. It was decided that the resolution was to liquidate Synanon in a secret settlement so that the policy would be reinstated at a set price. The carrier would foot the bill. ABC did not care that it had been given one of 3 licenses to nationally present the news or saw that it was thus in any way obligated to fight for truth. I wrote ABC I would go to San Francisco and finish the trial for nothing. It never responded.

The jury was so shocked that it held an annual picnic to honor Brown and Fremlin. Not wanting ABC to get away with it in secret I told the story to the Los Angeles times leaking what ABC had done and how they tried to cover it up. By then I understood Synanon; but I could not understand ABC. I began to doubt why I had done any of it; why should I have felt obligated to suffer fighting them and ABC could choose what was financially in their best interest with utter disregard for public safety. ABC had its carrier pay this money to an organization that had tried to kill me and attacked others; it felt dehumanizing. I was bedridden for 2 weeks. As one reporter put it, Synanon got paid 1.25 million for terrorism.

I analogized it to a twilight zone episode where a man given shelter at a monastery does not believe that locked in a room by only the shaft of truth was the Devil and at the Devil’s beckoning lifts the shaft that releases the Devil back on the world. We had put Synanon under similar lock and key only to have truth removed and Synanon once again empowered. Was anybody who fought them going to be safe again?

Just following the ABC dagger in the public’s back in June of l982 was my five-year anniversary of Synanon involvement. It is said in Synanon that you become a member after 5 years. To celebrate my membership I had a party only for ex- Synanon members where I stated not only was I now a member but I was about to become a splitee. I thanked them all for their bravery and advised what ABC had done. The network had shown it did not care. The New York lawyer that negotiated the settlement was the same lawyer who had negotiated the original insurance policy that caused the problem. He had told Brown and Fremlin the world had forgotten about Watergate and they will forget about this too.

I never forgot; I was bed ridden for two weeks. The lesson learned was that the world problems was not just about cults but about selfish thinking. Synanon had an excuse, a predictable outcome for a totalistic world in a contained environment led by a disturbed genius. But what was ABC’s? It was like believing in Santa Claus until you were 37 and then finding out Santa Claus did not exist.

I continued with my cases against cults, and added abusive psychotherapists to the list, but more because I could then I should. Chris Brown (referred to as “Tris)” chucked off the ABC settlement saying its just a job. He eventually retired to live in Los Angeles. Fremlin took it to heart and died young due to heart failure. His daughter went on to law school and heard lectures that the settlement was due to lawyers spending too much money defending a case.

Then in l982, not too long after my so-long – Synanon-party, the Department of Justice called. The attorney calling said to me they knew little about Synanon but was asked to look into it by the IRS. They didn’t know my involvement but was told I was someone to talk to. Later, the caller would recall my response was, “Where in the Fuck have you guys have been?”

I was hired by the Department of Justice as a consultant and for years found myself back in the fray.

The memos Brown-Fremlin recovered were never publicly revealed . After the doors to Synanon were shut in 1991 for back taxes Synanon setup an archives at UCLA leaving these memos out. Author Rod Janzen relied on the UCLA archive and thus did not find them in researching his inaccurate book–The Rise and Fall of Synanon in 2000. And when Janzen contacted me for some fact confirmation I offered them to him but he refused to look at them preferring instead to incorrectly write in his book that there was not that much violence (See preamble to The True History of Synanon Violence and How it Started ). Janzen came from a prejudiced background, editing a journal about therapeutic communities. He wrote what he wanted and played 3 monkeys to the truth. He did not want to believe brainwashing could exist as it might cause a doubt as to his life’s dedication.

The memos themselves would be a key to the IRS case and lead to Synanon’s end (see to be written Fall of Synanon III—Enter the IRS).

In 2009 I started my website and the first to go up was the memos (see The True History of Synanon Violence and How it Started) all courtesy of heros Brown and Fremlin and anti-heros Robson and Garfield and long ago four fingered ex-dope fiend laborers.

The memos will be archived at USC (another victory over UCLA) along with all my case files– A long time to see the light of day. Incredibly it comes 10 years after Janzen’s got-it-all-wrong- book. But in the end it is always never too late for truth. Synanon I believe until this site, despite the volumes of writings, remains the greatest untold story of the 20th century–A story that explains wars, 9/11, and a sad truth into the nature and danger of human beings.