by Paul Morantz
copyright Dec. 2011

In January 79 Counselor magazine, a private circulated for-members-only advertising magazine, apologized for its two year planned Synanon article published in february of 1978:

“We were wrong. There is more at stake here than profits, pride or personal reputations. More important issues are now involved—personal freedom, personal safety, people’s minds and even lives.” Maybe, it concluded, if they had spoken up Jonestown would have been avoided. And maybe Synanon has crossed the line to a cult blatantly “imposing its will on blind faith followers and the general public.”

Also that month, New West Magazine published a “ Wrongdoer’s profile,” on Charles Dederich. Home: “Mohave jail hospital ward. Profession: “Lord of hosts, king of the universe, ruler of all creation.” Latest accomplishment: “Too drunk to be arraigned on conspiracy to commit murder by rattlesnake.” Last quote: “I don’t know what action might be taken …bombs could be thrown into some very odd places…” His Scotch: “Whattya got?”

In February 1979 National Lampoon announced the DEA launched a nationwide war on Synanon due to the number of beatings, threats, lawsuits and attempted murders that was making Synanon a major blight on American society. It joked the organization was set up by federally funded “Synadone.” While there may have been occasionally burglary a resident will no longer use heavy energy to progress all snakes in mailboxes or drag their critics into $50 million court battles.

For me more interesting was a proceeding held in chambers of the Hon. judge Lawrence Rittenband who had by now listen to the tape warnings seized by the LAPD. He ruled that the tape recording of Chuck Dederich calling for violence was germane to the case. When Synanon argued that the ruling on the search warrant was on appeal, judge Rittenband repeated my original argument, that even if the warrant was held illegal the tape would be admissible in my case. Further it had been played on television so it was in the public domain.

Rittenband described the tape as manifesting a state of mind or policy existing in Dederich and Synanon, thus it was extremely important. Synanon’s lawyer, Mr. Lanphere argued it was just a tape of street language and that the judge should remember Synanon’s high charitable purposes. His claim all language on tapes were fantasies was absurd. He even try to assert they were a religion since their beginning in 1959.

Lamphere argued that Dederich talking about killing lawyers was like Shakespeare and Henry V. Then he said “any young lawyer like Mr. Morantz willing to take on this very difficult grouup and others in this profession, I will give him credit or credit is due.. This is not an easy end of the profession. There are not a lot of lawyers that want to come into this litigation aspect of the law business. And I say this with all due respect and I mean him no discourtesy. But he is a Young lawyer. And this is very important in the concept of which this tape is talked about. Further, I had lost 2 cases (the warrants) and the $300,000 judgment was after default. So Synanon does not seem me, he stated, as a threat, that I had done nothing to prove any importance in the legal community or threat to Synanon. Of course, he made no mention of the rescue of the Butler kids, and other children I got out, the Department of Health investigation, the defeat of its bill to exempt itself from licensing, and most of all my investigation to prove that Synanon management was directing violence.

Then the judge asked if I wanted to respond. I said basically what we just heard was a version of “closing argument to the jury” and not the issues of what was now before this court. I said from the portions that I heard on the news Dederich talks about people they have already beaten up and thrown down the stairs and how they were getting good at it. As to my being of no concern to Synanon, they had sued me alleging I caused them great damages. Further, as to the tape being a year old, we had declarations to the fact that Dederich was saying get Paul Morantz right up until the time of the attack.

“My opponent has said that we take in people who are crooks, crazies, criminals, people who are the down clad. Well, if you take in those types of people and you tell them they are now members of a religion and Charles Dederich’s gets up there and make speeches like this, I think it is reasonably foreseeable that even if he didn’t mean it, as counsel has indicated, that someone is going to accept it. Someone is going to go out and do it.”

Further, I explained that Dederich speaking is the way things get done. I corrected counsel’s claim that Synanon was a religion since 1959 and pointed out that the idea came into existence in 1974 because of Synanon’s problems with licensing and the IRS. I quoted Dan Garrett’s letter saying that if they became a religion they could put an end to the silly questions of why no one leaves and everyone obeys. Counsel could make all his arguments that the comments on the tape were not serious that he wants, we have the witnesses that will testify they were.

Judge Rittenband said as pointed out by Mr. Morantz, “even if the tape was not supposed to be serious, there were other people with peculiar mentalities who may have taken it seriously. And as I have no reason to doubt that Mr. Morantz has been attacked in a manner which he claims and that two Synanon persons have been arrested.” He ruled the date discoverable along with another tape dealing with Lance Kenton’s loyalty.

Ask to the latter, since Bernie Kolb was the investigator taking his statement Mr. Lanphere argued it was attorney work product. The judge responded even if it was the interests of Justice overruled the privilege which is not at absolute.

As to the “Free Bees are over” tape wherein the plot to transfer money from Synanon to the private home place Inc. in Arizona the court noted that Mr. Lanphere had previously stated Synanon had nothing to do with Home Place Inc., it was privately owned, but the tape reveals otherwise. When Adrienne “Red” Williams tried to assert that the money was coming from individuals, the judge said I could play the tape for you and you can hear it— It was Synanon’s money. The judge ruled that the tape supported an argument that Home Place, Inc. was an alter ego of Synanon and therefore liable in my lawsuit. I further added that the siphoning of the money goes to the issue in the complaint of whether Synanon is in fact a charitable organization.

Some tapes, the judge described had nothing important other than people swearing and every 3rd word and sying “ass hole.” He didn’t think this was relevant. If there was nothing related to the issues of a lawsuit the tape it would be nauseating to listen to, he said. The judge also felt that the tapes were highly prejudicial and that a jury listening to it would think that these people were crazy.

Another 2 tapes involved Chuck Dederich and I convinced the judge of relevance since its date was in September of 1978 it counters Synanon’s claim that Dederich had resigned in March of 1978.

It was a good haul of evidence. As an aside, Red Williams told me Synanon had no intentions of killing me; they wanted me alive to collect damages from. I responded, “we will see who collects damages from whom.”


In 1979, Uncle Sam turned over to Synanon for thirty years ownership of one-half use of a block long 192,000 square foot warehouse, rent-free and tax-free in San Francisco area valued at $1.5 million, the building was to be shared by the city’s school district. It was awarded for use by the Health, Education and Welfare department based upon Synanon’s representations it would use it as a training facility for warehouse-men.
The deal had been made some time ago.

In March 79 Ted Patrick’s Playboy interview appeared. The article talked about the rise of religious cults in the 70s and that the young college students who were marching for peace in the 60’s were suddenly on street corners selling flowers and hawking books at airports. Patrick said every cult has the power to turn into another Manson group.

Asked about the deprogramming of the Butler kids from Synanon, he said, “Synanon is one of the worse cults I have ever been involved with.” Everyone cut their hair so could not be seen if man or woman and people were trained to use guns. The kids told him they were preparing for a lot of killings. They talked about killing, about suicide and never to give up. When he arrived in Detroit he found the Butler kids had torn up furniture, made about $500 worth of telephone calls and the grandmother had left the home in fear for her safety. “Look now I want all of you to sit right down and don’t move an inch….I told them to keep mouths closed and wanted no bullshit from you…Now I am not your grandmother. If any of you jump up I’m going to put you out of action real quick.” The three, he said, became like babies. He separated them, isolating the girl who was the strongest. She was brilliant and “made fun of the way I talked,” he said. Patrick prepared to do what ever was necessary and told her “girl, you’re a bitch. You got the gall to talk to me that way and you don’t even know me. Your looking more like a man than your two brothers, they took a beautiful girl and made a lesbian out of her. You hate your own grandmother. You would kill your own grandmother for this leader. You take orders from that no good son-of-a-bitch, you eat his shit?” This got her steaming mad and started her out of it. He told them that if they so much as moved he was going to put them on their ass. Patrick defends his ideas as getting them out of a trance by forcing the mind to start working again. Once he gets their attention he provides challenging questions and knowing what the cults have taught them he bring in the two questions that cause frustration because they cannot answer. Once they start comparing and evaluating, they start thinking and deprogram themselves. In an almost split second they seem to snap out of it. “Like a light going on in a dark room–A werewolf turns back into a man.” Where from having no emotion they begin feeling again. A lot of the cult members get violence in the beginning of the programming sessions, he revealed. He had become the knife, the broken bottle, telling them he’s going to rape and drag them into a lot of into closets and put ice down their backs.

These were tactics if I knew of I would not have approved. Rather, I would prefer keeping them positive and busy, buying time for their minds to surface on their own.

Sometimes Patrick asks where in the Bible does it say hate your father or to give your leader all you posses. Sometimes he took a photo of he leader and put horns and a mustache on it. Sometimes he played tapes of others who had been through the program discussing how they had been deceived, creating the spark in a dead battery that leads an engine to recharge itself on its own power. These tactics seemed more appropriate.

In 79 it was discovered counselors at Metropolitan Police Department in Las Vegas were still assisting children to go to Synanon rather than the juvenile system. This was despite the fact that California Department of Health Services had proclaimed that under no circumstances would it ever recommend Synanon as acceptable provider of juvenile care.

Marin County had long ago stopped sending juveniles to Synanon since stories of abuse circulated following mine and Narda Zucchino’s involvement and it learned that Synanon was not licensed. The Metro in Vegas claimed it was “advising “of the program’s existence without recommendation. Listing it as “available” were Joanne Bagger and Sandie Durgin who contended that it is a proper facility and children were not abused and they did not murder. Each was in denial, forever, for personal reasons. Vegas had ordered them not to recommend Synanon, so the counselors instead said it was “available.” The counselors had themselves decided that Synanon as a religious organization did not need to be licensed even though California law says that even religious institutions must be licensed to take juvenile referrals. The department head of the juvenile bureau, John McCarthy, had stopped the referrals in March 1978 ordering Bagger and Durgin to stop making referrals to Synanon. McCarthy did this after his own two nephews returned from a seven month stay at Synanon covered with impetigo, in infectious skin disease caused by prolonged uncleanliness. His own son had been in Synanon a year earlier and had complained of alleged abuses. The California Community Care Facilities Act requires any facility that maintains non-medical residential care must obtain a license. A boy’s mother said both Bagger and Durkin offered no alternative other than Synanon and were pushing it, threatening to take the mother to court and have her declared an unfit mother and take her children from her if she did not. At Synanon the mother was told she would not be able to see her children for three months which was later stretched to 6 months and then she was told she couldn’t see them for a year. One boy amped out when his seizure and other medication was removed. While they had been promised schooling, neither received any. There were told they would have to be there for one year first. Phillip was 15 and Chris was 12. Chris was made to run without shoes or socks causing painful blisters. He was kicked in the rear by a man with steel tip shoes when he didn’t do his push ups. When he faltered in step ups he was hit in the chest and knocked down. The mother received two letters from the boys saying that there having a good time, that Synanon does not abuse children and about how terrible Time Magazine was. The word “seizure” was misspelled and examination of the two letters reveal that they were written by the same person, who was not her child.

Another Las Vegas child said an elder choked her for refusing to follow an order. Once all women protesting a juvenile being struck were dragged from the room. Another kid said they were told their parents do not love them. Another girl said the children were “brainwashed… That place is no good.”

At the same time, freed from Sheriff Montanos, Jeanette Prandi continued her investigation now openly in the Marin sheriff’s department. On April 5, 1979 she interviewed a 14 year old who had been a member of the punk squad who said basically the kids were part put to work 7 days. The kids were pushed around and yelled at. If someone stole, everyone was blamed. He said kids were woken up in the middle of night to play all nigt games and then they wake you up again after about an hour sleep. When asked if he heard that Synanon was at war with anyone he responded – – Morantz. He would hear about it on the Wire.

But most shocking was that another 14-year-old was there to speak out, Russell Hayward Robeson, the son of Dr. Doug Robeson, head of the Imperial Marines. He described when he first moved in he liked Synanon as it was 7 years ago but now Synanon had gone bad. He, too, was pushed around and yelled at and confirmed that the kids were woken up at odd hours (it was called the “surprise”) and that people like Buddy Jones would punch the kids, “punch them through walls.” It happened a lot. He said Chris Benton hit him a few times, but at least he didn’t paddled him. Sometimes the kids had to stay up for 100 hours playing games. If you fell asleep they put water on your face. Once Benton knocking down and kneed him in the face.

He also reported Synanon had a lot of tapes of Chuck talking about Paul Morantz. He said he would hear these statements on the Wire. He said after the Time Magazine article, they decided that once you reach 12 years old you stopped going to school and go to work. The children were made to hand out leaflets in San Francisco in support of the Holy War. He said he understood Synanon was not out to kill anybody but if someone came on their property they would not hesitate to shoot the person. He heard this a lot from his father, Doug Robson. He said he knew his father was in the Imperial Marines and that they still have guns. He described that Sandy Durgin’s Las Vegas police Synanon cohort was sending Las Vegas kids to Synanon and had her own 2 kids in Synanon. Like Ms. Durgin, Ms. Bagger also often came to Synanon parties.

Prandi, who had been preventing Marin from sending children to Synanon, was now clearly zeroing in on her Las Vegas counterparts who despite knowing of every report concerning Synanon child abuse, recommended to parents in Las Vegas they send their kids there. Prandi even asked Russell Robson if he had also heard of Sandy Durgin and he responded yes.

Robson’s kid said he left because he didn’t want to live in Synanon anymore. He didn’t want to grow up with the people there and continued to be yelled at all the time. He mentioned some times there was child molestation but that was not something Synanon permitted. But some minors were with older men, and the view was that the minor was just “growing up.”

One of the things he did not like about Synanon was it generally was filthy in the kitchen and dirty, but when they would get wind of an inspection, everyone would clean the place up real quick. Then they would make coffee for the inspectors and give the impression that Synanon was a nice quiet clean place that doesn’t use physical violence and there is no drugs, when in fact drugs have been slipped in and people get beat up a lot.

From reading the transcript of the interview, Russell Robson seemed like quite a kid. He was definitely happy now to be living in a family environment, as Robson was moved out after the attack on me, ultimately moving to Seattle where he practiced medicine despite having breached the Hippocratic oath to do no harm many times.


In 79 more guests were invited to more Synanon open houses where they were treated to a barbecue, food, drinking and hooplas. Synanon went on mass efforts to to win back over the public. Large efforts were made in Minneapolis, Houston, Chicago, Detroit and New Jersey. It was as if California was given up on. the Sounds of Synanon, and other speakers, averaged an appearance of a day before a professional business, religious or school group throughout the year. Flyers were made advertising they had bleeding herds of 150 cattle and 230 she supplied their meet needs and that through management of their auto fleet The monthly gas consumption to 17 gallons per person as compared to 44 gallons. Of course, not everyone in Synanon drives. in fact since they never were to leave the Ranch, most travel by motorcycles, bicycles or horseback. For 24 hours, on October 22, no one was allowed to use the car. This was known as “Gasless Wednesday.” This was followed by Gasless Sundays. “Synanon announced it was celebratingits 21st birthday and had produced more than 3 million clean man days. Synanon further claimed it was 2200 drug treatment programs around the world following Synanon techniques. It claimed that Synanon had distributed approximately $5 million worth of distressed food supplies and material from American businesses through the Synanon Dismissed Distribution Network. of all Dederich plans this was one of the most brilliant. It definitely performed a charitable function, but it was also perhaps one of its most evil. In a tape recording speech bound by LAPD, Dederich stated eventually they would charge the businesses to take the goods since they were getting a tax write-off and would charge the recipients who were getting a great discount. Dederich thought it would be there all time money maker. Even this was arguably okay because why should not Synanon have some profit from considerable work that was accomplished aid. but what Dederich saidwas it would really create was power. in Synanon got into trouble, it could demand that all their customers back them and do with their told, or Synanon would cut them off. This of course, did not appear in the flyer.

Synanon further claimed that all of that was a school, including apprenticeship programs, and as Synanon College which would provide vocational training in 19 courses of study.

And in l979 I was invited to Lake Havesu where the community was ready to burn down Synanon ala Frankenstein’s Castle. I was invited to give a speech at the school auditorium and the entire city appeared to show up. It was interesting to see the difference on how a small community reacted to something like Synanon moving in vs. Los Angeles that was used to absorbing everything crazy. I was king for the day, people giving me gifts and presents as I walked through a fair and that night the master of ceremonies tossed me a rubber Rattlesnake, to which I replied I was impressed with how fast Lake Havesu forwarded my mail. My speech, was probably a surprise. Rather than rally the troops, I tried to calm the community down and said that Synanon had the right to be there, the right to associate and they should be given the benefit of all doubts. The questions of the crimes were for the courts. Many people in Synanon, I said, were good people, who came for help, to give help and/or both. I admonished to make Synanon obey all the zoning laws and permit laws so they do not think they run the city as had happened elsewhere. In other words, enforce the law equally, but do no more. Years later, Bourdette told me he admired me for the speech.


In August, David Deitch, a psychologist who had supported Synanon in its early years, published: “Synanon: A pioneering response in drug abuse treatment and a signal for caution.” In 44 pages he summarily discussed the same events I have laid down here but without such enormous detail. He, too, identified “containment” as the turning point in the wrong direction and made a comparison to Dr. Lifton’s explanation of brainwashing. In conclusion, he stated there are lessons to be learned. Synanon, he stated, had a unique and special contribution to drug treatment that cannot be overlooked. But also he stated this contribution has been refined and important innovations have been added by others in the current therapeutic community movement. But Synanon, he states, shows the great need to develop an understanding behind the techniques and the danger inherent in treating in a community that is becoming a social movement rather than treatment. He recommended that Board membership include people not affiliated with the organization. If such a requirement had existed, he concluded, containment might not have ever happened.

Further, he pointed out that there must always be a program for reentry to the world and there must be later consideration of the family and social networks. Further, to succeed, he do so without calling the world your “common enemy.”

My feelings re Syanon lawyers were mixed. Andy Weill was duped. Dan Garrett was like a Nazi general in it for the power. Garfield wanted to be special. He liked the power, too, but he also had a religious yearning. David Benjamin was brainwashed and probably a good attorney if elsewhere. Bourdette I would later like. Garrett I wanted to see the victim of a general meeting in front of the state bar.

Adrian Williams was a donkey’s rear.

Like the AG’s office, the State Bar was given more than enough evidence, and did nothing. They were clearly frightened. For years I paid my duties “under protest.”


By May 79 it was still estimated Synanon was grossing 13 million a year. 700,000 had participated from inception.

In June the IRS wanted to know where the profit from $2 million Athens and $1.5 million Del Mar sales went. Further it looked into private donations not declared that wound up in over seas accounts and Canada as well as CED accounts.

ADGAP was audited for l973 and paid $3,400 deficiency. Synanon Travel was handled by Santa Rosa Travel Agency. On May 22 in New York Synanon changed its Catskills resort from business purpose to education and religious purposes (thus no tax).


But perhaps more than any year in history the purpose was singular in Synanon. Dederich was out of it, and Dan Garrett was in control. Only one thing really mattered, and that was defending Dederich in the murder conspiracy.

Synanon held a press conference with Cesar Chavez present stating people should consider the likelihood as there were Los Angeles Rattlesnakes that I had arranged it in order to frame them to publicize my mania over cults. Synanon even tried to go through a canyon cross the street from my house looking for rattlesnakes, creating a situation since one of my border collies was temporarily missing; it led me and 2 friends entering the canyon with shotguns only to find the dog and retreat without incident.

The first preliminary hearing I was on the stand for almost 2 weeks only to find it had to be canceled because the judge had a private conversation with the Rattlesnake expert inquiring if he would speak at his wife’s woman club.

It had been fortunate for me that the Rattlesnake in question was found only in Visalia, something Dr. Robson and the other Marines probably were not aware of. There is a difference in the species last band. While I was not thrilled by having to testify at a preliminary hearing for a 2nd time for several weeks, it turned out to be a blessing. The extended time led to locating a key missing witness (see Hunt For Black October). There is an old saying that justice delayed is justice denied, and Synanon took that approach, hoping time would dissolve the case. In fact, at the hospital, I was told authorities knew it was Kenton and Musico but questioned if it could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. I was even told under other circumstances they might not have even risked filing, but Synanon needed to be taken to task. A different attitude than Marin, Santa Monica and Tulare.

This time, Synanon’s delay tactics worked against them. They might have won if they pursued right to speedy trial; particularly if they assert… yes someone likely in Synanon did it, but prove who? In this case time bought a solid investigation, not just by myself, LAPD and the District Attorney’s Office, but by those Synanon had long bullied. Lawyers for Time Magazine and ABC worked hard, as did journalist Dave Mitchell.

Helped by incredible errors by Dan Garrett and Howard Garfield, the case was getting tighter and tighter even though Steve Simon published for the first time that Think Tables were in fact extensions of the game and people just acted out, rather than saying the truth. To counter this, I reorganized think tables by subject matter and showed that Dederich said the same thing every time he spoke on any subject. Further, by dissecting the new religious posture tape, I showed that the speech referred to real life events, and that the claim that it was a make-believe speech opened the door to prove the facts stated on tape, including all the beatings described, such as the thrashing of the Dinuba and San Francisco punks and Santa Monica basement beatings. The key events of the investigation and the mistakes that uncovered the evidence that would destroy Synanon are described in the “Fall of Synanon” series.

It seemed like nothing else went on in my life in 1979 except the search for evidence. Led by Bernie Kolb Synanon investigators were in Los Angeles looking for dirt on me and trying to intimidate. Their investigations were noisy so it would get back to me. Using my high school year book and college yearbook they contacted people and I was surprised at how many of my friends spoke to them thinking saying nice things would be helpful, when they had no idea what information was being looked for. And they would identify other friends. Primarily, Synanon was looking for prior girlfriends. From all their years of human exploration and gaming, they knew enough of human behavior to predict a scorned ex-girlfriend would be most likely to say something negative, while at the same time putting all in fear. The latter was working. Each day I came to work and found messages from old friends saying Synanon had been at their door. Phil Bourdette, in desperation, actually asked Bernie Kolb to investigate 1972 Volvo 1800 ES sports wagons because they were an unusual car and I drove one. When Bernie asked a mechanic about the car, he replied his sister dated someone who owned one and the next thing I knew she was calling me because they were at her door with a tape recorder.

It was enough to have the pressure to prove the case, and then Mary Robson, wife of Doug Robson, visited a neighbor of my mother’s and left her card so I would know they knew where my mother lived. It had finally for a brief moment made me like them; as I fantasized about getting Robson alone in a room. One tooth for every tooth he was responsible for having knocked out of someone else. A nice thought, but the problem was that was not me. I would get them legally or not at all.

Each night I plotted out every person in the world I could think of that knew of Trudy’s existence. She was gone but protecting her was Number 1 priority. I had to reach each person before Synanon did to make sure she was never disclosed. One day I came into the office and found a message from the brother of my first love– Sharon–when I was just 22 years old. I went into fright they had found her. But it turned out they had just contacted the brother because he knew me, not that they knew of Sharon. He told me Sharon sent her blessings and God speed.

I have often said that the story of Synanon is a story of the nature of the lawyers whose job it was to stop them. For years, Santa Monica, Marin and Tulare were marked by attorneys who were cowards only interested at being home by 5:00 PM with their paycheck. But it was different now. Maybe the exception was Charlie Just of the AG’s office who sometimes we referred to as Just Charlie. I met personally with Atty. Gen. George Deukmejian and tried to emphasize the dangers Synanon was to the State, and that a lot of people would be in danger for life if proper action was not taken but I did not feel I was getting anywhere even though a Synanon task force existed. Despite the large amount of evidence we provided nothing was happening. And when an action was taken concerning the misuse of charitable funds, old Synanon friend Sen. Nick Petris, author of the original save Synanon bill, passed-through another bill taking away the state’s rights to protect religious trusts from misuse of funds. By the time Just got around to investigating past beatings, the statute of limitations had run on each. The AG contacted Meyers, but despite what happen he said he had no ill willl, just sadness. The case was filed but was dismissed for lack of speedy investigation as the San Francisco police knew of the Kim Meyer charge and had done nothing for several years, a correct judicial decision under the law.

Synanon allowed Bernie Kolb too much time outside of Synanon investigating me; he also started dating a younger nonmember girl. So Synanon reeled him in and put him in the Hoodlum patrol in order to get his mind right. Instead, he left. 90 days later he called and said he had been out 90 days and he assumed therefore I knew he was ready to talk. In fact I had been waiting the predictable 90 days self recovery period rather than contacting him. He also wanted help getting his daughter out. It was sort of odd considering what he had put me through going to my friends and asking who my girl friends were, but he said the inability to hear anything said other than positive was one of the things that induced his ability to leave. Bernie had clearly been saved by early Synanon, but he knew who did what and he believed from his early days taught morality it had to be stopped. It was the start of a life time friendship that only ended with his recent death.

In 1978 and 1979 Synanon sent out 960 letters to the media demanding retractions, including the Point Reyes Light which won the Pulitzer Prize for its expose on Synanon. Synanon hired a company to provide clips of all articles published relating to Synanon. In 1978 and 1979 the total was 11,136. 15 retraction letters were received by the Los Angeles Times which never made a retraction or correction. 23 demand letters were sent to the San Francisco Chronicle which also did not respond to any. The UPI report noted that Synanon always claimed allegations it was responsible for beatings, sporting weapons or revenge acts were untrue. Since this was true, as later shown from Synanon’s own memos, the lack of any response was appropriate.

On February 1, 1980 Synanon dismissed its lawsuit against Time Magazine. Dan Garrett said it was because they had to use all the resources to defend Dederich against the Rattlesnake attack. Time magazine lawyers responded that the dismissal was because Time had developed evidence that Synanon had a plot to harass the media into silence. Also, 41 of the 44 allegations in the lawsuit had already been dismissed by the court on October 16, 1979 on summary judgment. Time Magazine stated publicly that Synanon had tried to intimidate them from their constitutional right to report the news. “That harassment only determined us to fight harder. If Synanon succeeded, others might well have been encouraged to undertake similar suits in attempt to chill the actions of the press.” Times noble effort wasn’t good enough. 8 months after Dave Mitchell won the Pulitzer Prize he was sued by Synanon for 1.2 5 million. He would win this case on summary judgment and make new law in California (see Synanon cases) as to the right to express opinion and as to the journalistic privilege.

According to the National News Counsel published in May 1980, on November 21, UPI charged Synanon with having a “retraction project” designed to create a systematic pattern of intimidation in order to suppress any unfavorable stories.

Then surprise, Dederich woke up from his stupor in February of 1980 and as he had with Jack Hurst, the temporary leader, Dan Garrett had gotton too big, CED didn’t like the way he had been running things and demoted him from power. Garrett’s response was similar to Hurst’s. He split. Later he would say Synanon had become too full of itself, but never did he reveal his crimes.

In May of l980 two kids ran away on bicycles; they were not the usual “punks.” One was Todd Dederich, 15, Chuck Jr.’s son and Chuck’s grandson the other was 13-year old Charles Mullen, son of the Synanon school head Rod Mullen. Marin probation by then had policy of not returning kids unless they asked to be.


Finally, in summer of 1980 they pled guilty. CED, Musico and Kenton. At the court hearing on sentencing I took an empty seat between Jady and Ginny, my way of saying the war was all over now. I even lead the media down the hallway so that Bourdette could sneak Dederich out a side door and avoid the microphones being stuck in the Old Man’s face.

Synanon had sold its Del March club to a health guru who set up programs to get people back in shapes and oddly Chris Brown participated. But when the founder died relatively young while running it was then sold back into its original vocation of hotel and bar. Synanon abandoned and put up for sale its Tomales Bay property in 1980 and Marin took me on a private tour where I got photographs, was able to sit on CED bed and found a book given to Chuck and written on it– “internal vigilance – –-Ivan Ujeta.”

Offer from the property came from Warner Erhard of est and that scared the population. The Buck Foundation came to the rescue with its huge monetary charitable trust (to serve Marin charities) and decided the most charitable thing it could do was buy the property which eventually became a state conference center and a park.

We felt safe until 1982 when ABC betrayed us (See Fall of Synanon II). Synanon filed more lawsuits–adding Mitchell and Reader’s Digest– and I got a phone call telling me another snake was coming. Deukmejian just plain let us down. He had enough evidence to convict them all of RICCO ten times over but did nothing. A state investigator named Suaso had complained also of Just Charlie.


Soon after ABC’s betrayal of the public trust (See Fall of Synanon II), I decided to hold a Synanon theme party in an attempt to lift splitee spirits. In Synanon, you attained full membership on your fifth anniversary; June, l982, marked the five-year anniversary of my involvement with the group, so I invited ex-members to my house to celebrate. I sent out invitations mandating that everyone come with shaved heads, bib overalls and ax handles. At midnight, we would all change partners. Door prizes included a Gambonini Tractor, a vasectomy reversal and Charles Dederich tape recordings. A donated dart board had Ron Cook’s face in the bulls-eye. In one room I put chairs in a circle with a sign over the entrance saying:

“Synanon Game Room: Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter.”

Donning my custom-made “Splitee” t-shirt, I told my guests that now that I had become a member, I was about to become a splitee. I had settled recently the Dan Ross case and the Eidson family case for the brutal midnight beating of Eidson in November of l977. I took the case post rattlesnake to shame the Visalia bar that was clearly intimidated and to show Synnanon I could not be intimidated (See Fall of Synanon IV and True Story of Synanon violence). So at this moment I had no Synanon cases.

I thanked them all for their bravery and told them what ABC had done. The network had shown it didn’t care about them or its responsibility to the general public. The New York lawyer that negotiated the settlement had told Brown and Fremlin that the world had forgotten about Vietnam and they will forget about this, too. Money was all that mattered.

The party was great fun. “The Network of Friends,” as the ex-members became known, had been like a support group to me, even showing up once after I got out of the hospital to move the contents of my house when it was threatened by a Malibu fire. We shared common experiences and spoke a common language. For a long time, they were the only people who had an inkling of what I was going through and the only ones with whom I didn’t feel the need to explain myself.

But the party didn’t help my sagging spirits. As the realization sunk in that ABC paid off the organization that tried to kill me and had attacked so many others, I became deeply depressed and was bedridden for two weeks. I had spent years fighting cults and now I wondered whether I had been wasting my time. While I tilted at windmills, sacrificing any semblance of a personal life, this publicly-held corporation, which operated under one of only three lucrative national broadcasting licenses handed out by the government, was blithely disregarding public safety for financial expedience. I could understand Synanon, I could not understand ABC.

Then the phone rang. Frank Hertz and Tom Lawler identified themselves as attorneys from the United States Department of Justice. They had been given what they thought was an abuse of charitable funds tax case concerning Synanon. It had been suggested they call me. They did not even know my involvement. “Where the hell you guys been, “ I screamed.

They said that shook them up and they listened as I told the tale. They got the message and these guys were the real McCoy. They were ready to catch up, roll up the sleeves, burn the midnight oil, do what had to be done. There was hope after all. And none of it was for Synanon.