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Scientology stalked, threatened women who accused actor Danny Masterson of assault, according to lawsuit

Actor Danny Masterson arrives at the Youth for Human Rights International Celebrity Benefit in Los Angeles in 2014. He called a lawsuit filed Wednesday against him and Scientology “beyond ridiculous.” Associated Press (2014)
Actor Danny Masterson arrives at the Youth for Human Rights International Celebrity Benefit in Los Angeles in 2014. He called a lawsuit filed Wednesday against him and Scientology “beyond ridiculous.” Associated Press (2014)
Published Aug. 16, 2019

As soon as four women filed reports with Los Angeles Police in 2016 and 2017 alleging they were raped by actor Danny Masterson, the Church of Scientology unleashed a campaign of terror to intimidate the accusers and protect its celebrity parishioner, according to a joint lawsuit filed this week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The women repeatedly found strangers around their homes, sometimes peering inside with flashlights at night. Their email accounts were hacked and credit cards stolen. One woman's dog mysteriously died and the autopsy showed trauma to its trachea. They were chased in cars; one was run off the road. They were followed into grocery stores and nail salons. All have woken up to find their car doors and trunks wide open.

The 22-page complaint names Masterson, the Church of Scientology International and leader David Miscavige as defendants to claims of stalking, libel, slander, invasion of privacy and conspiracy.

It is the second lawsuit filed this summer against Miscavige and Scientology by a team of a dozen victims rights' attorneys. In the absence of criminal prosecution by federal or local law enforcement, the legal team is using civil courts to expose Scientology's institutional structure it says enables child abuse, human trafficking and harassment of critics.

Related story: Lawsuit accuses Scientology, David Miscavige of child abuse, human trafficking, libel

The latest lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of Masterson's alleged victims: Chrissie Carnell Bixler, Marie Bobette Riales, Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2. Bixler's husband, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, is the fifth complainant seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages.

"This baseless lawsuit will go nowhere because the claims are ludicrous and a sham," Scientology's litigation counsel, William Forman, wrote in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. "It's a dishonest and hallucinatory publicity stunt."

But cover ups of sexual abuse and tactics to silence survivors are ingrained in Scientology's policies and origins, said the plaintiffs' attorney Brian Kent. The legal team challenging Scientology includes Kent, Gaetano D'Andrea, Stewart Ryan and Lauren Stram of Laffey, Bucci & Kent in Philadelphia; Marci Hamilton, a constitutional scholar and founder of CHILD USA; Jeffrey Fritz of Soloff & Zervanos in Philadelphia; California attorney Robert Thompson; and Ricardo Martinez-Cid and Lea Bucciero of Miami's Podhurst Orseck.

"We cannot stand by while Scientology permits abuse and assault, tries to cover up the egregious acts and then attempts to intimidate survivors and advocates into silence," Kent said in a statement Thursday.

Bixler and Jane Doe 1, who were Scientologists at the time of their alleged assaults, first reported Masterson to church officials, according to the lawsuit. Each described explicit orders from the church to not go to law enforcement.

Policy by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard teaches it is a "high crime" to report a fellow Scientologist to law enforcement and that only his technology can resolve human ills. Hubbard wrote any "suppressive person" could be the target of his Fair Game policy and "deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed."

Bixler was put into an "ethics program" where she was required to explain what she did to cause the assault, according to the lawsuit. Jane Doe 1 was forced to undergo intense sessions of spiritual counseling known as auditing, as well as security checks, where she had to read reports about her sexual assault written by Masterson.

During auditing sessions, the auditor writes detailed notes on what the subject confesses. Each subject has individual folders that are stored by Scientology indefinitely.

The lawsuit states Masterson's reports included a confession to the assault.

In a statement to the Times through his attorney, Masterson called the claims "beyond ridiculous" and called out one woman without naming her.

"I'm not going to fight my ex-girlfriend in the media like she's been baiting me to do for more than two years. I will beat her in court — and look forward to it because the public will finally be able learn the truth and see how I've been railroaded by this woman."

Since Hubbard created Scientology in the early 1950s, he stressed using celebrities, politicians and community leaders to gain legitimacy and recruit new members.

Masterson, who played Steven Hyde in That '70s Show, was born into Scientology and became highly regarded in the church when he rose to celebrity in the late 1990s.

Bixler started dating Masterson in 1996 and became involved in Scientology per his orders, according to the lawsuit.

After years of sexual violence, Bixler reported Masterson to the church's head ethics officer. That's when she was forced into ethics programs and forbidden from reporting to police. She ended the relationship in 2002 and a church official forced her to sign a document pledging to not speak publicly or sue Masterson.

In early 2016 a former Scientologist told Bixler he had witnessed part of an assault by Masterson on Jane Doe 1. The lawsuit describes an elaborate plot by Scientology officials to cover up Jane Doe 1's assault and to intimidate both women.

Bixler reported her prior assault to Los Angeles Police in December 2016.

Almost continuously since, Bixler and her husband have found her car doors open, found Scientology agents lingering outside of their home and peering into windows, had their home security system hacked and had mail taken from their home, the lawsuit says. Bixler was chased while driving, had Craigslists ads fraudulently posted in her name soliciting sex and other threats.

Jane Doe 1 was drugged and assaulted by Masterson on two occasions in the early 2000s, according to the lawsuit. The man who reached out to Bixler witnessed part of one assault in 2003 and reported it to the church.

Jane Doe 1 also reported her assault to her ethics officer but was told not to speak of it. She was threatened to be labeled a suppressive person when church officials discovered she told friends and family, according to the lawsuit.

During one security check in 2004, she was forced to sit in a room with Masterson and "clear the air."

She reported her assault to Los Angeles Police in 2004 and again in 2016 after connecting with Bixler, according to the lawsuit.

She receives hundreds of threatening calls and text messages from unknown numbers, has seen cars parked outside her home for long periods, had her trash stolen, seen a woman shine a flashlight into her children's bedrooms, had privacy shrubs cut down and other harassment, according to the suit.

Riales began dating Masterson in 2002 but never became a Scientologist. The lawsuit states the actor repeatedly drugged and assaulted her. She ended the relationship in 2004 and went to police in 2017.

Riales' food truck business was vandalized. Her neighbor found a man in her driveway taking pictures. That night, the bedroom window of her 13-year-old child was shattered. She was followed to a vacation in Delaware by Scientology agents taking photos, the suit says.

One night in the early 2000s, Jane Doe 2, a Scientologist at the time, was drugged and assaulted at a party by Masterson, according to the lawsuit. She withdrew from Scientology in 2004 and was left alone because she did not speak publicly of her assault.

That changed in 2017 when Jane Doe 2 went to police.

Her cell phone and computer have been hacked. Text messages from Scientologists taunted her about her father's earlier suicide. Days after she made a Facebook post in March urging the FBI to investigate Scientology, her credit card was charged $4,000 in Victoria Secret merchandise and vitamins.

She has rarely left the house in the two years since reporting her assault to police, according to the lawsuit.

Contact Tracey McManus at tmcmanus@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

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