or the children of Waco, it was a measure of justice. For Jason Scott and thousands of other deprogramming victims, it was some relief for the wrongs they had suffered.
For Rick Ross, identified by Cynthia Kisser of the now-defunct hate group Cult Awareness Network as among the half-dozen best deprogrammers in the country, it was the final word that he must pay more than $3.3 million in damages for his assault on Scott in 1991, and that theres no way out of it.
And for CAN itself and the violent practice of deprogramming it espoused, it was another nail in the coffin.
In a hearing in Phoenix on October 2 before Judge George B. Nielsen Jr., Chief Judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court, Federal District of Arizona, Ross lawyer, Bret Maidman, tried and failed to find an escape route for Ross.
And Ross, who for years had made his living by making sure people had no exit when he was tormenting them to the extent of covering over windows, confining his victims movements with handcuffs and even taping their mouths shut so they could not call out for help now finds he cannot get away and must face the consequences of his unlawful acts.
Judge Nielsen made it clear that despite Ross attempts to elude responsibility, he had unquestionably been in charge of the deprogramming attempt on Jason Scott, that he knew his brutal and violent abduction of Scott would cause damage to the victim, and that his actions were malicious and unjustifiable.
[T]he debtor and the other defendants willfully participated in the abduction of Scott, the judge stated. Some defendants bound and gagged Scott. All were present. All were found to have participated in this conspiracy.
Theres nothing which indicates that Ross did anything to dissuade the other defendants, the so-called security people, from, one, physically restraining Scott; two, handcuffing Scott; three, placing duct tape over Scotts mouth; four, transporting him against his will to Ocean Shores; five, placing him in handcuffs in a shower; six, keeping him in a bedroom where he had to spend eight hours a day for four days while Ross tried to persuade him to abandon his religious beliefs.
The judge said, the fact that Ross may not have been the muscle is of little consequence. He was still acting in concert with the other defendants to deprive Scott of his civil rights. This testimony, when coupled with the other evidence, meets the malicious behavior standard required under the law.
In his ruling, Judge Nielsen upheld the plaintiffs argument that the debt established by the trial court for $875,000 in compensatory and $2.5 million in punitive damages was not dischargeable due to Ross declared bankruptcy. Under federal law, if intentional, malicious conduct is proven, the judgment stands and bankruptcy is no relief.
As noted by the district judge, Judge Nielsen said, referring to U.S. District Judge John Coughenour, who presided over the 1995 trial in Washington state, the Court notes each defendants seeming incapability of appreciating the maliciousness of the conduct toward Scott.
Ross who reportedly engaged in hundreds of deprogramming assaults, specializing in attacks on Christians now faces a future which is troubled at best. Meanwhile, creditors are figuring out how to divide up the few assets that the Cult Awareness Network left behind.
Creditors are figuring out how to divide up the few assets that the Cult Awareness Network left behind.
The domino effect following CANs demise is toppling any vestige of its brand of abuse. The very day that a United States bankruptcy court shut CANs doors in June 1996, four other CAN-associated thugs joined the ranks of the convicted after the unanimous Idaho Supreme Court threw out their defense, and convicted them of felony kidnapping charges.
In light of the violent nature of deprogramming, the end was easily foreseeable. Ted Patrick, a multiple felon dubbed the original deprogrammer, admitted that deprogramming may be said to involve kidnapping at the very least, quite often assault and battery, almost invariably conspiracy to commit a crime and illegal restraint.
Deprogrammers exploitation of force went so far as to entangle government agencies in their machinations as did Ross at Waco, where he served as adviser to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and later to the FBI, deprogramming one of the Branch Davidians and then feeding false and inflammatory information to the agencies to goad them on. Evidently neither agency checked out Ross criminal background, which included felony convictions for attempted burglary and conspiracy to commit grand theft, on top of a psychiatric history dating to age 6.
Ross failure to discharge his bankruptcy followed the dismissal of a similar motion by an accomplice, Charles Simpson, in August. In that ruling, Judge Nielsen said, Misguided efforts to abduct an adult against his will with force and restraint are not justifiable.
As noted by experts such as J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion and professor of religion at the University of California at Santa Barbara, the Scott case has virtually brought deprogramming to a halt in America.
A documented analysis of CAN, its violent tactics and its attacks on individual rights and freedoms is contained in the 145-page special report published by Freedom in 1995, The Cult Awareness Network: Anatomy of a Hate Group. Copies are available from Freedom.