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The Tip of the Spear

A journalist reexamines what happened to him more than 20 years ago during his five-year investigation of the Church of Scientology for The Los Angeles Times:

"One morning my wife, a kindergarten teacher, was leaving for work when a process server sent by the church’s lawyers jumped out from behind a hedge with a subpoena for me. Another day I listened to Bob on the phone at work as he struggled to calm his wife. She was home alone and somebody had dropped Forest Lawn burial brochures on their doorstep. It would happen more than once, and one afternoon she even saw somebody scurrying away. Then there was the night when upwards of four California Highway Patrol cars, lights flashing, pulled Bob over as he drove home on the 710 freeway. He was ordered out of his car and given a sobriety test. After he passed, Bob asked why he’d been stopped; an officer said they’d been told he was weaving dangerously.

"The next day the Times’s security chief, a former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department official, made some inquiries and discovered that the pursuit had begun when a man called the CHP and said he was tailing a drunk and would direct units to his location. The caller said he was a Los Angeles police officer."
PUBLISHED: Dec. 18, 2012
LENGTH: 31 minutes (7816 words)

Meet the Heroes of Early Scientology Reporting

Then came the six-part expose published June 24th through 29th, 1990, in the Los Angeles Times, a story that conclusively divided the wheat from the chaff where Scientology rumors were concerned. Joel Sappell and Robert W. Welkos spent five years on the story and it was, and still is, a corker. The other day Sappell told me that the Times' Scientology investigation began when he learned that a former Los Angeles Police Department sergeant had become a private investigator for the Scientology organization, after having been fired by the department in 1981 for allegedly running a house of prostitution and alerting a drug dealer to a planned raid. (He was acquitted of all criminal charges in a later trial.) Soon enough it became clear that this former officer was using his LAPD contacts on behalf of his new bosses at Scientology. Sappell's editor scented a bigger story, and the game was afoot.
PUBLISHED: Feb. 16, 2011
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3922 words)