The Richardson-Cooper feud is popularly traced to a dispute between Cooper and Judith Bradford which started in an AOL scientology chat room. A little checking showed us that that was not the case. Paulette Cooper's troubles began months earlier.
On July 26, 1995, her birthday, Paulette Cooper came out of retirement with a post to alt.religion.scientology.
Soon after the post Cooper received email from Keith Spurgeon, a long-time friend of Diane Richardson. Spurgeon and Cooper became friends; as Cooper perceived it, they were close friends. Cooper had a pent-up need to talk about her experiences with scientology and Spurgeon was a very good listener. Cooper told Spurgeon about her traumatic experiences of the 1980's and her devastating betrayal at the hands of Richard Bast. More than anything, she dreaded having the Bast tapes become public.
By late January or early February Paulette had signed onto an AOL scientology chat and had a tiff with Judith Bradford, an associate of Spurgeon's; Paulette remembers apologizing to Bradford in email on February 17, 1996. Bradford refused to accept the apology and continued to lambaste Cooper.
Meanwhile, Spurgeon obtained a copy of the Hubbard affidavit. He discussed it with other people without saying anything to Paulette.
The affidavit states in part:
"In pursuit of this strategy of winning by seeking default judgments, my attorney filed in my lawsuits sworn statements alleging that Mr. Hubbard was in control of Scientology's activities, and that he directed a campaign against me. However, I never had any real evidence or reason (other than the word of my lawyers) to believe that Mr. Hubbard was in control of the activities of the Church of Scientology, and my attorneys never presented me with any evidence that such was the case. It is clear to me, on the basis of my conversation with Mr. Flynn on this subject, that the allegations concerning Mr. Hubbard's control over day-to-day Scientology activities had no basis in fact, but were being made solely for strategic reasons in pursuit of a default judgment."
Sworn to before me this 4th day of March, 1985.
Alda N. Boyrie, Notary Public
The affidavit was soon posted to alt.religion.scientology and Cooper was bitterly attacked. Diane Richardson accused Cooper of "selling out" for money and damaging other litigants' cases against the church. Cooper was shocked. ("I never had an argument with Diane on chat," she said. "I thought we were friends.")
Cooper, who had signed a settlement agreement which included a gag order, could say nothing in her own defense. An examination of the dates shows that the Hubbard affidavit was signed only four days after the settlement agreement. We believe that signing the affidavit was part of the settlement. There is no evidence that the affidavit harmed any other critics' cases.
Cooper cannot say whether she received any money in the settlement. [After looking at the record, our private view is that whatever she received, it probably wasn't enough.] Richardson, Spurgeon et al. argued that taking money from the church is a vile crime. We imagine that the church feels that way too.
Early in their acquaintance Cooper remembers telling Spurgeon how much she cherishes her unusually happy marriage. When we asked how the subject came up, Cooper said she might have volunteered the information. She indignantly dismissed the idea that Spurgeon may have been fishing for information about her vulnerabilities from the very beginning. She stated that she could not have been opped. She would have known. And besides, he was such a nice man.
Cooper's worst fears came true. Spurgeon posted item after item from the 1980's. Richardson and Bradford launched vitriolic personal attacks. Cooper and her friends pleaded for copies of the documents but were rebuffed. After torturing Cooper for several months and baiting public interest with innuendo, Richardson posted the Bast transcripts.
The flamewar took the regulars aback. The posted information showed Paulette Cooper to be the victim of a cruel deception: why should this be touted as evidence that _Cooper_ was the liar? And if some fifteen years ago Cooper did not pay for all her photocopies, so what? We could think of much worse behavior, some of which we had just seen on the newsgroup.
Secondarily, we began to wonder about the sequence of things. The common assumption is that Cooper told Spurgeon about the Bast tapes and Spurgeon told Richardson, who made a trip to Boston and obtained the court records. [Richardson taunted Coooper with this claim in private email.]
Nevertheless, the material posted represents a sizable investment of time and money. The court records occupy five file boxes. At $.50 per page, this represents a substantial sum. Copies of the tapes are available, but expensive. The time required to obtain these things from the court clerk must also be considered.
Did Spurgeon and Richardson really obtain all their documents from the court? Where are the receipts? How many hours did they spend in the courtroom? How many days, and on which days? When were the tape copies made, and where is the evidence that they were made by the court? We would like to see this cleared up because there was, after all, another possible source for those documents.
Supposing that Richardson and Spurgeon can prove that they acquired their tapes and documents from the court, we must then ask why they went to the trouble. There are few items of current interest in the posted documents. There are no great crimes or acts of deception (except by the church). Paulette Cooper is revealed as a victim on a scale most people can scarcely imagine. Why did Richardson and Spurgeon pick Cooper as a target?
Taking another look at the timeline:
Cooper's troubles started right after her ars post. No sparrow falls on usenet without coming to the attention of OSA, the church's intelligence arm, but the church did nothing to respond. Instead Cooper was contacted by Spurgeon. She told him all about her life and her deepest fears--particularly, that the humiliating and painful Bast episode would be dragged out on the net. Spurgeon secretly fed the information to Richardson, who used it to stage a public attack. They were joined by Judith Bradford, who picked a fight with Cooper after Spurgeon had made contact. The trio launched a campaign against Cooper, making plentiful use of innuendo and accusations unsuppored by fact.
--In other words, critic Cooper surfaced on the net, immediately ran into a covert op of the type the church is famous for, and became the target of a no-holds-barred character assassination. This was not a surprise to anyone who has followed the netwar. (It was a devastating shock to Paulette Cooper, who still does not believe that she could have been set up twice.)
Neverthelesss, we would like to leave room for the possibility that this episode was merely a coincidence.
We feel that this would be a good time for Spurgeon, Richardson and Bradford to stop their attack on Cooper; to apologize for their accusations, which went far beyond any basis in fact; and to provide objective evidence that they obtained all of their documents and tapes in the way they said they did.
Coincidence or OSA? We are waiting to see.
We could not help remembering a famous passage by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:
"But the dog did nothing in the night."-- Dr. Watson
"Exactly." --Sherlock Holmes