MONTESANO, Grays Harbor County - Three Arizona men have pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawful imprisonment filed in a 1991 attempt to "deprogram" a teenager whose mother was concerned about his affiliation with a Bellevue church.
The pleas were entered yesterday in Grays Harbor Superior Court by Rick Ross, 40, and Charles Simpson, 46, both of Phoenix, and Mark Workman, 38, of Flagstaff, Ariz.
All were told to appear at a pretrial hearing Sept. 27. Unlawful imprisonment, a felony, carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Prosecutors contend the three men lured Jason Scott, then 18, to his mother's home in Kirkland, then took him to an Ocean Shores motel where he was held against his will for five days.
The men allegedly were hired by Scott's mother, Katherine Tonkin, who was concerned about his ties to the Life Tabernacle church in Bellevue. Grays Harbor County Deputy Prosecutor Joe Wheeler said he has not yet decided whether to press charges against Tonkin.
Judge Gordon Godfrey denied the defendants' requests for court-appointed lawyers, saying their reported incomes were too high. Outside the courtroom, Ross - who has questioned the delay between the January 1991 abduction and the charges filed last month - contended the prosecution is "part of an ongoing vendetta against all deprogrammers" by the Church of Scientology.
Scott's attorney, Marcello DiMauro, is a member of a Hollywood, Calif., law firm that represents the church. Ross gained national attention last spring when he worked with the FBI during the siege of the Branch Davidian complex near Waco, Texas. He has said he was hired to deprogram Scott after he successfully deprogrammed two of Tonkin's younger sons, who "left the church and never returned."
The pastor of the Life Tabernacle church, Harold Kern, contends that to Ross, "any church is a cult. Nine out of 10 churches in America are cults in his definition."