ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

clear-night
56°
Sunny
H 64° L 39°
  • clear-night
    56°
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 64° L 39°
  • clear-day
    64°
    Today
    Sunny. H 64° L 39°
  • clear-day
    68°
    Tomorrow
    Sunny. H 68° L 42°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

The Narconon-Scientology Connection

When Patrick Desmond died of a drug and alcohol overdose while a patient at Narconon of Georgia on June 11, 2008, one of the first things the organization’s executive director did was report it – not to state regulators, but to the Church of Scientology and the leader of a church-run secular organization.

“Narconon is, essentially it is scientology. And they're trying to pretend that it's not,” said Canton native Luke Catton. “There is no real separation, it's only on paper, it's only corporate separation, it's not like there's a difference between Narconon and Scientology, it is part of Scientology, it is Scientology.”

The son of former Scientologists, Catton became president of Narconon’s flagship U.S. rehabilitation facility, Narconon Arrowhead in Canadian, Oklahoma at the age of 23. He also rose to a high position within the Church of Scientology before leaving the faith. Now, like others who have fallen away from Scientology, he has been labeled a “Suppressive Person” (S.P.) by his former fellow congregants. He is shunned and ridiculed by them.

Catton contends Narconon has two goals: recruit people into the Church of Scientology and make money. Helping people with drug and alcohol addiction is, he said, a means to those ends.

“The greater purpose is to indoctrinate people to become scientologists,” he said.

When he was president of Narconon Arrowhead, Catton said the facility would receive daily calls from executives at Narconon International asking for updates – but not about the progress of patient treatment.

“The executive director of Narconon International used to call into Arrowhead every day wanting to know… the gross income – GI – ‘what’s the G-I at?’ He wouldn't call and say ‘how many graduates do you have?’ He wouldn't call and say ‘What's your success rate like right now? How's your retention rate?’ He wouldn't ask those things, he'd call and want to know how much money was in,” said Catton.

Catton estimated that together, the Narconon facilities in the U.S. earn approximately $1 million a week in “G-I.”

Of the money each center such as Narconon of Georgia earns, Catton said ten-percent is sent to Narconon International in the form of a licensing fee for the Scientology-based materials used in drug and alcohol rehabilitation and education. In turn, he continued, Narconon International pays ten-percent of its revenue to the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE), a secular organization operated by the Church of Scientology.

Narconon of Georgia Executive Director Mary Rieser has repeatedly denied any connection between her organization and the Church of Scientology.

“I am a scientologist, that's my church. But they don't manage here. That's my church,” she said during an interview in her office. Tucked away under her desk were leather bound books on Scientology. She became extremely flustered when a television photographer stepped behind her desk in the course of shooting an interview and demanded to know whether he had taken pictures of the books. He had not.

So, if the Church of Scientology doesn’t manage Narconon of Georgia, why, then, did Rieser report events surrounding the death of Patrick Desmond to the director of special affairs at the local Church of Scientology and the Office of Special Affairs at Scientology headquarters in Los Angeles?

“Well I'm not gonna speak to why I did that,” she replied, “but that's not a governing body for me. That is my church so I don't know… if I'd been a Baptist I might have told my church.”

Catton refutes that absolutely.

“It’s well known protocol that when you have a legal situation such as this (the death of Patrick Desmond), that’s so devastating, you need to contact church representatives from the Office of Special Affairs or the local director of Special Affairs which,” he said, pointing to the address line on the email memo,” is done here. “It goes to Narconon International, ABLE International, to the local church and to the church international through the Office of Special Affairs.”

The memo to which Catton referred was held under court seal in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Patrick Desmond’s family at Narconon’s request and was released only last month.

Another memo released at the same time also indicates the intertwined nature of Narconon and the Church of Scientology as well as ABLE’s active hand in the minutia of Narconon of Georgia’s affairs.

Entitled “Things That Shouldn’t Be,” the memo chronicles Reiser’s difficulties with another Scientologist, Maria Delgado. The Desmond family contends when Reiser could not obtain a state license for an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility, she had Delgado and her husband, Don, set up a corporation through which she could provide housing to her patients anyway. But the relationship between Rieser and the Delgados soured when Maria and Don, who formed their company while still employeed at Narconon, divorced. By that time, security among the Sandy Springs apartments Delgado rented for Narconon patients had become almost nonexistent.

Then the Church of Scientology International sent a mission that included the executive director of ABLE. The mission shuffled staff within the local church and within Delgado Development. Don was replaced with Maria’s new fiancé on orders from the church mission.

“The purpose of Narconon and housing seemed to have become to support org (church) staff,” Rieser wrote.

As conditions in patient housing continued to deteriorate, Rieser wrote, she tried to get other Scientology-affiliated organizations to intervene with Maria Delgado. But, she complained, Delgado was too high-ranking within the church.

Rieser wrote about checking on Narconon patients after hours during this period in 2008. “A few times, I found liquor and drug paraphernalia. I called the cops about a drug dealer who was dropping off heroin and I was on the prowl around several apartments looking for dealers. I felt the students were in danger and felt pretty alone at handling a dangerous scene.”

When questioned about security at the apartments she rented for Narconon patients at the Sovereign Place complex in Sandy Springs, Maria Delgado said she did try to heighten security. How?

“You know, (by making) sure that the montirs were going, putting more policies in (place),” she testified in a deposition. She also said she increased the use of Breathalyzers and urinalysis drug tests. But she also admitted that the results were never documented.

The Delgados, who were named in the Desmonds’ lawsuit, have now settled out of court.

If it was that dangerous, then why not shut down housing? Even after Patrick Desmond got drunk, left with two former patients, shot heroin and died, Narconon and Delgado Development both continued to accept patients. Neither issued warnings to residents or their families. Catton said neither the church nor its affiliates would have allowed that.

“They have such intense pressure to make money every single week that to say, ‘Whoa,  things aren't okay, we can't bring anybody in for a couple of weeks’ would  not have  been acceptable to Narconon International, to ABLE, to the church to anybody. It's not acceptable to not make money,” Catton said.

Catton shook his head in amazement when looking at the two Reiser memos.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in public before now,” he said. “For people to know that obviously there is a direct channel between Narconon and the churches and the church international… it completely refutes anything they’re trying to say that they are separate. There are orders taken, there are orders given that run back and forth. It is not an entirely separate organization. This demonstrates very clearly the connection between them. It’s not just the connection. It is a direct channel.”

Read More

News

  • The Georgia mother of a teen who recently overdosed after vaping THC wax is speaking out, hoping other kids and parents become aware of the danger. THC is the active ingredient in cannabis. >> Read more trending news Lacey Turner, of Butts County, wants to spare other parents the anguish that she and her son Bailey went through. Turner told WSB-TV her son could barely keep his eyes open and his blood pressure was dangerously low at the time of the incident. “When I pulled up to the school, they were loading Bailey on the ambulance,' Turner said. Turner described the harrowing day in January when paramedics rushed her 16-year-old son to the hospital. She said he collapsed after taking a single hit of THC vaping wax, provided by a friend, in the high school cafeteria. 'He continued to vomit in the bathroom and passed out until someone came in and found him,” Turner said. After arriving at the hospital emergency room, the teen was still unconscious and had an extremely fast heartbeat and low blood pressure. 'Cognitively, he was completely disassociated. You pretty much had to slap him and get him to open his eyes,' Turner said. Turner, a nurse, first thought her son had overdosed on opioids, and so did the emergency room doctors. They administered an overdose reversing drug. “They gave him a shot of Narcan -- absolutely no change,' Turner said. Urine and blood tests told another story. “He was negative for anything in his system, except THC,' Turner said. Schools in metro Atlanta have reported students falling ill after vaping THC or synthetic THC. Turner believes the high potency is the problem. “This form of marijuana can be 85 to 90 percent concentrated with THC,” Turner said. The mother is thankful her son has fully recovered, but thoughts of what could have happened still haunt her. “My son could have passed out there in the bathroom, hit his head on the toilet on the way down and died of blunt force trauma,” Turner said. Turner said that when she posted her son's story on Facebook, she got responses from kids and parents across the country who had had the same experience.
  • A Florida man is facing child sex abuse charges after officials said he paid over $800 on an Uber to bring a teenage girl to Apopka. >> Read more trending news Police said 25-year-old Richard Brown raped the 17-year-old girl in his parents' home over the course of several days. The two met over Instagram after he told the victim that he was a 19-year-old Instagram celebrity and that he would 'take care of her.' The victim told Apopka police that Brown paid for an Uber to drive her from San Antonio, Texas, to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In Louisiana, she got into another Uber that dropped her off in Apopka on Sunday. Brown would later show police receipts showing the second part of the trip that amounted to over $800. According to arrest documents, Brown told police he was 'only friends' with the victim and thought that she was of age and 'in need of a place to stay.' One neighbor couldn't believe the accusations. 'You might never know about it and now the cops are here,' said Amanda Trail. 'That's crazy for the parents.' The victim said once she realized Brown wasn't 19 or 'Instagram famous' that she wanted to go home. Brown then allegedly told her, 'no you owe me now for bringing you all the way here.' She later told officials that she escaped on Wednesday when Brown fell asleep and while she was on Snapchat with her mother. Police would locate her near Ustler and Wekiwa Preserve Drive, but said she wasn't able to point out which home belonged to the victim or what his name was on social media.  Brown's attorney took issue with the story, citing 'several inconsistencies.' Brown faces six felony counts of child sex abuse. 
  • A jury has acquitted Michael Rosfeld Friday night in the trial of the white former police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teen fleeing a high-stakes traffic stop outside Pittsburgh. >> WPXI LIVE UPDATES: Michael Rosfeld Trial Rosfeld was charged with homicide for shooting Antwon Rose Jr. during a traffic stop last June. Rose was riding in an unlicensed taxi that had been involved in a drive-by shooting when Rosfeld pulled the car over and shot the 17-year-old in the back, arm and side of the face as he ran away. The panel of seven men and five women — including three black jurors — saw video of the fatal confrontation, which showed Rose falling to the ground after being hit. The acquittal came after fewer than four hours of deliberations on the fourth day of the trial. The Rose family’s attorney, S. Lee Merritt, had urged a murder conviction, saying before closing arguments that it’s “pretty obvious” Rose was not a threat to Rosfeld. Rose’s death — one of many high-profile killings of black men and teens by white police officers in recent years — spurred protests in the Pittsburgh area last year, including a late-night march that shut down a major highway. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A photo taken of a mother and daughter on the flight deck of an Atlanta-bound Delta Boeing 757 has gone viral. >> Read more trending news The duo, Capt. Wendy Rexon and First Officer Kelly Rexon, can be seen smiling ear-to-ear at the helm of the duel-engine Boeing 757, which seats around 170 passengers. The photo was taken by Dr. John R. Watret, the chancellor of Embry-Riddle Worldwide, a world-renowned aeronautical university, who just happened to overhear that there was a mother-daughter flight crew. According to a release from the university, Watret, who was a passenger on the flight, overheard a mother and kids coming from the cockpit talking about the “mother and daughter” flying the passenger airliner. “I thought that was amazing. I was in awe. I asked if I could visit them, too,” he said in the press release.   This was especially meaningful for Watret because of Embry-Riddle’s commitment to creating more opportunities for women in all areas of the aviation industry. “There has to be more diversification in the industry. It’s crucial and one of the key factors we focus on. When there are more opportunities, everyone wins,” Watret said in the release. Delta airlines official twitter account also replied to his tweet: Kelly Rexon’s sister is also a pilot, according to the release from Embry-Riddle.
  • Tulsa firefighters have returned a cat to its owner after it hitched a ride in a car for about 100 miles. Officials said they were called to rescue a cat but quickly learned it wasn't 'your typical cat stuck in a tree call.' They believe the cat jumped into the car's undercarriage in Mustang, Oklahoma, and likely rode along near the engine. The driver said he heard a noise that he thought was his child's video game, but it turned out to be the meowing cat. >> Read more trending news Firefighters made calls to the Mustang area to see if anyone had reported a lost cat and eventually found the family. They drove up to Tulsa on Friday to collect the cat, whose name is Snickers. KOKI-TV was at the fire station Friday for the reunion.
  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a letter on Friday that the city council’s attempt to have her administration investigated for potentially misusing city funds to hire her campaign staff was itself unlawful. Bottoms specifically pointed to a sentence in a resolution that the council approved on Monday that authorized the ethics officer and auditor to hire an outside law firm to assist with an investigation. “A grant of authority to hire legal counsel, such as is contained in the Resolution, violates the City of Atlanta Charter,” Bottoms wrote. “The Charter designates the City Attorney as the chief legal advisor of the city.” The letter represents an escalation of a power struggle over the mayor and city council’s respective roles to help restore public trust amid an ongoing federal probe into corruption at city hall. The resolution requesting the investigation came in response to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article published last weekend. The article found that six Bottoms campaign staff members were issued payments for a pay period in December 2017, before the city had formally offered them jobs. That article reported that political supporters of the mayor were given job titles based on desired salaries, not their job qualifications or responsibilities. And it found that Bottoms’ former campaign manager Marva Lewis was briefly made an Airport Deputy General Manager and received payments out of airport funds, in possible violation of FAA regulations. The council resolution approved on Monday requested that the auditor and ethics office to determine if the manner in which campaign staff were hired violated city code, state law, the state constitution or Federal Aviation Administration regulations. City Auditor Amanda Noble confirmed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday that she and the ethics office had initiated an investigation. Noble declined to address the contents of Bottoms’ letter. Council President Felicia Moore said resolution was not a binding order, but an expression of the council’s will to see the matter reviewed by the city’s oversight officers. She said the auditor and ethics officer are independent and have the discretion to investigate matters of their choosing. “The law department may have to assist in their getting outside counsel,” Moore said. “The reality is that neither the ethics officer nor the auditor need the council’s resolution to conduct a review.” Moore said one could read the resolution’s call for the ability to hire outside counsel as an implied request for the city’s law department to cooperate with the investigation. The law department, at least in theory, reports to both the mayor and the council. Bottoms has until early next week to decide if she will sign the proposal or veto it. If she doesn’t act eight days after it was passed, the resolution is automatically adopted. The mayor’s letter, which mentions a possible veto, was itself a veiled threat that she may take such action against a resolution that she claims violates the city’s charter. The letter itself seemed to be a preemptive attempt to call into question an investigation, which she claims grew out of a resolution that violates the city’s charter, would be allowed to move forward. Bottoms said that because of the resolution the auditors and ethics officer’s findings “would be rendered useless due to their unlawful origin.” Moore sees no reason why an investigation shouldn’t move forward. “As far as them doing their review and having the access to all city records, there should be no reason why that would change,” Moore said. “They already have the authority.”