St. Petersburg Times - St. Petersburg, Fla.
Author: MILO GEYELIN
Date: Jan 6, 1989
Start Page: 3.B
Section: TAMPA BAY AND STATE
Text Word Count: 547
TAMPA - Facing trial next week on federal extortion, bribery and perjury
charges, Tampa lawyer Paul B. Johnson asked a judge Thursday to bar
government prosecutors from telling jurors about one of his biggest
clients - the Church of Scientology.
Johnson, a nationally known lawyer who has held high positions in the
American Bar Association, is scheduled to go on trial Monday on charges that
he extorted money from an Orlando-based construction company in 1981, used
the money to bribe three former Hillsborough County Commissioners, then lied
about it before a federal grand jury. He is the last of 25 people, including
real estate brokers, developers, business owners and lawyers, to go on trial
in the Hillsborough County corruption case filed by federal prosecutors in
A former Hillsborough County state attorney and a respected lawyer in Tampa,
Johnson has repeatedly maintained his innocence. In court papers filed
Thursday, however, Johnson's attorney, F. Lee Bailey, argued that potential
jurors in the trial may be prejudiced against Johnson if they learn that he
has represented the Scientologists in a number of legal matters, including a
pending property tax dispute with Pinellas County.
Scientology is a controversial religion that emphasizes self knowledge
through a costly and controversial method of counseling. Followers believe
Scientology is a religion; its critics say it is a massive, moneymaking
Though the church maintains its business headquarters in California, its
spiritual headquarters are in Clearwater, where it is the city's largest
downtown property owner. Claiming it is a tax-exempt religion, the church
has refused to pay property taxes since 1981 . Pinellas County claims the
church owes $2.1-million in back taxes.
Johnson's lawyers contend in court papers filed Thursday that Scientology
has been the target of hostile news accounts over the years, particularly in
the St. Petersburg Times.
``The Church of Scientology has been the subject of pervasive publicity in
all branches of the media throughout (Central Florida), most particularly in
Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, from which prospective jurors will be
summoned to try this case,`` wrote Bailey. The lawyers cited a two-part
series about Scientology published by the Times last month and a subsequent
editorial that criticized the church.
Interim U.S. Attorney Robert W. Genzman declined comment on the motion
The request specifically asks that a judge bar federal prosecutors from
asking prospective jurors two proposed questions: whether any prospective
juror belongs to an organization or religion represented by Johnson and
whether any is a member of the Church of Scientology.
Rather than mention the church by name, prosecutors should be instructed to
ask only if any prospective jurors have been a member of an organization
represented by Johnson, Bailey contends. Those who answer ``yes``should be
questioned further outside the presence of other prospective jurors, Bailey
U.S. District Judge George C. Carr, who will try the case, did not rule on
the motion Thursday and is not expected to before the trial begins Monday.
Johnson, 61, is accused of paying $30,000 in bribes to three former
Hillsborough County commissioners - Joe Kotvas, Fred Anderson and Jerry
Bowmer - to obtain approval of a borrow pit permit for a client, Hubbard
Construction Co. According to the indictment, Johnson extorted the bribe
money from Hubbard through legal fees he charged for his services.
Hubbard Construction Co., coincidence?
Other Paul Johnson articles:
PSTA aims to avoid ad flap January 28, 1999, Thomas C. Tobin, St. Petersburg
Public service ads banned from buses February 25, 1999, Thomas C. Tobin, St.
Scientology complaints resurface August 18, 1989, Curtis Krueger, St.
Testimony: Church of Scientology spurred critic's arrest May 23, 2001, David
Sommer, Tampa Tribune
Woman accuses Scientology guard of threat October 20, 1995, Jane Meinhardt,
St. Petersburg Times
Evidently he wasn't disbarred after that case.
Ron of that ilk.
> Johnson, 61, is accused of paying $30,000 in bribes to three former
> Hillsborough County commissioners - Joe Kotvas, Fred Anderson and Jerry
> Bowmer - to obtain approval of a borrow pit permit for a client, Hubbard
> Construction Co. According to the indictment, Johnson extorted the bribe
> money from Hubbard through legal fees he charged for his services.
> Hubbard Construction Co., coincidence?
As per sunbiz.org, the company is still active. One of the director is
Frank M. Hubbard, can't find link to Scientology. I don't get though how
can money paid for legal fees for services rendered can be considered