WASHINGTON -- Defense lawyers for two top-ranking members of the Church of Scientology Tuesday urged a jury to find the officials innocent of charges stemming from an alleged scheme to burglarize government offices.
Lawyers for Jane Kember and Morris Budlong, who were extradited from England to face trial here, said the government has not proved the two defendants aided and abetted others to commit a crime.
The U.S. District Court jury was scheduled to begin its deliberations in the case Wednesday.
Mrs. Kember and Budlong were indicted on nine counts of aiding and abetting other church members in the burglary of government offices in Washington, including the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Services in 1976.
Mrs. Kember and Budlong, two high ranking church officials who work out of the organization's headquarters in East Grinstead, England, maintain they were 3,000 miles away from the site when the alleged burglaries occurred.
During the trial that began four weeks ago, the government introduced into evidence 270 documents seized by the FBI in raids on the church's U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles.
Prosecutor G. Raymond Banoun contended the documents showed the two church officials were directing the alleged offenses.
'They tried to hide behind a chain of command,' Banoun told the jury in closing arguments. 'They tried to hide behind the Atlantic Ocean. That didn't work and the reason it didn't work was these documents.'
But defense lawyer John Shorter Jr. said there was no evidence Mrs. Kember or Budlong were engaged in any illegal activities.
'Every entry was at the direction not of Mrs. Kember, Mr. Budlong, but of someone else,' Shorter said in urging the jury to acquit them.
The Church of Scientology was founded by former science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose wife, Mary Sue, and eight others were convicted last year of a conspiracy charge relating to the burglaries.
Those nine high ranking church members were sentenced in an unusual plea-bargaining agreement last December after they were found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice.