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The lawyer for a former member of the Church...

By DAVID GREENWALD

LOS ANGELES -- The lawyer for a former member of the Church of Scientology on Friday challenged founder L. Ron Hubbard to make a public appearance if he really wants the return of thousands of documents he claims were stolen.

Michael Flynn, representing former church archivist Gerald Armstrong, said the reclusive Hubbard should be willing to appear in court personally.

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Flynn's comments came at the conclusion of final arguments in nine-week civil trial against Armstrong, who is accused of stealing the documents.

Superior Court Judge Paul Breckenridge, who is hearing the case without a jury, said he would issue a written verdict within 90 days.

The church has charged Armstrong stole thousands of personal documents -- including letters and diaries -- belonging to Hubbard and his wife Mary Sue when he quit in 1981. The church is seeking return of the documents and unspecified damages.

Flynn was confident of his case -- based on the theory that Armstrong was right to keep the papers that allegedly show the church leader's background is fraudulent. Armstrong first saw the papers while working on a biography for Hubbard.

'The evidence on our behalf was overwhelming, and we feel it was a landslide,' Flynn said. 'The real issue in this case is whether he could use those documents to tell the truth about the church.'

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During his closing arguments, Flynn charged the Church of Scientology is 'masquerading as a religion,. operating as a cult, when in fact it is nothing more than an intelligence-gathering organization.'

The documents, many of which are under court-ordered seal, would prove Armstrong's assertions if they are made public, Flynn claimed.

'They should be shown, digested, analyzed for the truth that they contain,' he said.

Flynn charged the reclusive Hubbard was a 'total fraud' who misrepresented himself to church followers to bilk them of millions of dollars and make them do his bidding.

But Scientology attorney Barrett Litt said Armstrong was motivated by a consuming desire to attack the church and its founder after he became disillusioned.

'What this case is about is a man who lost his faith, who turned hostile, who is wrapped up in vines of hatred,' Litt said. 'He is out to destroy what he once created. To fill the void in his own life, he has to wipe out what he once loved.'

Armstrong has said he kept the documents because he feared he would be sued by the church unless he wrote a book complimentary to Hubbard. He delivered the records to Flynn, a Boston-based attorney who has filed lawsuits throughout the country against the church and Hubbard.

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Litt alleged Armstrong and Flynn were engaged in a conspiracy to destroy the worldwide church.

'Who does he take the documents to? He takes them to Mr. Flynn, but Mr. Flynn is not just any attorney,' Litt said. 'He is an attorney known to be involved in litigation with the church, who has multi-million dollar claims against the church.'

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