Las Vegas police officers have arrested a high-ranking Scientologist in a bizarre plot—allegedly inspired by right-wing "Sovereign Citizen" beliefs—to kidnap and kill a local law enforcement officer.
Devon Campbell Newman, 67, became the public relations director of Scientology’s “Celebrity Center” in Las Vegas, Nevada, early in 2010 and has remained in that position to the present day — that’s according to her own LinkedIn profile as well as numerous online records of her activities as a Scientologist. This week, she became known for something else. As a result of a police investigation that began in April, on Tuesday Newman and a six-time felon and registered sex offender named David Allen Brutsche, 42, were arrested for planning what police are calling a bizarre plot to kidnap and kill a random local police officer in a macabre publicity stunt to promote their “sovereign citizen” views.
The arrest and its strange details quickly made news yesterday, but Newman’s position with Scientology wasn’t mentioned. Then, last night, we were tipped by Las Vegas television journalist Nathan Baca about Newman’s role in the church. He plans to have a full report later today. But for now, we have some preliminary information about Newman’s Scientology career, and the trouble she currently finds herself in.
Newman gave a jailhouse interview to Baca’s 8 News NOW colleague, Caroline Bleakley, before they were aware of her involvement in Scientology. Bleakley’s story gives some background on the cop-killing plot…
According to the arrest report, the two belong to a “sovereign citizen movement” and don’t follow U.S. laws. Members of Metro’s Counter-Terrorism Section had been conducting an undercover operation of Brutsche and Newman since April.
Both had expressed a deep-seated hatred for law enforcement officers and planned to kidnap a police officer from a traffic stop, according to the report. They planned to place the officer in a makeshift jail and try the officer in a sovereign court of law for treason and civil rights violations. The officer would be convicted and then executed.
Newman, however, told Bleakley that she was not involved in a plot to kill a cop, and that although Brutsche had discussed kidnapping a police officer, she didn’t think he was serious.
“I am upset, because if this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. I have felt for a while now the police are out of control. That they are stopping people and searching them with no probable cause,” Newman said.
She also denied involvement in the sovereign citizens movement. However, she did say she agreed with people that believe in restrictions on the government outlined in the Constitution.
“I align myself with people who, as our forefathers did, believe that in inalienable rights and that the Constitution restricts the government from what they can do,” Newman said.
According to police, on July 9, David Brutsche (pictured, above) told an undercover police officer, “We need to arrest the police and take them to our jail and put them in a cell and put them on trial in a people’s court. If we run into the position that they resist, then we need to kill them.”
By that time, the three (Brutsche, Newman, and the undercover officer), had purchased a vacant house and had begun to outfit it for their jail.
The strange subculture of the sovereign citizens movement, whose adherents hold truly bizarre, complex antigovernment beliefs, has been growing at a fast pace since the late 2000s. Sovereigns believe that they — not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials — get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and they don’t think they should have to pay taxes. Sovereigns are clogging up the courts with indecipherable filings and when cornered, many of them lash out in rage, frustration and, in the most extreme cases, acts of deadly violence, usually directed against government officials. In May 2010, for example, a father-son team of sovereigns murdered two police officers with an assault rifle when they were pulled over on the interstate while traveling through West Memphis, Ark.
Before she was allegedly caught up in a plot to kidnap, try, and execute a cop as a political statement, Newman was active as the Church of Scientology’s public relations maven in Southern Nevada.
Newman has also been an active part of the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada, representing Scientology’s views at the council’s events. She was a featured speaker, for example, this past October at an event discussing marriage…
In November 2011, the Interfaith Council held a discussion about evolution, and this was Devon Newman’s presentation to the group:
By that time, according to police, Newman was already being investigated for her connection to Brutsche and the plot to kill a cop.
We’ve sent a request for comment to Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw. We’ll let you know if she gets back to us.
In our experience, Scientologists tend to be politically in the middle of the road. Most tend to be on the conservative side of things, but other members — including celebrities — are Democrats and give generously to liberal causes.
Numerous times, however, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard voiced disdain for “wog” law — the rules of a non-Scientology society. In 1966, for example, he said, “Somebody some day will say ‘this is illegal.’ By then be sure the orgs [Scientology organizations] say what is legal or not.”
Eleven years earlier, he had encouraged his followers to use the law to their own ends: “The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.”
Observers have pointed out that Scientology’s “Fair Game” policy of retaliation against critics and former members, and allegations that it abuses its Sea Org staff, were reflections that Scientology doesn’t feel bound by civil law.
But we haven’t previously noticed Scientologists espousing the lunatic conspiracy theories of the sovereign citizens movement. Our commenters will let us know if they’ve seen any previous connections.
UPDATE: We’ve received more information about Devon Newman’s Scientology career from a source we are not naming. Here’s what our source sent us…
There is no way the church can claim that Devon Newman was not ever staff or involved in Scientology. Devon Newman was in the Sea Org at AOLA [the Advanced Organization of Los Angeles, part of the "Big Blue complex near downtown] in the early 2000s, up until 2004 I believe. She was the Director of Processing, in charge of people up to the level of Clear (she didn’t work in the OT levels area). She left the Sea Org shortly after that, I believe, due to a medical condition, which kept her from even being on her post full time.
As the D of P, she was awful. She did not relate well with people, did bad interviews, could not duplicate or relay the C/S’s instructions well and she had a bit of an “evil streak” which would get her in bad with others. From the waiting area, I could sometimes hear the C/S (I think Barbara Rubio was her name) yelling and screaming at Devon for her incompetence.
So imagine my surprise when years later Devon Newman showed up as staff at Las Vegas. Having been in the Sea Org is usually a big no-no for being recruited to staff but they made a special exception for her because she was “not qualified for the Sea Org in the first place due to her medical situation.” Devon was posted in Div 6 and did PR work as you reported. That was the last I heard of her.
Tony Ortega is the former editor-in-chief of the Village Voice. This post was republished with permission from The Underground Bunker, a web site he maintains devoted to covering Scientology. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook. If you’d like to help support The Underground Bunker, e-mail webmaster Scott Pilutik at BunkerFund@tonyortega.org