By RICHARD LEIBY
Sun staff writer
A downtown Clearwater businessman who last year joined the Church of Scientology was committed to a Mental hospital Monday after a psychiatrist testified that Scientology apparently contributed to the man's insanity.
Francis G. Diamond, 45, a successful antique dealer before his breakdown, told Circuit Judge William Walker that other Scientologists' "thetans," or spirits, had invaded his body during counseling sessions and now control him.
"It's not something out of Star Trek-it happens," insisted Diamond, who brought a book by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to corroborate his defense.
The book states that "Operating thetans" - advanced - level Scientologists can leave their bodies and "control or operate thought, life, matter, energy, space and time."
The commitment hearing was at Horizon Hospital, a psychiatric facility on U.S. 19 where Diamond was taken by police after friends grew concerned about his behavior.
Dr. Martin David Adams, the psychiatrist treating Diamond at the the hospital. diagnosed him as a schizophrenic suffering delusions.
Adams testified Diamond had no history of mental illness before becoming involved with Scientology. "Now his preoccupation is with the Church of Scientology, and his interest seems to focus on ridding himself of the influences directed by the Church of Scientology," the doctor said.
"How he'll function in the future depends on whether he feels the Church of Scientology's effects and influences will continue."
"I find that the patient is indeed mentally ill," Judge Walker said in ordering Diamond committed to a state mental hospital for further treatment. The judge said there was a danger of Diamond harming himself because of his condition. Diamond has no money and bad been living out of his car for several weeks, his friends said.
Diamond's court-appointed attorney, Assistant Public Defender Bill Venable, said the former businessman would voluntarily enroll in a residential treatment program run by the Florida Institute of Mental Health at the University of South Florida.
"It seems to me that he needs some (See INSANITY, next page)
INSANITY (from page 1A) kind of deprogramming, not just being locked up in the state hospital," Venable said after the hearing.
The hearing was held under the Florida Mental Health Act, commonly known as the Baker Act. The act allows police officers to take into custody persons suspected of dangerous mental illness and have them placed at a psychiatric facility. However, a judge most rule within a few days on the patient's continued hospitalization.
Such hearings are generally closed to the press, but Diamond, requested that a Clearwater Sun reporter attend, and the judge agreed, "I want people to know what Scientology did to me," Diamond said in a weekend interview in a locked ward at the hospital.
Diamond contends he is neither irrational and nor violent, but says the "Operating thetans" who control him are unpredictable. He blames them for his decisions to close his business, liquidate his inventory, sell land he owned in Pennsylvania, move out of his apartment and live in a car.
"It's 100 percent Scientology's fault that I'm here," he said. "I'm not the same person. I have three OTs (operating thetans) in me."
He was taken to the hospital Aug. 14 after Greg Warren, a Clearwater antique dealer who has known Diamond more than three Years, called the police.. Diamond was visiting his friend at Warren's antique shop, 1199 N.E. Cleveland St.
Warren said he talked with Diamond for four hours. "He wasn't the same Frank I knew," Warren recalled. "He was rambling on about Scientology. He said he was four different people. The only thing I can compare it to is brainwashing. Before he got involved in Scientology everything seemed fine with him him.
Diamond's sister, Helen Timmeny of Philadelphia, also blames Scientology for her brother's mental problems, "He never had problems before," she said. "I first noticed he had a problem after he got involved with them (the Scientologists. )"
Scientology spokesman Milt Wolfe issued a press release late Wednesday confirming that Diamond had received counseling from Lydia Wheeler, a "student counselor," in August 1980. But Wolfe said Diamond's illness is "not attributable to Scientology counseling."
Wolfe said Diamond quit the church in September 1980 but was "very pleased with the counseling." Then Diamond disappeared and "came back totally wacko six months later," threatening to kill church members, Wolfe said.
"The question is what happened during those six months," Wolfe said. "He
seemed sane to us before he disappeared.".
But Warren and Mrs. Timmeny said they are angry that Scientology will not accept responsibility for Diamond's condition. "It's a terrible thing to do to a human being," Warren said. "Now that they've made a mistake, they just want to throw him away."
Diamond says the some thing, although he now speaks about himself in the third person. "They couldn't ban him. He's not the kind of wet toilet paper they usually turn out at the Ft. Harrison."
Frank Diamond's bizarre story begins nearly two years ago, when he opened an antique shop at 8 S. Fort Harrison Ave. and befriended Scientologists who patronized his business.
A tall, bearded and outgoing man, he was active in the church's "New Clearwater for the '80's" downtown redevelopment group. He once told the Sun that the press was not aware of the good the church was doing for people and downtown.
Diamond says that in early 1980 he bought various Scientology books and made friends with many Scientologists. He says he also fell in love with a Scientology student named Cathy Drayton, who discouraged his advances
In late August Diamond was "audited" twice by Lydia Wheeler at Mrs. Wheeler's home. Auditing is performed by a Scientologist counselor who uses an "E-meter" - an electrogalvometer invented by Hubbard - that supposedly can locate sources of mental and spiritual trauma.
A few days later, Diamond came to the Sun's offices, carrying a grocery bag filled with Scientology books. He told a reporter he had quit Scientology and gave the reporter his books.
Diamond said the auditing had been a frightening experience and he feared for his mental health if he continued the procedure. At the time, however, Diamond did not want his story publicly known, saying he also feared retaliation by the church.
Diamond's next contact with the Sun was a rambling letter received in June. He said he wanted his Scientology books back and made this veiled threat: "Francis... is about to put you all out to dry"
Diamond's home and business phones were no longer in service; the next contact did not come until this weekend, when he called from the Pinellas Comprehensive Mental Health Foundation's "crisis ward" at Horizon Hospital.
Diamond said he was facing a commitment hearing and needed the Scientology books to prove that such
things as "operating thetans" existed in the Scientology religion.
Over a year, Diamond's physical features had changed considerably. He had gained at least 50 pounds, had shaved his beard and his black hair had grayed and thinned. He also smoked cigarettes incessantly; before, he used to lecture people about the health dangers of smoking.
Diamond said the Scientology thetans drove him to over eat and to smoke five packs a day because they wanted him dead.
He maintained the spirits entered his body through the Hubbard E-meter administered by Mrs. Wheeler.
"The auditor was pulling me under, hypnotizing me. Then she reversed the (electrical) charge. It was like being hit with a bolt of lightning, right in the forehead."
Scientology spokesman Wolfe ridiculed Diamond's statements, saying "he's crazy." Wolfe said the E-meter does not produce an electrical charge.
Wolfe also said that although Scientologists can command their thetans to leave their bodies, "it's nonsense" that a thetan will enter another person's body.
More Articles by reporter Richard Leiby