The upcoming first-degree murder trial of a Colorado business owner with links to the Church of Scientology will be about the facts of the case and not the defendant’s religion, the presiding judge said today, reports the Denver Post.
“Someone’s religion has never been an issue in my courtroom and it won’t be in this case,” said Adams County District Judge Francis Wasserman.
Wasserman spoke in a pre-trial hearing for 58-year-old William Rex Fowler, accused of shooting his former business partner on Dec. 30, 2009.
Fowler — a high-ranking member of the church — is accused of shooting Thomas Ciancio, 42, three times in the head with a 9mm Glock handgun when Ciancio came to Fowler Software in unincorporated
In a follow-up report the Denver Post says:
Fowler is described as an Operating Thetan VII, one of the highest grades a Scientologist can reach, according to sources that monitor the church. His arrest in the Dec. 30, 2009, shooting of his former business partner has attracted enormous attention on the Internet, especially from groups critical of Scientology.
They point to allegations that Fowler, 58, killed 42-year-old Thomas Ciancio over complaints that Fowler had funneled up to $250,000 to the church. […]
“Why he gave money to the church is of no concern,” Wasserman said. “Whether he gave because he likes their buildings, or he likes Tom Cruise, is not the issue.
The judge’s ruling seems unusual. Last year ABC News said:
Among the mysteries in software firm founder William Rex Fowler’s alleged killing of ex-partner Thomas Ciancio is whether Fowler’s self-professed devotion to the Church of Scientology played a role in the workplace shooting.
References to the Church of Scientology repeatedly cropped up in Fowler’s 11-page arrest affidavit.
According to ABC:
When detectives asked Janet Fowler to speak with them, she had an urgent concern as her husband lay fighting for his life in the intensive care unit.
“Janet Fowler quickly demanded the briefcase” containing information about Scientology that detectives had removed from his office, the arrest affidavit stated.
“One thing I need is his briefcase,” Janet Fowler told detectives, according to the court record. “It was taken out of his office. It is important to me, my church, and it is religious material and I want it now!”
Rex Fowler had left a note dated the day of the shooting instructing whoever found it to “please give the briefcase to Jan.”
According to the Denver Post Wasserman ruled Wednesday that Fowler’s wife will not be allowed in the courtroom during testimony because she may be called as a prosecution witness.
KVDR TV report from January 2010 — Scientologist William Rex Fowler charged with murder of Thomas Ciancio: