Arnie Lerma

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Arnie Lerma
Arnie Lerma.jpg
Lerma in 2008
Born(1950-11-18)November 18, 1950
Washington, DC, United States
DiedMarch 16, 2018(2018-03-16) (aged 67)
Sylvania, Georgia, United States
OccupationA/V technician

Arnaldo Pagliarini "Arnie" Lerma (November 18, 1950 – March 16, 2018) was an American writer and activist, a former Scientologist, and a critic of Scientology who appeared in television, media and radio interviews. Lerma was the first person to post the court document known as the Fishman Affidavit, including the Xenu story, to the Internet via the Usenet newsgroup alt.religion.scientology.


Lerma was born in Washington, D.C. in 1950.

Time in Scientology[edit]

Lerma started in Scientology at the age of 16 at the urging of his mother, an executive director for the Washington, DC church. He was impressed by L. Ron Hubbard's exaggerated account of his military career and scientific credentials.[1]

Lerma joined Scientology's Sea Org and was assigned in 1976 to a post working alongside Hubbard's daughter Suzette. He later claimed that they became romantically involved and planned to elope, though others[who?] have disputed this. Lerma alleged that other Sea Org officers discovered their plans and threatened to mutilate him if he did not cancel the marriage. Lerma quit Scientology soon afterward.[2]

RTC v. Lerma[edit]

After Lerma posted the Fishman Affidavit in August 1995, his home was raided by federal marshals and lawyers from the Church of Scientology, alleging he was in possession of copyrighted documents.[3][4] A lawsuit was filed against Lerma and his Internet service provider by the church's Religious Technology Center (RTC), claiming copyright infringement and trade secret misappropriation.[4]

The Washington Post and two investigative reporters were added to the lawsuit, as an article written about the raid contained three brief quotes from Scientology "Advanced Technology" documents.[5][6]

The Washington Post, et al., were released from the suit when United States District Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled in a memorandum on November 28, 1995

When the RTC first approached the Court with its ex parte request for the seizure warrant and temporary restraining order, the dispute was presented as a straightforward one under copyright and trade secret law. However, the Court is now convinced that the primary motivation of RTC in suing Lerma, DGS and The Post is to stifle criticism of Scientology in general and to harass its critics. As the increasingly vitriolic rhetoric of its briefs and oral argument now demonstrates, the RTC appears far more concerned about criticism of Scientology than vindication of its secrets.

— Memorandum opinion of November 28, 1995, by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema; Religious Technology Center v. Arnaldo Lerma, Washington Post, Mark Fisher, and Richard Leiby [7]

The memorandum opinion acknowledges what Scientology practices to this day: the "Fair Game" policy, a written directive by L. Ron Hubbard that encourages harassment of anyone who speaks out against the church. In conclusion, the court awarded RTC the statutory minimum of $2,500 for five instances of non-willful copyright violation.[8]


Lerma started a website called Lermanet, which concentrates on news about Scientology and on documenting lawsuits by Scientology. He was also noted for discovering an altered picture on a Scientology website on New Year's Eve in 1999, one that appeared to inflate the number of members attending a millennial event at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in California. He posted the pictures to his website identifying the alterations, with the most prominent feature being the "man with no head". The story appeared on national television and in the press.[9]

On March 28, 2019, the entire content of Arnie Lerma's "" site was deleted by his surviving widow, Ginger Sugerman. Contents are only accessible through use of the "Wayback Machine" at blog however survived a little bit longer.


Lerma died by suicide by gunshot at his home in Sylvania, Georgia, on March 16, 2018, after shooting his wife, Ginger Sugerman, in the face. Sugerman survived.[10][11]



  1. ^ Lerma, Arnaldo (2008-03-15). How I Got Fooled (Speech). Washington, DC. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved 2008-05-18.
  2. ^ Yonke, David (2005-07-02). "Scientology Story Sparks Heated Response". Toledo Blade. Archived from the original on June 27, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-18.
  3. ^ Ryan, Nick (2000-03-23). "The gospel of the web". Technology. The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-10-12.
  4. ^ a b "Scientology and the Lerma Raid".
  5. ^ Fisher, Marc (1995-08-19). "Church in Cyberspace - Its Sacred Writ Is on the Net. Its Lawyers Are on the Case". The Washington Post.
  6. ^ "The Washington Post article Church in Cyberspace;".
  7. ^ US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (November 29, 1995). "Religious Technology Center v. Lerma, 908 F. Supp. 1353 (E.D. Va. 1995)". Justia US Law. Archived from the original on 2017-07-16. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  8. ^ Carlson, Brian. "Balancing the Digital Scales of Copyright Law". SMU Law Review. 50.
  9. ^ Grove, Lloyd; Berselli, Beth (2000-01-04). "The Reliable Source: Scientology's Funny Photos". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-10.
  10. ^ Autry, Enoch (22 March 2018). "Local man dead, wife shot during altercation". Sylvania Telephone. p. 1. Sylvania police officers responded to 308 Holly Road after a 911 emergency call was made of a woman with a gunshot wound. When the officers arrived, officers found Ginger Sugarman, 58, of Sylvania with a gunshot wound to the face. Officers reported that Sugarman was able to relay to them that she had been shot by her husband Arnaldo "Arnie" Lerma. Sugarman was transported by Scriven County EMS. Law enforcement with the Sylvania Police Department, Scriven County Sheriff's Office, and Georgia State Patrol went to 314 Holly Road to investigate the incident further. Officers located Lerma, 67, inside the residence. Lerma had expired from a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
  11. ^ Ortega, Tony (18 March 2018). "Noted Scientology critic Arnie Lerma shoots and injures wife, then kills himself". Archived from the original on 26 March 2018. Retrieved 26 March 2018.

Further reading[edit]

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