Is Higher Balance a cult? Why the Police Changed Their Mind…
Before the dust even had a chance to settle after the police stormed Higher Balance’s main office in 2006 they decided to cry out their verdict to the world. Skip the judge, the trial, gathering evidence or investigating. Higher Balance was a cult, guilty of whatever they wanted to claim, and Eric Pepin was too.
Perhaps disappointed by what they found, or DID NOT find, as there was no more evidence that Higher Balance was a cult than Eric Pepin was guilty of the story being made against him, they ran straight to the newspaper. They wanted a big show and nothing draws headlines like an “evil cult”.
The lead detectives claim was very straight-forward. Higher Balance is a cult, running in Beaverton. Everyone should be afraid of what they were doing and thank the police for the great service they were doing.
Later Smith would claim the newspaper misquoted him. That somehow they got it all wrong. He never said those things. Yet he said it not once, but twice.
In court Smith would testify, “When the newspaper article came out I felt that what happened was that she wrote down two separate sections of our conversation and put them together. Like it was one continuous quote when, in fact, it wasn’t. I wasn’t happy about the way she put that together.” Detective Mike Smith said.
Defense attorney Stephen Houze asked detective Smith if he felt the reporter misquoted him. He replied, “Yes sir.”
How often can someone be misquoted? Well… after reading the articles surrounding the trial, it turns out the newspapers can (and do) get a lot of things wrong. Really clear black-and-white things. Like someone saying one thing and printing the opposite. So we can forgive the detective that. Yet, let’s suppose he really did say those things. Why would he say them… just guessing hypothetically…
1) The accuser told them so – This would be a no-brainer. As soon as the man said “meditation” or “sixth sense”, “spiritual awakening”, it immediately invokes non-mainstream religion (not Christian in the US case), which means slap the “cult” label on it. It’s also possible the accuser exaggerated and lied about what Higher Balance was to bring more attention to the story. It has never been disclosed what were the things he really said at the beginning of the case.
However, if this were the case the police should have easily compared what they were told and what they saw and realized they did not match up. They came in with guns and vests ready for a fight… certainly they must have been disappointed. Expectations didn’t match up to their “big bust”.
BUT if they had a vested interest in Higher Balance being a “cult” because it makes a great story, then reality doesn’t matter so much. You can still make a great story. You can even look for things that support your story… except later you might be embarrassed about them.
2) They had ‘evidence’ – Police took pictures of everything inside Higher Balance they day it was raided. When confronted about their newspaper article the District Attorney later suggested they had pictures “proving” Higher Balance was a cult. (Here’s a tip, don’t defend a defenseless position just because it sounds good in the paper.)
In one of the rooms inside the office, was the title of a marketing book on a white board, The Power of Cult Branding. The book discusses companies like Apple, Nike, and Star Trek franchise to determine why their customers are so loyal to their brand and what the common components of these companies are. The police saw one word “cult” from the title, took a picture and figured it supported their story… and ran with it.
Later it would be pointed out it was a marketing book. They abandoned their case that Higher Balance was a cult.
Detective Smith testified he could not say the company was anything like a cult. He told the court, “I don’t know exactly, how do you define a cult?”
Defense attorneys attempted to bring into the court the police’s OWN photos showing the white board with the title of the book on it, as it was the basis of their assertion. District Attorney Andrew Erwin argued to keep it out, saying they had already given up the argument Higher Balance was a cult, nobody was suggesting it was… and they should all move on.
3) Sounded good at the time – Quotes to all the papers, months of asserting they had busted an evil cult… and now they didn’t even want their own evidence or story discussed in court. This is the extent of the investigation and where the accusation comes from that ‘Higher Balance is a cult’.
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