Star Tribune, others sued over reports on Anoka gas price war

Minneapolis Star Tribune/April 13, 2005
By Margaret Zack

The owner of an Anoka Exxon gas station filed suit Tuesday seeking damages from the Star Tribune and four other media outlets that reported that the state was investigating whether the station was selling gas below Minnesota’s legal minimum price.

In the suit, the Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology of Shawano, Wis., and Midwest Oil of Minnesota, a wholly owned subsidiary, said the reports were motivated by the racial and ethnic background of Roy, president of the board of directors of the institute.

Roy, who changed his name from Brother Rama Behera several years ago, is a former Hindu from India who has preached a mixture of Christianity and Judaism that rejects mainstream religion.

Rebekah Brown, a lawyer representing Midwest Oil, which she said is owned by Roy’s institute, said Tuesday that her client will aggressively pursue complaints against how the Anoka gas war was reported.

She previously told the Star Tribune that state officials had said the station’s discounted price was legal.

The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court, contends that the “plaintiffs’ reputation as honorable, respectable, and ethical persons and businesses and as having integrity with high moral and professional standards has been deeply damaged. Their good name and character, and business good will acquired has been gravely wounded.”

Similar language and allegations were contained in the suits filed against the St. Paul Pioneer Press, WCCO-TV, KSTP-TV and the Duluth News Tribune.

Representatives from the television stations and the Duluth newspaper said they hadn’t seen the lawsuit and couldn’t comment.

“Our story was fair and accurate, and the allegations in the lawsuit are unfounded,” said Scott Gillespie, managing editor of the Star Tribune.

“This is just a silly exercise by these people. Absolutely silly,” said Paul Hannah, who represents the Pioneer Press.

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