Fray with Scientology escalates to gunfire

St. Petersburg Times/July 28, 1998
By Lucy Morgan and Thomas C. Tobin

The battle between the Church of Scientology and millionaire Robert S. Minton escalated over the weekend, when Minton fired a shotgun into the air after seeing Scientology pickets trespassing on his 200-acre farm in southern New Hampshire.

Police in Sandown, N.H., say both sides overstepped their bounds -- the four Scientologists by trespassing on Minton's land after being told to leave, and Minton by discharging a weapon into the air.

Minton has attracted national publicity for bankrolling anti-Scientology efforts, including a lawsuit filed on behalf of Lisa McPherson, a Scientologist who died in Clearwater under mysterious circumstances.

An investigation of the weekend incident has not been completed, but no criminal charges are contemplated, police Chief Scott Currier said Monday.

"These sorts of things aren't things we are accustomed to," Currier said. "These people obviously have a serious vendetta against each other. We don't want it to start affecting the entire town."

Currier said the Scientologists and a private investigator they hired had been in town trying to dig up dirt on Minton. Minton maintains a weekend home in the rural area north of Boston, where he has a town house on Beacon Hill.

Minton, a retired investment banker, said he was at the house with Stacy Young, a former Scientologist whom he and his wife have been helping. Minton's wife and daughters flew to England on Friday to visit her family.

Late Saturday while swimming in the family pool, Minton said he looked up and saw a man standing on a hilltop beside his barn taking pictures. The man then yelled obscenities, suggesting that Minton and Mrs. Young were having a sexual relationship.

"I found this to be over the top -- sufficiently outrageous to jump out of the pool, go to the barn, unlock my office and get a shotgun," Minton said . "I loaded it with pheasant shot -- No. 4 buckshot -- and fired it into the air at least 200 feet away from them."

Minton says he has merely been attempting to help Mrs. Young and is not having a relationship with her.

After the Scientologists "made a rather hasty exit" Saturday night, Minton said, he called Mike Rinder, chief of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs, to complain. He also told Rinder he would post details of the incident on the Internet.

Police Chief Currier said Mike Middleton, a private investigator working for the Scientologists, contacted the police after Saturday's shooting and said he had been at the Minton home Saturday night taking video of the picket.

Marty Rathbun, a top Scientology official, said he doubted the Scientologists trespassed on Minton's property.

But Currier said Middleton told him he saw the Scientologists go up to Minton's front door and then behind the house. Middleton told police he heard someone tell the Scientologists to get off the property, but he was gone when the gun was fired.

Minton said Scientologists visited his wife, Therese, at her father's home 55 miles outside of London on Sunday. She is staying with their two daughters, ages 10 and 12. The Scientologists hand-delivered a letter from Rinder.

Minton said the six-page letter advised his wife that he was having a sexual relationship with Mrs. Young, who would get all of his money. Minton said Rinder asked for a meeting with his wife saying they had documented evidence of the relationship.

"How did they know where my wife and children were?" Minton asked Monday.

Rathbun, the Scientology official, alleged Monday that Mrs. Young is "shacking up" with Minton. Asked how he knew, he said it was "common knowledge."

Asked why it concerns the church, Rathbun said Minton has been portrayed as a crusader in recent media reports and "I think it speaks to his motivations . . . I think the guy is a sanctimonious hypocrite."

Minton said his wife knew Mrs. Young was visiting their home on her way to a two-week retreat.

Last fall the Mintons bought a $250,000 home near Seattle for Mrs. Young and her husband, Vaughn, who is also a former Scientologist. The Youngs work with former church members who leave Scientology and act as consultants for lawyers who are suing Scientology.

Vaughn Young is among the experts helping Tampa lawyer Ken Dandar with a civil suit filed by the family of Lisa McPherson, a 36-year-old woman who died at the Fort Harrison Hotel in 1995.

All told, Minton has contributed more than $1.7-million to anti-Scientology efforts.

Scientology pickets have distributed leaflets outside Minton's Boston home accusing him of belonging to organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. Similar leaflets were distributed on the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean earlier this year while he and his family were vacationing in the area.

On NBC's Dateline last month, Rinder said he believes Minton is a criminal and compared him to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Minton said he plans to continue his crusade against Scientology, which started a little more than a year ago when he heard about the group's efforts to censor the Internet.

"They are like the little bullies in the Lord of the Flies," Minton said. "They are childish, but they want everyone to think they are so all powerful."

Minton said Rinder and Rathbun have tried to convince him to join the Church of Scientology.

"I've had lengthy conversations with this guy," Rathbun said. "He's touched, to put it mildly."

Said Minton: "I'm totally qualified to be a Scientologist. I've got money and they are willing to change that."

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