1998 - Signs of Distress
The summer of 1998 was a turning point for Minton, as for the first time he showed signs of great distress. Ironically enough, Minton caused a great part of his upcoming problems himself by severely disrupting his own family stability.
While still having been married to his wife Therese, Minton had started during the previous months a relationship with ex-Scientologist Stacy Young who at that time was married to former Scientologist Vaughn Young. Stacy, who later divorced Vaughn, would finally become Minton's closest confident in all matters concerning Scientology.
When the Scientologists became aware of the affair between Minton and Stacy, they began to accuse both of adultery. On July 25th the situation escalated when two OSA members, Gerard Renna and Kevin Hall, picketed in front of Minton's home in Sandown. According to statements of Minton the two Scientologists trespassed onto Minton's property and yelled obscenities at him and Stacy. Minton then went inside the house and fired two warning shots over their heads with his shotgun. Later the police arrived and temporarily confiscated Minton's shotgun [Exh. No. 37].
On the same day of the shooting, Michael Rinder, the head of "OSA International", wrote a letter to Minton's still-wife Therese, informing her about the affair between her husband and Stacy. When he did not receive a response, Rinder wrote a second letter trying to arrange a meeting with her. A third and final letter by Rinder was sent to Mrs. Minton on August 26th. Robert Minton later posted the first [Exh. No. 38], the second [Exh. No. 39] and the third letter [Exh. No. 40] on the Internet. It is worthwhile noting that in his second letter from July 30th Rinder wrote:
"... Neither I nor anyone in the Church of Scientology has ever had any intention to interfere with your life and happiness. ... "
In a later interview with the "Saint Petersburg Times" Rinder confirmed sending these letters to Mrs. Minton, while he denied at the samt time of having threatened Robert Minton with "IRS investigations" into his finances, which Minton had accused him to have done [Exh. No. 41].
In spite of Rinder's promise not to interfere with Therese's private life, Scientologists continued to picket in front of Minton's home in Boston and to distribute flyers in the immediate neighbourhood during the months of August and September. At that time Minton had separated from his wife and was residing at his home at Sandown in New Hampshire.
On September 10th, Minton and the Boston Scientologists clashed again. During a picket in front to the Boston Scientology organization Minton got into a physical confrontation with OSA member and PR spokesperson Frank Ofman. Both sides had previously engaged in a screaming match and had shouted obscenities at each other [Exh. No. 42]. The Boston police later arrived on the scene and arrested Minton for assault and battery. He was subsequently released on bail [Exh. No. 43].
Naturally this incident did neither stop the Scientologists of continuing picketing Minton and his family nor of investigating Minton's former business partners: On October 9th Minton reported on the Internet that the private investigator Peter Franks had delivered to Minton's former business partner Jeffrey Schmidt and the Nigerian Minister of Finance two "dead agent packs" containing discrediting material. This was done during an IMF conference in Washington [Exh. No. 44].
The very eventful year ended with more demonstrations: On December 5th and 6th critics of Scientology, among the Robert Minton, assembled in Clearwater to picket the organization's "spiritual headquarters" and to mourn the death of Lisa McPherson. On this occasion Minton stated at a press conference that he would continue to financially support the estate of Lisa McPherson in its civil litigation against the Clearwater Scientology organization.
One week later, on December 14th, Minton stood trial at a Boston court to face the assault and battery charges in connection with his arrest in September. The judge finally dismissed the charge on the condition that Minton would inform the Scientology organization in Boston on hour in advance every time he planned to do a picket in front of their building [Exh. No. 45].
The year 1999 began for Minton with settlement negotiations in the F.A.C.T.Net case. When an agreement with RTC was finally reached in March, Minton and his girlfriend Stacy Brooks (former Young) stepped down from their corporate positions at F.A.C.T.Net.
As during the previous years Minton continued to publicly speak out against Scientology and to demonstrate in front of Scientology's buildings in Boston and Clearwater. While he furthermore propagated his intention to reform the activities of the organization, his attitude towards Scientology and his manner of picketing changed to become more aggressive. Rather than addressing and informing the general public during pickets, he engaged in provoking and shouting at Scientology members and ridiculing certain of their beliefs.
Minton's financial support of critics who were involved in litigation against the Scientology organization caused him also to become more and more legally entangled with the organization, as his monetary contributions became the subject of hearings and depositions in various court cases (f. e. "Religious Technology Center vs. Grady Ward," United States District Court for the Northern District of California, No. C 96-20207 RMW; "Religious Technology Center vs. Keith Henson," United States District Court for the Northern District of California, No. C 96-20271 RMW).
In late October of 1999 Minton publicly announced plans to set up an organization, directed at Scientology. He stated that the foundation would operate in Clearwater and would provide so-called "exit counseling" to Scientologists who wanted to leave the organization. Minton's plans were mentioned in an "Associated Press" press article, which also cited Minton saying that he had spent about $ 2.5 million "fighting the church" during the previous three years [Exh. No 46]. At the time of the article Minton had already in fact incorporated the "Lisa McPherson Trust, Inc." (LMT) which had been registered on October 18th [Exh. No. 15].
On October 30th Minton visited Clearwater to find office space for his new-founded organization. Later in the evening he decided to picket the local Scientology organization. While picketing on Fort Harrison Avenue, Minton found himself closely followed by security staff member Richard Howd who filmed every move of Minton with his camera. Annoyed by Howd, Minton struck his picket sign at Howd. After he had been hit, Howd fell to the ground and was taken to a near hospital. Minton was later arrested by the police and then set free on a $ 250 bail fee [Exh. No. 47].
In a follow-up interview with the local press, Minton complained that he was still constantly followed by private investigators and that Scientologist would send mailings with negative material about him not only to all the residents of Sandown, but also to business associates and to the schools that Minton's daughters were attending [Exh. No. 48].
Soon after this incident Richard Howd filed a lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order against Minton that would prohibit him in coming near Scientology's buildings and its members. On November 15th, during one of the first hearings in the case, Minton stated that in spite of his newest legal conflict he had been successful in buying a building for the LMT in downtown Clearwater, directly in the neighbourhood of the Church of Scientology [Exh. No. 49].
1999 - Founding of the Trust
Three weeks later, during a press conference at the annual picket in honor of the late Lisa McPherson, Minton announced that by establishing the LMT he would create a safe zone for Scientologists and others who wanted to find out the truth behind the official fašade of Scientology. He also said that the organization would be headed by a board of directors and be manned with six full-time working staff.
When asked why he had set up the LMT as a for-profit corporation, Minton responded that he wanted to avoid financial reporting requirements of non-profit organizations, which Scientology would use to harass potential donors of the trust.
In an immediate response Scientology officials denounced the LMT as "a hate group set up for profit and for the personal benefit of Bob Minton." OSA chief Michael Rinder declared Minton's plans as a scheme to regain the money he had already spent to fight Scientology [Exh. No. 50].
On December 10th Minton posted the mission statements of the LMT on the Internet, which stated among other things that the LMT was there "to demystify and make transparent the coercive processes and practices of Scientology [Exh. No. 51]."
On January 6th, 2000 the LMT began officially operating. Soon after the opening of the LMT, the District Attorney in Tampa filed battery charges against Minton, based upon the confrontation with Richard Howd in late October 1999. At this time judge Pennick who presided over the Howd case issued a temporary restraining order against Minton and Howd. Under the order Minton was required to stay at least 10 feet away from 17 Scientology-owned buildings in Clearwater [Exh. No. 52].
With the arrival of Minton and the LMT in Clearwater, city officials were soon drawn into Minton's conflict with the Scientologists too. At a public meeting of the Clearwater city commission Minton accused the city of Clearwater of "being too cozy with Scientology" and that the commissioner for the city, Michael Roberto had tried to interfere with Minton's purchase of the LMT's office building [Exh. No. 53].
The prior mentioned restraining order did not however prohibit new confrontations between Minton, the LMT staff and the Scientologists. Soon after its opening Minton and LMT staff members began to picket the adjacent Scientology buildings while shouting at staff members and encouraging them to start a revolt inside Scientology and to dismiss the overall head of the organization, David Miscavige. The Scientologists in return immediately complained to the police and the city of Clearwater that the LMT staffers were violating the temporary restraining order against Minton [Exh. No. 54].
On February 9th the court reacted to the recent incidents with an extension of the existing restraining order [Exh. No. 55], while the legal department of the Clearwater police implemented immediately the new ruling in order to keep both sides separated from each other [Exh. No. 56].
Two months later, on April 2nd an article appeared in the British Sunday Times magazine that featured allegations of a well-known Nigerian celebrity about financial fraud that had taken place at the end of the 1980s. The former professional soccer player and millionaire John Fashanu decried that "billions of pounds disappeared from the Nigerian central bank in the late 1980s and the early 1990s." The article mentioned Robert Minton and his former business partner Jeffrey Schmidt as the ones who had allegedly funneled money out of the country through a debt buy-back scheme [Exh. No. 57].
This news story was one of several articles that would appear during 2000 and which would contain accusations of financial fraud in connection with the Minton's past Nigerian debt buy-back operation during the late 1980s.
On April 13th Minton responded to the article of the "Times" with an Internet posting in which he accused Rilwanu Lukman, the secretary general of OPEC, being the "conduit" for the operations against him and which were instigated by two private investigators working for Scientology, David Lee and Peter Franks [Exh. No. 58].
In Mid-April the Church of Scientology filed a lawsuit against the estate of Lisa McPherson and its attorney Kennan Dandar. The suit alleged a breach of contract by the estate when it had included in its latest amended complaint of December 1999 in the wrongful death suit the ecclesiastical leader of Scientology David Miscavige as a defendant, contrary to a prior agreement of both parties [Exh. No. 59]. At a later date Minton was added as a defendant in that suit. On May 3rd a court hearing was held in the Lisa McPherson wrongful death case. This hearing would later trigger a series of fateful legal events for Minton. At the request of the Church of Scientology's attorney Kendrick Moxon the court granted a deposition of Robert Minton, which would take place on May 24th. At this point Minton had been deposed in the case in early 1998, but due to its very limited scope, judge Moody granted a second deposition that would deal with Minton's payments to witnesses and his contributions for funding the case [Exh. No. 60, Excerpt].
On May 22nd and 23rd Minton was again the subject of court proceedings. At a court in Tampa the criminal trial was held, which was based on the battery charge against Minton. After 40 minutes of deliberation the jury found Minton not guilty. Members of the jury mentioned later that they felt that Minton had been set up by the Scientologists [Exh. No. 61].
The day after the verdict the deposition of Minton in the wrongful death case began but was early terminated. Both parties agreed for a continuation of at a later date. [Exh. No. 62, Excerpt]. The continuation of the deposition was from then on the subject of numerous hearings, motions and court orders before it would be finally resumed in 2001.
In early June Minton traveled to Leipzig, Germany to receive the first "Alternative Charlemagne Award." A so-called "European-American Citizens Committee for Human Rights and Religious Freedom," which was composed by anti-cult activists and critics of Scientology, had previously created the award and had selected Minton as the first award winner. The purpose of the award was to counter the criticism by the U. S. government directed at Germany and France for their treatment of the Scientology organization. Ursula Caberta, a member of the committee and the head of a Scientology task force for the city of Hamburg presented the award to Minton during a ceremony [Exh. No. 63].
Caberta had also invited Minton to speak at a press conference in Hamburg. On this occasion he announced the filing of two libel suits against Scientology organizations in Paris, France and Berlin, Germany. The German organization had previously stated that "with the help of the Nigerian dictatorship Minton had put millions of dollars in his own pocket while Nigeria's population had been starving [Exh. No. 64]."
In July Ursula Caberta returned Minton's visit by coming to Clearwater and to speak as well at a press conference about the work of her office in Hamburg. At her arrival at the Tampa airport she was greeted by several Scientologists who shouted at her "Nazi, go home" and accused her of being a human rights violator [Exh. No. 65].
While staying in Clearwater Caberta was served with a summons for a civil case. The German Scientologist and U. S. resident Hubert Heller who had filed the federal lawsuit, accused her of tortious interference in his business. A sect filter that Caberta had propagated to businesses in Germany allegedly prohibited his software company from a business deal with a German corporation [Exh. No. 66].
At a subsequent deposition in the case Caberta disclosed that she had received a private loan from Minton. When asked about the amount of the loan, Caberta refused to answer. The Scientology church in Germany then used the information about the loan and filed in September a complaint for bribery against Caberta arguing that she had accepted money from a vocal Scientology critic while holding a public office.
On the 30th of November a court hearing was held in Saint Petersburg, Florida in view of how the temporary injunction against Minton and his staff would be applied during the upcoming annual Lisa McPherson memorial picket. It was concluded with an extension of the temporary injunction on all the protesters that would come to Clearwater and picket in front of Scientology's headquarters [Exh. No. 67].
Around the time of the picket the Nigerian weekly magazine "Tell" published an article that featured an interview with Minton. In this interview he explained his past business deals with the Nigerian government and the reasons for believing that the public controversy about it had been in fact manipulated by Scientology operatives [Exh. No. 68].
Although the Lisa McPherson picket took a normal course according to the police, it had nevertheless an aftermath in court. Both parties, Scientologists and picketers accused each other of having violated the injunction. Consequently several court hearings were subsequently held in January [Exh. No. 69] and in February of 2001.