Protester of Scientology accused of hitting member
By STEPHEN THOMPSON of The Tampa Tribune
CLEARWATER - A Church of Scientology foe is arrested on charges of hitting a Scientologist with a picket sign.
A self-made millionaire, known for his costly and widely reported war with the Church of Scientology, took his crusade to the streets Sunday night and was arrested after a skirmish with a church staff member.
Retired investment banker Robert S. Minton, 53, was charged with misdemeanor battery after a Clearwater police officer said he saw Minton hit a staff researcher with a protest sign about 10:40 p.m. Sunday, according to jail records and police.
The researcher, Richard Howd, 33, of Clearwater, had been following and videotaping Minton, as often happens to protesters outside its headquarters and hotel at 210 S. Fort Harrison Ave.
According to a jail affidavit, Minton turned and shouted at Howd to stop following him. Then Minton shoved the sign into Howd's face, slightly cutting him above the left eye and leaving an abrasion below it, the affidavit states. Howd was treated at Morton Plant Hospital and released.
The sign was 20 by 30 inches, said Clearwater police spokesman Wayne Shelor. On one side was written, ``Lisa's Blood On Scientology Hands,'' and on the other, ``Scientology ... Spiritual Death,'' with the words surrounded by pictures of skeletons.
The sign referred to Lisa McPherson, a church member who fell ill and died during a 17-day stay in the church- owned hotel where Minton was protesting.
Minton has paid the bills of an attorney representing the McPherson family in a wrongful death lawsuit in Hillsborough County.
Sunday night's dispute was the latest in a series of confrontations between Minton and the church. Anti-Minton fliers written by Scientologists have been dropped at his doorstep in Boston and at the homes of his neighbors.
Minton was arrested last year and charged with hitting a church spokesman with a balsa stick that had been attached to a sign he was carrying during a protest in Boston. Those charges were dropped.