Robert S. Minton, a retired investment banker who poured millions into efforts to fight the Church of Scientology in the 1990s, has died. He was 63.
Minton burst on the local scene in late 1997 when he began financing a lawsuit against the church by the family of Lisa McPherson, the 36-year-old Scientologist who died in 1995 while in the care of church staffers in Clearwater.
All told, Minton gave about $2 million to the family's legal effort and an additional $8 million to other anti-Scientology causes. He set up an office next to church facilities in downtown Clearwater and staged frequent pickets.
He once said in an interview that he became an anti-Scientology crusader after learning about the church's efforts to keep its materials from being publicized on the Internet. The more he read, he said, the more he became concerned about Scientology practices that, to him, seemed to violate its members' civil and human rights.
Church leaders soon focused on their No. 1 one critic, often sending Scientology staffers to keep an eye on him, staging counter-pickets and hiring a private investigator to probe his financial dealings.
Two top Scientology leaders, Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, have since defected from the church and recently recounted the methods used to subdue Minton. In two meetings, they said, they used a briefcase with a hidden camera to secretly record him.
His efforts unraveled in 2002. As the McPherson lawsuit dragged on in court and the judge pressed for a settlement, Minton faced allegations that he lied under oath about the depth of his involvement in the case.
In a shocking turnabout, Minton soon found himself testifying for the church and against the plaintiff's attorney. He told the judge: "I just want some peace." According to paid obituaries this week in the New York Times and Nashville Tennessean, Minton died unexpectedly on Jan. 20 in Ireland. Mark Bunker, a Scientology critic, said Minton's companion Stacy Brooks told him Minton was diagnosed with a heart problem the day he died.