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Scientology critic faces drug cultivation charge

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 12, 2000

CLEARWATER -- Jesse Prince, executive vice president of the Lisa McPherson Trust, an anti-Scientology group based in Clearwater, was arrested and charged Thursday with cultivation of marijuana, jail records show.

Prince is accused of having one marijuana plant growing at his Largo-area house, said Largo police Lt. Carla Boudrot, whose department made the arrest.

Prince could not be reached for comment.

But McPherson Trust leader Robert Minton questioned whether Prince had been unfairly targeted and charged.

"There appears to have been a several-months effort to have an undercover agent of the . . . Police Department monitoring Jesse," Minton said. "I know that Prince is not a drug user of any kind, and I think he's not that stupid to be growing marijuana plants in his house."

Minton said the trust will work to exonerate Prince.

Mike Rinder, a top Scientology official, said the charge confirmed Scientology suspicions about the anti-church group's members.

"We've been saying that these people, since they arrived, were just a pack of criminals," Rinder said.

Prince, 46, of 1949 Belleair Road is a former Scientologist who broke away from the church.

He was released from the county jail Thursday after posting $5,000 bail.

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