S&W Board chairman a convicted armed robber. Film at 11:00


February 13, 2004, 06:45 AM

Smith & Wesson chief did time for '50s armed heists

Board still backs chairman, 74

Jonathan J. Higuera
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 12, 2004 12:01 AM

At 74, James Joseph Minder has had a professional career many would envy.

He is board chairman of Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., parent company of the famous gunmaker. He also ran a successful non-profit agency serving delinquent and disabled Michigan youths for 20 years before retiring to Scottsdale in 1997.

But he also is a former convict who spent 15 years in prison in the 1950s and 1960s for a string of armed robberies and an attempted prison escape. News articles in the Detroit News said he was known for carrying a 16-gauge, sawed-off shotgun.

Other Smith & Wesson board members did not know about Minder's criminal record until he called and told most of them Wednesday, offering to resign.

"I offered my resignation . . . and to a man they refused it," Minder said. "As long as it's at their pleasure, I'll stay. Quite frankly, I've done nothing wrong."

Asked why he didn't disclose his past to Smith & Wesson earlier, he said, "Nobody asked the question, so I guess I never answered it. The only thing that would have disqualified me was if I had committed securities fraud in the last 20 years, and I didn't."

Minder, who runs a one-person management consulting firm from his home, was named to Smith & Wesson's board after serving on the board of Saf-T-Hammer, a Scottsdale firm that acquired Smith & Wesson in 2001. Minder was asked to be on the Saf-T-Hammer board by Mitchell Saltz, Saf-T-Hammer's founder and the former chief executive officer and chairman of Smith & Wesson. Minder said he hasn't owned a firearm for decades and is prohibited from owning any because of his criminal history.

In 1951, while he was a journalism student at the University of Michigan, he was sentenced to 3 1/2 to 10 years in state prison for robbing a store, serving until 1955 or 1956, he said.

A few years later while on parole, he began a crime spree that culminated with a car chase and arrest, and confessed to eight armed robberies, according to Detroit News articles. One large headline read, "Student by day, bandit at night."

The Michigan Department of Corrections also lists a prison escape but didn't provide any details other than it added time to his second stint in prison.

Records indicate Minder has had no run-ins with the law since his release in 1969. A Smith & Wesson company biography states he has a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering, a bachelor of arts in sociology and a master of arts in social work, all earned from the University of Michigan.

Minder said he has turned his life around since his release and spent his professional career trying to help kids.

He said he's "the epitome of rehabilitated."

"Any social worker could write this history," he said during an interview at his home Wednesday. "I came from a broken home, bounced around a lot. But during my last few years in prison, I felt it was time to straighten out my life and pull myself up by my bootstraps."

In 1976, he and his wife, Susan, founded Spectrum Human Services, which provided counseling and mental health services to youths. The agency grew to have more than 800 employees and a multimillion-dollar budget, he said.

The agency he ran did come under state scrutiny several times. In one case, there were questions about its handling of funds paid to mentally challenged teen workers and his failure to disclose his criminal past when applying for state licenses.

Minder said he never tried to cover up his past.

"All my employees knew about it. The state knew about it and state officials knew about it," he said. "It was no secret. Michigan knew about it."

Smith & Wesson board member Dennis Bingham of Scottsdale said Minder's revelation did not change his view of Minder's ability to lead the board.

"From what I know of Jim, he's served his time and made an exemplary career of the rest of his life," said Bingham, who heads the board's audit committee. "So I have no problems with what I learned today."

He said the board elected Minder as chairman in January because he was considerate, thoughtful and patient.

"You're talking about a wonderful person who has done a successful job of rehabilitating himself," said Robert White, a Minder associate who served as chairman at Spectrum.

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Baba Louie
February 13, 2004, 08:21 AM
Rehabilitaion is a rare thing. And good.
This could explain the (ahem) low MSRP's I've been seeing for their new releases (ahem) :uhoh:
Makes you kinda want to rethink your position of prohibiting all convicted felons the right of firearms ownership... kinda. Maybe blanket statements just don't wash and you really need to know the Individual.
Certainly provides fodder for the anti's though...

February 13, 2004, 11:21 AM
This sure explains a lot.:)

February 13, 2004, 11:22 AM
Rehabilitaion is a rare thing.

Not as rare as the right-wingers think, rarer than what the left-wingers think.:)

February 13, 2004, 11:30 AM
As a convicted felon, he would then not be able to even pick up and hold any of the S&W guns, correct? The people he worked with never noticed that he couldn't handle the product? ;)

Gordon Fink
February 13, 2004, 11:31 AM
In 1951, while he was a journalism student at the University of Michigan, he was sentenced to 3 1/2 to 10 years in state prison for robbing a store.…

Hmm … A new perspective on why the news media favor gun control? It also goes along with my theory that a lot of criminal-justice majors are criminals themselves.

~G. Fink :D

February 13, 2004, 11:39 AM
DoT re sig:

A system of general instruction, which shall reach every description of our citizens from the richest to the poorest, as it was the earliest, so will it be the latest of all the public concerns in which I shall permit myself to take an interest.
--Thomas Jefferson to J. Cabell, 1818.

The less wealthy people,... by the bill for a general education, would be qualified to understand their rights, to maintain them, and to exercise with intelligence their parts in self-government; and all this would be effected without the violation of a single natural right of any one individual citizen.
--Thomas Jefferson: Autobiography, 1821.

February 13, 2004, 11:46 AM
Would make a good VP running mate for the demo nominee. Character counts!

Baba Louie
February 13, 2004, 01:15 PM
Maybe he got a pardon from the Mich. Governor that no one knows about and has been exonerated for his yout'ful moments of stupid exuberance as an "ARMED" robber.

Sheese Louise.

"Blame it on me yout'."
Maybe MicroB is right... maybe violating Parole and getting caught again was a GOOD THING in that he learned his lesson and paid his debt to society.

Look at David "Carbine" Williams as an example. Or Merle Haggard. I know Haggard got caught doing B&E's and passing forged checks... what did Williams do?

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