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


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rick_reno
February 16, 2004, 02:14 PM
http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/0212minder12.html

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.

Research librarian Joanne Dawson contributed to this article.

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4v50 Gary
February 16, 2004, 02:18 PM
Imagine that. A chairman of the board of a gun company who can't handle his own products without risk of running afoul of the law? One photo of him holding a new gun for a PR purposes and it's bingo! Back to the steel bar hotel. :uhoh:

Since he's gone straight, this is rehabilitation without reincarnation.

LawDog
February 16, 2004, 02:39 PM
That rumbling sound you heard was several hundred Million Moms and Brady Bunch-ers falling to their knees and thanking whatever God they worship for this gift.

Hell, now their pet lawyers don't have to hint that gun makers are felons, they've got a proven one they can point out to a jury.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, gun makers don't care about the safety of our children to the point that they actually, blatantly, appointed a convicted armed robber as Chairman of the Board."

This...is not good.

LawDog

SAG0282
February 16, 2004, 03:17 PM
I wonder why he hasn't petitioned to have his rights reinstated....something I think given the time elapsed and other conditions would be a realistic hope......

Al Norris
February 16, 2004, 03:21 PM
LawDog, you took the words write off my keyboard!

The thing that haunts many, is that before 1968, it wasn't a crime for a former felon to have guns. This was a part of the law that simply made criminals out of some good people. Ya gotta love ex post facto laws!

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