Jump to content

Virgil Miller Newton

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Virgil Miller Newton III
Father Cassian in 2009
Tampa, FL
Other namesFather Cassian
EducationBA, MDiv and PhD
Alma materUniversity of South Florida, Princeton University and Union Graduate School
SpouseRuth Ann
ChildrenJoanna, Miller and Mark
Parent(s)Louisa and Virgil Miller Newton, Jr.

Virgil Miller Newton (also known as Father Cassian Newton) is a current Chairman and Director of Christ at the Sea Foundation in Madeira Beach, Florida; a priest in the Antiochian Orthodox Church (but is no longer listed on the AOC website); and the former Director of several rehabilitation centers for youth with drug problems, behavior problems, eating disorders and other compulsive behavior. His rehabilitative methods have been criticized.[1]

Many former patients have sued for abuse.[2]

Early life[edit]

Virgil Miller Newton III (born 1938, Tampa Bay, Florida)[3] was the son of Louisa and Virgil Miller Newton Junior. His father was managing editor of the Tampa Tribune and well known for his fight against secrecy in the government,[4] authoring papers such as “Federal Thought Control a Challenge to American Liberties and Freedom.”[5] His mother taught Sunday School at their local church, Hyde Park Methodist.[6]

During his sophomore year he felt "called to preach the word of God." The Florida Methodist Conference licensed him to preach during his senior year at Sewanee Military Academy. In the summer of 1956, before heading to college he filled in as a student supply pastor in This hometown of Tampa and St Petersburg, FL.[6][7] From 1956–1957, Newton was appointed state Master Counselor for the Florida chapter of The Order of DeMolay.[8]

In the fall of 1956, he began attending Princeton University. After taking a course in religion, Newton in 1957 was contracted to be the lay pastor for the Emlystown circuit in New Jersey, which consisted of 3 churches.[6] Shortly after returning from a ministers conference at Ashbury College, his car lost control and crashed into an oncoming truck, killing a classmate. Newton who had been sleeping in the back seat at the time suffered minor injuries.[9][10] He stayed in New Jersey over the 1957 summer break to continue his preaching circuit.[7] Newton returned to Florida and recuperated for a year before resuming his studies at the University of Florida, where he obtained a degree in history.[3] During this time, he married and had three children with wife Ruth Ann(née Klink):[11] Joanna (born 1959), Miller (born 1960), and Mark (born 1964).[12] He returned to Princeton University[13] and earned his master's degree.

Moving to Indianapolis in late 1963, Newton became the Methodist head pastor of Fletcher Place[14][15] and subsequently was appointed to the Inter City Association, an organization dedicated to urban poverty issues.[16] During 1964-1965 Newton helped raise money for the black belt region,[17] advocated for an end to token appointments that do not adequately represent the local African American community[16] and protested against the lack of representation of African Americans on the Mayor's poverty board.[18] Newton also created a storefront church he named "Outpost" in which he held informal meetings to encourage neighborhood political empowerment on urban poverty issues.[14]

The University of South Florida in Tampa hired Newton as an associate professor of education [19][20][21] where he had both teaching and administrative duties.[11] In 1972 Newton took a leave of absence from the university to campaign[22] for the Democratic nomination for the Florida 5th congressional seat; this was one of three newly created positions.[19][23][24] Despite being a prior former president of the Florida Young Democrats he failed to gain the nomination.[21][22] He was subsequently appointed by Florida Governor Reubin Askew[11] as Pasco Circuit Court Clerk[25][26][27] and Clerk to the County Commission.[28] Newton modernized and reorganized the office[29] and in 1974 was reelected to serve out the remaining 2 years of the position.[30][31] During his term he dealt with several conflicts[32][33][34][35] and in 1975 faced a stripping of power after the County Commission felt he had dabble in policy-making.[36][37][38] Newton chose in 1976 not to stand for reelection for the clerk position,[35] but instead tried a second time to win the Democratic nomination for the 5th District congressional seat.[39][40] After a fierce campaign involving a lawsuit and ethics complaint filed against his opponent JoAnne Saunders,[41][42][43][44] Newton loses the nomination a second time.[45][46] In 1977, Newton went to work for Gary Smith and Associates[47] and later that year, suffered the loss of his father.[48]

In 1979, Newton was named the Executive Director of the Florida Alcohol Coalition.[49] His youngest son Mark developed a drug problem and on September 26, was enrolled in Straight, Inc. a drug rehabilitation program. At the time, Newton was Executive Director of the Florida Association of Alcohol Treatment Programs.[50] The experience with Mark profoundly affected Newton.[citation needed]

Straight program (1980–1983)[edit]

Four months after enrolling his son, Newton joined Straight, Inc. St Petersburg as Assistant Director. The Straight program was founded in 1976 by wealthy real estate developers Mel Sembler and Joseph Zappa. The average stay was twenty months long, and its corporate goals were "to admit 14 clients per month". Most clients paid an average of $14,000 for the treatment.[51]

In 1980 Newton attended a workshop on alcoholism at the Johnson Institute in Minneapolis. It was during this time he also switched his doctoral focus to teen drug abuse.[12] He defended his doctoral thesis titled "The Organization and Implementation of Family Involvement in Adolescent Drug-Use Rehabilitation", and graduated in 1981 with a PhD in Public Administration and Urban Anthropology.[2]

Newton had obtained directorship of the St Petersburg facility by 1981, and in July 1982, Mel Sembler promoted him to the position of National Director of Straight, Inc.[3]

KIDS (1984–2000)[edit]

KIDS of Bergen County (1984–1990)[edit]

The program had the capacity to treat over 175 youths at a time and the initial fee was $7,200 with an average stay in the program of 12–14 months.[50] Newton also enrolled sibling groups to prevent brothers and sisters from following in the same destructive lifestyle.[50]

A system of peer monitoring enforced his program’s rules. New youths or youths in the first stages of the program were forbidden to be alone, even to shower or use the bathroom. Newcomers were accompanied everywhere through hand-to-belt looping. Socializing was not allowed, and the youths were isolated from their family and friends. Twice a week, Newton held open meetings in which the families were seated on one side of the room and youths on the other. The purpose of these meeting was for the youths to publicly confess their difficulties, and advancement from the first stage depended upon how revealing their confessions were. The program's counselors were former graduates of the program.[50]

In 1984, Newton co-authored Not My Kid: A Parents Guide to Kids and Drugs with TV producer Beth Polson. The book was endorsed by Barbara Walters and was the basis for the 1985 CBS made-for-TV movie Not My Kid, starring Stockard Channing and George Segal, which depicted many of the methods used in Newton's real-life treatment centers.[12]

The program would come under legal scrutiny. In 1989 the Bergen County prosecutor's office cited complaints that been made against KIDS since 1985, including the use of restraints that resulted, according to a newspaper report, in "blackened eyes, bloody lips, a broken nose and a dislocated elbow." Additionally there were allegations of strip searches, restrictions of sleep and toilet facilities, crowded bedrooms, and lack of schooling. Similar allegations were made regarding Newton's programs in other parts of the country, though Newton denied them, maintaining that the accusations were promulgated by social workers and public officials who had been deceived by drug addicts.[52] In a 1989 interview with ABC Television, Florida state prosecutor David Levin characterized it as "....a sort of private jail, utilizing techniques such as torture and punishment which even a convicted criminal would not be subject to."[2] In response Newton said "I don't like the word imprison. Imprison implies punishment." Saying he disapproved of violence, Newton said he preferred calling it "an isolation ward."[2]

KIDS of North Jersey (1990–1998)[edit]

In September 1993, he obtained a clinical psychology doctoral degree, again from Union Institute. His thesis, titled "Guiding Youth Through the Perilous Ordeal",[2] was published in 1995.[53]

In 1992 three of Newton's peer counselors were convicted of assault at KIDS of North Jersey. The presiding Secaucus Municipal Judge, Emil DelBaglivo, called KIDS a "highly questionable" program. He said something was "radically wrong" if the program director would condone "almost unbelievable" conduct.[2] KIDS of North Jersey closed on November 2, 1998, and Virgil Miller and Ruth Ann Newton returned to Madeira Beach.[2]

In 1998, the state Department of Human Services required Newton to change the program, threatening to cut off Medicaid payments if he did not. The state cited physical restraints and the use of patients as assistants as problems. On May 1, 1998, the state cut off payments. Newton's appeals led to hearings before an Administrative Law judge in late 1998. The judge supported the decision of the state.[2]

KIDS of North Jersey closed on November 2, 1998. In 1999, the state alleged $1M in overbillings.[2]

KIDS lawsuits[edit]

On February 24, 1987, 14-year-old Rebecca Ehrlich was enrolled in KIDS of Bergen County. She "was an obstinate, rebellious teen-ager" who had not tried drugs or alcohol. She said she endured physical and emotional abuse until her release in June 1993. Newton said that no one with a professional license had treated her and that such evaluation and subsequent treatment was carried out by "peer counselors." Malpractice insurance for Newton, his wife and corporation paid $4.5 million as a result.[2]

Without a history of drug abuse, Lulu Corter was treated in KIDS of Bergen County for thirteen years. Corter later won a settlement of $6.5 million.[54]

In 1996, the Federal Government lodged claims against Newton and KIDS for billing the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program for treatment by physicians when the physicians signing the forms had not provided services. Newton did not admit wrongdoing, but agreed to pay back $45,000 for 245 claims.[2]


  1. ^ "CUPOLA, CROSS EVOKE MADEIRA BEACH FIGHT". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 2023-08-21.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k [1] O'Brien, Tim (January 24, 2000). "Closure for a quack victim". New Jersey Law Journal.
  3. ^ a b c [2] Maia, Szalavitz (2006). Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. NY, NY: Riverhead Books. pp. 226–246. ISBN 1-59448-910-6.
  4. ^ "V.M. Newton Jr., Former editor of the Tampa Tribune, Dies 73", New York Times, NY, NY, p. 51, December 14, 1977
  5. ^ Newton, V.M. (1952). "Federal thought control a challenge to American liberties and freedom". The Journal of the Florida Medical Association. 39: 179–184.
  6. ^ a b c Sullivan, St Clair (March 13, 1957), "Freshman Serves as Pastor for Three Churches", The Daily Princetonian, Princeton, New Jersey, pp. 3–4
  7. ^ a b "We Nominate", Town Topics, Princeton, New Jersey, p. 1, September 1, 1957
  8. ^ Jones, Ryan; Pickren, Anthony Lee (August 7, 2006). 2006 Proceedings of the 73rd Annual Conclave Florida Jurisdictional Chapter (PDF). Tampa Bay, FL: DeMolay International. p. 38. Retrieved October 16, 2009.
  9. ^ "Senior Dead, Two Injured in Virginia Auto Collision", The Daily Princetonian, Princeton, New Jersey, pp. 1, 3, February 7, 1957
  10. ^ "Crash Kills Princeton Student", The New York Times, Clifton Forge, VA, p. 35, February 2, 1957
  11. ^ a b c "Miller Newton", The Evening Independent, St Petersburg, FL, p. 39, September 1, 1976
  12. ^ a b c Polson, Beth; Newton, Miller (1984). Not My Kid. NY, NY: Avon. pp. 1–4. ISBN 0-87795-633-2.
  13. ^ Princeton Theological Seminary Handbook, retrieved February 16, 2013
  14. ^ a b Mapes, Mary (2004), ""Beyond Religious Boundaries":Urban Ministry and Social Order", A Public Charity:Religion and Social Welfare in Indianapolis, Bloomington Indiana: Indiana University Press, pp. 99–100
  15. ^ Thomas, Willa (October 17, 1964), "Church Events", The Indianapolis Recorder, Indianapolis, Indiana, p. 7
  16. ^ a b "Threatens court action to halt board action", The Indianapolis Recorder, Indianapolis, Indiana, p. 1, April 10, 1965
  17. ^ "Drive to aid 'black belt' Negroes suffering reprisals'", The Indianapolis Recorder, Indianapolis, Indiana, p. 3, April 3, 1965
  18. ^ "Mayor's poverty board is one-fourth Negroes", The Indianapolis Recorder, Indianapolis, Indiana, p. 1,6, May 8, 1965
  19. ^ a b Spears, Lenn (February 21, 1972), "'Government-People Relations Bad'", The Ledger, p. 2
  20. ^ "Newton Advocates State Water Rule", St Petersburg Times, p. 36, August 23, 1972
  21. ^ a b "State Sen. Gerald Lewis Defeats Jess Yarbough", Sarasota Herald-Tribune, September 13, 1972
  22. ^ a b "Runoff Likely in New 5th District", The Palm Beach Post, p. 14, September 13, 1972
  23. ^ "Candidate Hits 'Paper Curtain'", St Petersburg Times, p. 18, April 29, 1972
  24. ^ "District Battles Shaping up for Congressional Seats", Sarasota Herald-Tribune, p. 7, July 27, 1972
  25. ^ Richardson, Michael (June 11, 1973), "Truthful Politics Only A Dream", Evening Independent, p. 12
  26. ^ "Democrats Sound Call For Unity", St Petersburg Times, p. 106, August 20, 1973
  27. ^ "Newton Clarifies Story on His Tax Assessment", St Petersburg Times, p. 103, August 21, 1973
  28. ^ "County Commission to consider tax districts", St Petersburg Times, p. 50, November 24, 1975
  29. ^ "Newton Won't Seek House Post, He Says", St Petersburg Times, p. 80, January 11, 1974
  30. ^ "Candidates qualify in 2 counties", St Petersburg Times, p. 63, July 10, 1974
  31. ^ "Pasco County", St Petersburg Times, pp. 15–16, September 11, 1974
  32. ^ Glidewell, Jan (March 28, 1974), "Newton Vows Court Fight On Pay Boosts", St Petersburg Times, p. 109
  33. ^ Glidewell, Jan (April 25, 1974), "Map Pact is Dropped: Pasco Eyes Agenda Ills", St Petersburg Times, p. 68
  34. ^ Patton, Charles (April 23, 1975), "Commission fires Cashion on second vote; charging vendetta, he says he'll fight it", St Petersburg Times, pp. 45–46
  35. ^ a b "Mrs. Cook qualifies for circuit clerk", St Petersburg Times, p. 40, July 14, 1976, retrieved October 9, 2013
  36. ^ Patton, Charles (June 19, 1975), "Ordinance would reduce circuit clerk's budget powers", St Petersburg Times, p. 71
  37. ^ "Commission to consider changing clerk's duties", St Petersburg Times, p. 44, June 20, 1975
  38. ^ "Decision delayed on stronger power for administrator", St Petersburg Times, p. 48, June 25, 1975
  39. ^ McMahon, Patrick (September 10, 1976), "Mrs. Saunders to face Newton in 5th District runoff", St Petersburg Times, p. 26
  40. ^ "Here's How Pinellas Voted in the Election", Evening Independent, p. 10, September 10, 1976
  41. ^ "Judge Rules Candidate Can Stay in Race", Ocala Star-Banner, p. 10, September 16, 1976
  42. ^ "Victory in Court", Sarasota Herald-Tribune, p. 49, September 29, 1976
  43. ^ Nottingham, William (October 23, 1976), "Hearing set to decide fate of Saunders candidacy", St Petersburg Times, pp. 17–18
  44. ^ Morgan, Lucy (June 9, 1978), "Democratic candidates form united front to unseat Kelly", St Petersburg Times, p. 62
  45. ^ "Sumter", Ocala Star-Banner, p. 4, September 29, 1976
  46. ^ "Most Voters Ignore County Runoff Election", Evening Independent, p. 11, September 29, 1976
  47. ^ "Newton says he is arranging to pay campaign debts", St Petersburg Times, p. 51, February 4, 1977
  48. ^ "V.M. Newton Jr., Former Editor of The Tampa Tribune, Dies at 73", New York Times, p. 51, December 17, 1977
  49. ^ "Bulletin board", The Miami News, p. 32, September 19, 1979
  50. ^ a b c d Fein, Ester B. (May 24, 1987), "Turning kids off drugs", New York Times Magazine, NY, NY
  51. ^ Baum, Dan (1996). Smoke and Mirrors: The war on drugs and the politics of failure. NY, NY: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-08412-3.
  52. ^ 3 Youth Treatment Centers Linked by Abuse Accusations. Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1990
  53. ^ Newton, Virgil Miller (1995). Adolescence: Guiding youth through the perilous ordeal. NY, NY: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-70194-8.
  54. ^ Kids of Bergen County, CBC, The Fifth Estate

External links[edit]