Pastor’s wife is also being sued by a flight attendant claiming assault
The Federal Aviation Administration has fined Victoria Osteen, wife of Lakewood pastor Joel Osteen, $3,000 after determining she had interfered with a Continental Airlines crew member aboard a flight late last year.
And this week, a flight attendant filed suit claiming she was assaulted by Victoria Osteen during that flight to Vail, Colo., for the Christmas holidays.
Osteen has paid the penalty, which is not an admission of guilt.
On the civil matter, Rusty Hardin, Osteen’s attorney, called the lawsuit a “ridiculous” attempt to seek money from Osteen, whose husband is a best-selling author as well as the pastor of the largest church in Houston.
In February, the agency notified Osteen that officials were planning to fine her $5,000 for the Dec. 19, 2005, incident, according to a letter the FAA sent to Osteen. The agency reduced the fine, which Osteen paid last month.
Aboard the plane, according to the letter, Osteen asked flight attendant Verssie Ray for napkins to clean a liquid on the armrest of her first-class seat. When Ray returned with the napkins, Osteen told Ray she should clean the armrest because it was her job to do so, according to the findings of the FAA investigation.
After Ray told Osteen she would get another flight attendant, Osteen left her seat and asked flight attendant Maria Johnson to clean the seat.
“You (Osteen) grabbed FA Johnson’s right forearm and led her to your seat,” the FAA report stated.
Johnson told Osteen she would get aircraft-cleaning personnel to take care of the liquid stain and headed for the cockpit. Osteen followed Johnson toward the front of the airplane where she encountered flight attendant Sharon Brown and asked to speak to someone in authority.
“You (Osteen) then tried to get past FA (Sharon) Brown by pushing her out of the way and elbowing her in the left breast,” the FAA report stated.
“Both FAs told you (Osteen) that you could not go into the cockpit. You (Osteen) then grabbed the arm of FA Johnson who had just exited the cockpit, said then come here and pulled her into the galley stating that you had enough of FA Brown.”
Johnson and Brown then asked to have Osteen to be removed from the plane, but she and her family left voluntarily.
Claims filed in civil suit
In her civil suit, Brown, a flight manager aboard Continental Flight 1602, stated she was pushed and elbowed in the chest by Osteen, who had walked up to the cockpit demanding “to speak with someone of authority.”
The lawsuit, filed Monday, is seeking unspecified damages.
Hardin said Osteen did not assault Brown.
“Victoria Osteen never assaulted her, absolutely never assaulted her,” Hardin said.
“This flight attendant just flipped out. I can’t answer why, the only thing I can say is that Victoria Osteen is the last person in the world who would assault someone.
“This is an absolutely ridiculous lawsuit that never should have been filed.”
Hardin and Lakewood Church said Osteen would not comment about the lawsuit or the allegation.
Reginald McKamie, Brown’s attorney, said his client and flight attendant Maria Johnson filed complaints with the FAA.
He said several statements were filed supporting Brown’s claim that she was assaulted by Osteen, including Johnson, who he said witnessed the assault. McKamie said Brown decided to pursue the lawsuit because Osteen still claims that they exchanged words because of a misunderstanding and that no assault took place.
“Victoria Osteen sent a letter out to her congregation saying she acted in a Christianlike manner. We’re going to let a jury of 12 people from Harris County decide whether she acted in a Christianlike manner,” McKamie said.
Hardin said Osteen paid the fine to put the issue to rest and because she believes “very, very strongly” that she did nothing wrong.
“It’s unfortunate that the flight attendant thought it necessary to file a lawsuit over a verbal misunderstanding. It was never assault,” Hardin said. “She would never had paid the fine if the finding had a finding of an assault.”
Don Iloff, brother of Victoria Osteen and spokesman for Lakewood Church, however, cited errors in the report, namely that the plane departed from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Hardin said another attorney representing Brown had contacted him stating that his client wanted an apology from Osteen. Hardin said he never heard from the attorney again or anything related to the incident until the lawsuit was filed.
The lawsuit stated Brown sustained bruising and other pain as a result of the encounter. Brown is seeking compensation for past and future medical care, emotional pain, suffering, mental anguish and humiliation.
Sep. 29, 2006