RICHMOND, Va. – Norfolk police have dismissed a claim by a Texas bodybuilder that religious broadcaster Pat Robertson threatened to kill him and his family.
According to the complaint Phillip Busch filed with the Norfolk police, Robertson walked into federal court for a legal proceeding in February and told him: “I am going to kill you and your family.” Robertson was in court to give a deposition for a lawsuit Busch filed against the televangelist, claiming misappropriation of his image to promote Robertson’s protein diet shake.
The investigation into the incident was closed last week, according to a report from the police department. The status of the claim was considered “unfounded,” the report said.
Before the deposition, Robertson told Busch that “he was running the risk of God’s judgment,” but clearly stated that it was not a threat, said Louis Isakoff, Robertson’s attorney. The comments were in response to derogatory comments made by Busch about Robertson’s family and associates, Isakoff said.
Busch said he also contacted the FBI about the alleged threat. Philip J. Mann, a spokesman for the FBI office in Norfolk, said Busch contacted the office but would not confirm if the FBI was investigating the claim.
“The local authority hasn’t carried out anything, and the federal government and the FBI in Virginia hasn’t. But that doesn’t mean that I’m through with it,” Busch said in a telephone interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. “I will have him prosecuted and put in jail.”
Robertson has been touting his “age-defying” weight-loss shake since 2001 on his Virginia Beach-based Christian Broadcasting Network talk show “The 700 Club,” offering the recipe free to any viewer who requested it.
Busch said he contacted the show in 2005, saying he had slimmed down from 400 to 200 pounds by drinking the shake. CBN showed his before-and-after photos 20 times in a promotional spot and flew Busch to Virginia Beach for a live TV interview with Robertson.
Busch said he didn’t know when he contacted CBN that Robertson had licensed his shake for commercial distribution by a nationwide health-food chain. He sued Robertson in September 2005, alleging that the broadcaster used his image for a commercial purpose without compensating him.
The case is set for trial in April.
Busch dismissed his attorneys and is litigating the case himself.
This is not the first time Robertson has been accused of threatening an adversary.
After the failure of an earlier Robertson commercial venture featuring Bible study courses and discount coupon books, the broadcaster fired its top executive, Mark Peterson.
The two feuded publicly, blaming each other for the failure. Peterson sued Robertson in 1995, alleging that Robertson made a veiled death threat in a telephone conversation with Peterson’s sister. Robertson denied making the threat.
Peterson dropped the lawsuit in 1997, saying he had forgiven Robertson.