Flight attendant: Osteen’s wife threw tantrum
HOUSTON — The wife of evangelical pastor Joel Osteen shoved a flight attendant during an in-flight tantrum over a stained seat, a fellow crew member testified Thursday at a civil trial over the incident.
Continental Airlines flight attendant Maria Johnson testified that Victoria Osteen grew increasingly agitated and pushed her co-worker Sharon Brown, though the flight attendants had remained professional and reassured her a crew had been called to clean the spill, which was about the size of a 50-cent piece.
“She was demanding that attention be given to her immediately,” Johnson said. She added that Victoria Osteen kept saying: “This is ridiculous. I’m a first-class passenger.”
Brown is suing Victoria Osteen, alleging that she threw her against a bathroom door and elbowed her in the breast before the start of a 2005 flight to Vail, Colo.
Johnson confirmed Brown’s claims that Victoria Osteen became so upset she tried to get into the cockpit and had to be physically restrained.
“She took Sharon by the shoulders and pushed her out of the way. Sharon stumbled,” Johnson testified.
Rusty Hardin, Victoria Osteen’s attorney, said the lawsuit is simply a money grab.
“This is nothing more than an attempted extortion,” Hardin told jurors during opening statements in the trial in which he said his client did nothing wrong. While questioning Johnson, Hardin suggested that she and Brown might have overreacted or that Johnson might not have remembered the confrontation correctly.
Just before her testimony concluded, Johnson suggested race might have played a role because of remarks Victoria Osteen made about wanting to deal only with Johnson, who is white, and not with Brown or another flight attendant on the plane, who are black.
Hardin condemned Johnson’s claim and pointed out the racial diversity of the congregation at Lakewood Church, of which Victoria Osteen is co-pastor. The Houston church is a converted basketball arena where about 42,000 people flock each week for services where her husband preaches.
Joel Osteen, who was by his wife’s side in court Thursday, has written books that have been sold around the globe, and his weekly television address is broadcast nationally and internationally.
Brown’s attorney, Reginald McKamie, told jurors during his opening statement that his client was simply doing her job.
“Sharon was attacked by someone in the community who supposedly represents a higher degree of human decency,” he said.
Brown’s suit claims the flight attendants asked to have Victoria Osteen removed from the plane. Hardin told jurors Victoria Osteen and her family left voluntarily. The incident delayed the flight about 2 1/2 hours.
McKamie said Brown, who had undergone reconstructive surgery before the incident on her breasts due to illness, was injured when she was hit on her chest.
Her psychiatrist, Shayna Lee, testified that Brown has suffered depression and post-traumatic stress disorder because of the incident. She also felt disrespected in her role as a leader and as a black woman, and had her faith affected, Lee said.
Brown is also suing Victoria Osteen for medical expenses for counseling.
The Federal Aviation Administration fined Victoria Osteen $3,000 for interfering with a crew member.
Hardin told jurors Victoria Osteen paid the FAA fine not because she was guilty but as a way to conclude the matter and avoid any embarrassment for her church.
Third Witness in Osteen Trial Says Race Is Factor
On Thursday, the third witness in the case was Maria Johnson. She testified Osteen went too far and did physically assault Brown.
But that wasn’t all.
Johnson claimed she believes Osteen became belligerent with Brown and another flight attendant because they were African American. Johnson testified Osteen told Brown she didn’t want to speak with them meaning the two Black attendants.
Johnson, who is white, said Osteen only wanted to talk with her.
Rusty Hardin, who represents Osteen, was livid. He chastised Johnson on the stand, telling her how dare she accused Osteen of being racist. He went to ask Johnson if she knew that a third of the Osteen’s congregation at Lakewood was Black, and another third Hispanic.
While leaving the witness stand, Johnson said she believes Osteen went too far and race did play a part in her attitude on the flight.
Opening statements got underway Thursday morning in the civil trial against Osteen, where the complainant was described as believing Lakewood Church was a “cult” and its minister the “devil.”
Brown says the encounter was so mentally damaging to her that she has questioned her faith in religion and has developed hemorrhoids.
Joel Osteen denies wife assaulted flight attendant
Renowned evangelical pastor Joel Osteen told jurors Friday that his wife never assaulted a flight attendant over a small spill on her airplane seat. Osteen was called as a witness Friday in the civil trial of a lawsuit filed by Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown, who has accused Victoria Osteen of assaulting her before the start of a 2005 flight to Vail, Colo.
During nearly two hours of testimony, Joel Osteen, who was on the same flight, said the incident was “an unfortunate misunderstanding” stemming from his wife’s requests for flight attendants to clean up a spill on the armrest of her first-class seat.
“We would never disrespect authority or disrespect (Brown). There’s no way in the world,” Victoria Osteen assaulted Brown, said Joel Osteen, who was called to the witness stand by Brown’s attorney, Reginald McKamie.
Joel Osteen disputed Johnson’s testimony, saying his wife never raised her voice or grabbed the flight attendants. However, later he admitted to McKamie that he could not hear his wife’s voice from his seat.
McKamie also asked Joel Osteen why he said in one of his religious messages that if it wasn’t for him, his wife would be in prison.
Osteen said he meant it to be a comical statement about the differences between him and his wife, that he likes routine and considers himself boring while his wife is outgoing and likes to go to new restaurants and new places.
McKamie also asked Osteen whether his family was used to getting special treatment, making reference to an anecdote in one of the pastor’s books in which he wrote about being allowed to take an expensive television camera onboard a flight to India even though it was against the rules.
“You feel that you’re entitled to the favor of God … to do things other people can’t do,” McKamie said.
“All of God’s children are,” Osteen said.
Osteen’s wife denies assaulting flight attendant
The wife of megachurch evangelist Joel Osteen told jurors Friday she was “dumbfounded” and “shook up” after a flight attendant accused her of assaulting her over a spill on a first-class seat. Victoria Osteen, in court because the flight attendant is suing her, said she pushed no one and even ended up cleaning the spill that sparked the incident herself.
Victoria Osteen said when she first told a flight attendant about the spill, she was handed some napkins. She said she responded, “‘It’s not my job.’ I didn’t say it in an ugly tone of voice.”
Victoria Osteen denied Johnson’s claim that she later grabbed Johnson and pulled her in order to have her see the spill.
Victoria Osteen said she tends to talk with her hands. She said that when she was talking with Brown, she was holding her sunglasses but did not point them at the flight attendant.
Victoria Osteen told jurors that Brown’s response was to fling her hands at her and accuse her of pointing and pushing the flight attendant.
“It freaked me out. I asked a simple question,” she said.
Brown claims in her lawsuit that after pushing her, Victoria Osteen tried to get into the cockpit. Victoria Osteen denied that, telling jurors she just wanted to get away from the situation.
“I was already freaked out because she was accusing me of stuff I didn’t do,” she said. “I was dumbfounded.”
Victoria Osteen said she told Brown, “If I’ve done something to offend you, I’m sorry,” then got some napkins and went back and cleaned up the spill.
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