Pastor Joel Osteen takes stand in wife's trial

August 8, 2008 11:41:49 AM PDT
Renowned evangelical pastor Joel Osteen told jurors Friday that his wife never assaulted a flight attendant over a small spill on her airplane seat. [SEE PHOTOS FROM TRIAL]

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 and Victoria Osteen are co-pastors of Houston's Lakewood Church, which draws about 42,000 people each week for services. Joel Osteen's weekly television address is broadcast nationally and internationally and who has written books that have been sold around the globe.

On Thursday, another flight attendant on the plane, Maria Johnson, testified that Victoria Osteen demanded special attention to clean up the small spill. When she didn't get her way, Osteen became verbally and physically abusive to both flight attendants, eventually grabbing Brown by the shoulders, elbowing her in the chest and pushing her out of the way in an attempt to get into the cockpit, Johnson testified.

But 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.

"You don't go to jail because you like different restaurants, do you?" McKamie asked, as the packed courtroom laughed. "No sir," Joel Osteen said.

Osteen remained calm while on the stand, even making a joke when McKamie moved chairs around in the room to try and recreate the first-class cabin for the jury.

"That looks like super first-class," Joel Osteen said of the wide space between the chairs.

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.

Brown has claimed the flight attendants asked to have Victoria Osteen removed from the plane, but Joel Osteen testified he and his family left voluntarily.

The Federal Aviation Administration fined Victoria Osteen $3,000 for interfering with a crew member.

Joel Osteen said his wife did not want to pay the fine but he convinced her to do so because he thought it would be a way to put the incident behind them even though they felt they did nothing wrong.

Brown wants an apology and punitive damages amounting to 10 percent of Victoria Osteen's net worth as part of her lawsuit. Brown claims she suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder because of the incident and that her faith has been affected. She is also suing for counseling expenses.

But Rusty Hardin, Victoria Osteen's attorney, says there is no evidence Brown sustained any injuries.

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