Victoria Osteen on the stand

August 11, 2008 3:44:01 AM PDT
The wife of megachurch evangelist Joel Osteen told jurors Friday she was "dumbfounded" and "shook up" after a Continental Airlines flight attendant falsely accused her of assaulting her over a spill on a first-class seat. [SEE PHOTOS FROM TRIAL]

Victoria Osteen repeatedly denied that she attacked flight attendant Sharon Brown, who is suing Osteen over the alleged confrontation before the start of a 2005 flight to Vail, Colo.

"I love people. I'm guilty of that," Victoria Osteen said.

Joel Osteen testified earlier Friday, supporting his wife's claim and calling the incident "an unfortunate misunderstanding." Osteen, who was on the same flight, said his wife could never attack somebody.

"We would never disrespect authority or disrespect" the flight attendant, Joel Osteen said.

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 he has written books that have been sold around the globe.

Joel Osteen remained calm while on the stand. Victoria Osteen, dressed in an orange pant suit, was animated while testifying, often moving her hands while she talked. A couple of times during her testimony, she cried.

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, Johnson testified. She said Osteen eventually grabbed Brown by the shoulders, elbowed her in the chest and pushed her out of the way in an attempt to get into the cockpit.

But both Joel and Victoria Osteen, who were called to the witness stand by Brown's attorney, disputed Johnson's testimony.

Victoria Osteen said when she first told a flight attendant about the spill, she was handed some napkins and responded, "It's not my job. I didn't say it in an ugly tone of voice."

Victoria Osteen said she's a "touchy person," but 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, her sunglasses were in her hand but that she 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.

Reginald McKamie, Brown's attorney, 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.

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

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

The Osteens said they did not want to pay the fine but thought it would be the best 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.

The trial was set to resume on Tuesday.

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