Attendant: Osteen's wife eyed cockpit

August 12, 2008 5:20:55 PM PDT
A flight attendant suing the wife of megachurch evangelist Joel Osteen over a preflight confrontation testified Tuesday that she felt compelled to keep an irate Victoria Osteen away from the cockpit door. [LIVE BLOG: Deborah Wrigley is sending back realtime updates from inside the courtroom]

"I looked in her eyes and realized she was looking at the cockpit. I positioned myself in front of the cockpit," Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown said. "I still was trying to understand what was going on because it happened so quick. My main concern was I wasn't going to let this lady in the cockpit."

Rusty Hardin, Victoria Osteen's attorney, however, questioned how Brown knew that Victoria Osteen was headed toward the cockpit just by looking into her eyes.

"Can you look into my eyes and tell me where I am going to go?" Hardin said as people in the courtroom laughed.

Brown testified that Victoria Osteen approached her and was upset and angry before the start of a 2005 flight from Houston to Vail, Colo.

In her lawsuit, Brown accuses Victoria Osteen of verbally and physically abusing her and another flight attendant when a spill on the arm rest of the woman's first-class seat was not quickly cleaned up.

"I asked her to calm down. When she came to me she was very upset. She was shaking (her sunglasses) in my face," Brown testified. "I asked her 'What could I do for you?' I did everything I thought I could do in that situation."

Hardin had Brown come down from the witness stand during her testimony to perform a demonstration of the alleged attack.

At one point, Hardin had Victoria Osteen and Brown stand next to each other so the jury could see that Osteen was taller. The height issue came up after Hardin questioned Brown's claim that after Victoria Osteen tried to rush into the cockpit, she went under Brown's arm, elbowed her and then pulled out another flight attendant who was in the cockpit.

"How in the world can that happen? The answer is you don't know," said Hardin, who later asked how the captain in the cockpit or other passengers were not aware of the attack.

In a videotaped deposition shown to jurors earlier in the day, Bill Burnett, the plane's captain, said he hadn't been aware of the alleged attack.

Hardin's questioning of Brown got intense enough that state District Judge Patricia Hancock several times warned both not to speak over each other.

Brown is suing Victoria Osteen for punitive damages, compensation for physical and mental injuries she allegedlyl suffered in the alleged attack, and an apology.

"I want her to admit she did something (wrong). I think people need to be held accountable for their actions," Brown told jurors.

No dollar estimate has been given. Hardin told reporters last week that information is under seal and is not being made public. If the jury finds for the flight attendant and they get into punitive damages, then that information would come out in open court.

Both Victoria Osteen and Joel Osteen, who was on the same flight, testified last week that no attack took place.

The couple are co-pastors of Houston's Lakewood Church, a converted basketball arena that draws about 42,000 people each week for services. Joel Osteen's weekly television address is broadcast in the U.S. and internationally and his books are sold around the globe.

Hardin questioned Brown about her claim that Victoria Osteen tried to provoke her into hitting Osteen, and suggested Brown's perception of what happened is flawed.

"Ms. Brown, is it possible you have a history of perceiving things entirely different than they really happened?" Hardin asked.

"I have no comment," Brown responded.

Brown testified she suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder because of the incident and that her faith has been affected.

"I didn't want to lose my job because I felt I had to take a stand," she testified. "I felt I was no longer going to allow people to get away with bad behavior. I was very nervous about my job situation."

Under questioning by Hardin, she acknowledged that no doctor has diagnosed any physical injury resulting from the encounter on the airliner.

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.

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