Osteen Assault Trial Nears End

Lakewood Church co-pastor Victoria Osteen, right, departs during the noon break from the 113th district court on Aug. 13, 2008 in the Harris County Civil Courthouse in Houston.
AP
Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown says she was assaulted by the wife of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen in an attack so traumatic that it left her unable to work for five days and damaged her religious beliefs.

But Victoria Osteen's attorney has repeatedly tried to show during a nearly weeklong civil trial that his client never hit or pushed Brown and that the alleged assault was just a figment of the flight attendant's imagination.

Closing arguments in the civil trial that resulted from Brown's lawsuit against Victoria Osteen were expected on Thursday after both sides rested a day earlier.

Brown told jurors the co-pastor of Houston's famed Lakewood Church became verbally and physically abusive before the start of a 2005 flight from Houston to Vail, Colo.

The flight attendant claims she suffered physical and psychological injuries after Victoria Osteen got angry that a spill on the armrest of her first-class seat was not quickly cleaned up.

Another flight attendant on the flight, Maria Johnson, supported Brown's claims, testifying Victoria Osteen got so upset, she threw Brown against a bathroom door and elbowed her in the left breast while attempting to rush into the cockpit.

Both flight attendants testified they had to block the cockpit door to prevent Victoria Osteen from getting inside.

Brown wants an apology and punitive damages amounting to 10 percent of Victoria Osteen's net worth as part of her lawsuit. Victoria Osteen's attorney, Rusty Hardin, has declined to discuss her finances, so it was unclear how much 10 percent would be.

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

Victoria Osteen told jurors she went up to Brown after no one helped her clean up the spill. She said it was Brown who became angry during their discussion. Victoria Osteen denied ever touching Brown or trying to get into the cockpit.

Three passengers in first-class and a pilot aboard testified Wednesday they never saw or heard anything that indicated Victoria Osteen assaulted Brown.

Hardin, during sometimes relentless and aggressive cross-examination of Brown, tried to cast doubt that the flight attendant suffered any physical or mental injuries. Brown admitted that doctors found no physical injuries on her and she delayed getting psychiatric treatment.

Claudia Hall, a former Continental flight attendant, testified by video deposition that she was falsely accused by Brown of hitting and pushing her into the bathroom wall of a plane in November 1995.

The Osteens 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 in the U.S. and internationally and his books are sold around the globe.

The Osteens paid a $3,000 fine the Federal Aviation Administration levied against Victoria Osteen for interfering with a crew member but testified they did that to put the incident behind them.