Mega-pastor’s wife denies assaulting attendant on Vail flight
Vail, CO Colorado
HOUSTON ” 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.
Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown claims Victoria Osteen grabbed, elbowed and pushed her before the start of a 2005 flight to Vail, Colo. Victoria Osteen and her husband, who also had been on board and testified earlier Friday, denied that account.
“I love people. I’m guilty of that,” Victoria Osteen said.
Dressed in an orange pant suit, Victoria Osteen was animated while testifying, often moving her hands while she talked. A couple of times during her testimony, she cried.
Joel Osteen called the incident “an unfortunate misunderstanding.” He testified that his wife never raised her voice or grabbed the flight attendants, though he said he could not hear his wife’s voice from his seat.
“We would never disrespect authority or disrespect” the flight attendant, Joel Osteen said.
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 nationally and internationally and he 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 a half-dollar-sized spill on her armrest.
When Victoria Osteen didn’t get her way, Johnson testified, the passenger became verbally and physically abusive to both flight attendants. 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. 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.
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 Victoria Osteen 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.
Rusty Hardin, Victoria Osteen’s attorney, says there is no evidence Brown sustained any injuries.
The trial was set to resume on Tuesday.