HOUSTON, Aug. 15, 2008 -- Victoria Osteen, wife of TV preacher Joel Osteen, says she never lost her faith while a civil lawsuit filed against her by a flight attendant played out in court.
"I stood strong because I believe in the truth," she told reporters after a jury ruled she did not assault Sharon Brown of Continental Airlines during a December 2005 flight.
"If we could have figured out a way to return court costs to the Osteens we would have done it," said jury foreman Gilles Labbe shortly after the jury announced its verdict.
The jury verdict was short and to the point. They answered "no" to the first question in the jury charge. Did Victoria Osteen commit an assault against Sharon Brown?
Osteen cried after the verdict was announced and told reporters that she was grateful for the decision, and now hoped to put the incident behind her. "It feels wonderful; I'm grateful, so grateful."
Joel Osteen, whose mega-church draws about 42,000 people a week to his Houston-based Lakewood Church, said he and his family hold no ill will toward Brown. "It's a great vindication and shows us the faithfulness of God," said the popular evangelical pastor, according to The Associated Press.
Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown says she was assaulted by Victoria Osteen in an attack so traumatic that it made her question her religious faith.
But Osteen's attorney tried to demonstrate for the jury during the nearly weeklong trial that his client never hit or pushed Brown and that the alleged assault had not happened.
Victoria Osteen took the stand and testified that no such incident took place, as did her husband and other passengers who were sitting in the first-class section on the flight.
Brown's attorney, Reginald McKamie, had asked the jury for $405,000 in damages for his client.
Osteen's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, repeatedly called the lawsuit frivolous, and the jury seemed to agree with him. "This was a complete waste time," foreman Labbe told reporters after the trial.
Brown filed the lawsuit against Osteen after an incident in Houston aboard Continental Flight 1602 in December 2005. What everyone agrees on is this: Osteen was upset about a liquid spilled on the armrest of her first-class seat. She approached flight attendants about getting it cleaned up. What happened next was open to debate.
While acknowledging that yes, there was some sort of incident on the airplane, the jury decided that it was nothing that should have ended up in court. "I don't think Sharon Brown lied, I think she just exaggerated what happened," said juror Mark Bowden. "I think it was verbal, but not physical."
The Osteens said they would be happy to continue flying on Continental Airlines. Sharon Brown made no statements after the trial, but her attorney said she would continue to work as a fight attendant on Continental.