HOUSTON — A jury was seated Wednesday in a lawsuit alleging the wife of nationally known pastor Joel Osteen assaulted a flight attendant.
Opening arguments were set for Thursday in a case Victoria Osteen's lawyer called "silly." But Reginald McKamie, attorney for Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown, said he hopes the trial will show "that celebrity status doesn't take precedence."
Brown accuses Victoria Osteen of assaulting her before the start of a 2005 flight from Houston to Vail, Colo. Brown alleges Victoria Osteen threw her against a bathroom door and elbowed her in the left breast during an angry outburst over a stain on her first-class seat. The Federal Aviation Administration fined Victoria Osteen $3,000 for interfering with a crew member.
Joel Osteen was at his wife's side Wednesday in court. McKamie said he expected to call the couple as witnesses.
Joel Osteen preaches at Lakewood Church, a Houston megachurch where about 42,000 people flock each week and where Victoria Osteen is co-pastor. His weekly television address is broadcast nationally and internationally.
Some potential jurors during questioning admitted to being star-struck by the Osteens and that their respect for them might affect their judgment.
"He has gotten me through a lot of tough times. I would believe what he has to say. I have a lot of respect for him," one female in the jury pool said.
Other potential jurors said they didn't like preachers or televangelists and that ministers can lie.
Brown wants an apology and punitive damages amounting to 10 percent of Victoria Osteen's net worth as part of her suit.
Victoria Osteen's lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said before jury selection began Wednesday that Brown's claims are false and that what happened was a "minor incident." Hardin also asked a judge to throw out an FAA report detailing the alleged incident, saying the agency's investigation was "incredibly incomplete."
"This is a very silly case," Hardin told reporters.
McKamie said the FAA did an appropriate investigation. State District Judge Patricia Hancock said she would make a decision later on whether the report would be allowed.
Brown's suit claims the flight attendants asked to have Victoria Osteen removed from the plane. Hardin says Victoria Osteen and her family left voluntarily. The incident delayed the flight about 2 1/2 hours.
According to court documents, Brown claims that she suffers from anxiety and hemorrhoids because of the incident and said her faith was affected. She is also suing Osteen for medical expenses for counseling.
Brown had previously claimed she was attacked in another incident by an airport employee, according to a deposition she gave in the case.