By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
For one glorious spring day, students get out of class to watch as priests mumble their way around the church. Legend has it the collars are talking about the various tortures and annoyances Jesus went through on his way to being crucified, but usually there's too much whispering and strenuous attempts to withhold laughter amongst the young'uns to hear much of what's going on.
The go-getters at Houston's massive Lakewood Church are about as far from Catholics as you can be, unless these days there are priests out there yammering on about how God really, really wants you to be rich, contrary to what the Bible says.
But Houston experienced a Stations of the Cross ceremony this month, as Victoria Osteen underwent her own Passion Play of suffering, redemption and attorney's fees in the noble effort to beat back a lawsuit filed by a Continental Airlines flight attendant who claimed Osteen pushed her in the boob during a dispute over some spilled liquid.
Some spilled liquid on a first-class seat bound for Christmas in Vail, but don't be disturbed by that. We're sure Mary and Joseph had a first-class mule on their way to Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.
(And that Mary would have raised holy hell if the saddle had contained a couple of drops of liquid. Little-known fact: Mary could be quite the prima donna when it came to travel arrangements.)
The epic, transcendent courtroom battle between flight attendant Sharon Brown and Victoria Osteen provided many lessons for those watching. Rusty Hardin was able to restore (a little bit) his Roger Clemens-tarnished reputation, and the world got a closer look at attorney Reginald McKamie.
The closer look wasn't necessarily flattering.
McKamie presented a case that was...interesting, if not exactly designed to win.
Witnesses who said the opposite of what he thought they would, even though they were his own witnesses; countless objections by Hardin sustained by an exasperated judge; McKamie firmly establishing (God knows why) that Victoria Osteen had not changed her version of events; strange claims about hemorrhoids and whether the brief incident should be worth 10 percent of Victoria Osteen's wealth; and a final argument that left observers giggling: let's just say it was an engaging performance.
(Fun fact: McKamie ran for DA in 2004 and was endorsed by the Houston Chronicle. On the other hand, he was running against Chuck Rosenthal, so who's to say the endorsement was so wrong?)
McKamie would talk only briefly to us after the trial; Hardin referred all questions to Lakewood Church.
But who needs them? Anyone who followed the trial learned that there are Ten New Commandments, and the parties to the suit broke almost all of them as Houstonians watched in awe.
(Note to the Osteens: The so-called "commandments" are a Bible-related thing. They don't specifically talk about how God wants everyone to get rich, so you may not be familiar with them.)
The Ten New Commandments, all dealing with what has to be the world's most overhyped discussion about a spilled drink:
Commandment the First:
Thou Shalt Not Bring a Knife to a Gunfight
There have been many, many mismatches in history: Georgia vs. Russia, Grenada vs. the United States, Brad Lidge vs. Albert Pujols.
But seldom has the world witnessed such a David-vs.-Goliath battle as Reginald McKamie vs. Rusty Hardin. There was no upset this time.
McKamie's unique courtroom style, which we'll endeavor to somehow explain throughout, was the equivalent of a train wreck that fell off a bridge onto a shipwreck that then drifted into a 20-car pileup on the interstate.
It began when McKamie became incensed that the Osteens were plugging their new best-seller and not going on Larry King Live and saying, "By the way, Larry, we feel it's only fair to hand over four or five million to Sharon Brown, with a couple extra million for her attorney."
An annoyed McKamie fired off a passionate press release urging reporters to write the true story of the Osteens. "Are you willing to tell the story of an average American who was merely doing her job when she was physically attacked and verbally demeaned by a powerful megastar?" he asked.
He backed this up by attaching deposition transcripts...that showed, essentially, that McKamie was no Rusty Hardin.
It's too bad that depositions aren't written more like stage plays, or this excerpt, where McKamie asked if the Osteens were role models, would have looked like this:
HARDIN (Rolling eyes) Where is this going? I mean, [Joel's] going to answer these questions, but I find it highly offensive. What does whether or not what they are or what they are not have to do with this?
McKAMIE (Sounding like a sarcastic teen): It has a lot to do with it.
HARDIN (Slowly, as if speaking to a six-year-old): What? Please state for the record what.
McKAMIE (Like George Costanza sputtering to yet another boss): What it is, it has — it has destroyed my client's faith in what her actions were. And I'll get around to it and —