Defense Rests in Rival’s $90-Million Defamation Suit Against Swaggart
Lawyers for televangelist Jimmy Swaggart rested their defense Thursday in the trial of a $90-million defamation suit filed against Swaggart by rival minister Marvin Gorman.
Judge Julian Bailes rejected motions by attorneys for Swaggart and the other defendants to dismiss the case. He excused the jury until Monday, when closing arguments are expected.
Gorman accuses Swaggart and the other defendants connected with Swaggart’s ministry of spreading rumors about Gorman’s sex life that led to the bankruptcy of the Gorman ministry. Swaggart’s final witness testified Wednesday that Gorman’s New Orleans-based ministry was failing even before the scandal.
Gorman’s attorney, Hunter Lundy, surprised many in the courtroom when he told the judge he would call no rebuttal witnesses.
“I didn’t see any evidence that we needed to rebut,” Lundy told reporters later.
Swaggart’s attorney, Phillip Whitmann, said he had hoped that Gorman would take the stand again to deny allegations that he had sexual affairs with several women.
Whitmann said he would have asked Gorman “a lot of things he wouldn’t want to answer.”
Barry Mabry, a New Orleans certified public accountant, told the jury that Marvin Gorman Ministries was on the road to financial ruin long before July, 1986, when Gorman resigned as pastor of New Orleans First Assembly of God amid charges of womanizing.
Gorman, who acknowledged committing adultery just once, resigned after Swaggart and others confronted him with the charges. Gorman’s ministry went into bankruptcy in 1987.
Swaggart was unfrocked in 1988 after Gorman supplied photos of Swaggart with a prostitute to leaders of their Pentecostal denomination, the Assemblies of God.
Gorman’s lawsuit claims that if not for lies spread by Swaggart and others he would have been able to issue $20 million in bonds to purchase two television stations.
Swaggart’s attorneys called Michael Ellison of Arizona, a consultant to several religious broadcasters. Ellison took issue with financial projections made by a witness for Gorman, who said that with the television stations Gorman’s profits could have grown by 15% annually for 19 years.