Swaggart defamed fellow TV minister, La. jury finds

September 13, 1991|By New York Times News Service

NEW ORLEANS R — NEW ORLEANS -- A state civil jury found last night that the evangelist Jimmy Swaggart had defamed a fellow television minister, Marvin Gorman, whose career collapsed five years ago in a swirl of accusations that he was an adulterer.

Finding both Mr. Swaggart and his television ministries liable for damages, the jury awarded Mr. Gorman's television and crusade ministries $9 million. In addition, it awarded Mr. Gorman $600,000 for defamation and $400,000 for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The jury deliberated about 24 hours before determining that Mr. Swaggart had hurt Mr. Gorman and that he was liable for damages in the $90 million lawsuit.

Also found liable was Mr. Swaggart's close friend and lawyer, William D. Treeby, for intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

An appeal by Mr. Swaggart is virtually certain, since lawyers for ,, both sides had said they would appeal if the verdict went against them.

The battle between the two men has filled a courtroom in State Civil District Court in New Orleans for almost 10 weeks, creating a sensation.

MA As the case was ending on Tuesday, Mr. Swaggart and his wife,

Frances, and Mr. Gorman, and his wife, Virginia, sat almost side by side.

The jurors had listened to nine hours of closing arguments and jury instructions. Jurors were asked to answer an array of questions: Did Mr. Swaggart and his co-defendants defame Mr. Gorman? Did they invade his privacy? Did they intentionally inflict emotional distress? And did they engage in a conspiracy to do any one of those things?

In answering the questions, the jurors had to sort through a mass of often sordid detail. The intent of the lawsuit, to prove that Mr. Swaggart and his associates had defamed Mr. Gorman and conspired to ruin his reputation, at times seemed lost in the often detailed accounts of Mr. Gorman's alleged sexual adventures.

Mr. Gorman filed the lawsuit against Mr. Swaggart and other Assemblies of God preachers and officials in 1987, a year after losing his credentials as minister of the First Assembly of God Church in New Orleans.

He is now pastor of a smaller, independent church, the Metropolitan Christian Center, near New Orleans. He said when he filed the suit that he did so because "when Paul could not get a fair and just hearing, he applied to go before Caesar."

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