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Flight attendant says televangelist attacked him

August 21, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ A flight attendant who plans to file a $5 million civil lawsuit against the Rev. Robert Schuller for allegedly assaulting him said Wednesday he’s too frightened to go to work or even to an airport.

However, a couple who witnessed the dispute says the attendant threw a ``hissy fit″ and acted unprofessionally.

Attendant Khaled Elabiad, 33, told a news conference the 70-year-old televangelist shook him in a ``vigorous″ way, leaving him with pains in his neck, back, shoulders, fingers and feet.

``This event was the most traumatic experience of my life,″ Elabiad said outside his attorney’s office.

Elabiad, a flight attendant for eight years, is under the care of an orthopedist, chiropractor, general practitioner and psychiatrist, said his attorney, Jack Grossman. The United Air Lines flight attendant is also taking medication for emotional stress, Grossman said.

The lawsuit _ which Grossman said will be filed this week _ seeks $2.5 million from Schuller and $2.5 million from his church.

Schuller pleaded innocent last week to a misdemeanor complaint and agreed to enter a six-month federal supervision program that will require him to check in with authorities by mail or telephone. Prosecutors will dismiss the charges stemming from the dispute if he completes the program without breaking any laws.

He also paid a $1,100 Federal Aviation Administration fine and apologized to Elabiad.

The incident occurred June 28 when the minister was flying first-class from Los Angeles to Kennedy Airport for a memorial service for Malcolm X’s widow, Betty Shabazz.

Dual and Kara Macintyre of Larchmont, N.Y., were sitting in front of Schuller in the first class cabin and say the flight attendant was out of line.

``The flight attendant was quite upset and talked in an increasingly loud voice,″ said Macintyre, who spoke via telephone at a news conference at Schuller’s church, the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif.

``It amazes me that this incident, which I described to the FBI as a `hissy fit’ between a flight attendant who was having a bad day and a well-intentioned elderly passenger could have got so blown out of proportion,″ Macintyre said.

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