LOS ANGELES (CN) – A restaurateur testified Tuesday that she didn’t think she needed the blessing of the Roman Catholic Church when she filed a deed for a former convent near Hollywood, a property at the center of a legal battle between her, the archbishop of Los Angeles and pop star Katy Perry.
Attorneys for the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles and Bird Nest, Perry’s company formed to purchase the former convent in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, said Dana Hollister schemed to steal the property by contracting with a group of nuns to buy the property below the asking price.
Perry offered $14.5 million – $10 million for the property and another $4.5 million to relocate a house of prayer on the property. Archbishop Jose Gomez approved the sale, but Hollister clouded ownership of the former convent when she registered an invalid grant deed with the Los Angeles County Recorder’s Office in 2015, Bird Nest attorney Eric Rowen of Greenberg Traurig told a jury Tuesday.
“Ms. Hollister recorded those documents on purpose, so the title of the property was clouded,” said Rowen. “A fog bank rolls in on the thing. In this case, it clouded title.”
Rowen said Hollister has a pattern of purchasing properties from the Catholic Church to her benefit. He told the jury Hollister offered to purchase a former convent in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood in the 1990s, agreeing to close the deal in three years while she worked to convert the property into a hotel.
Rowen said Hollister’s tactic is to delay the process so the sellers will accept a lower offer after three years. She used the same tactic to steal the Los Feliz property from Perry, Rowen said.
On Monday, the archdiocese’s attorney Kirk Dillman of McKool Smith Hennigan, told jurors Hollister knew she didn’t have the necessary approval from either the archbishop or the Vatican to buy the property. In fact, Dillman said, Hollister was aware of a deal between Perry and the archbishop.
But in his opening arguments Tuesday, Hollister’s attorney Michael Geibelson of Robins Kaplan said his client was led to believe the nuns had the authority to sell the property. He presented contracts signed by Rita Callanan and Catherine Rose Holzman, two of the nuns who formerly lived at the convent, a point Hollister backed up in her testimony Tuesday.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles, and Perry as a cross-plaintiff under her Bird Nest company, seek attorney’s fees as the sale of the property has been held up in courts since 2015 after Hollister appealed a judge’s past ruling on the validity of her ownership of the property.
Geibelson called the topic of attorney fees “crass,” and provided the jury a breakdown of the plaintiffs’ hourly rates, which ranged from $800 to $1,000 an hour.
The trial should have been about a document case, he said, adding, “Instead, it’s been ginned up and now they’re asking you for millions, millions of dollars.”
Geibelson said attorney fees in a similar case should range between $250,000 and $550,000.
Perry seeks $2 million in damages while the archdiocese seeks about $3.5 million.
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