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A jury has awarded the estate of the late evangelist Rosemary "Mama" Cosby $1.2 million in damages, finding that a portion of the evangelist's fortune was fraudulently diverted after her death in 1997.
The eight-member, 3rd District Court panel ordered Bishop Robert C. Cosby, Mama Cosby's husband and successor at Faith Temple Pentecostal Church in Salt Lake City, and church business manager Annie Johnson to pay the award to estate representative Rosalind Cazares, one of Mama Cosby's four children.
Attorney Edward McBride, representing Cazares, said Monday the jury's decision was a decisive victory in a six-year court fight challenging Robert Cosby's and Johnson's handling of the multimillion-dollar financial empire Mama Cosby left behind.
"It's not the end of the case, but it's the beginning of the end," he said. "There are some other issues still to fight out in probate court, such as whether Robert Cosby must personally reimburse the estate for legal fees."
Questions also remain about possible redivision of Mama Cosby's estate, in light of the jury's partial support for Cazares' allegations that her mother's signature was forged on various deeds and mortgages prior to her death from a heart attack in January 1997.
In its decision late Friday, the jurors found one of four deeds submitted by Cazares at trial - a December 1996 quit-claim document related to a Zion Summit condominium - had been forged.
Bruce Reading, an attorney representing Robert Cosby and Johnson, is asking the court to trim the $318,000 in general damages awarded, and also will seek to negotiate punitive damages less than the $850,000 set by jurors. However, no decision has been made on whether to appeal the jury's actual finding of fact, he said.
Messages seeking comment from Cosby and Johnson were not returned Monday.