Benson competency hearing will stretch into next week

Benson competency hearing will stretch into next week

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Tom Benson's two grandchildren spent Wednesday testifying about his level of competency, ending day three in the trial to determine if the billionaire is capable of handling his business affairs.

Eight-and-a-half hours. That's how long Rita LeBlanc testified between Tuesday and Wednesday at Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

"I think anybody who has been on the stand for a few hours is probably happy that it's done," LeBlanc family attorney Randy Smith said.

After three days of testimony, the doctors hired to evaluate Benson still haven't been called to the stand. They're going to discuss their evaluations of his health in order to provide Judge Kern Reese with insight as he decides if he should grant an interdiction.

Psychologist Dr. Rafael Salcedo, Ph.D., explains what the experts were looking for. "The bottom line is whether or not the person can make reasoned capacity for the care of his or her personal property and his or her person," Salcedo said.

Benson's daughter, Renee, and grandchildren Rita and Ryan, say he doesn't have the ability to control his empire. They want to reclaim their stake in the Saints and Pelicans after being shut out by Benson earlier this year.

It's been a grueling week so far at court, with Tom Benson admitting he'd rather be somewhere else. "Everything's going fine. Just taking a lot of my time, that's all. I've got better things to do - like making sure we have a good basketball and football team," Benson said.

After testimony from all three heirs, the question remains, will the patriarch take the stand?

FOX 8 legal analyst Joseph Raspanti explains, "If Rita's side wants to call Tom Benson to the stand, they have every right to do so."

When Smith was asked if he intended to call Benson to testify, he replied, "I probably can't comment on that."

What Smith can say is that the mood inside the closed courtroom has changed. "It's starting to become more tolerable just because it's the third day for everybody - it's just - get it done."

But that is taking longer than expected, as the hearing will now stretch into next week.

Gayle Benson hasn't been seen at court with her husband. She was willed full control of the Saints and Pelicans upon her husband's death. Raspanti predicts she'll be called as a witness, which would prohibit her from being in the courtroom.

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