Benson v. Benson Day 4: Final witness takes stand for billionaire's heirs

Benson v. Benson Day 4: Final witness takes stand for billionaire's heirs
Tom Benson arrives for day four of competency trial.
Tom Benson arrives for day four of competency trial.

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Testimony from a third heir wrapped up Thursday in the trial to determine the competency of billionaire Tom Benson. It's the fourth day of the trial.

A grim-faced Ryan LeBlanc walked into court Thursday morning to testify against his grandfather. Tom Benson, the 87-year-old Pelicans and Saints owner, is attempting to remove Ryan and other heirs from control of a sports empire.

Ryan LeBlanc ran the family ranch near San Antonio. He picked up Thursday where he left off Wednesday after briefly taking the stand. He is trying to prove that Tom Benson can no longer handle his affairs.

LeBlanc testified for a total of about three hours wrapping up just before noon. That cleared the way for psychiatrist Dr. Ted Bloch to take the stand after lunch.

He was to be the final witness for the Benson heirs before the 87-year-old's defense calls their witnesses. There is no indication that Benson will take the stand.

When asked if he could force the family patriarch to take the stand, Randy Smith, the attorney for Renee Benson and her children, said he could not comment.

He did say that testimony in the trial has gone as expected.

Benson's granddaughter, Rita LeBlanc, testified Tuesday and Wednesday. Rita, who was at one time designated to take over the New Orleans Saints, testified longer than many expected. She testified for 8.5 hours between Tuesday and Wednesday at Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

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 Benson's health in order to provide Judge Kern Reese with insight as he decides if he should grant an interdiction.

Benson and his estranged family are fighting over his fortune after he announced that his wife, Gayle, would take over when he dies. The decision was followed by the family saying Benson was incapable of taking care of himself and his two franchises.

Benson was asked about the impact of this trial on his billion dollar empire and future of his teams.

"No. The Saints and Pelicans are alright, we just need to win," Benson said.

Saints coach Sean Payton said his team isn't paying much attention to the case.

"We miss having him out here, obviously, because he is someone that would be out here and certainly the opportunity to visit with him typically for me would be on a daily basis," Payton said. "But I know he is looking forward to getting back and I am sure soon it will all be behind him."

Sources now say testimony is running so long, it could stretch into next week.

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