Tom Benson's attorneys call first witness to stand

Tom Benson's attorneys call first witness to stand

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It has been a long week for 87-year-old billionaire Tom Benson. Friday added to this week's strains.

Benson, the Saints and Pelicans owner, arrived in the breezeway of civil court Friday morning complaining of a long NBA finals game Thursday night, but professing that he was ready to go as he heads into the fifth day of trial.

"I'm ready. I'm ready for a fight," Benson said. He also said he would rather be at Saints training camp.

The battle over control of Tom Benson's fortune began Monday behind closed doors in Orleans Parish Civil Court. The hearings are closed to all members of the media. 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.

The case was brought on by his daughter Renee and two grandchildren, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc. It is winding down with more testimony from Dr. Ted Bloch, the psychiatrist hired by the challengers to Tom Benson's succession plan which squeezes them out.

There was speculation that the Benson heirs might call another witness to the stand, but the side rested its case after Bloch's testimony.

"The case is far from over, but we feel we did what we needed to do," attorney Randy Smith said.

Benson's defense team called as their first witness, Dennis Lauscha, the man handpicked by Benson to preside over his billion dollar sports empire.

So far, Benson has not taken the stand.

"I would like to hear what he has to say, but so far that hasn't happened," Smith said.

Benson can only be called as a rebuttal witness after his case has concluded. But it is unclear as to whether they will be able to force Benson to testify or if the judge will step in.

The trial is expected to stretch into next week.

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