Former James Brown trustee Adele Pope of Newberry has asked the S.C. Court of Appeals to take off the muzzle so that she can speak in her defense against a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
On Aug. 13 Pope appealed a July decision by Aiken Judge Doyet Early III to keep in place the gag orders he issued in 2008, orders that prevent anyone from speaking about the diary of Brown companion, Tommie Rae Hynie.
In May Pope asked Early to lift the four-year-old orders, which Hynie herself violated in a Sept. 2008 interview with Augusta reporter Gene Petriello.
Hynie and others have sued Pope for tens of millions of dollars in Richland County, and Pope’s appeal brief argues it is critical to her defense that she be allowed to discuss the diary contents related to Hynie’s claim of being Brown’s wife. Pope also claimed the gag orders allow Attorney General (AG) Alan Wilson to avoid compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Pope; Wilson, Hynie, current Brown trustee Russell Bauknight, and several claimed Brown children argued in May that the judge should keep the gag orders in place.
In July Early issued a ruling that said he did not have jurisdiction to overturn his own gag orders because of a pending appeal, but there is no appeal in the case for which the gag orders were issued.
According to a longtime Brown friend, the diary contains “explosive” evidence that Hynie was not Brown’s spouse and should not have been given a share of Brown’s music empire in a 2009 settlement deal forged by former Attorney General (AG) Henry McMaster.
Brown’s estate plan left his worldwide music empire to the “I Feel Good” Trust, an education charity for needy children. He left personal effects to six children and set up education trusts for some grandchildren, but he left nothing to Hynie.
Under the settlement deal, McMaster took away over half of what Brown intended for needy children and gave it to Hynie and the claimed Brown children who had contested Brown’s estate plan. Brown’s will and trust say: 1) anyone who contests the estate plan receives nothing, and 2) his trustees must “vigorously” defend his estate plan.
In accordance with Brown’s wishes, Pope and her co-trustee, Bob Buchanan of Aiken, filed an appeal of the McMaster settlement deal. Arguments were heard in the S.C. Supreme Court on Nov. 1, but no opinion has been issued.
After their appeal, Pope and Buchan were sued by Hynie, current trustee Russell Bauknight and others. The suit alleges Buchanan and Pope caused tens of millions of dollars in damages to the Brown estate during their 18-month tenure.
At the May 22 hearing, Pope said she had read the Hynie diaries in 2007, several months before the gag orders were issued. Being able to discuss what she knows of the diary contents is essential to her defense in the Richland lawsuit, she argued.
In her appeal, Pope claims the Hynie diary contained information “relevant to the issue of whether there was a valid marriage” (between Brown and Hynie). Pope further claims, in her defense, that she owed Hynie “no duty” because Hynie was not Brown’s spouse or beneficiary.
In a recent sworn statement, original Brown trustee Albert “Buddy” Dallas confirmed that Brown and Hynie were not married. According to Dallas, Hynie was married to another man at the time she and Brown exchanged vows in a “bogus” 2001 ceremony. When Brown discovered she was married to another man, he was hurt, Dallas said.
According to Dallas’ July 20 statement, after Hynie obtained an annulment in 2004, she begged Brown to marry her, but he refused. Dallas said, “Mr. Brown told me he would never remarry her. And he didn’t.”
In 2008 Dallas’ attorney, Wayne Byrd of Myrtle Beach, distributed multiple copies of the Hynie diary to the attorneys general of South Carolina and Georgia, as well as to a number of others. Byrd asserted that Dallas and now-deceased co-trustee Alfred Bradley had a duty to use the diary to refute Hynie’s claim that she was Brown’s spouse.
Pope’s appeal brief, filed Aug. 15, argues that:
1) Judge Early should have taken jurisdiction and declared the gag orders void or expired in 2008.
2) The gag orders should not be used as the basis for Wilson’s failure to comply with the FOIA by refusing to release his copy of the diary.
3) Early’s refusal to void the gag orders is promoting a fraud on the court by Hynie and others, including misrepresentations about who are James Brown’s heirs.
Pope requested a copy of the Hynie diary in May from Wilson, and her request was refused, citing the gag orders. The AG’s office also cited the gag orders when denying a March FOIA request for the diary by The Newberry Observer.
Pope’s brief states: “A multiple year gag order, issued without a single finding of its necessity, must not be allowed to prevent the State’s highest legal officer from performing his public duty.”
Pope argued that the public is entitled under the FOIA to documents, including the State’s copies of the diary, so that there can be an open discussion of how much power an attorney general should have in taking private property from estates and trusts—including Brown’s.
“The Hynie diary gag orders strike at the very foundations of our government: transparency in government, the public’s right to know the actions of public officials, and the prevention of fraud,” the appeal brief stated.