Children want trustees fired

Chris Thelen/Staff

AIKEN - Six of James Brown's children have filed a petition to remove the trustees of the estate, one day after a confrontation at the music legend's home between the men and his son-in-law.


The petition, filed in Aiken County Probate Court on Wednesday, demands that the trustees be removed as Mr. Brown's personal representatives, including longtime adviser Buddy Dallas.

A hearing has been scheduled in probate court at 11 a.m. Feb. 1.

The 33-page document alleges that Mr. Dallas, Alford Bradley and David G. Cannon have mismanaged the estate.

What the children want, Atlanta attorney Louis Levenson said, is for someone else to execute Mr. Brown's will.

The biggest concern, he said, is "that the estate and trust and wishes of James Brown be carried out neutrally by someone who has no interest in the outcome."

Mr. Levenson represents the six children named in the singer's will - Terry Brown, Larry Brown, Daryl Brown, Venisha Brown, Deanna Brown Thomas and Yamma Brown Lumar - and multiple grandchildren.

Mr. Dallas said Wednesday evening that he hadn't seen the petition yet.

"These are the same children who sued their own father," he said. "So I shouldn't have expected any less."

Mr. Dallas denied that there's been any wrongdoing by himself or the other trustees, saying that there has been no tension until a confrontation Tuesday.

Mr. Dallas said he and the other trustees were chosen by Mr. Brown to represent the estate once the singer died.

"I guess if we were replaced we would be replaced by his children," Mr. Dallas said. "But had that been Mr. Brown's wishes, he would" have done that himself.

Mr. Brown died Christmas Day at age 73. His will, which was filed last week in Aiken County Probate Court, stated that his "personal and household effects" would be divided "in approximately equal shares" between six of his children.

The bulk of his holdings and music empire are separate in the trust.

Among the allegations in the petition are that Mr. Brown's liquid assets are in danger of being "lost or dissipated or stolen" if the court does not step in.

It also alleges that the trustees have not provided to the children accounts of the singer's assets or records relating to the irrevocable trust, have removed papers and documents from secret locations in the home and have banned them from the Beech Island estate.

Much of the controversy surrounding Mr. Brown's estate has centered on Tomi Rae Hynie Brown and her 5-year-old son, James Brown II. The two were not mentioned in the will, which was drafted more than a year before the marriage and more than 10 months before the boy was born.

The legality of the couple's marriage and the paternity of the child have been questioned, and Mrs. Brown has vowed to fight the will.

But a different conflict erupted shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday, when the husband of Deanna Brown Thomas called the Aiken County Sheriff's Office to 430 Douglas Drive in Beech Island.

Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Michael Frank said Shawn Thomas was "upset that a group of five individuals who are trustees and attorneys for Mr. Brown's estate were at his property, apparently there to look at the property."

Mr. Dallas said Mr. Thomas used his vehicle to block the entrance to the estate, a confrontation that also involved Mr. Cannon and Mr. Bradley.

Rodney Peeples, a former judge also working as co-counsel on the estate, also was blocked from leaving.

Strom Thurmond Jr., a probate attorney working on Mr. Brown's estate, left before the entrance was blocked.

Mr. Dallas said Mr. Thomas was in an "agitated state," and told the trustees that they were trespassing.

As representatives of Mr. Brown's estate and trust, the attorneys are responsible for itemizing and appraising his assets. Mr. Dallas said the attorneys were visiting the property to "attend to estate business and a security" matter.

Mr. Thomas asked sheriff's Deputy Kevin Blackwell to search the attorneys, Lt. Frank said.

"That's something we would not do," he said. "That's private property and that's a civil issue. Once the deputy found out why they were there, they were allowed to go on their way."

No incident report was written on the confrontation, and the deputy left Mr. Brown's residence about 30 minutes after he arrived, Lt. Frank said.


To read the emergency petition go to this story at click here.