*On Thursday (July 19) of last week, S.C. Attorney General (AG) Alan Wilson and Tommie Rae Hynie, former companion of entertainment legend James Brown, obtained an emergency court order–issued orally–to stop a deposition from former Brown trustee Albert “Buddy” Dallas.
The order did not, however, stop James Brown’s friend and attorney of 20+ years from delivering a bombshell in sworn testimony: Hynie and James Brown were not married.
In a sworn statement taken on Friday, Dallas recounted an early-morning phone call in 2006 with Brown and Hynie, confirming that the two were not married and that Hynie was merely a guest in Brown’s home.
According to Dallas, the conversation took place in the summer of 2006, shortly before Brown and Hynie separated for the last time. Hynie returned from the West Coast only once, in October 2006 when the James Brown auditorium was named for Brown. Dallas said Hynie was in the audience with a video-camera, but not with Brown.
After Brown’s death on Christmas Day of 2006, Hynie claimed to be his wife and sued for a spousal share of his worldwide music empire. Some of Brown’s claimed children also contested his will.
Under Brown’s will, certain children received his personal and household goods, and some grandchildren were given education trusts of up to $285,000. Brown’s music empire was left to the “I Feel Good” education charity for needy and underprivileged children to be educated at institutions in Georgia and South Carolina.
However, a 2009 proposed settlement deal forged by former AG Henry McMaster—who was charged with protecting the needy children’s trust–took over half of Brown’s music empire away from the charity and awarded it to Hynie and the Brown children who had contested his will.
The McMaster deal was appealed by former Brown trustees, Newberry resident Adele Pope and Aiken attorney Robert Buchanan, who were directed by Brown’s estate documents to “vigorously” defend his estate plan.
In 2010, after the appeal was filed, McMaster and others sued Pope and Buchanan for tens of millions of dollars, alleging they had mishandled Brown’s trust when they served as trustees from late 2007 to early 2009.
Attorney Kenneth Wingate of Columbia—who represents the AG, current trustee Russell Bauknight, Hynie and some Brown children in the McMaster lawsuit–named Dallas and his co-trustee David Cannon as his witnesses 18 months ago, even though Cannon was under indictment at the time for taking more than $12 million from Brown.
In June of 2008, McMaster wrote Pope and Buchanan that the original trustees, including Dallas, were “close to Mr. Brown” and may have information “which would otherwise not be available.” He further claimed “it is my duty to ensure that we do not ignore them.”
Wilson and Hynie now appear to disagree with McMaster. In a move to silence Dallas, they filed an emergency motion late Wednesday afternoon to stop his deposition on Friday.
The AG’s staff may have already known what Dallas would say about Wilson’s co-plaintiff Hynie in the lawsuit against Pope. Before the McMaster deal gave Hynie one-quarter of Brown’s worldwide music empire, several affidavits were filed in the James Brown case. Dallas’s affidavit from June of 2007 states: “Ms. Hynie and Mr. Brown were not married.” Original trustee Alfred Bradley, now deceased, also confirmed Hynie and Brown were not married.
Before 10 a.m. on Thursday, Pope’s counsel, Adam Silvernail of Columbia, had responded to the Wilson/Hynie motion related to the Dallas deposition. In filings and correspondence, Silvernail stated that the Wilson/Hynie request for early mediation should not stop a voluntary deposition of Wilson’s own witness—and that to-date, Judge Casey Manning had issued no order for mediation in the case against Pope, nor in her counterclaims against AG Wilson, his trustee Bauknight, Hynie and others.
Silvernail asserted that the “emergency” motion continued a pattern of discovery abuse by Wingate’s clients, and he requested a hearing on the record.
According to communications exchanged on July 19, only minutes after Pope’s filing, Wingate’s firm reported to Silvernail that: Judge Manning had contacted Wingate attorney Mark Gende; Manning had ruled orally that the Dallas deposition not take place; and Manning had directed Wingate to notify Pope’s counsel of his oral order. Based on Gende’s representation of Manning’s ruling, the Dallas deposition was downgraded to a sworn statement.
Dallas gave sworn testimony in support of Brown’s estate plan, and he said he does not understand why all discovery has been halted in all Brown cases.
“At no time has this been about me, but at all times it has been about Mr. Brown’s wishes as expressed in his will and trust. I never sought the job (of trustee). Mr. Brown requested me to serve because he knew I would not knowingly fail him: I never did for 24 years,” Dallas said.
AG Wilson and Hynie’s fears about their own witness turned out to be well-founded. Dallas reported that Hynie was not Brown’s wife, and that Brown was hurt when he learned Hynie was already married to another man at the time they held a marriage ceremony in 2001.
Dallas testified that Hynie begged James Brown to marry her after she obtained a 2004 annulment from her first husband, but he refused. Although Hynie and Brown continued to be together until their final separation in 2006, Dallas said Brown was never monogamous. He had women guests in his room, and Hynie maintained a room as Brown’s guest in another part of the house.
The Hynie marriage myth was not the only grenade Dallas tossed into AG Wilson’s lawsuit against Pope. Dallas confirmed there had been at least one $100 million offer to purchase Brown’s assets in 2007—the same assets current trustee Bauknight asserts were worth only $4.7 million when Brown died.
Pope and Robert Buchanan—now dismissed as a party to the Wingate/McMaster lawsuit—have vigorously asserted that Brown’s worldwide music empire was worth about $85 million when Brown died. They also have filed several documents stating that the McMaster settlement deal destroyed Brown’s “I Feel Good” foundation and that Bauknight’s less-than $4.7 million valuation is outrageous.
Dallas resigned as Brown’s trustee in November 2007 amid a swirl of allegations that he was involved in the takings of David Cannon, his co-trustee–and that the two were seeking a “kickback” on the sale of Brown’s music empire.
In Dallas’ sworn statement of July 20, he explained the “kickback” allegation. Dallas said his understanding of the Internal Revenue Code was that the “I Feel Good” foundation could not operate a business, and the assets had to be sold within 60 months after Brown’s death. The trustees were simply following that mandate.
Dallas said the term kickback—which he admitted was unfortunate—actually described a “royalty legacy” to be paid by the purchasers to the “I Feel Good” trust, not to Dallas and Cannon.
Dallas described the royalty legacy as a five percent (5%) payment from Brown’s worldwide operations that the “I Feel Good” Trust would continue to receive in perpetuity, in addition to the $100 million purchase price.
“I was very pleased to have negotiated that, and I explained that to Judge Early and all others present Nov. 20, 2007. I have always believed that the royalty payments could amount to more than the corpus of the trust,” Dallas said.
“If a ‘kickback’ ever had been offered, I would have reported it to the proper authorities,” Dallas said. He added it is regrettable that in the context of litigation, every word is seized as some kind of leverage—and sadly, the truth is lost.
“It seems there has been an effort to punish everyone charged with carrying out the provisions of Mr. Brown’s will,” Dallas said.
The Dallas law office has been burglarized twice since Brown’s death, most recently in 2011, and Dallas issued a plea for the break-ins to stop. “Please, there is no more reason to burglarize my office. I sure don’t have any money here, and all James Brown documents have been turned over to the Court.”