OLYMPIA - A state appeals court has overturned a $792,000 divorce award to New Age channeler J.Z. Knight's ex-husband.
Knight, 48, built a multimillion-dollar empire with thousands of followers in the 1980s by dispensing spiritual advice from Ramtha, whom she described as a warrior that lived 35,000 years ago in the fabled lost city of Atlantis. She and Jeffrey Knight, 38, were married in 1984 and divorced in 1988.
Under the settlement, Jeffrey Knight, who died in early July, accepted some property and $120,000. J.Z. Knight got the rest, including "all interest in and ownership of Ramtha Dialogues," a business formed to market Ramtha-related items.
The Washington state Court of Appeals ruled late last week that the settlement properly covered all aspects of the business, including goodwill - its prestige or other intangible assets.
In renewed proceedings two years ago, Jeffrey Knight claimed his ex-wife coerced him into accepting the settlement, partly by threatening to deny him access to Ramtha.
Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bruce Cohoe rejected that and most of Jeffrey Knight's other claims but held on Dec. 4, 1992, that neither side had considered goodwill in assigning a value to the business.
Cohoe said the evidence showed the goodwill of Ramtha Dialogues to be worth nearly $1.6 million and awarded half that sum to Jeffrey Knight.
Writing for a unanimous three-judge appeals panel, Judge Karen Seinfeld said, "We conclude that the evidence does not support the trial court's finding that the parties overlooked the asset of goodwill."
The appeals ruling upheld Cohoe's award of $149,000 to Jeffrey Knight for attorney's fees and costs, half of what the trial judge found he had incurred.
In a third finding, the decision directed Cohoe to reconsider the interest rate that would be applied to the legal expenses. The trial judge set the rate at 6 percent, half the maximum allowed under state law.
J.Z. Knight lives in a $3 million compound in Yelm, Pierce County. Among her followers were actresses Shirley MacLaine and Linda Evans, both of whom moved to Pierce County to be near Knight.
Puyallup attorney Doug Kaukl, J.Z. Knight's lawyer, said he thinks the court properly reversed Cohoe's decision on the $792,000, but said he will ask the court to reconsider the attorney fees.