Nichelle Nichols,best known for portraying Uhura in the original Star Trek series in the 1960s, is a global treasure and should be treated as such. And of course, there’s the concept of basic humanity, no matter your stature in life.
At 87 years old, Nichols is reportedly suffering from dementia and according to IndieWire, is currently engaged in a legal battle that claims that she suffered from elder abuse at the hands of her manager, Gilbert Bell. The complaint filing states multiple allegations, including financial elder abuse, intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress and constructive fraud.
IndieWire provides more context:
The most recent court action came earlier this month, when Kyle Johnson, Nichols’ son, filed a cross complaint against Bell. The complaint is in response to a 2019 lawsuit filed by Bell against Johnson, where Bell alleges that it is Johnson’s actions that are harming Nichols — while Bell has always had her best interests in mind.
Johnson has denied Bell’s allegations of wrongdoing against him. Bell has not yet responded in court to Johnson’s allegations. IndieWire has reached out to lawyers for Johnson, Bell, and a representative for Nichols.
The latest suit alleges that Bell “exerted his undue influence and took control over Ms. Nichols’ assets and personal affairs” beginning in 2010, around the time that the actress began exhibiting “mental instability and poor judgment.” She was diagnosed in 2013 with dementia and short-term memory loss. After suffering a stroke in 2015, she began requiring round-the-clock care.
Bell was allegedly entrusted with managing Nichols’ personal and business affairs and has lived on her San Fernando Valley property since 2012. He gained more control over her affairs, including being granted power of attorney.
Johnson is alleging Bell committed financial elder abuse, breached his fiduciary duty to Nichols, committed fraud, and unjustly enriched himself, among other charges.
On behalf of all of the siblings, Nichols’ younger sister Marian Smothers recently launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to assist in legal fees while Nichols recovers.
“As a fan and admirer of Nichelle, we ask for your support by donating towards the accumulated and ongoing legal fees to defend her and ensure the continuing conservatorship by her son, Kyle,” the fundraising page reads. “These funds are necessary for defending Nichelle from Gilbert Bell’s baseless but damaging suit, our counter-suit and associated expenses of discovery, trial, etc, and to recover all or some of what he has stolen and mitigate the damage he has inflicted upon her. We appeal to your generosity and appreciate your support in any amount.”
According to the National Council on Aging, “approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60-plus have experienced some form of elder abuse.”
The Root has reached out to Bell and representatives for Nichols for comment on this matter. To learn more about the Nichelle Nichols fundraiser or if you are able to donate, please visit the official page here.
Update: 08/21/2020, 4:54 p.m. ET: Gilbert Bell’s legal team has released an official statement via press release, in regards to the GoFundMe launched on behalf of Nichelle Nichols.
“Gilbert Warner Bell (82 years old), Ms. Nichols’s former entertainment manager, interested friend of Ms. Nichols, and a respected industry talent manager for 30 years, is a litigant in these suits,” the statement reads. “His pleadings show him to be very concerned that her estranged son, Kyle Johnson, is trying to turn his mother’s fortune into his own at a time when she is becoming mentally and physically unable to care for herself. Mr. Bell had hoped only that she would be able to stay in her own home at the onset of these cases.”
The statement also goes on to claim that since Johnson has been appointed Nichols’ appointed temporary conservator, a number of things have changed including firing Nichols’s personal assistant, cancelling her physical therapy and claiming that she hasn’t been seen outside of her property engaging in necessary exercise.
“Ms. Nichols’s closest friends had seen Ms. Nichols routinely close in time to when Mr. Johnson taking over her care, and last saw her to be in good health and good spirits,” the statement continues. “They do not believe that there is any good reason, even if she is ill, that a good caregiver would block visitation from friends. They wonder if she is allowed to use the phone. Each of the professional, court-appointed temporary conservators of the estate reviewed the financial records in detail. None of them found any cause to follow up on accusations of financial wrongdoing by Mr. Bell.”
You can view the full press release (sent via email to The Root) below:
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