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Opening arguments begin in trial regarding former convent’s sale

LOS ANGELES — Katy Perry’s bid to buy a former Los Feliz convent in 2015 and live there with her mother was thwarted by interference from a wealthy Silver Lake businesswoman who wanted to transform the property into a boutique hotel, a lawyer for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told a jury Nov. 6.

In his opening statement to a Los Angeles Superior Court jury hearing the trial of claims by the archdiocese and Perry against Dana Hollister, lawyer Kirk Dillman told the panel he was not mincing words when he said the defendant “stole” the property by recording a grant deed knowing she needed the permission of the archbishop and ultimately the Vatican.

“She told the world she owned the property,” Dillman said.

Hollister’s attorneys deny any wrongdoing on the part of their client.

The archdiocese and Perry are seeking millions of dollars from Hollister, saying her actions forced them to come to court and fight for two years to get the Hollister transaction undone.

Hollister made her purchase through Sisters Rita Callanan and Catherine Rose Holzman, who maintained they had the authority to sell the Waverly Drive property to the businesswoman. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick later canceled the deal.

Holzman and Callanan are among five members of the California Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary and are the only members who oppose the sale of their former home to the 33-year-old “Roar” singer.

Dillman, who also represents the institute, said Hollister could have ended things by filling out a quit-claim deed.

“At any time she could have stopped this train,” Dillman said.

But Hollister had used a strategy in the past of “wait it out, wait it out” and she hoped it would work again, said Dillman, who told jurors that was how the businesswoman previously acquired church property.

The convent has been vacant since 2011 because it became too costly for the retired sisters to maintain and no longer accommodated their physical needs, and the proceeds from any sale of the property would go to the IHM Institute, according to the archdiocese.

After the archdiocese filed the first legal volley against Hollister in June 2015, Perry joined the litigation through a cross-complaint through her company, The Bird Nest LLC.

The archdiocese is seeking about $3.5 million in damages and Perry is asking for about $2 million, mostly to cover attorneys’ fees and costs.

Eric Rowen, the attorney for Perry and Bird Nest, said the singer will not testify or attend the trial, even though she is scheduled to perform during her “Witness: The Tour” at Staples Center Nov. 7, 9 and 10, overlapping the trial.

The sale to Perry was for $14.5 million, consisting of $10 million in cash and an agreement to provide an alternative property for a house of prayer worth $4.5 million, according to the archdiocese. In contrast, Hollister paid $44,000 and agreed to a contingent promissory note, archdiocese attorney J. Michael Hennigan has said.

Dillman said Hollister likely never would have gotten the permits for a boutique hotel and that she could have walked away from the deal to buy the property if it no longer suited her.

 

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