SACRAMENTO, Calif. _ Retired Air Force Brigadier Gen. Chuck Yeager could have thought of a few other things he'd rather be doing Tuesday, but there he was in a Sacramento courtroom defending himself in a lawsuit that's gone to trial.
"It's different," Yeager said, outside Judge Judy Hersher's downtown courtroom, where the famed test pilot and his wife are the subjects of a lawsuit by a Sacramento homeowners association that claims the couple owes it about $28,000.
If it weren't for the Superior Court trial, Yeager said he'd probably be up in the air, flying an airplane, and probably down toward Laughlin, Nev., where he is preparing to celebrate his 91st birthday next week by introducing the Oak Ridge Boys at their concert at the Riverside Hotel and Casino.
"I have introduced them at just about every show they've ever put on," Yeager said. "They are really top-notch guys, so I get to introduce them and spend the night with them."
The lawsuit "is essentially about homeowners getting something for nothing," plaintiffs' lawyer Eugene P. Haydu said in his trial brief.
Haydu is representing Park River Oak Estates Homeowners Association. The association runs a townhouse complex next to Garcia Bend Park. The suit says Yeager and his wife, who live near Grass Valley, own a couple of units in the development but haven't paid their association fees.
"While defendant General Charles Yeager may be a famous man, that fame does not make him immune ... from principles of simple fairness," the brief said.
The defendants' attorney, Michael Thomas, argued in his brief that the Yeagers' properties were never annexed to the association and that the couple has not requested nor have they ever received any services from it.
Yeager said he has seen more interesting cases, like the time he presided over a court-martial of Air Force Col. Jack Broughton, who was charged along with two of his pilots who strafed a Soviet ship during the Vietnam War of violating their rules of engagement.
"He was saying, 'Hey, you shoot at me, I'll shoot back,'" Yeager recalled. "It really got out of hand, and they wanted to court-martial old Jack, and so they put me on as the head of the board and I said, 'This is stupid,' so we excused him."
"Everybody was ducking for cover," Yeager's wife, Victoria, said.
"Somebody had to save his (rear end)," Yeager said, "and we did."