Star Trek Guide

Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols' Family Alleges Elder Abuse in GoFundMe Campaign

The family of Star Trek icon, Nichelle Nichols, have started a GoFundMe page alleging that Nichols' former manager, the producer Gilbert Bell, committed elder abuse against Nichols, stealing over a million dollars from the star.

Nichols' younger sister, Marian Smothers, launched the campaign earlier this month, looking to raise $100,000 to help with legal costs associated with fighting Bell in court, including defending Nichols and her family from Bell's lawsuits and pursuing their own counter suits.

The 87-year-old Nichols, who starred as Lieutenant Uhura on the original Star Trek series and the subsequent film franchise, met Bell in 2010, when the producer pitched a film project to Nichols. The two became close and Bell began to work as Nichols' talent manager. He also began to live on her property in her guest house.

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In 2013, Smothers alleges, "Nichelle was in a very weakened state following a hospitalization. Knowing that her immediate family members mostly lived outside of California, Bell took advantage of the situation to obtain her signature on medical and general Powers of Attorney. Over time, as he continued to gain influence, fees from her many personal appearances, and even her pension and Social Security, began to disappear. He later deeded her personal residence into his name, which was the final act that triggered the Petition for Conservatorship eventually granted to her son, Kyle Johnson. We believe that Bell has taken financial advantage of Nichelle to the tune of well over a million dollars, but we have only scratched the surface."

As Smothers notes, Nichols' son, Johnson, moved from New Mexico to become his mother's permanent caretaker. Nichols has dementia and plans to retire from the convention circuit later this year.

However, Smothers alleges that most of the damage by Bell has already been done. Now, then, they are more concerned about defending themselves against Bell's lawsuit that the 81-year-old Bell filed last year, alleging assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, denial of utility services, elder abuse and breach of contract.

As you will see so often in these cases, as we saw with Stan Lee before he passed away, the family and the manager will often accuse each other of being the real abuser. Most of Nichols' remaining estate is tied up in the value of her residence and her son is looking to sell the property, but to do so, he has to find a way to get Bell out, which has led to this current protracted litigation.

The GoFundMe campaign features a statement from Nichols' longtime colleague and friend, Walter Koenig, who wrote, "Nichelle Nichols has been a true and loyal friend for over fifty years. She has been financially abused by a person pretending to protect her interests. I urge everyone who knows what a beautiful person she is to support the GoFundMe established in her name. It is a cause very much worth contributing to. She is one of the really great people out there."