HAMMOND | Minister Louis Farrakhan, the spiritual leader of the Chicago-based Nation of Islam, has been ordered to appear in Hammond federal court next month to explain why weekly cash stipends given to his 48-year-old son are not considered income.
It's an issue because the son, Nasir Farrakhan, was ordered by a federal jury in Hammond last year to pay a Gary couple $350,000 in punitive damages for crashing his father's Hummer into their car in 2003 on the Indiana Toll Road and then fleeing the scene.
Nasir Farrakhan has said he can't pay the debt because he has no income, has never been employed and has no checking account or savings.
He argues the $1,400 in cash he receives from his father each month is legally considered "charity," even though Nasir Farrakhan has acted as head of the minister's 20-man security force for many years over the past several decades.
Attorneys for the Gary couple, Charles and Gladys Peterson, now are going after minister Farrakhan and the Nation itself for the money, arguing that Nasir Farrakhan is receiving income that can be garnished.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Magistrate Andrew Rodovich ordered Louis Farrakhan and a financial representative of the Nation of Islam to appear in court in Hammond on Jan. 24 to answer why they should not have to pay the judgment against Nasir Farrakhan.
"We will continue to pursue this through every avenue possible to ensure the Petersons are paid every penny they are owed," attorney Michael Back said Friday.
An attorney for the Nation of Islam did not return a request for comment. No one from the organization has ever publicly commented to The Times on the jury verdict.
The Petersons were paid $100,000 in actual medical damages by an insurance company. But insurers do not have to cover punitive damages.
Back has said the issue of whether Nasir Farrakhan's payments are charity or income could prove critical to the Nation of Islam because evidence indicates that other Nation workers are paid in the same arrangement.
If the money is deemed income, that could mean federal income taxes are owed by Nasir Farrakhan and the other workers.