The family of Star Trek: The Original Series actor Nichelle Nichols on Wednesday launched a crowdfunding campaign to support an elder abuse lawsuit on Nichols' behalf. The suit is against Nichols' former caretaker, and alleges that Nicols was "financially abused by a person pretending to protect her interests." Nichols' sister Marian Smothers launched the campaign to help cover the legal fees involved with the suit, which hopes to recoup money allegedly stolen from Nichols. At the time of writing, the "Shields Up, Nichelle Nichols!" GoFundMe campaign was at $35,000 of its $100,000 goal. Here's the mission statement Smothers posted to the GoFundMe page:
"Nichelle Nichols, the iconic African American actress and performer, is best known and loved as 'Lt. Uhura' on the original Star Trek television series. As the first black woman in a non-traditional role on 1960s TV, her beauty, intelligence, and moxie inspired millions of women, especially women of color, in their aspirations, education, and vision for the future.
From the late 1970s Nichelle's relations with NASA included recruiting many astronaut candidates for the Space Shuttle program. Many of her recruits were women or members of racial and ethnic minorities including Mae Jemison, Sally Ride, and Ronald McNair, just to name a few.
I am Marian Smothers, her younger sister, and on behalf of Nichelle's siblings - our sister, Diane Robinson, older brother Samuel Nichols, and all our relations - we are seeking your support for our beloved Nichelle.
According to the National Council on Aging, more than ten percent of those over 60 fall victim to elder abuse. Financial exploitation is one of the many ways in which seniors are taken advantage of by the people they trust. Sadly, many well-known celebrities, including Rosa Parks, Stan Lee, Mickey Rooney, and Casey Kasem reportedly suffered elder abuse in their later years. Unfortunately, this has also happened to Nichelle.
Nichelle has always been very independent, living life on her own terms. She has enjoyed a successful career in the public eye – acting on television and in films, performing live, and making personal appearances at fan conventions.
In 2010, she first encountered Gilbert Bell. He said he was a producer and that he was developing a feature film in which he hoped to have Nichelle co-star as well as be a 50-50 partner in the enterprise and its profits. Slowly, deliberately, and methodically,
Bell insinuated himself into her life. He convinced her to allow him to move into the second house on her property adjacent to her residence as they worked on the project that never happened. Bell still lives in the house under a fraudulent lease essentially paying nothing while compelling Nichelle to pay all his utilities, and he continues to fight his removal.
In 2013, 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."
You can read the court filing here.