A comedy writer who says she endured months of sexual innuendo and inappropriate conduct by her billionaire boss in 2016 is entitled to $14 million in damages, representing $1 million for each incident, her attorney told a jury Tuesday.
In his final argument to the panel deciding Lauren Reeves’ Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Alki David, lawyer Nathan Goldberg said the 51-year-old defendant “disrespected everyone in this process” with his repeated outbursts during the trial.
Bud David’s attorney, Ellyn Garofalo, said David’s conduct in court should not be held against him.
“Mr. David is not an IBM executive, he is who he is,” Garafolo said, telling jurors that the 36-year-old plaintiff gave questionable testimony with no credible evidence to back up her claims.
Reeves is the third plaintiff to take her sexual harassment case against David to trial since April, when 42-year-old Chasity Jones was awarded $11 million in compensatory and punitive damages. She later agreed to a reduction of about $445,000 after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rafael Ongkeko found the amount of out-of-pocket damages awarded her was excessive.
On Sept. 3, Judge Christopher Lui declared a mistrial in the case of Jones’ co-plaintiff, 32-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, after jurors deadlocked 8-4 in favor of the plaintiff.
Reeves told jurors she had two stints working as an independent contractor for David, one in 2015 at FilmOn TV and another in 2016 at Hologram USA. She said she came back the second time to pitch an idea to him because she was interested in working with holograms.
David twice put his hands around Reeves’ throat in the workplace in April 2016, the second time occurring in front of a comedian with whom she was having a conversation, the plaintiff said. She said David demanded during the alleged assault that she look into his eyes, and said he was bullied as a child.
On another occasion as the two walked to a nearby grocery store, David told Reeves he was stopping to get supplies for his “rape room,” she alleged. In still another incident, David placed one of his fingers in his mouth, made moaning sounds and uttered a comment that referred to the private parts of her celebrity boyfriend at the time, Reeves testified.
Goldberg said the final straw for Reeves came in September 2016, when David returned from an absence and summoned her to his office for an update on a new show.
David allegedly closed the window blinds and the door, dropped his pants and forced her head toward his private parts. He then opened the door and called a sales executive into the office, hoping to convince the other man that she was giving David oral sex, according to the plaintiff, who left and never went back.
Goldberg asked jurors to put themselves in Reeves’ shoes, alone in an office with David as he allegedly drops his pants with no judge or jury present.
“Just imagine how frightening that would be,” Goldberg said. “This was despicable, disgusting behavior by a cruel man.”
Goldberg told the panel not to let David “get away with this abhorrent behavior.”
But Garofalo said Reeves knew what she was getting into when she went to work for David, whose companies did not just make holograms, but also did television streaming with content meant to shock and make people think. Reeves created her own sexually oriented material, according to Garofalo, who showed written examples on a screen to jurors.
“It was her business,” Garofalo said.
About 99% of those who worked for David enjoyed doing so, Garofalo said.
Garofalo told jurors that Reeves’ testimony about the 14 incidents of alleged by David was not supported by the evidence, including the alleged incident in David’s office. She said Reeves is taller than David and that made her account of what happened unlikely.
Garofalo said David’s repeated outbursts in the courtroom, which brought him continuing admonishments from Judge Terry Green, were attributable to his frustration with a system he feels is unfair stacked against him.
“He feels this is a set-up, a scam,” Garofalo said.
David was behind the hologram technology that brought slain rapper Tupac Shakur to Coachella in 2012 and saw the late Michael Jackson moonwalk at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.