After telling attorneys that the fourth sexual harassment trial since April will begin Monday involving a wealthy hologram producer sued by a woman who once worked for him, a judge asked for their thoughts in dealing with the boisterous defendant.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michelle Williams Court told lawyers for plaintiff Mahim Khan and the businessman, 51-year-old Alki David, that she wants both sides to meet and then file joint witness and exhibit lists, as well jury instructions and a verdict form.
The judge said she will rule on final pretrial motions Monday and that jury selection will begin Tuesday.
Khan is in her mid-30s and filed suit in March 2017. She began working for David and his companies, including FilmOn TV, Hologram USA Inc. and Alki David Productions Inc., as a production assistant in October 2014, according to her suit. She alleges he subjected her to sexually oriented comments and conduct in the workplace, including performing a lap dance on her in front of a company client.
The Khan trial comes less than two weeks after 36-year-old Lauren Reeves won more than $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages against David in another sexual harassment case. Court said she had taken notice of the minute orders in that case, as well as the other two trials involving David this year. She invited the attorneys in the Khan case to tell her about lessons learned in those other trials concerning the conduct of David, who repeatedly lashed out at plaintiffs’ lawyers and witnesses in the last two trials.
Ellyn Garofalo has represented David and his companies in two of the previous trials and his firms only in the third trial. She told Court it would be prudent to staff a bailiff in the courtroom in an “inconspicuous” place. She also recommended she speak with the judges in the other trials.
Nathan Goldberg, who represents Khan and Reeves, but not the plaintiffs in the other trials, said David’s outbursts were unlike anything he had seen in 45 years of practicing law. He said the defendant felt empowered to say anything he wanted and continually insulted him and his law partner, Dolores Leal, despite constant warnings from Judge Terry Green.
“We’ll see what happens,” said Court, who will be the first female judge to preside over one of the David cases.
In April, 42-year-old Chasity Jones was awarded $11 million in compensatory and punitive damages against David. 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.
David has appealed the Jones verdict, and Garofalo said she expects it will be overturned.
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 David.
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 said Wednesday that Reeves will be seeking attorneys’ fees from David.
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.