A woman who said she was groped and sexually harassed while working for a hologram producer and television content streamer in 2014-15 was awarded $8.25 million Tuesday.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for about a day before finding in favor of 36-year-old Mahim Khan and against Alki David. The jury also determined that the 51-year-old David acted with malice, oppression or fraud, triggering a second phase of trial set for Monday on whether Khan is entitled to punitive damages.
The tall, slender Khan wept as she heard the verdict. She testified during the trial that she became withdrawn from friends and preferred to stay home in her pajamas because of the months of harassment by David. She also testified she gained 30 pounds, and her attorneys displayed photos of her to show jurors how she looked at the time.
The jury found that David committed battery and sexual battery. The panel also concluded that he and two of his companies, Alki David Productions and FilmOn TV, subjected Kahn to a hostile work environment.
Judge Michelle Williams Court dismissed a third David entity, Hologram USA Inc., as a defendant in the trial. The punitive damages phase of trial will only deal with David and not his companies.
Khan’s lawyer, Nathan Goldberg, said the verdict was “substantial” and said he appreciated the jury’s recognition of the impact of David’s conduct on his client.
Attorney Ellyn Garofalo, on behalf of the David companies, said she was pleased Hologram USA was eliminated as a defendant. She said the other two entities are “essentially defunct.”
David was not present for the verdict nor the final arguments in the case. During the trial, he was repeatedly warned by Court to cease his courtroom outbursts, in which he attacked the characters of Khan and her attorneys, who work for the law firm of Gloria Allred.
David’s disregard of court orders led the judge to sharply limit the defense he could present on his own behalf. She also stripped him of his ability to represent himself during the trial.
The judge’s actions regarding David left it largely up to attorney Garofalo to try to limit the effect of his conduct on the jury.
“He’s not your average employer,” Garofalo told the jury during her final argument. “He’s loud, arrogant and he can be obnoxious. But that does not make him a sexual harasser.”
But Goldberg told the panel there had to be consequences for what David did to Khan in the workplace, where she was a production assistant for David from about October 2014 until she says she was forced to resign because of the stress about a year later.
“He has no regard for human beings, for the court or for the legal process,” Goldberg said. “Imagine his conduct in his own castle.”
Goldberg alleged David routinely groped Khan’s private parts and breasts, made moaning sounds of pleasure and then walked away and laughed.
David also would often drop his pants and shorts and twist his lower body to make it appear he had the genitals of a woman rather than a man, Goldberg said.
“What possible justification could there by for an employer to walk around naked?” Goldberg asked.
He called David “a law unto himself. He’s going to do what he wants to do.”
But Garofalo said Khan provided little evidence through impartial witnesses to support her claims. She said a lot of the emotional distress Khan claims she suffered while working for David may be attributable instead to nearly 20 years of mental and physical abuse she admitted she suffered at the hands of her conservative Muslim father. Khan’s mother gave her little support in dealing with her father, Garofalo said.
Khan never complained about David until about two months before she quit, Garofalo said.
The Khan verdict came just over a month after 36-year-old Lauren Reeves won more than $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages against David in another sexual harassment case.
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.
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.