A woman who said she was groped and sexually harassed while working as a production assistant for a billionaire hologram producer and television content streamer in 2014-15 was awarded $50 million in punitive damages Monday, bringing her total award to $58.25 million.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury deliberated for about an hour before giving 36-year-old Mahim Khan the maximum amount of money her attorney, Nathan Goldberg, recommended that Alki David be ordered to pay as punishment for his misconduct.
When jurors awarded Khan $8.25 million in compensatory damages last Tuesday, they also found that the 51-year-old defendant acted with malice, oppression or fraud, triggering the second phase of trial on whether she was entitled to punitive damages.
Khan wept as she heard the verdict, and several people in the courtroom audience gasped.
Khan testified during the trial that she became withdrawn from friends and preferred to stay home in her pajamas because of the months of harassment by David. The tall and slender plaintiff also testified she gained 30 pounds, and her attorneys displayed photos to show jurors how she looked at the time.
The jury found that David committed battery and sexual battery. The panel also concluded that David 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 dealt only with David and not his companies.
David represented himself during the earlier stages of the trial, but the judge stripped him of that right and limited the defense he could present after he made repeated outbursts in court in violation of her orders to refrain from lashing out at Khan and her attorneys and to cease commenting about the case in front of the jury.
He did not appear for Monday’s proceedings, but issued a statement in which he said the system is “broken” and “in a state of emergency” based on the verdicts.
“How is it justice if I’m not allowed to present any defense at all?” David asked. “No witnesses. No evidence.”
David denied any wrongdoing concerning Khan, who was hired in October 2014 and quit about a year later.
“I’ll say it again to all of you, as I was prevented from saying in court, I never touched Mahim Khan inappropriately,” David said. “I never sexually harassed her.”
But the plaintiff’s attorney said the verdict is “historic. This has to get Mr. David’s attention.”
In his final argument Monday morning, Goldberg said the task for jurors was clear.
“You have to teach Mr. David a lesson he will never forget,” Goldberg said. “He targeted a vulnerable woman.”
Goldberg said 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 told the jury.
Juror Reg Green said David’s courtroom behavior was “more extreme than anything I’ve ever seen in a trial.”
Nonetheless, Green said, he and the other jurors did not let David’s “grotesque behavior” unduly influence them in their deliberations. He said that while they awarded just under the roughly $10 million in compensatory damages Goldberg recommended, the panel found that the $50 million in punitive damages the lawyer suggested was appropriate.
The Khan verdicts 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. Reeves was present in court Monday and chatted with Khan in the hallway after the verdict.
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.
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.
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: