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|March 9, 2000
Deepak Chopra wins sexual harassment case
A 12-member jury in San Diego, CA has unanimously rejected a lawsuit brought by a former employee against Deepak Chopra, the new age guru, best-selling author and spiritual advisor to major celebrities.
The jury verdict dismisses the case of Joyce Weaver that she was wrongfully terminated because she had accused Chopra of sexual harassment.
Weaver is a former employee of Sharp Center for Mind-Body Medicine, in San Diego, California. Chopra was the executive director of Sharp before Weaver was laid off along with others, about three years ago.
Following the closing arguments made by attorneys, the jury deliberated for a mere 10 minutes before they read their verdict to the court.
"This was unprecedented," Chopra's chief attorney Michael Flynn told rediff.com, referring to the jury's short deliberation. "I've never seen anything like it and I've been litigating for 30 years."
Flynn said that he later spoke with several of the jurors. He quoted one of the jurors as saying:
"When we went in (for deliberation) we all said it's obvious that she (Weaver) is liar and the case is fabricated. Do we need to discuss anything? Do we all feel unanimous about it? And we said yes. We then said we have only been here five minutes. We'd better not go out yet. Maybe we should chit chat a little bit."
The jury's verdict had lifted a "monstrous monkey of his (Chopra's) back," Flynn said.
Weaver's attorney Peter Friesen was not available for comments. Messages left in his office answering machine were not returned.
"This affirms my faith in the American judicial system" an elated Chopra told rediff.com from New York City. "This was a smart jury who sent a message to Weaver and her attorneys that frivolous case are not acceptable."
He added that there is a debate between his wife and Flynn, whether the jury came out in nine or ten minutes.
Chopra, who is currently traveling around the country, promoting his new book How to Know God: The Soul's Journey into the Mystery of Mysteries, (Harmony Books), did not attend the two-week trial ("Which can be dangerous in a jury trial," Flynn said). His wife sat through the entire court deliberation, Chopra said.
Just two months ago, Chopra had made headlines by denouncing the San Diego judicial system as one of the most corrupt in the country. Chopra was quoted in several press reports as saying:
"Maybe it is my karma to dismantle the corruption in the San Diego judicial system."
Chopra had spoken from own experience where a couple of judges assigned to his cases had either recused themselves or were under investigation by the judiciary and/or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In addition, a few years ago, the San Diego judicial system was rocked by a controversy when, in an unrelated case, two judges were indicted for taking gifts from an attorney, in return for favorable treatment.
In January this year, another jury in San Diego unanimously reached a verdict against Chopra's claim that Weaver had tried to blackmail him. Chopra had charged that Weaver had asked for $ 50,000 for not exposing allegations that the new age guru had sex with a prostitute.
Following the January verdict, Chopra and his attorneys said the jurors had not received a complete picture of his charges against Weaver because of what they referred to as biased rulings by the judge.
Chopra claimed that there was large conspiracy against him by a numerous San Diego judges.
The situation was complicated by the fact that soon after the first jury's verdict, Judge Murphy removed himself from the second lawsuit that dealt with Weaver's wrongful termination allegations against Chopra. Murphy acknowledged that he had made a "gratuitous" and "unnecessary comment" against another Chopra attorney -- Carla DiMare.
To clear the confusion, the chief judge of San Diego's appeals court stepped in and appointed another colleague, Richard Huffman to preside over the Weaver vs Chopra wrongful termination trial.
While the two weeks of deliberations focused on arcane matters concerning workplace and the law, the trial did occasionally throw a light on Chopra's celebrity-strewn world. DiMare informed the court of an instance when Weaver followed Chopra into a private plane that was scheduled to fly from San Diego to Los Angeles. One of the passenger on that plane was the new age guru's follower, actor Marlon Brando.
Flynn said that during the pre-trial conferences Huffman made a couple of comments which gave indications that he did not think much of Weaver's charges.
"Mr Friesen, I probably should throw this case out," Flynn quoted Judge Huffman from the court transcripts. "However it is hanging by a thread."
At another time Judge Huffman said: "The case against Dr Chopra, to be exceedingly kind, is razor thin."
Next week, Huffman is scheduled to preside over Chopra's motion for a dismissal of the first jury's verdict (the blackmail case against Weaver). Flynn said that the motion asks for a new trial based on the allegations of judicial misconduct on the part of Judge Thomas Murphy.
Chopra still has a pending claim against San Diego's largest law firm, Gray, Cary, Ware and Freidenrich. The firm initially represented Weaver in her wrongful termination and sexual harassment case against Chopra. In that claim, Chopra has charged that the law firm tried to arm wrestle him, demanding $ 1 million to avoid filing Weaver's lawsuit.
Chopra said that he was ready to make peace with Weaver.
"As far as Joyce Weaver is concerned, I wish her well," Chopra said. "Maybe she has learnt her lesson. I have no personal hostility towards her."
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