Bill Cosby. Bryan Singer. Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Now we can add Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga, to the growing list of powerful men thrust into the spotlight in recent years for allegations of sexual abuse.
The 69-year-old hot yoga guru, whose followers include former presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, as well as celebrities Madonna, Jennifer Aniston and George Clooney, has been accused of raping 5 women, and sexually harassing several more.
Like Mr. Cosby, Mr. Singer and Mr. Strauss-Kahn, Choudhury may never face jail time for his crimes. Los Angeles County prosecutors have already opted not to charge Choudhury in a number of cases, citing a lack of evidence.
Fortunately for his many victims, Choudhury was finally held accountable for his reprehensible behavior last week, when a Los Angeles jury ordered him to pay nearly $7.5 million to his former legal advisor for sexual harassment and wrongful termination.
Minakshi “Miki” Jafa-Bodden worked for Choudhury from 2011 to 2013 after relocating from India at Choudhury’s request. According to Ms. Jafa-Bodden, Choudhury frequently asked her to meet with him in his hotel rooms, and on at least one occasion propositioned her during a meeting. In 2013 she was fired for refusing to help cover up another woman’s accusations of rape against Choudhury.
Choudhury has denied any wrongdoing. “Women like me. Women love me,” he said. “So if I really wanted to involve the women, I don’t have to assault the women.”
Since the jury came down in favor of Ms. Jafa-Bodden, Choudhury, who lives in Beverly Hills and owns 40 luxury cars, now claims that he is close to bankruptcy as a result of his legal fees.
Taking on a man as powerful and influential as Choudhury can be daunting. He has compared himself to Elvis Presley and Jesus in the past. To Ms. Jafa-Bodden, he is “a dangerous, dangerous predator.”
Ms. Jafa-Bodden’s victory in court sends a positive message to the 5 other women with sexual assault cases against Choudhury set for trial later this year. According to Mary Shea, an attorney representing one of the victims, Ms. Jafa-Bodden’s verdict “has given them the confidence to go forward and speak their truth.”
“This is a good day for women,” said Ms. Jafa-Bodden in response to the verdict.
Sources: Ceasar, Stephen, “Yoga guru Bikram Choudhury must pay $6.4 million in punitive damages, jury decides,” Los Angeles Times, 26 January 2016.
Ford, Dana, “Bikram yoga founder ordered to pay $7.4 million,” CNN, 27 January 2016.
Gidda, Mirren, “Hot Yoga Founder Bikram Choudhury Fined $6.5M for Sexual Harassment,” Newsweek, 27 January 2016.
Myers, Amanda Lee, “Bikram yoga founder ordered to pay $7.4M for sex harassment,” The Washington Post, 27 January 2016.
Pyne, Saikat, “The infamous and colorful life of Bikram Choudhury,” Business Insider, 28 January 2016.