Jurors React To Reduced Award For Johnson-Klein

February 9, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Jurors who awarded former basketball coach Stacy Johnson-Klein $19 million are reacting to the judge's decision to drastically reduce the amount.Back in November, a jury awarded Johnson-Klein $19.1 million, in her sexual harassment and gender discrimination lawsuit. Friday, a judge reduced that award to $6.6 million.

We spoke with two of the jurors who helped come up with the more than $19 million award, and both agreed, saying the judge knows best.

Even though she thinks Johnson-Klein deserves every penny of the $19.1 million judgment, former jury foreman Yolanda Cedillo Cerrillo supports the judge's decision to cut the award.

"I trust Judge Black. I believe Stacy's worth more, a lot, lot more, and I wouldn't ever change my mind on that," says Cerrillo.

And former juror Traci Ann Jackson agreed, telling Action News, "I was surprised they cut it that much. But, I think it's fair. Judge Black is more experienced than average people. So, I'm okay with it. Stacey Johnson-Klein said it was not about the money, so she should be okay with it too."

In reducing the award to Johnson-Klein by nearly two thirds Judge Donald Black noted, "Substantially smaller awards have been made in cases where there was clearer evidence of discrimination, more outrageous conduct and more severe emotional suffering."

The judge gave Johnson-Klein two weeks to either accept the reduced award, or else he will grant the university's request for a new trial.

Klein's attorney Warren Paboojian issued a statement indicating he was glad the judge ruled Johnson-Klein was the victim of discrimination and harassment, but added, "We are disappointed in Judge Black's decision to reduce the emotional distress claim. However, we do respect Judge Black's right to make a decision in this matter."

University attorney Dawn Theodora says the University is still considering its options. "I hoped for a complete reversal, but definitely you hope for a lower verdict. This is a large amount of money and we take it very seriously."

The university can accept the deal if Johnson-Klein does, or if she doesn't, risk giving this case to another jury.

Stacy Johnson-Klein was not available for comment.

$6.6 million is much less than the $19.1 million the jury awarded her, but considerably more than the $900,000 she says was willing to settle for before the trial.

A judge also reduced the damages in another gender discrimination lawsuit against Fresno State.

A jury awarded former volleyball coach Lindy Vivas $5.8 million, but Judge Alan Simpson cut it down to $4.5 million.

Vivas accepted the judgment in December, but Fresno State still hasn't decided whether to push for a new trial.

Fresno State also agreed to pay former associate athletic director Diane Milutinovich $3.5 million to settle her discrimination lawsuit.


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