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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Hip hop star 'The Game' loses appeal, still ordered to pay $7M+ to woman who accused him of sexual assault

Federal Court

By Scott Holland | Oct 18, 2019

The game at press conference
Hip hop artist Jayceon Terrell Taylor, also known as 'The Game' | By Eric Garcetti - The Game speaking at a press conference with LAPD Chief Beck, Mayor Garcetti, Snoop Dogg, and community members after the police ambush in Dallas, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51154766

CHICAGO — Hip hop artist The Game will be on the hook to pay $7 million in damages to a woman who accused him of sexual assault, after a federal appeals panel denied him new proceedings in the lawsuit she filed.

In August 2015, model Priscilla Rainey, of Palm Beach County, Fla., sued Jayceon Terrell Taylor, who goes by the professional moniker “The Game,” for $10 million, alleging he sexually assaulted her at a sports bar in suburban Markham earlier that year. According to the initial complaint, Rainey was cast as a contestant on the VH1 reality program, “She’s Got Game,” which was filmed in various locations, including in the Chicago area.

A federal jury awarded Rainey $1.13 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages, prompting Taylor’s request for a new trial or to have the damages lowered. U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman rejected that request.

Taylor appealed, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Rainey.

Judge Diane Wood wrote the Seventh Circuit’s opinion on Taylor’s appeal, issued Oct. 17. Judges Joel Flaum and Diane Sykes concurred.

“Taylor did not take the litigation seriously,” Wood wrote. “He evaded process, trolled Rainey on social media, dodged a settlement conference and did not bother to show up at trial. His attorney asked for a continuance, but the judge denied that request, dismissing Taylor’s proffered excuse as an elaborate ruse. The judge instructed the jurors that they could infer from Taylor’s absence that his testimony would have been unfavorable to him.”

In his appeal to the Seventh Circuit, Taylor said Feinerman was wrong to deny a continuance, to give jury instructions about his absence and to admit certain video evidence.

Wood wrote that Taylor’s request to change trial dates based on a dental emergency “was not substantiated by reliable evidence and was hard to take seriously given Taylor’s evasive litigation conduct and the Snapchat photos.” Those images, Wood continued, “showed Taylor smoking something under pink neon lights in the middle of the night just a few hours after he called a dental emergency hotline and a few hours before he was due in court in Chicago. Add to this mix Taylor’s evasion of service and other dilatory conduct during the litigation, and the judge was quite understandably unconvinced.”

She likewise wrote Taylor’s argument about improper jury instructions was “woefully underdeveloped; no legal authority is cited. … but the argument also clearly fails on the merits.”

The panel said district judges have broad discretion on jury instructions regarding missing witnesses.

“Taylor was in complete control of his own appearance at trial,” Wood wrote. “His choice to stay away for the duration of the trial carried consequences, one of which was the likelihood that the judge would give a missing-witness instruction. The judge was on solid ground in giving this instruction.”

The disputed video involved a tour bus altercation between Rainey and Taylor in which they argued over her assault allegations. The panel said Taylor’s conduct on the recording “reflects consciousness of guilt” and also noted he lied in a deposition about whether the incident even occurred, making the video relevant as relates to Taylor’s overall believability.

The panel rejected Taylor’s request for a new trial, calling the initial verdict “neither conscience-shocking nor unjust” and further said the “liability finding is well supported by the evidence.” It upheld the compensatory damages as justifiable and also said the punitive damages are valid given Taylor’s conduct and the amount is not unreasonable in comparison to the compensatory award.

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