A federal jury decided Madison Square Garden (MSG) and its chairman must pay $11.6 million in damages to former New York Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders in her sexual harassment lawsuit.
The jury also found Knicks coach Isiah Thomas subjected Browne Sanders to unwanted advances and a barrage of verbal insults, but that he did not have to pay punitive damages.
Deciding MSG had harassed Browne Sanders, the jury found the Garden owes $6 million for allowing a hostile work environment to exist and $2.6 million for retaliation; MSG chairman James Dolan owes $3 million.
“What I did here, I did for every working woman in America,” said Browne Sanders, who came out of the courtroom beaming. “And that includes everyone who gets up and goes to work in the morning, everyone working in a corporate environment.”
She said it also was for “women who don’t have the means and couldn’t possibly have done what I was able to do.”
The Garden said it would appeal, but the verdict gave Thomas a partial victory after an ugly, three-week trial.
“I’m innocent, I’m very innocent, and I did not do the things she has accused me in this courtroom of doing,” said Thomas, who’s married with two children. “I’m extremely disappointed that the jury did not see the facts in this case. I will appeal this, and I remain confident in the man that I am and what I stand for and the family that I have.”
After the verdict, Browne Sanders hugged family members and friends gathered in the back of the courtroom.
U.S. District Judge Gerard E. Lynch called it an “eminently reasonable” verdict, and gave the jurors instructions on how to proceed. Before the jury resumed deliberations, attorneys from both sides appealed to the jurors.
Browne Sanders’ lawyer, Anne Vladeck, had urged the jury to affix damages that sent a message “to avoid this happening to somebody else.” She said the defendants had ruined her client’s career, and she called Dolan a liar.
Thomas’s lawyer, Ronald Green, told jurors they had already sent “a very clear, very strong and very forceful message.
“Punishment for the sake of punishment is not what this is all about,” he said.
The harassment verdict was widely expected after the jury sent a note to the judge Monday indicating that it believed Thomas, the Garden and Dolan sexually harassed Browne Sanders, a married mother of three.
“We believe that the jury’s decision was incorrect,” MSG said in a statement before punitive damages were awarded. “We look forward to presenting our arguments to an appeals court, and believe they will agree that no sexual harassment took place and MSG acted properly.”
MSG is owned by Cablevision Systems Corp., based in Bethpage, N.Y., and Dolan is Cablevision’s CEO. Shares fell 35 cents, or 1 percent, to $34.71 in afternoon trading.
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