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Jury Hands Yoga Guru’s|Ex-Lawyer $7.3 Million

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A jury has awarded $7.3 million in damages to a woman who claimed that yoga guru Bikram Choudhury hired her to work as his legal representative, sexually harassed her and then forced her to resign.

A jury trial at the Los Angeles County Superior Court began in Judge Mark Mooney's courtroom on Jan. 6, with the jury starting deliberations this past Friday.

The jury delivered a punitive damages award of about $6.4 million on Tuesday following an award of $924,500 in compensatory damages on Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The plaintiff in the case, attorney Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, sued Choudhury, 69, in the summer of 2013 alleging gender discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation and other claims.

Choudhury is also facing multiple claims that he raped or sexually assaulted women. At least six women have come forward with the claims.

In her filing, Jafa-Bodden said she moved from India to LA in the spring of 2011 to act as head of legal affairs for Bikram's Yoga College of India.

But she claimed she was forced to pen her own letter of resignation in March 2013 after witnessing Choudhury create a "hyper-sexualized, offensive and degrading environment for women" and make racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic comments.

Jafa-Bodden said she was offered an annual salary of $125,000 to take the position but was not paid as agreed. She also says Choudhury was abusive and threatening.

Choudhury's Bikram Yoga franchise is a form of Hatha Yoga practiced in studios heated to 104 degrees.

A federal appeals court last year threw out his attempts to claim copyright protection over the yoga moves.

Choudhury's attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Jafa-Bodden's attorney Carla Minnard called the verdict a "tremendous vindication" and said her client had fought for the rights of women "at great personal risk to herself."

Minnard said Choudhury had made death threats and also threatened to have Jafa-Bodden deported.

"The truth is finally out about an abusive tyrant who has engaged in despicable conduct towards women for a very long time. Ms. Bodden is the first person to have ever taken Mr. Choudhury to trial and through verdict and we greatly admire her courage," Minnard wrote in an email.

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