Tech mogul jailed one year


Tech mogul jailed one yearGurbaksh Chahal, a Silicon Valley technology mogul who pleaded guilty to assault after police say he punched and kicked his girlfriend 117 times, was sentenced to one year in jail on Friday for violating probation.

Judge Tracie Brown revoked Chahal’s probation and ordered him to spend 12 months in jail for allegedly assaulting a second woman months after pleading guilty in the first domestic violence case.

Chahal’s lawyer, however, said he would appeal the ruling, and the defendant was released on bail.

When he arrived, Chahal rushed past a crowd of reporters outside the packed San Francisco courtroom without commenting. He sat stoic throughout the hearing and declined to make a statement to the judge.

Chahal, who was pushed out as chief executive officer of RadiumOne, an online advertising network, was originally facing 47 serious felony charges for the 5 August 2013 attack.

Police officials said that a 30-minute security camera video they obtained showed the entrepreneur hitting and kicking his then girlfriend 117 times and attempting to suffocate her inside his $7-m San Francisco penthouse.

Chahal’s lawyers, however, claimed that police had illegally seized the video, and a judge ruled that the footage was inadmissible despite prosecutors’ argument that officers didn’t have time to secure a warrant out of fear that the tech executive would erase the footage.

Without the video, most of the charges were dropped, and Chahal, 34, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanour battery charges of domestic violence. A deal he struck in April 2014 allowed him to avoid jail time if he conducted a year-long domestic violence rehabilitation course and 25 hours of community service.

The disgraced multimillionaire has repeatedly attempted to downplay the seriousness of the case, claiming that he lost his temper during a “normal argument” with his girlfriend and that he did not kick and punch her 117 times.

He said the $500 fine he paid was the “equivalent of a speeding ticket” and “in no way reflects the toll that this ordeal has exacted on me”.

In Silicon Valley, critics have argued that Chahal’s case and the lack of serious consequences he faced highlight the way in which privileged and wealthy businessmen can get away with serious misconduct.

Chahal’s plea bargain also stipulated that he would be on probation for three years, but on 17 September 2014, prosecutors say he attacked another woman in his home, leading to another arrest.

This second victim told police that Chahal had repeatedly kicked her and that when she discussed getting a restraining order against him, he threatened to report her to immigration authorities.

Chahal’s lawyers responded by attempting to attack the credibility of the woman in court, alleging that she was in a sham marriage to get a US visa. The woman has returned to her native South Korea and did not appear at a recent San Francisco hearing.

Although the victim did not testify, San Francisco superior court judge Brown ruled last month that Chahal had violated probation and ordered him to surrender his passports.

Prosecutor O’Bryan Kenney had urged the judge to sentence Chahal to the maximum of 18 months in jail, saying: “His attitude … has consisted of a complete lack of remorse … He clearly didn’t get the message.”

In front of a standing-room-only crowd, Kenney showed the judge excerpts of the video of the original assault on his laptop, but the audience was not able to view it.

“It’s difficult to watch that conduct,” Kenney said, adding, “He has had a chance, and further domestic violence counselling … I don’t think would have a significant impact.”

Judge Brown said she would not allow the footage to be publicly released.

After he was ousted at RadiumOne, Chahal co-founded Gravity4, another San Francisco-based ad tech company.

In April of 2015, Erika Alonso, a former Gravity4 marketing executive, sued Chahal for gender discrimination, harassment and illegal surveillance, citing his “pattern and practice of humiliating and abusing women who dared to question Chahal, a serial entrepreneur with a legendary temper”.

The complaint alleged that Chahal regularly belittled Alonso, who is over 40 years old, and treated younger male employees much more favourably.

“Rather than being allowed to perform her duties,” the complaint read, “Alonso was used repeatedly as bait to attract reporters in an attempt to deflect from Chahal’s violent past, and to assist him in promoting stories on his bid to take over RadiumOne.”

At one point, Chahal told Alonso to contact a prominent female news anchor, saying, “You’re a woman, appeal to her!”, according to the suit.

Chahal and other Gravity4 representatives said the allegations were false, but months later, the CEO was sued a second time by Yousef Khraibut, a 20-year-old former employee.

Khraibut, who has citizenship in Canada and Kuwait, alleged that Chahal said he would “beat the shit out of” him and threatened to “send Khraibut back to Canada ‘tonight’”.

Chahal also allegedly directed ethnic slurs at Khraibut, calling him a “terrorist” and saying that ISIS terrorists were “his people”.

After the judge ruled that he had violated probation last month, Chahal stepped down as Gravity4 CEO.

James Lassart, Chahal’s lawyer, tried again to discredit the second victim in court on Friday, telling the judge: “She’s not willing to come into a courtroom … Her word is untrustworthy.”

Lassart added, “The constitution requires that my client be allowed to confront his accuser.”

The defence lawyer asked the judge to grant Chahal a sentence of electronic monitoring or community service and consider that the defendant suffers from a functional neurological disorder, saying his health would be exacerbated by stress.

Lassart also asked that the judge note Chahal’s charitable donations, saying, “He has contributed to and supported and advanced the cause of the stopping of abuse of children.”

After the hearing, the defence lawyer criticized the ruling, arguing that when a victim doesn’t testify, “I don’t think it’s appropriate for someone to have their liberty taken away.”