NFL star Fred Davis stood trial in Washington today, more than two years into a legal soap opera that has involved everything from an alleged celebrity "madam/pimpette" to a tight-end lawyer.
An attorney for Makini R. Chaka asked a DC Superior Court judge to grant her more than $350,000 in punitive damages from Davis, who she claimed assaulted her at Josephine Nightclub and Lounge in DC in 2011. Davis allegedly dumped juice on Chaka and threw the empty pitcher at her head, injuring her lip. Davis admits only throwing the juice on Chaka, and said he did so after she tossed a drink on him. "I was assaulted first," Davis insisted.
Chaka is demanding compensation for medical bills, emotional distress, and property damage. "My boots, which were suede, were damaged by the acid in the juice," said Chaka, a 34-year-old Baltimore woman.
Chaka has identified herself as a "celebrity broker," who arranges parties for athletes and celebrities. Her clients have included rapper Snoop Dogg and several Baltimore Ravens players, she has said. She testified that she has lost clients as a result of the negative attention surrounding the incident.
"Fred Davis ruined my entire business," a tearful Chaka said today. "I lost everything."
Chaka claimed she earned between $60,000 and $70,000 a year from her celebrity business in 2010. But her 2011 earnings were only $20,000 as a result of the negative publicity she garnered through her trouble with Davis. "No one wanted to do business with me," she testified. She had to take a day job as a secretary in order to avoid being "homeless," Chaka testified.
Chaka’s lawyer is also asking for a court order requiring Davis to "remain at least a football field away" from Chaka.
An attorney for Davis, who played five seasons for the Washington Redskins but recently became a free agent, called Chaka’s request for $350,000 "totally egregious."
"The most she is entitled to is a drycleaning bill," Davis lawyer said, adding that Chaka was trying to "extort money from Mr. Davis."
Davis had a $5.4 million contract with the Redskins for the 2012 season, during which he was sidelined with an injury.
After The Washingtonian broke the news of the civil case in June 2012, the dispute garnered national attention for two reasons. First, Davis's sometimes bodyguard Stewart Prince alleged in court documents that Chaka is "a ‘madam/pimpette’ who provides escorts to high-profile athletes and entertainers."
"It is well known in the sports and entertainment industry, particularly in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, that [Chaka] recruits women to work for her and provide sexual favors to athletes or other entertainer[s] in exchange for money," Prince said in court documents. He said he knew "at least two women who [Chaka] attempted to recruit to work for her in this capacity."
Chaka has denied procuring prostitutes for anyone.
Second, both Chaka and Davis have spent much of the pretrial portions of this case representing themselves as armchair lawyers, leading to exchanges like this one at an April 2012 hearing:
Davis: "As it shows, you also have your hand on his genitals. I mean why would you take a picture like that?"
Chaka: "I do not. Let’s look closely at the exhibit right here, Judge. Where is my hand placed in this exhibit?"
Judge: "I do not answer questions.... The witness does."
Chaka: "Can you tell me where my hand is actually at in this photo?"
Davis: "It looks like it’s in the genitals to me. I mean your hands are on his genitals. Your hand is on his—"
Monday’s trial produced new details—and intrigue—about the events that triggered the two-year-long legal battle.
Chaka and Davis got to know each other through the local nightclub scene in 2008, shortly after the Redskins drafted Davis. The two were more acquaintances than friends, Davis said. "He has a thing for Asian [women]," Chaka testified.
They became estranged in 2010, after Chaka attended Davis’s birthday party in California, Chaka says. The party was a "total disaster" because the host hadn’t properly arranged for the bottle service, Chaka testified. Davis used the credit card of his then-girlfriend, without her knowledge, to cover party expenses, Chaka testified. "Fred Davis maxed out her credit card," Chaka testified.
When Chaka confronted Davis about this the following day, he had a car service take Chaka to the airport, Chaka said. The two rarely spoke since then.
During cross examination, Stewart Prince was asked to provide evidence that Chaka was, in fact, a "madam/pimpette."
"Do we really want to go there?" Prince responded. "I can get proof."
When asked for specific clients, Prince clammed up. "I’m not name dropping in the court room."
The lawyers then had a long discussion at the judge’s bench, before taking a ten-minute recess to determine how to proceed with a witness who was refusing to answer questions under oath. The lawyers eventually decided to strike Prince’s entire testimony from the record.
The incident in question took place on January 6, 2011, during a surprise party for Davis thrown by his Redskins teammates at Josephine Nightclub. Chaka said she arrived at with a number of Ravens players, including Denver Broncos runningback Willis McGahee, whom she identified as a client. "The Redskins and the Ravens players don’t get along," Chaka testified.
"A lot of the Redskins players are jealous of the Ravens players because they are a better team."
Chaka was standing with a group of Ravens players when Davis approached her, Chaka testified. Davis grabbed her wrist aggressively and cussed at her, Chaka said. Chaka responded by her throwing a drink in his face.
Davis returned minutes later and dumped a pitcher of juice on Chaka, and then—according to Chaka—Davis threw the pitcher at her, injuring her lip. "He threw the [pitcher] at me like a football," Chaka said.
Davis repeatedly denied throwing the bottle, even after a video of the incident was shown in court clearly showing that Davis threw the bottle at Chaka. (I personally saw the video footage of the incident played at least four times in court.)
"I didn’t throw the bottle—the bottle came out of my hand," he said at one point.
"I released it, I didn’t throw it."
"I didn’t throw it at her. Period."
Chaka’s lawyer, Patrice Sulton, called Davis a liar. "He perjured himself on the witness stand," she said.
At the conclusion of the day-long trial, the judge asked each party to submit a statement of facts that she will use during her deliberation. The is no date set for the verdict.