LOS ANGELES – To keep up with the Kardashians for the past two weeks, you would’ve had to spend a lot of time at a downtown Los Angeles courthouse, where they’ve been watching and testifying at a trial over a lawsuit brought against them by former reality television star Blac Chyna. In a verdict delivered Monday while defendants Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, Khloe Kardashian and Kylie Jenner were all in New York attending the Met Gala, the Kardashians were victorious. Here’s a look at the scene, the surroundings and the case that pulled them in.
The Stanley Mosk civil courthouse is among the most heavily trafficked by celebrities in the world. The famous divorces decided here alone could fill a walk of fame. Kim Kardashian appeared on video in a Mosk courtroom in February to be declared single in her ongoing divorce with Ye, and appeared here in person to finalize her divorce from previous husband Kris Humphries.
In recent years it’s been best known as home to the high drama, and colorful protests, surrounding the Britney Spears conservatorship. Keanu Reeves and Don Johnson each sat through most of civil trials they were parties to. Members of Michael Jackson’s family appeared for much of the long wrongful death case against his doctor.
Still, the courthouse has rarely seen such consistent presence from a group of such well-known stars.
The Kardashian defendants had all been expected to testify in person during the trial. But many in court were surprised, and a little star struck, when all four strode in wearing business suits on the first day of jury selection, which turned into a public forum where dozens of prospective jurors got to vent their mostly negative feelings about the family. (A few proudly proclaimed their fandom.)
The women sat in the front row of the courtroom — there were too many of them to sit at the defendants’ table — for most of the trial. Kim Kardashian, who is studying law, often carried a binder and took notes.
Court security escorted the family into the courthouse through an underground parking garage. The women waited nearby in a guarded room until proceedings were about to begin, then deputies shepherded them across the hall into the courtroom. That quick walk still provided memorable moments, as when Kim Kardashian’s boyfriend, “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson, greeted her with a kiss after showing up during closing arguments.
Private security guards — sharply dressed men in sportscoats with telltale earpieces — were both in the courtroom and outside it. At the midday break they brought food to the secluded room from places such as Urth Caffe, a popular LA lunch spot.
The Kardashians’ treatment is common for high-profile parties with court business, due to, as their attorney told one prospective juror, the “dark side” of fame. Some have had to get restraining orders in this courthouse due to stalkers.
But the prospective juror wasn’t entirely satisfied with that explanation, saying, “Does that mean that they need Fiji water hand-delivered to them as they sit in court?”
The courtroom with a capacity of 200 was rarely more than half full during the 11-day trial. About a dozen reporters were in the room throughout. Unlike the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard trial happening simultaneously in Virginia, which was televised and may have stolen some of the thunder of these proceedings, no cameras were allowed. A pair of sketch artists provided the only visuals.
Chyna’s lawsuit was filed in 2017 in the aftermath of her engagement to Rob Kardashian. She originally alleged that six women from the Kardashian family had defamed her by falsely spreading word that she had physically abused him, and interfered with her contract by convincing the E! network to cancel their “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” spinoff, “Rob & Chyna.” She sought as much as $108 million.
It was the sort of inter-celebrity suit that that is usually dismissed or settled long before it gets to trial. But this one improbably survived for five years. Two defendants, Kourtney Kardashian and Kendall Jenner, were dropped during that time.
Kris Jenner’s two days on the stand provided drama when she testified that she feared Chyna was going to “murder” her son Rob in December of 2016. She teared up when she described being already vulnerable because Kim Kardashian had been tied up in Paris by armed robbers who stole $10 million in jewelry just a few months earlier.
Rob Kardashian, who appeared only to testify, also had a dramatic and emotional stint on the stand, in which he said that Chyna twice held a gun to his head and beat him with a metal rod.
Chyna testified that she was never violent against him, saying she had grabbed his gun playfully, and was joking around when she put a phone cord around his neck. She conceded that she had damaged a television and a gingerbread house in her anger.
Kardashian lawyer Michael G. Rhodes seized on this in his closing argument. “Who does that? A gingerbread house?” he said. “It’s the happiest thing you can put in a house.” Davidson, in the back of the courtroom, had to stifle a laugh.
Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian and Kylie Jenner were each on the stand only briefly, and their testimony was not especially eventful. The judge dismissed Kim Kardashian as a defendant in the defamation part of the case when he decided no violating statement had been identified.
The jury apparently did not find any of the Kardashians’ stories terribly convincing. They found on the verdict form that they had often acted in bad faith, and were not justified in what they told executives, but found that their statements hadn’t affected Chyna’s TV career or the fate of her show.
The legal fight is far from over. Chyna’s lawyer says they will appeal the verdict. And a set of separate allegations against only Rob Kardashian will be heard at another trial in about a week.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton
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