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Los Angeles Judge in US issues arrest warrant for “Hot” Yoga Guru Bikram Choudhury

The 69-year-old yoga guru had claimed last year that he was nearly bankrupt as his business was no longer thriving

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Yoga Guru Bikram Choudhury, Wikimedia

Washington May 25, 2017: A Los Angeles judge has issued an arrest warrant for Bikram Choudhury, the Indian American “hot” yoga guru, after he failed to pay more than $7 million in 2016 to his former lawyer who was the victim in a sexual harassment case against him.

Choudhury has not paid the lawyer and authorities believe that he has hidden his assets and left the country, ABC News reported on Wednesday.

The 69-year-old yoga guru had claimed last year that he was nearly bankrupt as his business was no longer thriving.

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According to the report, the warrant, issued on Wednesday, allows authorities to arrest Choudhury if he returns to the US or, possibly, in Mexico.

In January 2016, a jury determined that Choudhury had sexually harassed and then unfairly fired Minakshi “Miki” Jafa-Bodden, his onetime lawyer.

He was ordered to pay nearly $6.5 million in punitive damages in addition to $924,000 in compensatory damages.

Jafa-Bodden was general counsel to Bikram’s Yoga College of India but was fired after refusing to cover up allegations that Bikram had raped and sexually assaulted a yoga student.

“I feel vindicated,” she told ABC News in 2016. “I’m elated.”

She convinced the jury that Choudhury had repeatedly sexually harassed her and subjected her to obscene comments about women.

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Jafa-Bodden also claimed she was fired after she tried to investigate another woman’s sexual harassment and rape allegations against the yoga guru.

During the trial over Jafa-Bodden’s allegations, Bikram strongly denied sexually assaulting any women. He also denied having any sexual contact with his students or followers. His bail was set at $8 million.

Choudhury was one of the pioneers of yoga in the US, setting up shop in Beverly Hills in the 1970s. His client list included top celebrities like Madonna, Andy Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow and Goldie Hawn.

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His yoga studios are franchised worldwide.

Outside of court on Wednesday, Jafa-Bodden celebrated her latest legal victory, saying: “It’s a win for women everywhere who’ve endured sexual harassment.”

“To have that bench warrant issued for Bikram… It sends a message to a debtor like Bikram that he will be held accountable and that the wheels of justice, although they don’t turn as fast as we would want them to, they do turn,” she said. (IANS)

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Judge Order Government Find Separated Children at US-Mexico Border

U.S. government had started implementing its policy of separating families months before it was announced “a very significant event.

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FILE - Christian, from Honduras, recounts his separation from his child at the border during a news conference at the Annunciation House,in El Paso, Texas, June 25, 2018. VOA

A U.S. judge Thursday appeared open to ordering the government to find potentially thousands of additional children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border by the Trump administration, which could greatly expand the scope of a lawsuit challenging the separations.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego called a January report by an internal government watchdog that found the U.S. government had started implementing its policy of separating families months before it was announced “a very significant event.”

The Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a report published earlier this year that the agency had identified many more children in addition to the 2,737 included as part of the class action lawsuit challenging family separations brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last year.

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Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego, July 17, 2018. Sabraw, who ordered children be reunited with their families after being separated at the US-Mexico border, may order the government to expand the scope of the reunifications. VOA

ACLU wants all families reunited

In response to the lawsuit, Sabraw ordered the families identified through a court process to be reunited with their children.

The ACLU has petitioned the judge to expand the class to force the government to do a full accounting of any additional separated children.

The premise of the class action lawsuit, Sabraw said, was the “overarching allegation of the unlawful separation” of families by the Trump administration.

“When there’s an allegation of wrong on this scale, one of the most fundamental obligations of law is to determine the scope of the wrong,” he said. “It is important to recognize we are talking about human beings.”

The administration of President Donald Trump implemented a “zero tolerance” policy to criminally prosecute and jail all illegal border crossers, even those traveling with their children, leading to a wave of separations last year. The policy sparked outrage when it became public, and the backlash led Trump to sign an executive order reversing course June 20, 2018.

In light of the Inspector General’s findings, as well as investigative reporting, Sabraw said, the current June 26, 2018, cut-off date for cases to be part of the lawsuit becomes “very arbitrary.”

‘Other galaxy of a task’

Department of Justice attorney Scott Stewart argued that the ACLU’s request to expand the class would blow the case into an “other galaxy of a task.” The government has argued in court papers that it is too labor intensive to find children who were separated and subsequently released to sponsors before the court order last year.

While most of the outrage last year focused on the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy, the government has continued to separate families on a smaller scale.

ALSO READ: Trump’s Idea to Siphon Money for Border Wall Meets Resistance

In a filing Wednesday, the government said it had separated 245 children at the border between June 26, 2018, and Feb. 5, 2019. The government said 92 percent of these children were separated because of “parent criminality, prosecution, gang affiliation, or other law enforcement purpose.”

Advocates say there is little transparency about the criteria and evidence used to justify ongoing separations. (VOA)