James Brown Denies Sexual Harassment Charges
R&B/soul legend James Brown took the witness stand in his sexual harassment trial yesterday (Feb. 5) in Los Angeles, declaring, "I wouldn't do that," when asked if he had improperly touched a formR&B/soul legend James Brown took the witness stand in his sexual harassment trial yesterday (Feb. 5) in Los Angeles, declaring, "I wouldn't do that," when asked if he had improperly touched a former employee. Lisa Ross Agbalaya says Brown grabbed her, made unwanted sexual advances and fired her after she complained. Her lawsuit, filed in May 2001, seeks $1 million in damages.
The godfather of soul said nothing improper ever occurred. "I have never touched Miss Ross Agbalaya in my life. She's a married woman and I wouldn't do that," Brown said during cross-examination.
Brown, 68, said he was always careful to have other people present when Agbalaya, was with him. As he testified, Agbalaya, 36, sat almost motionless in front of him.
Agbalaya said she was fired as president of West Coast operations for the New James Brown Enterprises Inc. in February 2000 after she complained about the harassment. Brown's attorney, Debra Opri, has said her termination was "a business decision" made after Brown closed his West Coast office.
Agbalaya's attorney, Shelly McMillan, asked the singer if he was glassy-eyed and smelling of marijuana when he allegedly grabbed the mother of three children by the hips and pulled her toward him. "I didn't touch nobody, and I didn't use marijuana," he said. "I had two people there. We made sure I wasn't going to be alone with Mrs. Agbalaya."
Under cross-examination, Brown also said Agbalaya's position wasn't as important as the title indicated. "She was called the president because it sounds good to the DJ's who call there. She wasn't the president," he said, adding her work was supervised from his main office in Augusta, Ga.
He said she came to Georgia twice, including once in August 1999 for training at his office. That time she traveled with him and his entourage on his private plane and stayed in a hotel, he said. The other time, Brown said, she surprised him when she arrived at his home to ask for a loan. He said an aide, Roosevelt Johnson, was in the next room when she arrived and another person arrived a few minutes later.
Asked if he thought Agbalaya was a groupie or hanger-on only interested in his fame, Brown replied, "I wouldn't think so."
Outside court, Brown told reporters he was "uncomfortable" on the witness stand. "But I have to be here," said the flamboyant entertainer, who came to court dressed in black suede cowboy boots and a bright blue suit and tie worn over a much brighter blue shirt. "My name is important," Brown said. "That's all I have ... I never demean anybody."
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