March 25, 2019
Appeals from the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 15 C
6844 - Gary Feinerman, Judge.
Wood, Chief Judge, and Flaum and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
Jayceon Taylor, beter known as "The Game," starred
in a VH1 television show called She's Got Game,
an imitation of the long-running reality dating series
The Bachelor. While filming in Chicago in 2015,
Taylor took contestant Priscilla Rainey on an off-camera date
at a suburban sports bar. There Taylor sexually assaulted her
by repeatedly lifting her skirt, grabbing her bare buttocks
and vagina, and "juggling" her breasts in front of
a large crowd of onlookers.
sued Taylor for sexual battery. Taylor did not take the
litigation seriously. He evaded process, trolled Rainey on
social media, dodged a settlement conference, and did not
bother to show up at trial. His attorney asked for a
continuance, but the judge denied that request, dismissing
Taylor's proffered excuse as an elaborate ruse. The judge
instructed the jurors that they could infer from Taylor's
absence that his testimony would have been unfavorable to
him. The jury returned a verdict for Rainey, awarding $1.13
million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive
moved for a new trial, challenging the denial of a
continuance, the missing-witness instruction, and the general
weight of the evidence. Alternatively, he sought a remitting
of damages. The judge denied the motions. Taylor appeals,
reprising the arguments in his posttrial motions and adding a
claim of penitentiary error.
affirm. District judges have wide discretion to manage their
proceedings and resolve evidentiary issues, and the rulings
here lie well within that discretion. Taylor has only himself
to blame for the missing-witness instruction, which was
plainly justified. The verdict is well supported by the
evidence, and we see no reason to disturb the jury's
determination of damages. The compensatory award is not
excessive under Illinois law, and the punitive award survives
Taylor-a/k/a "The Game"-is an internationally
known, Grammy-nominated rap artist. For a brief time, he was
also a minor reality-show star. Marrying the Game
ran on VH1 from 2012-2014 and chronicled the collapse of his
engagement to his longtime girlfriend and mother of his
children. When that show ended, his celebrity friends helped
him create another VH1 reality show called She's Got
Game, which featured a competition among women who might
be a match for him.
Rainey, a realtor and entrepreneur from Florida, was a
contestant on She's Got Game. In May 2015, while
the show was filming in Chicago, Rainey and Taylor went on an
off-camera date in apparent violation of the competition
rules. Taylor took Rainey to a suburban sports bar, and at
one point during the evening, they were on an elevated stage
in full view of club patrons. With a stage light shining on
them, Taylor lifted Rainey's skirt and grabbed her bare
buttocks and vagina. She tried to break away, but he did it
again-this time lifting her rear end up and exposing her
intimate parts to the gawking crowd. As Rainey struggled to
push him away and lower her skirt, he grabbed her bare
buttocks and vagina a third time. He also grabbed and
"juggled" her breasts for the entertainment of the
days later Rainey confronted Taylor about the assault. The
two were on the show's tour bus with other cast members,
and a film crew caught the entire exchange on camera. The
video begins with another contestant announcing that Rainey
had a secret date with Taylor (that's cheating, as we
said) and returned to the hotel visibly upset. Rainey
responded that she told the crew about it but no one else.
Taylor then reminded her that he had instructed her not to
mention it to anybody-and "don't mention it means
don't mention it." A heated argument ensued. Rainey
re-peatedly tried to tell him that she had a
"problem" with what had happened and was
"bothered" by it. Taylor angrily commanded her to
keep quiet: "What you can do is be a woman and shut up,
like you can shut up right now." She did not shut up.
Instead, she described the assault in graphic detail. After
an expletive-laden exchange, Taylor ordered her to
"[g]et off this bus before you get your ass
strangled" and threatened to "choke [her] ass
August 2015, just before the show's debut, Rainey sued
Taylor for sexual battery in federal court in Chicago. Taylor
repeatedly evaded service and otherwise tried to obstruct and
delay the litigation. Five process servers across three
states made multiple attempts to serve him with the complaint
and summons. One process server alone made 41 unsuccessful
attempts to serve Taylor at his California home. The district
judge authorized alternative service. In the meantime, the
suit was widely reported in the press and generated lots of
chatter on social media.
did not answer or otherwise plead, so on February 1, 2016,
the judge entered a default under Rule 55(a) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. Ten days later Florida attorney
Andrew Williams appeared for Taylor and moved to quash
service and set aside the default. The judge denied the
motion to quash but set aside the default and scheduled trial
for November 14, 2016. A magistrate judge set a settlement
conference for June 16 and ordered Rainey and Taylor to
appear in person. On June 2 Taylor moved to reschedule the
settlement conference, feigning concern for his safety based
on Chicago's gun-violence problem:
This past Memorial Day Weekend sadly almost 70 people were
shot in the city of Chicago. Due to high volume of violence
and likelihood of reprisals due to such violence the
Defendant has grave concerns for his safety and for those who
assist him during his travels due to his celebrity status.
magistrate judge canceled the settlement conference for other
reasons. It was never rescheduled.
dilatory conduct didn't stop there. In July he moved to
transfer the case to either the Central District of
California or the Southern District of Florida. The judge
denied the motion. In September he moved to continue the
trial. The judge denied that motion as well. In October he
again moved for a continuance, which the judge likewise
denied. Meanwhile, Taylor railed against the lawsuit on
social media, insulting Rainey in exceedingly vulgar terms.
selection commenced as scheduled on Monday, November 14.
Taylor did not show up. Williams, his attorney, assured the
court that his client would be present the next day. When
trial resumed on Tues day, Taylor was again absent. Williams
asked for a continuance, saying that he had learned on Monday
night that Taylor had an emergency dental procedure that day.
He produced a note from a California dental clinic and
invited the judge to call to confirm this excuse. The judge
made the call, and an endodontist explained that Taylor had
"basically more or less a root canal procedure, two of
them" on Monday. It was not clear from either the note
or the call whether the dental problem was a longstanding one
or a sudden onset. The endodontist explained that he was not
Taylor's regular dentist and did not know his history;
rather, Taylor had called his emergency line at about 6 p.m.
on Sunday evening.
counsel responded by submitting several screenshots from
Taylor's Snapchat account. The photos depicted Taylor
smoking something in a dark room under pink neon lights at
2:44 a.m. on Monday, November 14. As the judge described the
images, it looked as if Taylor was "out partying"
in the middle of the night just a few hours after he placed a
call to an "emergency dental hot line" and a few
hours before he was due in court in Chicago. The judge denied
the continuance motion, ...