Did Chopra Buy Sex With American Express Card?

Blackmail Trial Focuses on Guru's Signature

APBnews.com, Dec. 17, 1999
By Randy Dotinga

SAN DIEGO (APBnews.com) -- Did New Age guru Deepak Chopra leave home without his American Express card, which someone then used to pay for the services of a San Francisco prostitute in 1991?

That question took center stage on Thursday in Chopra's lawsuit against a woman he accuses of threatening to publicize a prostitute's story of a sexual encounter with him if he didn't pay $1 million. The woman's attorney attempted to convince jurors that the signatures on the prostitute's credit-card receipts are indeed those of Chopra; attorneys for the best-selling author contend that his assistant is responsible for the charges and faking his signature, and Chopra was in India at the time. Also on Thursday, Chopra accused Weaver of stealing his office files, including medical records of the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement. He also talked about a life full of "stalkers." Handwritings appear similar

Alternately smiling at the jury and chafing at the restrictions of courtroom procedure, Chopra underwent cross-examination by the attorney for defendant Joyce Weaver on Thursday. Jurors examined the prostitute's receipts and compared the signatures on them with Chopra's authentic signature, which is very similar.

Weaver, who formerly worked with Chopra at a San Diego alternative healing center, denies blackmailing him. In a countersuit, Weaver accuses Chopra of sexually harassing her.

Signatures of "Deepak Chopra" do appear on the credit-card receipts that reportedly paid for the prostitute's services. After looking at one of the signatures, Chopra said, "It looks like mine, but it isn't mine." The receipts show payments to L'Crepe de Cline in San Francisco in the summer of 1991 for $318, $264, $263 and $83. Peter Friesen, Weaver's attorney said L'Crepe de Cline was the business name of the prostitute.

This is not the first time the receipts have been examined. Before printing a negative article about Chopra in 1996, the Weekly Standard magazine hired a handwriting expert to compare the signatures with Chopra's, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.

The article in the conservative publication accused Chopra of using the prostitute. A furious Chopra filed a libel suit, and the magazine later issued an apology and retracted its allegations, which had received worldwide attention.

A call to Michael Jackson's people

The jury on Thursday also examined credit-card bills for the summer of 1991, which included a charge for a phone call to a Los Angeles number which Chopra said was the office of pop star Michael Jackson.

Chopra said he only allowed one person, an Australian assistant named Anthony Nacson, to both use his credit card and sign his name. Nacson traveled with him and assisted in chores like packing, checking out of hotels and renting cars, Chopra said.

Also on Thursday, Friesen attempted to show that although Chopra thought Weaver had a "borderline personality," he did agree to go to lunch with her one day and held her hand during a demonstration of a meditation exercise. 'I have all kinds of crazy people'

Chopra said he initially didn't take Weaver seriously after she allegedly demanded $50,000 to keep quiet about the prostitute's claims. "I have stalkers, I have all kinds of crazy people showing up," Chopra said. "It's part of my day." He also initially discounted a phone call from the prostitute herself because "we receive a number of crank calls each day." Only after an alleged $1 million demand from Weaver did Chopra begin worrying, he said. Also on Thursday, Chopra talked of the pain that Weaver's alleged stalking of him has caused. "I wake up in the morning wondering why this is going on, why this won't stop," Chopra said. "She's affecting my work, my creativity and my family life. I feel dejected; I feel terrified by what has happened."

Attorneys for Chopra attempted to put forward evidence that they say shows that Weaver stole files from Chopra's office, including immigration files, IRS files, personal files and medical files of Hindu guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whom Chopra treated for heart problems. The Maharishi, a Hindu monk, founded the Transcendental Meditation movement.

Judge Thomas Murphy did not allow the attorneys to pursue the theft allegations. Throughout the day, Chopra tried to expand beyond simple "yes" or "no" answers in his testimony. At one point, in response to a question, he asked the opposing attorney, "I can explain that. Do you want me to?" The judge finally gave him a friendly but firm lecture about not digressing from the questions.

The trial on Chopra's charges against Weaver will enter its third week on Monday.


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