After the August 2013 arrest of founder and CEO Gurbaksh "G" Chahal on 45 felony counts of domestic abuse, Silicon Valley ad tech company RadiumOne reportedly sought to "do whatever it takes" to squelch a heinous scandal and make good on a planned IPO — possibly by greasing the palms of former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown at the suggestion of venture capitalist and one-time California state controller Steve Westly.
The Wall Street Journal reviewed documents dated before the judge in Chahal's domestic violence case ruled that home-security video, which allegedly showed Chahal hitting his then girlfriend over 100 times in half an hour at his San Francisco penthouse, was unlawfully seized by police and therefore inadmissible. Those documents may reveal the lengths to which RadiumOne, and specifically Chahal and Westly, were willing to go to clear Chahals name and bolster plans to raise $100 million during the anticipated IPO.
In an email, Chahal writes that he met with Brown and that Brown asked for a million dollars to "make this go away." Chahal says Brown asked for a $250,000 retainer, corroborated by a financial document which shows that Brown returned $198,400 to Chahal days after the video evidence was dismissed. Further, Chahal and Gravity4, that suit claims, harassed a female employee and discriminated against her on the basis of her age and gender while secretly spying on her. Adding insult to injury, that employee says she was told by Gravity4 executives, including Chahal, that she was hired in part because a female employee could bolster Chahal's deeply tarnished image.
According to the Journal,
Venture capitalist and one-time California state controller Steve Westly, who joined RadiumOne’s board in November 2013, suggested in a Dec. 3, 2013 email to Mr. Chahal that lawyer Willie Brown, former San Francisco mayor and State Assembly speaker, “believes that he can help you.” Mr. Westly, who is considering a second run for governor, wrote that Mr. Brown knows the district attorney and “may be able to ‘back him off,’” adding that Mr. Brown is a “very good deal broker.”
Six days later, in an email with the subject line “Willie Brown,” Mr. Chahal wrote to Mr. Westly: “Just met him. Wants $1 million if he can make this go away. Just gave him a $250K retainer. If you meet him tomorrow. Apply some pressure on him to make this go away in 2013.”
Mr. Westly responded: “Wow. That’s pricey, but probably worth it if he can make it happen. I suspect he will pull out all the stops to get this done.”
Subsequent emails between Mr. Westly and Mr. Brown's assistant show Mr. Westly trying to schedule meetings between the district attorney and Mr. Brown. The emails don’t show that any meetings ever took place. There is no evidence that Mr. Chahal and his supporters swayed the district attorney.
Following that ruling regarding the video evidence, without testimony from the alleged victim — it's been speculated that her silence was bought — Chahal plead guilty to two misdemeanors, sparking outrage in light of the original charges. Nonetheless, he was ousted by the RadiumOne board in what he characterizes as a "betrayal" and received three years probation, a $500 fine, and mandatory enrollment in a domestic violence program.
Since then, Chahal has been charged with another instance of abuse: He allegedly hit another woman he met during his trial. That episode of alleged abuse, like the first, involved hitting and kicking as well as verbal abuse and manipulation. A hearing in that case occurs tomorrow.
Relatedly, Chahal and his new company, Gravity4, were slapped with a lawsuit alleging harassment of and discrimination against a female employee. Allegations include that she was secretly spied upon her, and rather pathetically, that employee says she was told be Gravity4 executives, including Chahal, that she was hired to aid Chahal's image with regard to women.
Chahal's image as a wunderkind in the ad tech space stems from the $340 million he made before age 25 by selling two ad tech companies, landing him an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show. Lately, Gravity4 seems to be still doing all right, purchasing 9 companies in 2014 alone.
The office for DA George Gascon said no meetings were scheduled between Gascon and Brown related to the case. In a statement, Mr. Gascon said, “it was particularly frustrating when the video evidence was thrown out and the victim became uncooperative . You have brought some documents and e-mails to our attention that we had no knowledge of. My office is not for sale.”
“Hopefully in the next day or so, once I win the inadmissibility [of the video of the domestic violence] the DA will finally back off,” Chahal wrote in an email to his attorneys at the time of the case. Chahal, Brown, Westly, and RadiumOne declined to comment to the Journal.
One can perhaps assume that Brown will instead comment on the scandal in his own high-profile column for the SF Chronicle, which has been bothering people who are concerned about journalistic ethics for years. At publication time, however, SF's paper of record has failed to acknowledge the issues brought to light by WSJ reporter Jeff Elder, who was the Chron's "soclal media lead" from 2012-2013.
In fact, quite the opposite, as one Chron columnist appears to believe Brown represents "something to aspire to" as of yesterday afternoon:
Paying off a Chronicle columnist aside, Chahal and his network appear willing to stop at nothing to protect what was once his good name — "Your reputation is everything," a mantra he's used in blog post, seems pertinent here. As SF Appeal reported, he once employed professional fixer Sam Singer and his Wikipedia page has been consistently scrubbed of all the damning details. That's been unsuccesful, but you can still learn fun Chahal facts. For example, did you know that "Chahal appeared on an episode of the Fox TV reality show Secret Millionaire, where he went undercover in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco and gave away $110,000 of his own money." Seems like he had plenty to work with.