SAN JOSE — The ex-wife of a Silicon Valley millionaire Thursday lost her latest bid to make her ex-husband pay for what she claimed was a horrific ordeal at his hands — being chained to a bed for three days while she was nine months pregnant and raped with a golf club an act that another judge already had declared was a lie.
Ellena Bondesson, 40, had asked a jury during the four-week civil trial to award her $3.75 million from real estate mogul Clyde Berg’s $200-million fortune.
The 2012 golf club incident was just one example of his years-long abuse, she testified. But the jury of four women and eight men deliberated for less than two full days before deciding in Berg’s favor.
“I had a hard time believing Ellena,” one juror said after the trial. “Her answers were just so evasive.”
Thursday’s verdict was the third time in four years the legal system has sided against Bondesson. Her allegations also failed to win over the judge in her divorce and paternity case, and got her branded a liar by another magistrate in criminal court.
“This is a couple who does not know when to say ‘when,’” another juror said, adding that the civil trial made clear that, “If things aren’t working out, just walk away.”
The jury found Berg not liable for battery, sexual battery, false imprisonment and domestic violence.
The panel did find him liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress for sending her caustic emails and leading her to believe he wanted to have children. But the jury concluded it was not a substantial factor despite Bondesson’s claim that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and did not award her money.
On the other hand, jurors found Bondesson liable for the claims in Berg’s cross-complaint: malicious prosecution, malice and fraud. But they awarded him only the $14,490 he asked for to recover the cost of a GPS ankle bracelet he had to wear for a few months during the criminal case.
Berg, who faced a sentence of 15 years to life if he had been convicted in criminal court of sexually assaulting his pregnant wife, was at a doctor’s appointment Thursday afternoon when the verdict was read. He later said in a phone interview that he was relieved by the verdict but plans to sue Bondesson’s attorneys for malicious prosecution and to try to recover $1 million in attorneys’ fees. Berg is the brother and business partner of billionaire Carl Berg, one of the nation’s richest people.
The two developed campuses for many of Silicon Valley’s signature companies. Bondesson’s lead attorney, Louis Shoch, declined to comment.Since Bondesson first accused him nearly four years ago, Berg has maintained that he was the victim of a greedy scam aimed at getting around a restrictive prenuptial agreement and the jury apparently agreed. Despite the risks of duking it out in the courts over the years, Berg refused to settle any of the cases Bondesson had filed, insisting that he had “never laid a hand on her.”
Berg was declared factually innocent last year by Judge Ron Del Pozzo, the same criminal court judge who presided over the 2013 preliminary hearing and concluded that Bondesson was “not worthy of belief” and appeared to be suffering from mental illness.
The civil jurors were not told that Berg was declared factually innocent by Judge Erica R. Yew. Berg’s lawyers, Kurt Seibert, Michael Crosby and Matt Crosby, instead built their case on a journal entry, written years ago by Bondesson, in which she said she would not let the couple’s restrictive prenuptial agreement stop her from getting some of his millions.
Berg’s attorneys also contended that Bondesson forged their client’s signature on various documents as part of a scheme to hold him financially responsible for the daughter she had via artificial insemination. Berg is not the father.
“Providing forged documents to the court is a felony,” Berg said, “and the judge should refer this case to the DA for prosecution.”