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Ex-Fresno St. coach awarded $19.1M in sex-discrimination lawsuit

FRESNO, Calif. -- A former Fresno State women's basketball
coach was awarded $19.1 million Thursday in a sexual discrimination
lawsuit that alleged she was fired because she advocated for
women's rights.

The university argued that Stacy Johnson-Klein was fired because
she was abusive, violated NCAA rules and inappropriately scored
pain medication from one of her players.

Johnson-Klein told the Fresno Bee the jury's unanimous verdict
was a victory for women in general and proof the legal system
works.

"It's long, it's hard, it's not for the weak of heart,"
Johnson-Klein said outside court. "But it works, and I'm just very
thankful it worked today."

After an eight-week trial, jurors deliberated about four hours
Thursday before returning their verdict.

Fresno State president John Welty said the university plans to
appeal.

"This fundamentally has always been an employment case," Welty
said in a statement. "The university will always act when the
health and welfare of its students is endangered."

The university's lawyer portrayed Johnson-Klein as a
self-centered manipulator who ignored her players' welfare and ran
roughshod over university policies in her pursuit of money, fame
and power.

Johnson-Klein was fired in March 2005 after less than three
seasons as the coach of the Bulldogs. She had more than three years
left on her contract.

The university said an investigation revealed Johnson-Klein
obtained a half-full bottle of Vicodin in September 2004 from one
of her players and acknowledged taking one of the pills.

One of her attorneys, Warren Paboojian, said Johnson-Klein had a
prescription for the medication because of a car accident, and had
run out when she asked the player for the pills.

Johnson-Klein sued, alleging the investigation was launched only
after she complained about gender discrimination, sexual harassment
and Title IX violations at the school.

Johnson-Klein's lawyers did not immediately return calls from
The Associated Press.

Thursday's verdict was the second judgment against Fresno State
in a sexual discrimination lawsuit this year.

In July, a jury awarded former volleyball coach Lindy Vivas
$5.85 million -- which a judge later reduced to $4.52 million -- in a
lawsuit claiming she was fired because of her advocacy for gender
equity and her perceived sexual orientation.

Vivas was fired in 2004, two years after coaching her team to
its best season in history.

University officials had argued Vivas was fired because she
didn't meet performance goals and ran a team that often played in
empty arenas.