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Attorneys for 21 workers who accused the baker of HoHos, Wonder Bread and Twinkies of racial discrimination asked a San Francisco jury in closing arguments Monday to award their clients monetary damages to make up for denied promotions and insulting treatment. But the attorney for Kansas City-based Interstate Brands Corp. told the jury in Superior Court Judge Stuart Pollack’s courtroom that plaintiffs’ attorneys failed to prove their case. “I like to believe people will present a case based on facts, not innuendo,” said defense attorney Patrick Mullin. “That was not done.” The case is expected to go to the jury this week along with a different, complicated three-page verdict form for each plaintiff. They all have different causes of action. Mullin, of San Francisco’s Jackson, Lewis, Schnitzler & Krupman, told the jury of four women and eight men that after two months of testimony about allegations of discriminatory behavior by management at IBC’s San Francisco bakery, plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of proof by a preponderance of evidence. “It is important that we separate facts from fiction,” Mullin said. “Look for the standard of proof.” Mullin said earlier outside the courtroom that his task was a difficult one, since “everyone on the jury is an employee.” The 21 plaintiffs, all African-Americans who worked at the nation’s largest bakery for up to 30 years, alleged that through racial discrimination they were denied promotions, wrongfully terminated and retaliated against for filing the lawsuit, Carroll v. Interstate Brands Corp., 995728. Attorney Angela Alioto, who represented 18 of the plaintiffs, told jurors promotions to management positions were denied simply because of skin color. “Each and every one of them has the ability to be in management, if they were just given a chance,” Alioto said. “No human being should be treated this way.” Alioto and her co-counsel, Paul Justi, from the Law Offices of Joseph L. Alioto and Angela Alioto, said she was uncertain how much in compensatory and punitive damages the jurors should award her clients. Initially her complaint asked for $260 million just in general damages, but she appeared to back off that amount as the trial closed. Instead, she said jurors should do their own calculations but asked them to start by awarding each plaintiff $1 million, and then go from there. Justi invoked the memory of the lone protester 10 years ago who stood before the tank in China’s Tiananmen Square, forcing the driver to come to a complete stop. Justi used the image as a metaphor for what his clients did by filing their lawsuit to stop the alleged discriminatory practices of their employer. “It is necessary to stand up and get in the way when you know something is wrong,” Justi said. He said IBC, through its household brands of Twinkies and Wonder Bread, is “a cultural icon” in this country. “These men stood up to that icon and said this is wrong . . . that you are passing us over for promotion because of the color of our skin.” While the main courtroom theater was played out before jurors, there was also another underlying drama between Alioto and attorney Waukeen McCoy, who once worked for her but struck out on his own over the case. McCoy represents three of the 21 plaintiffs, including lead plaintiff Theodis Carroll, who has accused Alioto of being racist and calling him a “punk.” He also said Alioto was paying Justi more than McCoy, which Carroll said showed Alioto discriminated. Although McCoy and Alioto sat at the same plaintiffs’ table, they rarely spoke, seldom looked at each other and never shared trial documents, such as juror profiles. In his closing argument, McCoy compared IBC to old Southern segregationists who kept black folk down. “This is part of the old-boy plantation mentality,” he told jurors. “The old-boy network mentality equals discrimination and victimization.” He added that the civil rights “battleground of the 21st century is in the workplace.”

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