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Tags: revenge porn | katie hill | california | legal fees

Former Rep. Hill Ordered to Pay $219K in Revenge Porn Case Legal Fees

katie hill speaks into mic
Then-Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on April 9, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 03 June 2021 08:31 AM

A Los Angeles judge has ordered former Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., to pay nearly a quarter of a million dollars in legal fees to a British tabloid and two conservative journalists she unsuccessfully sued in a revenge porn lawsuit.

Hill accused the Daily Mail, the managing editor of the conservative website Red State, and a radio producer of violating the law by publishing intimate pictures without her consent. The lawsuit was thrown out on First Amendment grounds earlier this year.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco awarded about $105,000 to the parent company of the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, the Los Angeles Times reported. The judge previously ordered Hill to pay $114,000 overall to the two individuals.

"A judge just ordered me to PAY the Daily Mail more than $100k for the privilege of them publishing nude photos of me obtained from an abuser," Hill tweeted Wednesday with the hashtag #BoycottDailyMail. "The justice system is broken for victims."

Hill, 33, also asked people to offer financial assistance via an online form titled “Nonconsensual Porn is NOT Free Speech!!”

A spokeswoman told the Times that Hill planned to appeal the rulings that dismissed her suit.

An attorney representing the Daily Mail did not respond to a request for comment.

Orozco previously ordered Hill to pay about $84,000 to the attorneys of Jennifer Van Laar, managing editor of the Red State, and about $30,000 to lawyers representing radio producer Joseph Messina.

Earlier this year, Hill dropped her initial claim that accused Messina of being part of a conspiracy to distribute the pictures.

The judge’s ruling showed that "those who file speech-chilling [intimidation] lawsuits must pay the price," said Krista Lee Baughman, an attorney representing Messina and Van Laar.

"If you have a problem with the way the Legislature wrote the revenge-porn statute, that needs to be addressed in the Legislature. The court is duty-bound to follow the writing. In this case, the statute itself clearly had a public interest exception."

In 2019, a year after Hill was elected to Congress by flipping a traditional GOP district in northern Los Angeles County, the Red State published stories alleging the lawmaker had an affair with a male congressional staffer.

The website also alleged she and her husband Kenneth Heslep — the two were in the process of divorcing at the time of the Red State’s story — had a previous relationship with a female campaign worker.

Both the Red State and Daily Mail published pictures.

Hill confirmed she and Heslep had a relationship with the campaign worker but denied the affair with the congressional staffer. Hill said the relationship with the campaign worker was inappropriate because the woman was a subordinate.

Hill sued the Daily Mail, the Red State, Van Laar, Messina, and Heslep in December. She argued they violated California's revenge-porn law by distributing and/or publishing images that included photographs showing her nude while brushing another woman’s hair, holding a bong, and sunbathing.

A 2013 California law makes it a crime to distribute private images without the person’s permission. However, there are exceptions, such as if sharing such photos is in the "public interest."

The publications and Van Laar successfully argued that Hill's lawsuit failed to meet the requirements of the revenge porn statute. They cited the "public interest" exemption but also said they were not the original distributors of the images, and that Hill’s private parts were redacted in the published pictures.

The parties claimed the First Amendment gave them the right to publish newsworthy information about an elected official’s behavior.

The Red State's parent company has not sought attorneys' fees. Heslep, who does not have a lawyer on record in the case, has not filed any legal responses.

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Politics
A Los Angeles judge has ordered former Rep. Katie Hill, D-Calif., to pay nearly a quarter of a million dollars in legal fees to a British tabloid and two conservative journalists she unsuccessfully sued...
revenge porn, katie hill, california, legal fees
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2021-31-03
Thursday, 03 June 2021 08:31 AM
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