Former Rep. Katie Hill has lost an important ruling in her revenge porn lawsuit against the Daily Mail and three other defendants after a judge found that the British tabloid had a right to publish nude photos of Hill on public interest grounds.
Judge Yolanda Orozco of Los Angeles County Superior Court said the nude pictures of Hill holding a bong were protected by the First Amendment, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In a copy of the ruling obtained by California-based City News Service, Judge Orozco said the pictures “spoke to [Hill’s] character and qualifications for her position,” because they “allegedly depicted [Hill] with a campaign staffer whom she was alleged to have had a sexual affair with and appeared to show [Hill] using a then-illegal drug and displaying a tattoo that was controversial because it resembled a white supremacy symbol that had become an issue during her congressional campaign.”
The judge added that she was not persuaded by the arguments against the pictures being of “public concern” to voters.
The former congresswoman’s lawyer Carrie Goldberg said her client would appeal the ruling and argued that the court had set a “dangerous precedent” by coming down in favour of the Mail.
“Anybody who dares enter the public eye should now have legitimate concern that old nude and sexual images can be shared widely and published by any person or media purporting to have journalistic intentions,” Goldberg tweeted.
She added that the ruling had the “exact opposite effect” of that intended by California’s ban on revenge porn. The state made it a misdemeanor offense to share revenge porn in 2013. Breaking the law can lead to a six-month sentence.
Hill criticized the Los Angeles Superior Court ruling on Wednesday night, saying it could have “massive implications” for women who want to run for public office.
“We’re up against a deeply misogynistic system that has to change, and it won’t until we force it to,” she tweeted.
Newsweek has contacted the Daily Mail for comment.
The former Democratic representative for California’s 25th congressional district sued the Mail, the conservative website Redstate.com and her ex-husband Kenneth Heslep over the non-consensual publication of her nude photos. She will now have to pay the British tabloid’s legal fees.
Hill’s legal team claimed that Heslep had been abusive and was “stopping at nothing to destroy the life of his ex-wife” by supplying nude photos of her to the media. She also said she had suffered emotional distress and had attempted suicide after resigning her seat in October 2019.
In a defiant resignation speech on the floor of the House on October 31, she hit out at a “misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures.”