SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A judge ruled today in favor of 22 women who sued the owners and operators of San Diego-based pornographic website GirlsDoPorn.com, finding that the defendants lied to the plaintiffs in stating that videos in which they appeared would not be posted on the internet.
The plaintiffs -- identified in court documents as Jane Does 1 through 22 -- were awarded just under $9.5 million in compensatory damages -- individual amounts differ for each victim -- and $3.3 million in punitive damages, totaling $150,000 per plaintiff.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Kevin Enright found the defendants misrepresented claims that the videos would never appear online and were instead solely filmed for private clients living outside of the country, with the videos to be featured on DVDs.
Those claims were often bolstered by ``reference women'' who posed as models and provided "new recruits with false comfort that the experience is safe and enjoyable, and that the videos have never appeared online or been discovered by anyone in the models' lives,'' according to the judge's 187-page ruling.
Once the women discovered their videos were posted online, Enright wrote that the website owners ignored requests to take the videos down and cut contact with the women altogether.
In addition to awarding damages, Enright also ordered that any future written agreements drafted by the website's owners must feature clear and unequivocal language stating their videos will be posted on the internet; that written agreements must be sent to prospective models at least five days before any video shoots; and that the models' "explicit, unambiguous consent'' must be obtained "in order to use her name or personal information for any purpose.''
The defendants must also remove any videos or images featuring the plaintiffs from any websites they operate and cannot disseminate those materials any further.
The women’s attorney, Ed Chapin, tells 10News, “This result is a vindication of a lot. Of 22 brave, young women who fought harassment [and] who fought intimidation and hung with us and let us get their story out.”
Defendants included GirlsDoPorn CEO Michael J. Pratt, actor Andre Garcia, videographer Matthew Wolfe and administrative assistant Valerie Moser, all of whom are facing federal sex trafficking charges filed a few months after the onset of the civil trial.
Wolfe and Garcia are currently in federal custody, while Pratt remains at large. Moser, videographer Teddy Gyi and reference woman Amberlyn Dee Nored are out of custody on bond.
The defense attorney sent 10News the following statement:
"We are weighing our client’s options, which include filing objections to the court’s tentative statement of decision and an appeal if the decision becomes final. The defendants will most likely file objections within the next fifteen days as a first step. At this point our clients are focused on defending themselves against the criminal charges in Federal Court in San Diego. The tentative ruling does not affect the criminal case. The government’s burden of proof in the criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is much higher standard than in this civil lawsuit where the burden of proof is a mere preponderance of the evidence. The findings of fact in the civil case do not carry over to the criminal case where the government will have to prove the facts under a much more stringent standard."