Former Santa Clarita Congresswoman Katie Hill has suffered a setback in her lawsuit against her ex-husband and two media companies for publishing nude photos of her without her consent. On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismissed British tabloid the Daily Mail as a defendant on First Amendment grounds.
Hill sued the owners of the paper along with ex-husband Kenny Heslep and conservative media outlet RedState in December, arguing that publishing the photos—allegedly provided by Heslep—constituted “revenge porn,” which is illegal in 46 states, including California, plus Washington, D.C.
Judge Yolanda Orozco disagreed, the Orange County Register reports. In her ruling, Orozco wrote that the intimate images could be published as “a matter of public issue or public interest” because they “spoke to [Hill’s] character and qualifications for her position, as 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.”
Hill’s attorney, Carrie Goldberg, countered that sharing nude photos—which led Hill to resign and to contemplate suicide—is something “fundamentally different” than the rhetorical situation the judge floated, and that her decision would deter other women from seeking elected office.
Additionally, Goldberg said that being made to pay the tabloid’s legal fees could bankrupt Hill. To that, Orozco replied that there is “not a lot I can do about it. Some of our laws have harsh results.”
Hill blasted Orozco on Twitter Wednesday, writing, “I sued the Daily Mail for their publication of my nonconsensual nude images. Today, we lost in court because a judge—not a jury—thinks revenge porn is free speech. This fight has massive implications for any woman who ever wants to run for office, so quitting isn’t an option.”
Goldberg also shared her feelings about the Mail and Orozco’s judgment.
“Today my client, @RepKatieHill, lost against perverted Daily Mail, a website that peddles in humiliation and monetizes sexual privacy invasions of women. DM said, and the court agreed, that Katie’s nudes were their free speech. We think the appellate court will disagree.”
I sued the Daily Mail for their publication of my nonconsensual nude images. Today, we lost in court because a judge – not a jury – thinks revenge porn is free speech. This fight has massive implications for any woman who ever wants to run for office, so quitting isn’t an option. https://t.co/Sjhl5XOB6j
— Katie Hill (@KatieHill4CA) April 7, 2021
Defendant and RedState editor Jennifer Van Laar is also trying to get off the hook on First Amendment grounds, while Helslep is, who Hill accused of 15 years of abuse, remains under a December restraining order that was recently extended to April 30.
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