Nude images of Katie Hill were in the “public interest” when they were published by The Daily Mail — a Los Angeles judge ruled on Wednesday, in dismissing the ex-congresswoman’s lawsuit against the media outlet.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco said the photos spoke to Hill’s “character” and “qualifications” for office, which she left in October 2019, less than one year into her first term, according to a ruling obtained by The Los Angeles Daily News.
The Mail’s website published the pics days before the California Democrat resigned amid intense scrutiny over her three-way relationship with her husband and a female staffer and an alleged affair with a legislative aide in her office, which sparked a House Ethics Committee probe.
“Here, the intimate images published by (the Daily Mail) 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,” Orozco wrote.
“Accordingly, the images were a matter of public issue or public interest.”
The judge cited first amendment grounds in dismissing the suit, saying that sharing is “what journalism is all about,” according to the LA Daily News.
Hill sued the Mail, Redstate.com and her ex-hubby Kenny Heslep in December, arguing that they had distributed “nonconsensual porn” by publishing the images, including a nude photo taken by Heslep.
The former congresswoman said she “suffered extreme emotional distress, attempted suicide and was forced to quit her job,” over the publication of the sexually explicit photos.
Her attorneys argued the images were not in the public interest because the publication could have just described them instead.
But the judge found that argument “unpersuasive,” according to the report.
“The fact that information to be gleaned from an image may be disseminated in an alternative manner does not equate to a finding that the image itself is not a matter of public concern,” Orozco ruled.
Carrie Goldberg, Hill’s lawyer, said in court Wednesday that there is something “fundamentally different” about sharing nude photos — and warned that Orozco’s ruling would give anyone calling themselves a journalist free reign to publish such content.
Hill, 33, will now have to pay the Mail’s attorneys’ fees for losing the motion, something her lawyer said could bankrupt the former lawmaker.
The judge replied that there is “not a lot I can do about it. Some of our laws have harsh results,” the report said.