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Women Win $13M Lawsuit Against Porn Site After Allegations of Coercion and Deception

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Twenty-two women won a $12.7 million lawsuit against the owners of a San Diego-based pornographic website for deceiving and coercing them into making explicit pornographic films without telling them the images would be posted online.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Kevin Enright ruled against GirlsDoPorn website owners Michael James Pratt and Matthew Isaac Wolfe, as well as porn actor Ruben Andrew Garcia, in the four-month-long trial, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The women were collectively awarded $9.45 million in compensatory damages and $3.3 million in punitive damages and granted ownership rights of their images that appeared online and in the videos posted by the defendants.

Enright also ordered the defendants to take down the videos and take steps to get them off other websites that they did not control.

“They are happy with the outcome because it shows they were believed, that their story was believed,” Edward Chapin, who represented the 22 plaintiffs, told The New York Times.

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“They had been shamed. These guys attacked them and intimidated them so it was challenging to get them to testify. So it’s a vindication for them.”

In a separate criminal case, Pratt, Wolfe, Garcia, company administrative assistant Valerie Moser and alleged accomplice Amberlyn Nored were all charged with sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, The Union-Tribune reported.

Although the men could face life in prison if convicted, the defense attorneys said that the civil case has no bearing on the criminal one.

According to testimony from the women in the civil suit, Jane Doe 1-22 had been lured into the scheme by Craiglist ads looking for models that did not say there would be any nudity or pornography involved.

Once the woman submitted an application and picture, she was contacted by someone named “Johnathon” — the alias for Pratt — who offered to pay her $5,000 to have sex on camera.

“I wasn’t interested in doing porn. I knew how being in a porn could affect your future, your job opportunities and how people believe you,” Jane Doe 15 said, according to KNSD. “But he kept saying that no one would ever find out. It wouldn’t go online.”

If the woman, like Jane Doe 15, seemed wary, she would be contacted by reference women who said they had done this and reassured the woman the images wouldn’t go online and no one would find out.

Once the women arrived in San Diego, they were rushed into signing documents described as guarantees that the videos would only be distributed on DVDs outside of the U.S. and would not be posted online.

Chapin said that some of the women were drunk at the time and didn’t understand what they were reading.

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“Defendants rush and pressure the woman to sign the documents quickly without reading them and engage in other deceptive, coercive, and threatening behavior to secure their signatures,” Enright wrote in the court ruling.

Jane Doe 1 had tried to later obtain the documents and get the videos taken down, but shortly after she hired a lawyer, the video she shot was sent to students, professors and administrators at her law school. The defendants denied responsibility, but Enright ruled it was “more likely than not that they were behind the harassment.”

As a result of the online distribution of the videos, many of the women were harassed and experienced emotional and psychological trauma.

“They have become pariahs in their communities,” Enright wrote, adding that several of the women “have become suicidal.”

“The money’s one thing but these guys have ruined [the plaintiffs’] lives and we have to clean this up as much as possible,” Chapin told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Defense attorneys Daniel Kaplan and Aaron Sadock argued that the plaintiffs were all over 18, accepted the payment and some even returned to San Diego to film more videos.

They are considering filing objections or an appeal to the court’s ruling within the next two weeks.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Birthplace
Tucson, Arizona
Nationality
American
Honors/Awards
Graduated with Honors
Education
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Location
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith




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