Texas Jury Orders Man To Pay Quite A Hefty Sum For Spreading Ex Gf’s Intimate Photos
A man who harassed his ex-girlfriend online – including by sharing intimate photos of her on social media – must pay her $1.2bn in damages, a Texas jury has ordered.
The woman, who went by “DL” in court documents, said her ex-boyfriend conducted a campaign to spread intimate photos of her online without her consent. Using images taken by security cameras at the home where the woman was living, he shared the photos on fake social media accounts, tagging friends, family and employers on the picture. He also created a website and publicly accessible Dropbox folders and emailed the photos to people.
The man did not appear in court, hire an attorney or respond to any court summons for the trial. The woman’s lawyers had asked the jury to recommend $100m in damages.
The woman’s lawyers told the Washington Post that law enforcement did not respond to multiple reports about her ex-boyfriend’s harassment, leading her to file suit in civil court.
A 2015 Texas law makes it a crime to share intimate visual material without a person’s permission and with the intention to harm them, what is known as “revenge porn”. If found guilty in criminal court, the crime is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Forty-eight states, along with Washington DC, have similar laws against revenge porn, but it is unclear how often the laws are enforced.
The couple had a “long and drawn-out breakup” and eventually separated in 2021, according to the lawsuit. The woman moved back to Harris county, which includes Houston, to live with her mother. Her ex-boyfriend kept the log-in information for her email and social media accounts and gained access to her mother’s home security camera system, which is how he obtained intimate photos of her.
When posting the photos online, the man allegedly tagged friends and family, along with the accounts of her workplace and gym. Her lawyers told the Washington Post that the harassment had led her to contemplate suicide, and she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“She’s scared to show her face on Zoom, even with her coworkers,” Bradley Ertl, one of the attorneys who represented the woman, told the Washington Post. “We had testimony from a coworker that before all this took place [our client] was bubbly, she was happy. She was always on the camera. Now she’s not.”
When a jury rules a penalty for damages in civil court, it is up to the plaintiff to pursue further action if the defendant does not pay. The plaintiff can file another lawsuit, which could lead to a court order calling for the defendant’s assets to be taken away. The plaintiff can also hire a collection agency to pursue the damages.
“We are grateful the jury took a strong stand against the defendant’s abhorrent behavior and against image-based sexual abuse,” Bradford Gilde, an attorney for the woman, said in a statement. “While a judgment in this case is unlikely to be recovered, the compensatory verdict gives DL back her good name.”