Trial between 22 women and San Diego-based porn website begins

SAN DIEGO -- Opening statements are scheduled Tuesday in the civil trial pitting 22 women against San Diego-based pornographic website GirlsDoPorn.com, with the women alleging that the website's operators falsely represented their business and lied to the women in stating that the videos would not be posted on the internet.

The women -- identified in court documents as Jane Does 1 through 22 -- are seeking more than $22 million in damages from the defendants, which include GirlsDoPorn CEO Michael J. Pratt, actor Andre Garcia, and videographer Matthew Wolfe.

According to court documents, the women typically answered ads for a purported modeling agency, then were flown by the defendants to San Diego.

While the pornographic nature of the work was sometimes discussed beforehand, some women claim they were not informed until after they arrived in San Diego, where the site's owners filmed scenes at various high-end downtown San Diego hotels.

The women were allegedly assured the videos would only be distributed to private parties living overseas and would not be posted online.

Court papers filed by the defense allege that discussions against posting the videos online were oral agreements that never actually occurred. Instead, the women signed release forms "permitting unfettered use of the video," according to a defense trial brief.

"Ultimately, each plaintiffs' case is about regret in agreeing to film pornography videos for money and the clear and foreseeable consequences that followed," the brief states.

If the women tried to back out of taking part in the scenes, they allege they were told they could be sued or forced to reimburse defendants for the cost of the flight to San Diego, return flight home, and hotel room booked for filming. In some cases, the women were plied with alcohol or drugs to ensure their cooperation, according to the plaintiffs' complaint.

Some of the women also allege that after their video was distributed over the internet, the website's owners then posted the womens' real names and contact information on other websites, opening the victims up for harassment and abuse from anonymous online users, as well as humiliation when the videos were discovered by family members, friends, classmates or employers.

Some of the women allege in court documents that the ensuing shame has driven them to depression, suicidal thoughts, or in at least one case, to move entirely out of the country.

Defense court filings allege that any instances where the womens' real names were posted online was not committed by the defendants, who also claim that alcohol and/or drugs were not provided to the women during filming, as that "would make the footage filmed unusable."

The trial, which is expected to last three to four weeks, will not be heard by a jury. Instead, San Diego County Superior Court Judge Kevin A. Enright will oversee the entire trial at the downtown San Diego courthouse.

Plaintiffs' attorney Ed Chapin said, "We are eager to get this trial underway and concluded so the young women who were victimized by GirlsDoPorn.com can secure the compensation and vindication they need to begin healing and rebuilding their lives. This long, drawn-out ordeal has taken a terrible toll on many of them."

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