SAN DIEGO -- A judge Thursday awarded nearly $13 million to 22 women who sued the owners and operators of San Diego-based pornographic website GirlsDoPorn.com, finding that the defendants lied to the plaintiffs in stating that videos in which they appeared would not be posted on the internet.
The plaintiffs -- identified in court documents as Jane Does 1 through 22 -- were awarded just under $9.5 million in compensatory damages -- individual amounts differ for each victim -- and $3.3 million in punitive damages, totaling $150,000 per plaintiff.
“This result is a vindication of 22 brave women who fought harassment, who fought intimidation,” said Ed Chapin, the plaintiffs' attorney.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Kevin Enright found the defendants misrepresented claims that the videos would never appear online and were instead solely filmed for private clients living outside of the country, with the videos to be featured on DVDs.
Those claims were often bolstered by "reference women" who posed as models and provided "new recruits with false comfort that the experience is safe and enjoyable, and that the videos have never appeared online or been discovered by anyone in the models' lives," according to the judge's 187-page ruling.
The judge found that the women were often lured to San Diego with online advertisements that made no mention of nudity or pornography, much less the GirlsDoPorn business name.
Upon arriving in San Diego, they were then pressured to sign documents replete with "broad, vague releases couched in disorganized, complicated legalese," which obscured the womens' concerns over potential online dissemination, the ruling says.
Once the women discovered their videos were posted online -- both on GirlsDoPorn.com and a variety of free pornographic sites -- the website owners ignored requests to take the videos down and cut contact with the women altogether, Enright wrote.
In addition to awarding damages, Enright also ordered that any future written agreements drafted by the website's owners must feature clear and unequivocal language stating their videos will be posted on the internet; that written agreements must be sent to prospective models at least five days before any video shoots; and that the models' "explicit, unambiguous consent" must be obtained "in order to use her name or personal information for any purpose."
The defendants must also grant the women ownership rights to the videos they appeared in and must remove any videos or images featuring the plaintiffs from any websites they operate and cannot disseminate those materials any further, according to the judge.
Defendants included GirlsDoPorn CEO Michael J. Pratt, actor Andre Garcia, videographer Matthew Wolfe and administrative assistant Valerie Moser, all of whom are facing federal sex trafficking charges filed a few months after the onset of the 99-day civil trial.
Wolfe and Garcia are currently in federal custody, while Pratt remains at large. Moser, videographer Teddy Gyi and alleged "reference woman" Amberlyn Dee Nored are out of custody on bond.