An Oakland County Circuit Court Judge has awarded a judgement of $100,000 to a plaintiff who claimed her ex-boyfriend falsely told her that he secretly recorded sexually explicit videos of her and posted them online. It was never proven that the videos were ever posted, and the Court specifically reasoned that it didn’t matter if the sexually explicit videos were posted or not. It was the threat of posting the videos that resulted in this judgement. In 2014, the state of Michigan enacted what is commonly known as the “Revenge Porn” statute. Revenge porn, also known by its more legalese term, “non-consensual pornography,” generally outlaws people sharing sexually explicit images or videos without the consent of the subject in the images or videos. What is evident here is that the false threat of sharing these types of images or videos can lead to a criminal conviction under the statute and can cost you a boatload of money.
Back in April of 2018, the defendant in this case allegedly sent text messages to the plaintiff, his ex-girlfriend, telling her that he secretly recorded sexually explicit videos of her and shared them online. He claimed that he took these videos of them having sex while they were together, and he shared the videos online on a pornography website without ever seeking consent. The defendant also told her that the video went viral, being watched hundreds of thousands of times, even being viewed by her co-workers and friends. The plaintiff in this case then sought a personal protection order from the defendant, and ultimately moved out of state in an effort to get away from all of potential social consequences of what had allegedly been posted online. The plaintiff in this case stated that due to the information that this video was posted online she suffered from severe mental anguish, was at one point bed ridden, and also sought professional help in the form of therapy. What makes this case different from others, however, is that no sexually explicit material had ever actually been posted. The plaintiff’s attorney found during his investigation online doing reverse google image searches that the defendant never actually posted anything as he claimed. What they learned was that the defendant simply lied about it in order to cause the plaintiff severe emotional distress, and he succeeded. This discovery obviously led to a change in the legal approach and strategy that the plaintiff’s attorney took. The plaintiff’s attorney then sought to have the legal theory changed to that of an intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defense’s simple argument was that the plaintiff didn’t experience enough emotional distress to rise to the level needed to win a money judgement. The defense then filed a motion for summary judgement asking for a dismissal of the case stating that there was not enough evidence for the case to continue forward to a trial. The Oakland County Circuit Court Judge disagreed, stating that there was an issue of fact that a jury should hear to determine if money damages should be awarded. The defendant’s attorney claimed that shortly after that, he started to lose contact with his client, and ultimately, in November of 2019 which was one week before trial, the defendant’s attorney was allowed to withdraw as counsel because he had allegedly lost contact with his client. When the trial date came and neither the defendant, nor an attorney showed up to defend the case and conduct a trial and default judgement in the amount of $100,000 was entered against the defendant.