It’s been a while since we heard from former California Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill. As you likely recall, her very brief congressional career was probably best known for her participation in a “throuple” with her now ex-husband and a female campaign staffer, along with other allegations of inappropriate relationships. One controversial part of her story involved the release of nude photographs of Hill by the ex-husband. Hill described that release as “revenge porn” and brought lawsuits against the publishers who ran the pictures, including the Daily Mail. That lawsuit has now been settled, with a judge in Los Angeles tossing the suit, saying that both the story and the photos were protected by the First Amendment and were of compelling interest to the public. (Daily Mail)
Disgraced former congresswoman Katie Hill has lost a lawsuit against DailyMail.com over revealing details of her three-way affair with a campaign staffer.
In a judgement handed down on Wednesday, Los Angeles judge Yolanda Orozco threw out Hill’s case, finding that the stories about her were of ‘compelling public interest’ and protected by the First Amendment.
In her ruling, the judge said arguments by Hill’s lawyers were ‘unpersuasive’, and that DailyMail.com‘s stories about the former congresswoman were in the ‘public interest’ because they detailed her alleged affair with a campaign staffer, pictured her using drugs that were illegal at the time, and exposed her iron cross crotch tattoo which ‘resembled a white supremacy symbol that had become an issue during her congressional campaign.’
Wait a minute, here. Did you just say “iron cross crotch tattoo?” For Pete’s sake. I was covering this story when it first came out and even I missed that part. (Not there’s anything wrong with having tattoos, but that does seem like an odd choice.)
It was tough to see how this lawsuit would have any legs (no pun intended) from the moment it was filed. If someone had simply hacked into her phone and stolen some intimate photographs and published them there would obviously be a reason to take them to court, but that’s not what happened here. Both the story and the photographs spoke to at least one, if not two inappropriate sexual relationships between a supervisor and someone who reported to her. That makes the relationships highly inappropriate when the other person is a campaign staffer and potentially illegal if it happened with a member of her congressional staff. Both of those incidents would be of interest to the voters when considering her for another term.
The tattoo normally wouldn’t be of interest, but the media has long since established the rules of the road when it comes to any imagery that suggests white supremacy and/or Nazi affiliations. Those are fair game when you’re talking about politicians so the same rules have to apply to the Democrats as they do for Republicans.
One other part of the story that was never entirely cleared up involved the trip to Alaska where some of the photos were taken. It was alleged that the trip was a “sexcation” for the three of them, which would be nobody’s business but theirs. However, it was further alleged that the trip was financed using campaign funds, and that makes it a matter of public interest and a potential FEC violation.
Hill’s claims that her jilted ex-husband was just out for revenge are probably not entirely baseless. Angry former spouses wind up doing all sorts of things. But none of that changes the substance of the claims being made. The judge described Hill’s suit as an “unlawful Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” This was in reference to a law designed to protect publishers from the chilling effects of threats of lawsuits when publishing information about “matters of public concern.”
I somehow doubt that this is the last we’ll be hearing from Katie Hill. She’s still active on Twitter (though it’s hard for me to verify that since she blocked me) and just published an op-ed for Vanity Fair about Matt Gaetz and what a terrible person he is for releasing nude photos of someone else. (That article is something of a humdinger if you want to invest a click in it.)