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Texas Appeals Court Affirms $345K in Revenge Porn Damages

HOUSTON, Texas — A Texas appellate court has affirmed a “revenge porn” case and awarded $345,000 in damages.

Matthew Kita, a Dallas lawyer who represented the woman in the case, told Texas Lawyer magazine that the decision is the first of its kind in Texas.

The woman sued her ex-boyfirend after he posted a sex video of her on the Internet. The woman was Muslim and her boyfriend was Hindu which caused difficulty in their relationship, the court’s opinion says.

During their seven-year relationship, the woman emailed her boyfriend photos of herself while she was topless and only wearing underwear. The woman asked her ex-boyfriend to delete the photos after they broke up.

Her ex also recorded videos of Skype video conversations during which she undressed herself and masturbated. She alleged she did not consent to be recorded.

The woman also alleged that after the couple broke up, her ex continually harassed her with offensive and threatening messages, and hacked and attempted to hack her accounts. These messages are detailed within the appellate court’s opinion.

After he posted the video, her ex sent her text messages which included the message – “Your vid is up online. Congrats to you and your family….over 2000 ppl have viewed what you do in your bed.”

She also received text messages from unknown and unverified numbers. The woman believed they were from her ex-boyfriend and that he had been getting information about her whereabouts, purchases, and activities.

One of these messages said, “Hurd you like bangin texmex guys! Lmfao … i c u! sittin near da door ill come say hi in a bit.” He also texted her, “stp rackin up shi on the credit gurl! debt getting hi :=(”

The woman’s mother testified that the defendant would call the house multiple times a day at all hours, including at 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. The woman lived with her parents at the time.

The jury found for her on her claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, intrusion on seclusion, public disclosure of private facts, and defamation. They awarded her $500,000 in damages for past and future mental anguish, past and future reputation damages, and exemplary damages.

The intermediate appellate court panel upheld civil damages but partially modified the jury’s verdict on the defamation claim because the “publication was substantially true.” The woman was actually in the video and truth is a defense to defamation.

The Texas appellate court also removed the damages associated with the intentional infliction of emotional damage claim.

As modified, the jury’s verdict was reduced to $345,000.

The judgment was signed by the trial court judge in March of 2014, and the defendant filed his notice of appeal in June of 2014. This was before the passage of Texas Senate Bill 1135.

The Texas Legislature in 2015 passed a bill relating to the civil and criminal liability for the unlawful disclosure or promotion of intimate visual material, as reported by Breitbart Texas.

In March, an author of SB 1135, Sen. Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) said the legislation tackles the “disturbing trend of ex-partners posting nude, explicit photos of women online without consent” with the intent of “seeking revenge or to cause harm.”

The bill was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in June of 2015 and became effective on September 1, 2015. In doing so, Texas joined more than a dozen other states that have cyber-exploitation laws, as reported by Breitbart Texas.

SB 1135 is intended to combat the damage done when scorned lovers post sexually explicit photos of their exs. These images often also contain the person’s name, and social media and other contact information.

As discussed in the Bill Analysis of SB 1135, “Victims can suffer threats, harassment, stalking, and sexual exploitation as well as embarrassment and shame that intrude into their work, school, or personal lives. Harm is difficult to remedy because removing images from a website rarely prevents continued distribution.”

If convicted under the new statute, the offense would be a Class A misdemeanor and sentencing could include up to one year in jail and/or a maximum fine of $4,000.

The new law also provides for civil liability for damages arising from the unlawful disclosure or promotion of intimate visual material.

This article has been updated with new information.

Lana Shadwick is a writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as an associate judge and prosecutor. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2

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