Posted September 12th, 2019.
Jane Doe No. 1, the ‘ringleader’ of actresses suing the adult film site in San Diego, testified that after she threatened legal action, a campaign of harassment at her law school began. Even Wednesday on the trip to the courthouse, she said, she received an unwanted phone call.
By Scott Graham
The law graduate described as the “ringleader” of 22 plaintiffs suing the company behind GirlsDoPorn.com took the stand Wednesday to tell how the adult website has wrecked her life.
During two hours of sometimes tearful testimony in San Diego Superior Court, the woman known in court as Jane Doe 1 testified that she filmed three videos with the company in the summer of 2015 after being assured they were for a private collector who lived on the other side of the world and would never appear online.
Asked on direct examination by Sanford Heisler Sharp partner Ed Chapin why she signed a contract each time in which she “released all rights whatsoever in the footage,” the woman said she’d been intoxicated and was rushed through it by the male actor and by a videographer. ”I already knew how it was going to be used. It was going to be for the one guy in Australia,” she said. “They told me that a million times, and that’s what I believed.”
After she hired a lawyer and threatened to sue to take down the videos, a rain of harassment began pouring down on at her at California Western School of Law, Doe testified. She, her classmates and her law professors were bombarded with emails containing photos from and links to her videos, she said. Doe has since graduated and passed the bar. Though she intends not to practice, she has taken a leading role in locating and organizing the plaintiffs, both sides say.
Even Wednesday, on the ride up the elevator to the courtroom, Doe received another harassing phone call, she testified. That prompted defense attorneys from BLL Media, the company that owns GirlsDoPorn.com, to request access to the phone to verify the claim. Chapin called it an “outrageous” fishing expedition, but San Diego County Superior Court Judge Kevin Enright indicated they might be allowed to verify the incoming phone number and whether or not it matches numbers in Jane Doe 1′s contact list.
BLL argues that all of the plaintiffs signed written contracts that explicitly granted BLL the right of unlimited distribution of their likenesses “throughout the world in perpetuity, without limitations.” The company was within those contractual rights when it posted the videos on GirlsDoPorn.com, a subscription-only site, and promoted them on public, highly trafficked sites such as Pornhub.
Aaron Sadock of Panakos Law and Daniel Kaplan of Dan Kaplan Law have argued that any person looking at those websites could have recognized the actresses and caused whatever harassment occurred. Earlier Wednesday, Kaplan elicited from another plaintiff, known as Jane Doe No. 11, that she had entered a state beauty pageant after her video had gone public and had posted images of herself from the pageant plus her true name and city of residence to 3,000 Instagram followers.
Jane Doe No. 1, meanwhile, testified that she was trying to make ends meet as a part-time legal intern in Las Vegas during the summer of 2015 when she answered a modeling ad on Craigslist. A person who identified himself only as “Jonathan” offered $4,000 to film an adult video for an Australian collector. “He wouldn’t know my name, and I wouldn’t know his” she recalled hearing from Jonathan, whom she believes to be Andre Garcia, the male actor in the GirlsDoPorn videos.
Confidentiality was was critical to her, Doe said. She didn’t even want the makeup artist at the shoot to know they were filming an adult video. “As a law student, I know reputation is everything,” she said.
Chapin displayed a series of text messages between her and Jonathan. “Where does the footage end up?” Doe asks in one of the messages.
“I’d rather me explain over the phone,” Jonathan responds. “It’s more professional, and it’s easier.”
“I trusted him,” Doe said Wednesday. “We spoke several times over the phone. We shared the same concerns about confidentiality. I had no reason not to trust him.”
When Garcia’s image lingered on the courtroom monitor during the testimony following her identification of the man she knew as Jonathan, Doe had a request. “Can we take this off the screen? The pictures of Jonathan?” she asked. Chapin complied.
Jonathan also put Doe in touch with Kailyn Wright, who told Doe she’d worked with the company before and never had any problems. The plaintiffs contend that BLL paid Wright to lie about her experience. Another reference model, Amber Clark, has already testified that Garcia paid her to say that the videos would not be put online and would go only to private collectors.
Doe testified that she spoke with Wright via FaceTime for 20 or 30 minutes and said her reassurances had a “massive” impact. “Although I felt I knew Jonathan well because I talked to him a lot, this is someone who’d actually done the shoot. [She] told me everything was legitimate.”
On a Monday in August 2015, Doe put in a full day at her law firm then flew to San Diego, where Garcia drove her to the Palomar Hotel. She testified that Garcia poured her Red Bull and vodka while they texted pictures of her in various outfits to a person she was told was BLL’s owner.
As the clock ticked toward midnight, videographer Matthew Wolfe began taping as Garcia handed her tax forms and other paper work and told her they “had to get going.” Garcia assured her that they’d already discussed everything in the contract.
“Why did you believe them?” Chapin asked.
“I had told them, ‘I was in law school, I was there studying,’ and I said, ‘no one can know about this,’” Doe said, her voice cracking. “Jonathan is sitting there, looking me in the eyes and saying, ‘No one ever would.’ And it was all a complete lie.”
While emotional on occasion, Doe also tended at times to get ahead of Chapin’s questions with her narrative, resulting in a few sustained objections. At one point Doe appeared to anticipate an objection for leading the witness, smiling and saying “yeah” as Enright sustained it.
Doe testified that she shot a follow-up solo scene in September for $1,200. She said videographer Wolfe tried to pay her only $1,000. When she insisted that Jonathan had promised her $1,200, Wolfe went to an ATM and produced the additional $200. Doe then filmed a three-way with BLL in October at the Coronado Island Marriott. She was told she would be paid $4,000 for that filming, but received only $3,000 up front. She was told BLL’s owner would not approve the final $1,000. She ended up receiving only an additional $200.
Doe testified that Jonathan had asked her to be a reference for other models. He offered her $50 to say the same thing as Wright. “It was worth it. Everything was confidential,” she said. Jonathan also offered her as much as $1,000 to recruit other models. She said she declined. “I didn’t want anyone knowing about it. Even for $1,000, it wasn’t worth it that one other person would know.”
Then later in October, she got a phone call from a person she was dating. He told her there was a sex video of her on GirlsDoPorn.com and that he was breaking up with her.
“I didn’t understand what was going on,” she said. She tried phoning, emailing and texting Garcia and Wolfe, but never got a response. She emailed an address on the GirlsDoPorn website, stating there was no consent to publish the video and threatening legal action within a week. She received a cease-and-desist letter from defense attorney Sadock.
She then retained John O’Brien of Stokes O’Brien, who is co-counsel to the plaintiffs at trial. O’Brien emailed a settlement demand in November, warning of an imminent lawsuit. Soon thereafter, Doe testified, her professors and students were being blanketed with harassing emails that included links to the video. One person wrote to a professor that she was advocating for prostitution and pornography and that the school needed better role models.
Doe said she had to work with the law school’s tech support to try to block ongoing “email blasts.” The experience left her feeling humiliated and “scared for my life.”
Because of the nature of the allegations, Enright has permitted the plaintiffs to pursue their case anonymously. From time to time, defense attorneys have inadvertently used a plaintiff’s true name in court, drawing an admonishment from Enright. On Wednesday, Jane Doe 1 at one point said her own surname out loud while reading from a trial exhibit. Enright ordered it stricken from the record.