CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A former Miss West Virginia has won a $7.2 million verdict against nine Internet companies and individuals who tried to sell pornographic videos they falsely claimed featured her.
A jury in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg on Wednesday ordered each defendant to pay Allison Williams $800,000 for damaging the 2003 beauty queen's reputation and invading her privacy.
"This had been a very long fight for her so this was a great victory for her," her attorney, Parween Mascari, said Thursday.
The videos, which surfaced in the fall of 2004, show a woman the Internet porn producers falsely claimed to be Williams engaged in sex in the back of a television news truck.
Williams, now 27, discovered the defamatory videos during her first semester of law school at West Virginia University while searching the Internet for a favorable newspaper article about herself to save for her scrapbook, Mascari said.
Williams has since graduated from law school and now works for a shipping company in Vienna, Va., while she prepares to pass the bar, Mascari said.
"I struggled every single day to maintain my law school studies, in the face of incredible stress and anxiety," Williams said in a prepared statement. "Still, I refused to allow these pornographers to control my dream to graduate from law school and realize my goals."
Williams originally sued 59 defendants in the United States, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Cayman Islands, Canada and South Africa that allegedly took part in distributing the videos. U.S. District Judge Irene M. Kelley dismissed 28 of those defendants, a decision Williams is appealing.
The nine defendants found liable during a bench trial are Castle Company Property Ltd., The Moles Trust, Russell M. Moles, Gwendoline E. Moles and Guy Blomberg, all of Australia; Vidbidness Inc. and Eric Ridley of California; and Etrax Productions and Ronald Yates of Texas.
They all chose not to participate in the trial nor have attorneys represent them.
Mascari said this has been a grueling experience for Williams, whose online presence is usually the first thing she has to address with people she meets, from potential employers to boyfriends.
The bogus videos also attracted a stalker who sent her thousands of disturbing letters, Mascari said.
"She's been living a nightmare," Mascari said. "This has been a really hard process for her, but she never gave up."
Williams now hopes the first thing that pops up on an Internet search of her name is news about her vindication.