Dec. 4, 2002 -- College athletes who became unwitting porn stars after hidden cameras taped them in locker rooms, showers and bathrooms have won a $506 million judgment against the Web sites that sold the video.
The suit was filed on behalf of 46 men, all former members of college football, wrestling and squash teams who were videotaped with hidden cameras during the late 1990s. The number of men whose privacy was violated on the tapes is probably closer to 1,000, but many of them probably do not even realize they appeared on the tapes, said Chicago attorney Cindy Fluxgold.
The multimillion-dollar default judgment — rendered as a result of the defendants' failure to respond to the complaint or appear in court — was registered Tuesday in the United States Federal Court in Chicago.
The decision grants each of the 46 athletes $1 million in compensatory damages and $10million in punitive damages. The remainder of the $506 million award will go to court costs and attorneys' fees.
The suit names Web site hosts based in Florida and California, which sold the illicit pornographic tapes bearing titles including Straight Off the Mats and Lockertime.
Close-up images on the tapes show the athletes undressing, showering and urinating in bathrooms.
According to one victim, referred to as "John" to protect his identity, the judgment cannot undo the mental anguish he's suffered.
"The ruling that was decided upon is not something that's really going to help erase this from my memory," "John" said. "What it will do, though, is bring some attention to the fact that behavior like this is unacceptable. People that involve themselves with businesses like this will be punished."
"I find myself being paranoid about being watched or videotaped," he added. "It's like a lifelong sickness. It will never go away. No matter what the settlement brings or how much time passes, it's not something that I ever … wanted to have as part of my life."
Property and Assets Seized
The judgment was entered against Franco Productions, Franko Productions, Rodco, Hidvidco, and HidVidCo-Atlas Video Release, AMOVideo, Atlas Video, Gamport/Earthlink, and individuals DanielFranco, George Jachem and R.D. Couture.
The District Court clerk's office said no attorneys had appearedon behalf of the defendants since at least 2000.
If the video companies do not have the financial means to pay the full amount of the judgment, James Branit, the plaintiffs' attorney, says he'll make every effort to collect as much as he can from them.
"That's to force a little empathy on these people, to impose on them the pain and punishment that they've inflicted on our clients," Branit said. "It's done in one of the only languages they apparently understand, which is money."
Victims and their attorneys are now seizing the defendants' properties and assets in Fort Myers, Fla., and San Diego, and Pasadena, Calif.