LOS ANGELES — Former congresswoman Katie Hill filed suit in Los Angeles Tuesday against her ex-husband and the owners of Redstate.com and the Daily Mail, saying they had distributed "nonconsensual porn" and arguing the media outlets did not have a "carte blanche right" under the First Amendment to "sexually degrade and expose public officials."
The 41-page lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages for emotional distress and violation of state law for distribution of intimate personal material without Hill's consent, lists as defendants Salem Media Group Inc., Mail Media, Inc., as well as writer Jennifer Van Laar, the deputy managing editor of Redstate.com whose work also has appeared in the Daily Mail, and Joseph Messina, the host of "The Real Side" Radio Show, as well as other unnamed individuals.
Hill’s suit alleges that her ex-husband, through the publications named in the suit, released private details as "a revenge vendetta," including what was described in the lawsuit as intimate text messages and "nonconsensual porn."
The legal action comes two weeks after a judge approved a temporary restraining order against Kenny Heslep, Hill's ex-husband, directing him to stay 100 yards away from his ex-wife, her relatives and pets. In seeking the order, Hill said she feared for her life and detailed 15 years of alleged abuse by Heslep, including accusations that he choked her unconscious, threatened her with a gun, abused her pets and released sexually explicit pictures of her.
The civil lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by attorneys Carrie Goldberg and Ashley Parris, goes further in targeting the media outlets that Hill alleges helped Heslep destroy her political career and continue to damage her reputation.
The TRO, they allege, triggered some of the defendants "to humiliate her further, harder, louder and more viciously; even publishing new naked images they know were taken and disseminated without Hill's consent."
On Dec. 11, three days after Hill obtained the TRO, the Daily Mail published an article that included a nude picture of Hill taken by Heslep.
The judge who approved the TRO is scheduled to hear arguments Dec. 30 that as part of the restraining order Heslep should be enjoined from disseminating "confidential information" about Hill to the media or the public.
"All Defendants knew or should have known that Hill had a reasonable expectation that the material would remain private," Hill's suit said, noting that 46 states and the District of Columbia have criminalized the dissemination nude or sexually graphic images, with six states saying it could allow for civil suits.
Hill, elected to represent California's 25th District in northern L.A. County in 2018, resigned from Congress in November 2019 amid reports about her personal life — including publication of nude photos — and an ethics investigation over an allegedly inappropriate relationship with a staffer.
On Oct. 18, 2019, Red State published the first in a series of articles that included pictures and intimate text messages followed by sexually graphic photos that also were published in the Daily Mail.
Red State continued to publish new material on an almost daily basis for two weeks until Hill stepped down.
Lawyers for the defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.