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Former Rep. Katie Hill is ordered to pay DailyMail.com's $105,000 legal fees after judge tossed suit

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco awarded Mail Media Inc. about $105,000 in legal fees Wednesday.
Disgraced former California Representative Katie Hill is ordered to pay DailyMail.com's $105,000 legal fees after judge tossed her lawsuit over article that revealed her 'throuple' with a campaign staffer
  • Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco awarded Mail Media Inc. about $105,000 in legal fees Wednesday
  • This take Hill's legal fees over the revenge porn suit soaring to around $220,000
  • The judge previously awarded $84,000 in attorney fees to RedState journalist Jennifer Van Laar and about $30,000 fees to radio producer Joseph Messina 
  • Hill, 33, filed a revenge porn lawsuit against ex-husband Kenneth Heslep, DailyMail.com, RedState and the two conservative journalists in December
  • It was dismissed on the grounds of public interest and First Amendment rights   
  • In October 2019 DailyMail.com published texts and photos showing Hill had been in a throuple with Heslep and 22-year-old staffer Morgan Desjardins 
  • The rising Democratic star resigned from Congress amid the scandal 

By Rachel Sharp For Dailymail.com

Published: 14:48 BST, 3 June 2021 | Updated: 15:13 BST, 3 June 2021

Former Rep. Katie Hill has been ordered to pay more than $100,000 in legal fees to DailyMail.com after a judge tossed her lawsuit over an article that revealed her 'throuple' with a campaign staffer.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco awarded Mail Media Inc., the parent company of DailyMail.com, about $105,000 Wednesday, taking Hill's legal fees over the revenge porn suit soaring to around $220,000.

The judge previously awarded about $84,000 in attorney fees to Jennifer Van Laar, managing editor of the conservative website RedState, and about $30,000 in attorney fees to radio producer Joseph Messina. 

Hill was once a rising star in the Democratic party before she fell from grace when her three-way relationship with her then-husband Kenneth Heslep and 22-year-old campaign staffer Morgan Desjardins was exposed. She was California's first openly-bisexual congressional lawmaker.

The 33-year-old filed an unsuccessful revenge porn lawsuit against Heslep, DailyMail.com, RedState and the two conservative journalists in December for publishing nude images of her showing the inappropriate tryst. 

The suit was dismissed in April on the grounds of public interest and First Amendment rights.    

Former Rep. Katie Hill has been ordered to pay more than $100,000 in legal fees to DailyMail.com after a judge tossed her lawsuit over an article that revealed her 'throuple' with a campaign staffer. Hill speaking at a press event with House Democrats in July 2019
Former Rep. Katie Hill has been ordered to pay more than $100,000 in legal fees to DailyMail.com after a judge tossed her lawsuit over an article that revealed her 'throuple' with a campaign staffer. Hill speaking at a press event with House Democrats in July 2019

Former Rep. Katie Hill has been ordered to pay more than $100,000 in legal fees to DailyMail.com after a judge tossed her lawsuit over an article that revealed her 'throuple' with a campaign staffer. Hill speaking at a press event with House Democrats in July 2019

Hill slammed Wednesday's ruling on Twitter raging that the justice system is 'broken'.

'A judge just ordered me to PAY the Daily Mail more than $100k for the privilege of them publishing nude photos of me obtained from an abuser,' she tweeted. 

'The justice system is broken for victims.' 

She also called on her social media followers to help fund her legal fees and to boycott DailyMail.com 

A spokeswoman for Hill told the Los Angeles Times the former lawmaker is planning to appeal the rulings that dismissed her suit.   

Krista Lee Baughman, an attorney for Van Laar and Messina, said the judge's decision showed that 'those who file speech-chilling [intimidation] lawsuits must pay the price.'

'If you have a problem with the way the Legislature wrote the revenge-porn statute, that needs to be addressed in the Legislature,' she said. 

'The court is duty-bound to follow the writing. In this case, the statute itself clearly had a public interest exception.'  

Hill was elected Democratic Representative for California's 25th congressional district in 2018, turning a historically red state blue and propelling her name into the spotlight. 

Hill slammed Wednesday's ruling on Twitter raging that the justice system is 'broken'
Hill slammed Wednesday's ruling on Twitter raging that the justice system is 'broken'

Hill slammed Wednesday's ruling on Twitter raging that the justice system is 'broken' 

In October 2019, DailyMail.com published texts and photographs showing the congresswoman had been in a three-way relationship with Heslep and Desjardins.   

Desjardins began working as a campaign staffer for Hill in 2017 and the trio embarked on their throuple soon after.

The affair broke down in the summer of 2019 when Hill told both her husband and her lover that she wanted to focus on her work.

The affair was first reported by RedState which also published allegations Hill had a separate affair with Graham Kelly, her male legislative director. 

A relationship between a congressional member and congressional staffer is a violation of House rules. 

DailyMail.com and Red State published intimate photos depicting the throuple between Hill, Heslep and Desjardin.

In one, Hill was seen naked brushing Desjardin's hair during a trip the three took to Alaska.

Hill was once a rising star in the Democratic party before she fell from grace when her three-way relationship with her then-husband Kenneth Heslep and 22-year-old campaign staffer Morgan Desjardins was exposed (all three pictured together)
Hill was once a rising star in the Democratic party before she fell from grace when her three-way relationship with her then-husband Kenneth Heslep and 22-year-old campaign staffer Morgan Desjardins was exposed (all three pictured together)

Hill was once a rising star in the Democratic party before she fell from grace when her three-way relationship with her then-husband Kenneth Heslep and 22-year-old campaign staffer Morgan Desjardins was exposed (all three pictured together)

Hill with Heslep. The ex congresswoman filed an unsuccessful revenge porn lawsuit for publishing nude images of her showing the inappropriate tryst
Hill with Heslep. The ex congresswoman filed an unsuccessful revenge porn lawsuit for publishing nude images of her showing the inappropriate tryst

Hill with Heslep. The ex congresswoman filed an unsuccessful revenge porn lawsuit for publishing nude images of her showing the inappropriate tryst

The trip was allegedly funded using campaign finances.

Another photo showed a naked Hill holding a bong emblazoned with a skull and crossbones, while another showed her with a tattoo of an Iron Cross resembling a Nazi symbol on her bikini line. 

The scandal led the House Ethics Committee and the Federal Election Commission to launch investigations into the congresswoman.

Hill resigned from her position days later, with her seat later won by Republican Congressman Mike Garcia. 

She admitted to having an affair with Desjardin saying the relationship - also involving Heslep - occurred 'during the final tumultuous years of my abusive marriage.' 

Hill continues to deny the allegations of an affair with Kelly. 

Hill then filed a lawsuit in December accusing Mail Media Inc., Salem Media Group Inc., which owns RedState, Heslep, Van Laar and Messina of publishing 'nonconsensual porn' without her consent.  

She claimed the distribution and publication of the intimate images violated California's revenge-porn laws.

Orozco threw out the case in April, ruling that the articles and release of the photos were of 'compelling public interest' and protected by the First Amendment.

In one, Hill was seen naked brushing Desjardin's hair during a trip the three took to Alaska. Pictured the two women together
In one, Hill was seen naked brushing Desjardin's hair during a trip the three took to Alaska. Pictured the two women together

In one, Hill was seen naked brushing Desjardin's hair during a trip the three took to Alaska. Pictured the two women together  

Hill arriving at the Capitol in 2019. The suit was dismissed in April on the grounds of public interest and First Amendment rights
Hill arriving at the Capitol in 2019. The suit was dismissed in April on the grounds of public interest and First Amendment rights

Hill arriving at the Capitol in 2019. The suit was dismissed in April on the grounds of public interest and First Amendment rights

The judge said arguments by Hill's lawyers were 'unpersuasive.'

She added that DailyMail.com's stories about the former congresswoman were in the 'public interest' because they detailed her alleged affair with a campaign staffer.

The judge said there was a further public interest justification because Hill was pictured using drugs that were illegal at the time, and had exposed her iron cross crotch tattoo which 'resembled a white supremacy symbol that had become an issue during her congressional campaign.' 

'The photos show a sitting Congresswoman engaging in conduct some might consider highly inappropriate and perhaps unlawful, with one exhibiting Plaintiff's tattoo which looks similar to the symbols formerly used by white supremacists,' the ruling said.

'The facts of which these photos speak are about Plaintiff's character, judgment and qualifications for her congressional position. Of course, these are matters of public concern.'

Hill had dropped her claim against Messina earlier in the year.  

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