Former Rep. Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce, announced on Tuesday that she was filing for bankruptcy protection as a result of the financial burden created by a court ruling last year ordering her to pay approximately $220,000 in attorneys’ fees and other expenses after the dismissal of her revenge porn lawsuit against defendants she accused of violating her privacy.
Hill had sued her ex-husband along with the Daily Mail, Redstate.com Managing Editor Jennifer Van Laar and radio show host Joe Messina — a member of the William S. Hart Union High School District board — over the publication of explicit images stemming from a personal relationship she and her husband shared with a campaign staffer before her election to Congress in 2018.
The images’ 2019 publication came just before the launching of a House Ethics Committee investigation into a separate allegation that Hill had violated House ethics rules by engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a congressional staffer. Hill resigned before the investigation could be completed.
The judge in the revenge porn case dismissed the lawsuit last year, ruling that the images “were a matter of ‘public issue or public interest’” because they “spoke to Hill’s character and qualifications for her position.”
After the case was dismissed, the judge ruled that Hill should pay attorneys’ fees and other expenses for the defendants. The Daily Mail was to receive $104,747.75, Van Laar was to receive $83,966.41 and Messina was to receive $29,906.44.
Hill announced her bankruptcy filing Tuesday via Twitter and said she got a personal look at how “victims of cyber exploitation are being let down by the legal system.”
“When a vengeful person, political opponents and a global tabloid conspired to take and publish naked photos of me — including those taken without my knowledge or consent — a judge ruled that my naked body was in the public interest, and that I had no right to hold accountable those responsible for this assault to my privacy and dignity,” wrote Hill.
Hill wrote that the judge’s order was what led to her “lasting financial repercussions” and called for the passing of federal cyber exploitation laws.
Van Laar responded on Twitter, saying, “There was no conspiracy, Katie. [Alex Thomas] made that up in the days after the story broke — and while you two were lovers,” wrote Van Laar.
Thomas is the father of Hill’s child and began dating Hill in late 2019 when he was covering Congress for Playboy magazine.
Van Laar also rejected Hill’s claim that the judge in the suit said “her naked body” was in the public interest. Instead, Van Laar said, the judge actually deemed the pictures as “evidence of a relationship” that was in the public interest.
Messina also responded to the news of Hill’s bankruptcy filing, saying that her lawsuit had no merit to begin with.
“I’m disappointed that she again chose to duck her responsibilities,” said Messina. “She knew that she had nothing, the judge awarded us legal fees because of that, and now we are stuck with bills we should have never had, but we are exploring other options, even maybe a challenge to the bankruptcy.”