Sex Blogger 1st Amendment Case Moving Forward
The case could have far-reaching 1st Amendment implications for bloggers.
The defendant, Jennifer Cutler, worked in the office of Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, and operated the blog Washingtonienne, where she kept a running anonymous diary of her dalliances with a half dozen politicians and staffers, including attorney Robert Steinbuch.
Among the details of the affair Cutler revealed on the blog were that Steinbuch, who she referred to as RS, “likes spanking (both giving and receiving)” and had trouble maintaining an erection.
Steinbuch charges in his lawsuit that the use of his initials and description of his job made him “clearly identifiable” within Washington circles.
According to the suit, Cutler’s comments subjected Steinbuch to “humiliation and anguish beyond that which any reasonable person should be expected to bear in a decent, civilized society.”
The filing goes on to say, “It is one thing to be manipulated and used by a lover; it is another thing to be exposed to the world.”
Cutler’s lawyers had tried to get the case dismissed, arguing that Cutler had a right to publish her comments under the 1st Amendment and that Steinbuch had waited too long to file his suit.
While the court denied the motion, it said that Steinbuch should have take action against Cutler within a year of the postings. Since many of the comments were posted more than a year before Steinbuch filed suit, they will not be allowed as evidence.
As for the 1st Amendment implications, those will have to be worked out in court, where Steinbuch’s lawyer, Jonathan Rosen, plans to argue that the gross invasion of privacy and extreme mental anguish his client suffered outweigh Cutler’s right to free speech.
The case has adult industry ties.
Cutler’s sex diary first gained national attention last summer after it was featured on Washington gossip blog Wonkette, a member of the Gawker Media Group, which also owns popular porn blog Fleshbot.
After the Washingtonienne controversy broke, Cutler and Wonkette editor Ana Marie Cox were seen hitting the D.C. party circuit together, and photos of the two dancing and posing suggestively made their way onto the Internet.
Rumors also flew that Cutler had previously worked as a $400-an-hour escort. Late last year, Cutler posed nude for Playboy magazine for an undisclosed amount rumored to exceed $100,000. She also signed a book deal thought to have netted her an advance of around $300,000.
Cox, meanwhile, made a cottage industry of the scandal by making the late-night talking-head circuit. In one interview with Fox’s Tony Snow, she called Cutler “sick” and said she hoped Cutler would use whatever money she had made to seek psychiatric help.