LOS ANGELES — Nikki Benz’s attorneys last week filed a motion to strike a defamation lawsuit waged by Tony T, arguing that tweets the porn star made were protected speech.
The libel suit arose after Benz, one of the leading stars in the adult entertainment industry, claimed in a series of tweets in December that she had been abused and that her consent had been violated repeatedly during a scene directed by Tony T.
Discovery hasn’t started yet in the case, but trial in the case could commence by early 2018.
Tony T’s suit targeted the adult film actress, as well as MindGeek along with its Brazzers division and 50 John Does, charging libel and infliction of emotional distress.
Tony T directed and produced two shoots involving Benz in December, according to the suit filed at Los Angeles Superior Court.
After the second shoot, Benz published an extensive social media feed alleging the assault and implicating Tony T by name.
Brazzers issued a statement after Benz’s allegations, saying that the company took immediate measures to sever its relationship with Tony T.
“Not only have we terminated all existing professional engagements with the producer but any possibility for any future endeavors with this producer have also been quashed," the company said at the time.
Later, Tony T filed suit alleging that MindGeek and Brazzers blacklisted him and casted additional aspersions within the industry that affected the ability for him to work.
In the motion to strike, Benz’s attorneys called Tony T’s filing “an illegal threat against a famous porn actress for protesting what she believed to be an on-set assault and battery.”
Benz's motion raises the legal theory that Tony T’s suit arose from protected speech and that his claims are in the anti-SLAPP category — designed to protect citizens from suits deemed as meeting the criteria for a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation). Defamation cases are common applications of the statute.
Her attorneys noted in the motion that Benz's alleged defamatory statements are not actionable because they were made in a public forum, that the message concerned an issue of public interest, and that Tony T can’t prove that her words were false or that she acted with actual malice. In addition, her attorneys claimed that Benz’s re-tweets by other commenters are not actionable under the First Amendment.
Benz’s attorneys also said that Tony T has failed to establish a probability of success on claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress, writing that the porn star’s behavior was neither extreme nor outrageous.
“The alleged defamatory statements on the internet constitute warnings of an abusive and violent work environment, much less negative yet truthful reviews of Tony T's work performance,” Benz’s attorneys wrote.
The motion to strike includes several declarations in support of Benz’s case, including one by male adult star VooDoo, who said that Tony T was “vicious and abusive” on the set in the past.
Voodoo, in the declaration, said that he walked off the set during a 2013 shoot directed by Tony T.
“I was too upset about the way Tony T had treated the actress,” VooDoo said in the declaration. “The actress could not stop crying because of the way Tony T. had berated her. I have never worked again with Tony T.”
Another declaration included Mona Wales testimony regarding a screening in early January held at XBIZ 2017. Industry attorney Karen Tynan, who represents Tony T, allowed select industry members at the conference to view raw footage of the shoot featuring Benz.
Benz also made a declaration in the motion to strike that describes the chain of events, as well as the aftermath. She noted that she has yet to cash the check Tony T gave her for the December shoot.
“Every statement that I posted on Twitter regarding my experience at the December 17, 2016, shoot I believed to be truthful and accurate at the time it was posted, and I continue to believe that each of my statements regarding the shoot or Tony T's action is truthful,” she said in the declaration. “I have not posted on Twitter or any other social media site that Tony T had raped me. I have not returned to work for Brazzers because I am traumatized from the incident.”
Tony T's suit seeks unspecified general, special and punitive damages, along with attorneys’ fees and court costs.
Pictured: Nikki Benz