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Ohio Man Sues Over Minor’s Access to SexSearch

Ohio Man Sues Over Minorâs Access to SexSearch
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XBIZ 360 - Jan. 13-16, Los Angeles
Wednesday, Apr 4, 2007    Text size: 
LAKEWOOD, Ohio — SexSearch.com has found itself on the legal defense after an Ohio man filed suit claiming the social networking company allowed him to chat online with a minor, later having sex with her.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo, Ohio, alleges that SexSearch, as well as its executives and partners, committed fraud, violated Ohio consumer laws and markets children to adults for sexual purposes, among other accusations.

Plaintiff’s counsel Dean Boland told XBIZ that the suit, which has 21 defendants represented by seven different law firms, could shake up the social networking industry, particularly companies that market specifically to adults.

“The whole industry is going to be rocked,” said Boland, referring to the online adult business. “There is no substantial age-verification system on any of these [social networking] sites.”

The man, whose name or age was not revealed in the complaint, said he was tricked into believing that the minor was in fact over the age 18 because she posted information that stated such and that SexSearch represented to him that it verifies the age of all members who use their site.

More than a month after having consensual intercourse with the minor at her home, the man was arrested and charged with a variety of charges of unlawful conduct with a minor, the complaint said. His criminal trial, where he could face up to 15 years in prison, has not yet commenced.

The 14-year-old minor, whose profile was active on SexSearch until it was removed by her parents, included her photo on the site, as well as listings that said she was looking for a “1 on 1 sexual encounter” and that her ideal match included her interest in a male “who can last for a long time.”

The suit’s long list of defendants include some well-known adult industry brand names in addition to SexSearch, including Playboy, Jenna Jameson, Club Jenna, Moniker Online Services, Manic Media and Stallion.com.

Also listed as defendants are SexSearch executives Ed Kunkel, Damian Cross and Adam Small, as well as SexSearch hosting company ExperiencedInternet.com.

Counsel for some of the defendants say, however, that the case is frivolous and without merit.

“My clients vigorously deny these claims and expect to prevail in court over these bogus charges,” attorney Michael D. Dortch told XBIZ.

Dortch, a Columbus, Ohio, attorney who represents seven of the defendants, including Kunkel and Small, would not further comment on the matter.

Los Angeles-based attorney Gary J. Kaufman, who represents hosting company ExperiencedInternet.com, told XBIZ that he too believes the complaint is unworthy.

“It’s clearly the case of a creative attorney who is trying to deflect blame from a client who faces a lot of years in jail,” Kaufman said. “We’re trying to bring this to a speedy conclusion.”

Boland, who represents the John Doe plaintiff, however disputes that the case is frivolous and that SexSearch had a duty to filter out participation with minors.

“When a person signs up for SexSearch, they are promised that they are dealing with an all-adult community,” Boland said. “There is a promise that everyone is 18. This is not eHarmony.

“Credit cards are not suitable to verify age,” said Boland, who is a noted child-porn defense attorney and digital images expert in Ohio.

The SexSearch complaint said that the minor, who is named as a Jane Roe in the filing, was allowed to access much of the site’s services, including a fetish room.

It also attempts to tie the company’s marketing efforts to individuals who want to gain access to teens. The complaint said the defendants operate sites such as Devirginized.com, FreenTender.com, YoungnTender.com, Orgasm.com, FreeTeenSlits.com and RawNudeTeens.com, among others.

Hollywood, Calif.-based SexSearch, on its website, claims more than 10 million members advertises it delivers “real people, real sex” on a geo-targeted basis.

The site has three levels of membership and charges up to $29.95 per month. Depending on the level, members can create profiles, upload pictures and video content, as well as access advanced search options and view online adult content.

The plaintiff has asked for unspecified and punitive damages in the suit, which was filed last month.

His attorney, Boland, also is asking for triple damages under the state’s Consumer Sales Practices Act and is seeking a restraining order to enjoin SexSearch from accepting Ohio members, as well as attorney fees.

Boland, who requested a jury in the federal case, said that the defendants may have a tough time getting a victory, particularly in Ohio.

“No jury of average intelligence in the Midwest will decide in their favor,” Boland said.

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