LINCOLN, Neb. — The operator of MelissaMidwest.com yesterday filed a federal lawsuit against the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, Lincoln officials and others alleging that his constitutional rights were violated when his liquor license application for a nightclub was rejected.
Shane Harrington's $27.5-million lawsuit at Omaha federal court complains that authorities spurned his request for the license because of his history operating adult entertainment websites, including the MelissaMidwest site.
Harrington said in the suit that the authorities went so far with a "witch hunt" against him because of his porn empire that they created "The Book" that included notations of surveillance "of not only plaintiff, but also his friends, family and associates over the past decade," since he founded his company MelTech Inc. in 2005.
"The Book," a comprehensive diary of Harrington's personal and business activities, was introduced at a liquor license hearing for Club Smooth, a property that Harrington acquired, according to the suit
At the hearing, the suit said, Lincoln's former police chief "falsely testified at plaintiff's hearing before the Lincoln City Council about how content posted on Plaintiff's site was illegal even though no content posted on plaintiff's website was in fact illegal; [his] false public proclamation contributed to plaintiff's denial of his liquor license application."
"During the hearing before the Nebraska Liquor Commission Control City, which lasted approximately three hours, defendants broadcast approximately 50 nude photographs of plaintiff's ex-wife [Melissa Midwest] to embarrass and harass Mr. Harrington, despite the fact that these photographs had nothing to do with obtaining a liquor license and despite the fact that they did not have legal authority or permission to broadcast these photographs to the public," the suit said.
Harrington was "abused, belittled, and demeaned for hours in a public forum when Defendants never had any intention of granting the license under any circumstances in the first place," said the suit, which cites Lincoln's "history of unconstitutional contact."
The plaintiff cites numerous violations in his suit including those to his First Amendment rights, due process violations and violations of equal protection. He also cites privacy violations, oppression under color of office, abuse of process under state law, tortious interference with a business relationship, defamation, invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress.
"After making this tremendous investment of time and money into the night club, defendants denied plaintiff a liquor license based upon arbitrary and unreasonable reasons through an unfair and unreasonable application process and hearing conducted by the city council whose decision was confirmed by the state Liquor Commission," said the suit, filed by New York attorney Evan Spencer.
MelissaMidwest.com, which made "millions of dollars in revenue from 2005 to 2009," the suit said, continues on to this day. The site, which closed its affiliate program — MelissaMoney — years ago, offers pictures of the namesake Midwest, some webcam offerings and links to other webcam communities.
She started her career in 2003 at age 21, and transitioned from online solo girl and girl/girl to hardcore boy/girl for DVD. Many promotions through the years included public nudity shots — one a wet T-shirt contest at a bar — mostly in and around Lincoln.
Harrington's suit seeks $2.5 million in damages, punitives in the amount of $25 million and attorneys fees.