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Backlund v. Stone (CA. Ct. App.; Sept. 4, 2012)

Backlund v. Stone (CA. Ct. App.; Sept. 4, 2012)

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Court grants SLAPP motion and dismisses claims based on discussion of self-proclaimed extortion expert's threats to publish seminude photo of teen girl.
Court grants SLAPP motion and dismisses claims based on discussion of self-proclaimed extortion expert's threats to publish seminude photo of teen girl.

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Published by: Venkat Balasubramani on Sep 12, 2012
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09/12/2012

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Filed 9/4/12 Backlund v. Stone CA2/2
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL REPORTS
California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified forpublication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publicationor ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.
IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIASECOND APPELLATE DISTRICTDIVISION TWOALYSSA BACKLUND,Plaintiff, Cross-defendant andAppellant,v.CHRISTOPHER STONE,Defendant, Cross-complainant andRespondent.B235173(Los Angeles CountySuper. Ct. No. BC449910)APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County.Abraham Khan, Judge. Reversed and remanded.Law Offices of F. Edie Mermelstein, F. Edie Mermelstein for Plaintiff, Cross-defendant and Appellant.Miller Barondess, Erik Syverson, Vinay Kohli for Defendant, Cross-complainantand Respondent.___________________________________________________
 
 2An aspiring lawyer in his 30’s named Christopher Stone operated a website forteenagers on which he posted lewd photographs and other scandalous and salaciousmaterial. Stone presented himself in the mainstream media as an expert on the topic of “sextortion,” a form of blackmail characterized by threats to humiliate a person byposting nude photographs on the Internet. In February 2010, Stone tweeted a threat to“spam” a seminude photograph of a teenage girl; she was subsequently interviewed by aninvestigative reporter for an article about Stone’s threat to publicly humiliate her. Stonehas now sued the girl for defamation. Following de novo review, we direct the trial courtto strike Stone’s pleading as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP).(Code Civ. Proc., § 425.16.)
1
 
FACTS
 Backlund’s Complaint 
Alyssa Backlund filed suit against Christopher Stone and Stone’s website“StickyDrama.com” in November 2010. In November 2009, Stone posted a lewd imageof a minor female, with commentary that the image “appears to depict Alyssa MarieRobertson masturbating next to an infant. Such an act, in addition to being morallyrepugnant, probably violates several statutes pertaining to exposing children toobscenity.” Stone published plaintiff’s personal contact information with the image,which was viewed by thousands of people. Viewers posted comments of outrage anddisgust, referred to plaintiff as a “whore,” and contacted plaintiff directly via the link provided by Stone. Plaintiff is not the person depicted in the lewd image.Stone’s publication of an image falsely purporting to depict her in a lewd actexposed plaintiff to hatred, contempt, ridicule and disgrace. Backlund asserts causes of action for defamation and false light. Stone
admits
that he posted an image of amasturbating girl on StickyDrama, with plaintiff’s contact information.
1
All undesignated statutory references in this opinion are to the Code of CivilProcedure.
 
 3In February 2010, Stone obtained a topless photograph of plaintiff and sent her apublicly viewable “tweet” stating, “Message him again, and your floppy titties arespammed all over the place. Last warning.”
2
Stone’s threat and the seminude photo of plaintiff were accessible to anyone on the Internet. Plaintiff did not consent to disclosethe photo, and found the threat of public humiliation highly offensive. Plaintiff asserts acause of action for public disclosure of private facts based on Stone’s threat to spam thecompromising photo of her. Stone
admits
that he threatened to publicly expose theindecent photo of Backlund unless she stopped contacting his houseguest Tammen.Backlund’s complaint asserts that Stone filed a small claims action for defamationagainst her, but never served it. Stone urged his website followers to contact a televisioncompany to ask that he appear on the
 Judge Judy
show, so that Stone could participate ina segment involving his small claims case against Backlund. Backlund alleges that Stonefiled the small claims action for the purpose of harassing her.Stone moved to strike Backlund’s complaint as a SLAPP. He argued that hispublication of Backlund’s name, residential address, and a map to her home (inconnection with the publication of the lewd photograph) was not a public disclosure of private facts. At the same time, Stone conceded that a search of public records does notshow plaintiff’s residential address. Stone believed the lewd photograph depictedBacklund, so he included plaintiff’s name and contact information in his posting. Stonesubsequently realized that he was mistaken: the photograph actually depicts an underagegirl in Ohio, not plaintiff. He removed plaintiff’s personal contact link from thephotograph, and offered to post on StickyDrama the heading, “Alyssa Marie Buckland[
sic
] is Not the Most Vile Camwhore Alive.”The trial court denied defendant’s motion to strike Backlund’s complaint. It foundthat Stone’s Internet posting of child pornography is not protected free speech: section425.16 “does not apply to indisputably illegal communications that are inherently
2
“Him” refers to a friend of Stone’s named Parker Tammen.

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