Florida

'Revenge porn' suit involves a Florida college student, his fraternity and Stormy Daniels' lawyer

Stormy Daniel's lawyer Michael Avenatti is interviewed by reporters after his client received the key to the city in West Hollywood, California, on May 23, 2018. Avenatti is representing Arizona student Kathryn Novak in her suit against University of Central Florida student Brandon Simpson, Delta Sigma Phi and four of its fraternity members for allegedly sharing images of sexual encounters she had with Simpson when they were in a long-distance relationship.
Stormy Daniel's lawyer Michael Avenatti is interviewed by reporters after his client received the key to the city in West Hollywood, California, on May 23, 2018. Avenatti is representing Arizona student Kathryn Novak in her suit against University of Central Florida student Brandon Simpson, Delta Sigma Phi and four of its fraternity members for allegedly sharing images of sexual encounters she had with Simpson when they were in a long-distance relationship. Los Angeles Times/TNS

When a student at the University of Central Florida shared videos of sexual encounters he'd had with his girlfriend in a secret Facebook group, he unwittingly came to the attention of Michael Avenatti.

Avenatti is best known for representing the porn actress known as Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump.

The "revenge porn" suit was filed Wednesday to the U.S. District Court in Orlando by Kathryn Novak. She hired Avenatti to represent her.

Novak, who lives in Arizona, alleges that her ex-boyfriend Brandon Simpson, a UCF student, posted intimate video and photos of her to the private Facebook group, Dog Pound, in October 2017.

The couple were in a long-distance relationship from October to February 2018. According to the suit, they would see each other a couple times a month and communicate daily by text messaging. Their sexual encounters were consensual and private and mostly conducted at Simpson's apartment.

This is where, the suit alleges, Simpson captured video recordings of at least one of these encounters and Novak's face and nude body were readily identifiable. The suit calls the dissemination of the video and images "a form of 'revenge porn,' which is widely recognized as cyber-harrassment, that causes its victims significant psychological and other harm."

The suit is asking for an unspecified amount in damages, to be determined at trial.

Novak said that she found out in March that these images were shared in the secret Facebook Dog Pound group, which was set up as a private page and can not be searched for. But the site was accessible to Delta Sigma Phi fraternity members who were invited to join the page. She had seen someone's text message to Simpson that referenced a sex video.

The court document says that Simpson distributed one of these videos, named October Video in Novak's suit, to at least five members of Delta Sigma Phi, and that the video was viewed during the fraternity's chapter meeting at the frat house on the UCF campus in Orlando.

More than 200 members of Delta Sigma Phi and UCF students ultimately received the October Video, the suit says.

"Delta Sigma Phi and University of Central Florida permitted a 'frat boy' culture to predominate with respect to Delta Sigma Phi and failed to reign in the excesses," the suit reads.

The university is not named in the suit but the fraternity and four men who viewed the video are named. These students, who all live in Orlando and were Delta Sigma Phi members, are Jacob Pelkey, Andre Perales, Jonathan Landrum and Matt Farley.

Avenatti said the four students are named in the suit because they are known to have viewed the video. "By engaging in the conduct ... [the] defendants acted with malice, fraud, and oppression and/or conscious disregard of [the] plaintiff's right, and well being," the suit reads.

In a statement, the University of Central Florida told CNN, “These allegations are contrary to our core values. Although UCF is not a party to the suit, we are gathering information.”

Delta Sigma Phi told the New York Times that it has suspended its chapter at UCF. "While we cannot comment on specific allegations made in the lawsuit, these claims are disturbing and antithetical to our organization's values and mission," the fraternity said in a statement.

Avenatti told the New York Times that the shared images of Novak were "devastating to her." He added, "The fact that you had a basically frat-boy atmosphere, both literally and figuratively, that was centered on the exploitation of women without their knowledge or consent is outrageous."

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