Early Verdict Comes Down Under Civil Revenge Porn Statute

Denver District Court judge rules in favor of plaintiff

A Denver judge earlier this month issued a ruling in what is believed to be the first verdict under Colorado’s civil revenge porn statute. 


After a bench trial in Denver District Court, the judge awarded nearly $39,000 to Kristina Hendershott — who has given permission for her name to be published — whose then-boyfriend, Eli Bowman, sent an explicit video of her engaging in a sex act with a third man to Hendershott’s then-husband, from whom she was separated. 

Colorado’s law passed in 2019 allows people to sue in court if they have been victimized by “revenge porn” — sharing of explicit photos or videos without the subject’s consent in order to harass or upset them. A plaintiff can request economic, non-economic and punitive damages along with attorney fees and costs. 

Hendershott’s attorney Malissa Williams of Marathon Law said the judge noted he did not find any other verdicts under the state civil revenge porn law. Colorado does have a criminal revenge porn statute, but she said criminal charges were not pursued in this case.

Williams said the total amount comprised $15,000 in non-economic damages for pain and suffering, $10,000 in exemplary damages and the rest for attorney fees, costs and prejudgment interest.

“Our client testified to how she was affected by the disclosure,” she said. “Any hope that she might’ve had to reconcile with her husband after the defendant disclosed that video basically evaporated, so the judge certainly took that into consideration.” She added the defendant’s malicious intent when he sent the explicit video also factored into the case. The complaint referenced an email from Bowman to Hendershott saying he “was just so hurt so bad, [he] overreacted, and it was an accident.”

Bowman is self-represented, and Williams said she believes it’s unlikely he will appeal the decision. She said that while the decision doesn’t have binding precedent value because it’s not an appellate decision, its status as likely the first verdict under the civil revenge porn statute could still mean it guides courts in future cases in determining damages for plaintiffs.

The judge also considered the breadth of the video’s dissemination, Williams said, adding that it was just sent to Hendershott’s then-husband and was not posted online. 

The complaint originally requested a jury trial, but Williams said delays to trials because of COVID-19 and concerns about the safety of assembling juries prompted the parties to go forward with a bench trial. 

“We are pleased that our client was able to receive some measure of justice for the nonconsensual disclosure of her most private and intimate of images,” said Marathon Law partner Jeff Dougan in a news release. “Typically, these types of cases settle out of court, so to take this one all the way to trial and win made this a special victory.”

—Julia Cardi

Previous articleElections Case Grows from Boulder’s Historic Housing Practices, Heads to Supreme Court
Next articleCourt Opinion- Aug 31, 2020

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here