Idaho drag performer awarded $1.1 million in defamation case in opposition to far-right blogger | EUROtoday

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A jury has awarded greater than $1.1 million to an Idaho drag performer who accused a far-right blogger of defaming him when she falsely claimed that he uncovered himself to a crowd, together with kids, throughout a Pride occasion in June 2022.

The Kootenai County District Court jury unanimously discovered Friday that Summer Bushnell defamed Post Falls resident Eric Posey when she posted a doctored video of his efficiency with a blurred spot that she claimed coated his “fully exposed genitals,” the Coeur D’Alene Press reported.

In actuality the unedited video confirmed no indecent publicity, and prosecutors declined to file fees.

“The judicial system did what needed to be done,” Posey mentioned after the decision.

Jurors awarded Posey $926,000 in compensatory damages for defamation. Because Posey proved that Bushnell knew her allegations had been false when she made them or that she made the accusations with reckless disregard for the reality, the jury awarded $250,000 in extra punitive damages.

Posey, who makes use of the stage title Mona Liza Million, carried out thrice on the Pride within the Park celebration carrying a long-sleeve leotard, black shorts and tights, with a shiny metallic boa round his waist. He didn’t take away clothes.

The Pride occasion made nationwide information on the time — not due to Posey’s performances, however as a result of 31 members of a white supremacist group known as Patriot Front had been arrested close by and charged with conspiracy to riot.

Bushnell posted a video that day of herself discussing the mass arrest in addition to footage from Posey’s efficiency.

“Why did no one arrest the man in a dress who flashed his genitalia to minors and people in the crowd?” she mentioned. “No one said anything about it, and there’s video. I’m going to put up a blurred video to prove it.”

The subsequent day Bushnell revealed the edited model of the video, which she obtained from a neighborhood videographer. It garnered many hundreds of views, sparking nationwide information protection and a police investigation. She instructed he had dedicated a felony and urged folks to name police and have him arrested.

Bushnell was expressionless as she hurried out of the courtroom Friday.

Her lawyer, Colton Boyles, informed jurors that his consumer’s allegations had been “close to the line” however not defamatory. He maintained that Bushnell’s “honest belief” was that Posey uncovered himself, although she admitted on the witness stand that she by no means noticed the “fully exposed genitals” she described to others.

After listening to the decision, Posey burst into tears and embraced his attorneys and buddies.

“The jury’s verdict demonstrates a clear message to this community that you have to be truthful,” mentioned Wendy J. Olson, one in all his attorneys.

Posey mentioned he has confronted loss of life threats and harassment, and the edited photographs turned the image of a nationwide motion in opposition to drag. Experts have warned that false rhetoric in opposition to drag queens and LGBTQ+ folks could inflame extremists.

Posey mentioned he has been helped by assist from his buddies.

“Imagine being in a dark hole where you have nobody and you felt the whole world turn their back on you,” he mentioned in courtroom Thursday. “But somehow, you were surrounded by warriors, true people of Idaho — not transplants, true people of this soil. I am fortunate to say I have people like that around me, people that lifted me up.”

The jury deliberated for about three and a half hours Friday after a five-day trial. Before returning the decision, jurors requested the courtroom if they may direct Bushnell to take down her posts about Posey and publicly apologize to him. First District Judge Ross Pittman, who presided over the trial, indicated they may not accomplish that.

As of Friday night, the movies remained on Bushnell’s web site and Facebook web page, the Coeur D’Alene press reported.

Following the decision, jurors approached Posey exterior the courthouse to shake his hand or hug him.

“I’m so sorry you went through this,” one informed him.

In a press release the North Idaho Pride Alliance, which organized the occasion the place Posey carried out, expressed gratitude to the jurors and affirmed its dedication to “ensuring the safety and well-being” of North Idaho’s LGBTQ+ group.