|Monday, May 6
Updated: May 7, 7:09 PM ET
Woman claims 'Kournikova' photos are of her
By Darren Rovell
She's married, has a 2-year-old child and is suing for $10 million after Penthouse Magazine published topless photos of her in its June 2002 issue.
No, it's not Anna Kournikova.
The plaintiff is Judith E. Soltesz-Benetton, whose husband is the son of billionaire fashion designer Luciano Benetton. She claims it is her, and not the 20-year-old Russian tennis beauty, who was caught sunbathing sans her bikini top on a Miami beach.
The pictures are believed to have been taken about seven years ago, according to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in New York on Monday.
Tuesday, Penthouse apologized, saying: "We deeply regret this unintentional error and offer heartfelt apologies to both women."
In the statement, Penthouse said it had examined the purported images Kournikova in "painstaking detail" and received assurances from the photographer before deciding they were genuine.
"We were wrong," the magazine said. "In over 30 years of publishing this magazine, we have never made an error of anything approaching this magnitude."
The lawsuit also claims the plaintiff's pictures were used for advertising purposes in New York State, home of Penthouse's corporate parent, General Media Communications, and asks to "immediately recall all unsold copies of the June 2002 issue."
"We think this suit should be dismissed," Victor A. Kovner, the attorney representing Penthouse, told ESPN.com. "It wasn't an ad for anything. This was a newsworthy article and maybe there were wrong photos, but it was an honest mistake. We will go about correcting the wrong photos as any news organization would."
Soltesz-Benetton's attorney disagrees.
"It's only a newsworthy article if the picture has a relationship to the story, and there is no relationship between my client and the story of Anna Kournikova," said Judd Burstein, who recently won a $8 million judgment on behalf of English boxer Lennox Lewis. "The story is fictional as well because at the time the pictures were taken Anna Kournikova was only 13 or 14 years old."
On Monday afternoon, District Judge Denny Chin issued a temporarily injunction barring Penthouse from posting the "Kournikova" pictures on its Web site and prohibited the magazine from printing more copies of the issue.
The apology "is a month late and $10 million short," Burstein told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
A hearing on the preliminary injunction will be held on May 14.
David Schwab, a spokesman for Octagon, which represents Kournikova, said "Octagon is prepared to take action later this week on behalf of Miss Kournikova."
Soltesz-Benetton married Rocco Benetton in September 2001. The Benetton family has a combined net worth of $4.9 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.email@example.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.