|Wednesday, December 4
Videos of male athletes were sold through Web sites
CHICAGO -- A federal judge has ordered eight companies and three people to pay $506 million to 46 male college athletes who were secretly videotaped in locker rooms, restrooms and showers.
The videotapes were sold through Internet sites advertising "hot younger dudes."
"We look at this judgment as the court system sending a signal to the sexual predators that they're not going to get away with this," said attorney Cindy Fluxgold, who represents several of the athletes.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles P. Kocoras' decision, handed down last week, grants each of the 46 plaintiffs $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages. The remainder of the $506 million award pays costs and attorneys' fees.
Kocoras also ordered the defendants to surrender the videotapes and get out of the business of making and selling them.
The tapes, with names such as "Straight Off the Mat" and "Voyeur Time," first came to light in April 1999, when the Chicago Tribune reported that hidden-camera videotapes, including footage taken during a 1995 wrestling tournament at Northwestern University, were being marketed online and by mail.
No criminal charges were filed. Illinois has since enacted a law making it illegal to secretly film anyone in locker rooms or bathrooms.
Fluxgold said Wednesday that the 46 unnamed plaintiffs represent a fraction of the men caught on tape, many of whom have not been identified. She said she didn't have an accurate count of how many athletes were videotaped, but that the number is "in the multiple hundreds of people."
The lawsuit alleged invasion of privacy, unlawful use of the plaintiffs' images for monetary gain, and mail and wire fraud under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
The plaintiffs, who were granted anonymity by the court, are described in the lawsuit as 28 "John Does" and "unknown Illinois State University football players."
The lawsuit says they are past or present athletes at Northwestern, Illinois, Illinois State, Eastern Illinois, Indiana, Penn, Iowa State and Michigan State.
Kocoras' judgment was entered against Franco Production, Franko Productions, Rodco, Hidvidco, Hidvidco-Atlas Video Release, AMO Video, Atlas Video, Gamport/Earthlink, and individuals Daniel Franco, George Jachem and R.D. Couture.
The District Court clerk's office said no attorneys had appeared on behalf of the defendants since at least 2000. No telephone numbers could immediately be found.
Two Internet service providers were dismissed from the lawsuit in 2000 after Kocoras ruled that they were immune from the lawsuit under a federal law that relieves ISPs of any liability for the words or actions of their customers.