HONOLULU (CN) — A Honolulu-based birth supporter and maternity photographer suing a group of mothers and birth industry professionals for defamation said in court Friday he needed to pursue the case to get his life and reputation back after the defendants participated in a viral social media campaign calling him a “predatory pimp."
“What’s a man to do when he’s be dragged through the mud like this?” Danny Gallagher said.
Throughout the day, a steady trickle of observers moved in and out of the courtroom, most of them women associated with the birthing industry defendants. Outraged whispers rose up from the gallery several times as Gallagher gave his testimony.
Gallagher first brought a complaint in September 2018, claiming that a laundry list of defendants — many of whom work in the maternity and birthing industry — defamed him by engaging in social media activity that alleged he was luring women into participating in pregnancy-based sex work and engaging in other sexually inappropriate behavior with mothers and pregnant women. Gallagher’s complaint includes claims for libel and emotional distress.
The accusations against Gallagher first arose from interactions he had in various birthworker and women’s Facebook groups, causing several women to make posts warning women in the community about his alleged predatory behavior.
Female administrators of the Facebook groups established that he was allowed exclusive access to the groups after he had told them about his fiancée, who had committed suicide while carrying their twin daughters, igniting in him a passion for birthwork. The story was fabricated.
Gallagher claims in his suit that the accusations made against him ruined his personal and professional reputation and cost him future employment and income.
He testified in front of U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi that although he had talked about erotic pregnancy and breastfeeding content with women, those discussions were based only upon his media and marketing experience.
Gallagher’s attorney, Megan Kau asked him if he had ever lured women into creating erotic content.
“Did you force anyone? Did you make any promises? Did you ask for or make money from the images?” she asked.
Gallagher maintained that he had never engaged in any predatory behavior toward women or attempted to traffic women in the birthing and maternity community into sex work.
Posts made and shared from some of the defendants who accused Gallagher of being, among other things, “a predator that infiltrated the birthing world,"a “pimp,” and “broker” of women, began to spread through various online communities in 2017 and 2018.
Gallagher said he began to experience various medical and mental health issues and had lost significant business opportunities as both a doula and photographer when the accusations began to reach his contacts in Hawaii.
Eric Seitz, attorney for defendants Kate Pavlovsky, Anne Wallen aka Anne Croudace, and Jane Hopaki, asked Gallagher about his work as a doula and his affiliation with sex work.
“You don’t see conflict between these two?” Seitz asked.
“They’re both professional services.” Gallagher answered.
Seitz and the defense also raised questions about another 2018 lawsuit Gallagher filed against a former employer for wrongful termination that also claimed infliction of emotional distress, and called attention to his 2018 bankruptcy filing.
Complicated by the nature of social media, the lawsuit has gone through several iterations since its initial filing, with various dismissals and amendments made to add more defendants as posts about Gallagher went viral among birthing and mothers' Facebook groups. The case’s heavy social media involvement generated a witness list of women who interacted with the defamatory posts from locally in Hawaii, as well as on the mainland in Texas and Alabama, and even abroad in Australia and Germany.
Vivian Chau Best and Emilee Saldaya — both represented by Nadine Ando — Stephanie Byers and Bethany Kirillov, neither present and proceeding pro se, round out the list of defendants, which had at some point included 18 different entities and individuals.
Kobayashi granted summary judgment on Thursday to Best regarding sections of evidence where Gallagher interacted with her using an alias.
Testimony will continue on Monday and closing arguments are expected Tuesday.
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