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Hypnotist Has Defamation Claim in Sex Case

PITTSBURGH (CN) - A woman who says her boss molested her under hypnosis cannot toss counterclaims that she defamed the executive by talking about the case to ABC News, a federal judge ruled.

Pressley Ridge Foundation chief executive B. Scott Finnell was found to have "adequately alleged in his counterclaim that the statements made in [an] ABC News internet article were false and defamatory and were released to the press with a malicious intention to harm," U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry wrote.

Susan Patroski's lawsuit, as reported first by Courthouse News Service, says she was hypnotized on what Finnel called a "magic couch" where he "stroked her breasts and 'repeatedly brought her to orgasm.'"

Patroski, a former Pressley Ridge employee, then went on to tell ABC News that Finnell sexually assaulted her.

"I kept thinking this can't be," she said, according to the ABC article. "He's my friend. ... Friends don't molest friends. They just don't."

Her lawsuit contends that several women may have been hypnotized and assaulted by Finnell, but Patroski reportedly "told ABCNews.com that she doesn't know how many [other female employees], if any, were sexually assaulted."

"I want him stopped," Patroski told ABCNews.com. "That's what I want. I could have gone away just quietly and just not said anything to anybody. ... I don't ever want someone else to have to go through this and to think to myself. ... I could have done something to stop this and I didn't."

In her lawsuit, Patroski also claimed that she heard "a clicking sound, which may have been a camera," leading her to fear that she could have been photographed while partially naked.

She told ABCNews.com that her "biggest concern is that if he took pictures, what did he do with them?" Patroski is quoted as saying, "Who's seen them, where are they?" regarding the alleged photographs.

"Finnell contends that Patroski made these accusations with malice and reckless disregard to the falsity of the accusations," McVerry explained.

Patroski tried to dismiss Finnell's counterclaim, but McVerry refused on Oct. 21.

Since the accusations Patroski made in the ABC News internet article do not appear in her original complaint, they do not qualify as privilege. "Statements imputing criminal conduct or business misconduct to another party, if proven to be false, are defamatory," McVerry wrote.

The court denied Patroski's motion and upheld Finnell's counterclaim, concluding that Finnell "stated a claim for relief which survives a motion to dismiss. The court, of course, makes no judgment as to whether Finnell will succeed on the merits."

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