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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, February 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge concerned about restitution for Girls Do Porn victims

Dozens of women testified during Girls Do Porn actor Andre Garcia’s sentencing this summer about how he upended their lives. But only 17 women have sought compensation for health care, mental health and other expenses.

SAN DIEGO (CN) — Questioning the discrepancy between the dozens of women who spoke out during the human trafficking sentencing of Girls Do Porn actor Andre Garcia and only 17 victims listed as seeking compensation to cover medical and mental health expenses, a federal judge Friday asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to double-down on its victim outreach efforts.

“I’m so surprised at how few women are asking for restitution,” U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino said.

She added, “This was such a significant matter to so many people I want to be sure we can resolve it in such a fashion that is fair and comprehensive. I had a lot more than 17 women in here during sentencing.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra Foster said her office’s victim advocate had reached out to the women to inform them of their right to seek restitution.

While only 17 sought restitution for medical expenses, hundreds are seeking a court order granting them the rights to their porn videos, Foster said.

Such an order will enable them to force websites which continue publishing pirated versions of the videos to take them down.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is also seeking a restitution order from Sammartino divvying up Girls Do Porn’s $17 million estimated gross income among the victims, Foster said.

During Garcia’s sentencing hearing this summer women and their supporters packed the George W. Bush appointee’s courtroom to face Garcia and tell him directly how the convicted sex trafficker’s crimes had impacted their lives.

Garcia was the first employee of San Diego-based Girls Do Porn to plead guilty in a human trafficking case brought by federal prosecutors amidst a months-long civil contract fraud trial in state court.

He worked for the company from 2013 to 2019 and was identified in court documents as the lead recruiter, alongside Girls Do Porn owner Michael Pratt, who remains a fugitive.

The duo induced college-aged women to appear in their first porn flicks based on the representation the videos would be published on DVDs sold overseas.

But the films were posted on Girls Do Porn’s website, with clips — and sometimes full-length videos — posted on “tube” sites including PornHub, one of the most visited websites in the world.

The resulting fallout upended the young women’s lives. Some testified during the civil trial and Garcia’s sentencing they dropped out of school, developed addictions to alcohol or drugs or attempted to end their lives.

Which was why Sammartino was concerned Friday so few of them had filed documentation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to receive restitution.

Garcia’s attorney Jan Ronis had his own theory why the women hadn’t sought compensation.

“The prospect of everyone getting money is slim — perhaps some of these women have gotten disillusioned,” Ronis said.

He pointed out San Diego Superior Court Judge Kevin Enright had ruled in 22 Jane Does’ favor in the civil contract fraud case against Girls Do Porn nearly two years ago.

But the women have not received a penny of the $13 million in damages Enright awarded them.

Brian Holm, one of the Does’ attorneys in the civil fraud case, rejected Ronis’ theory in a phone interview with Courthouse News.

“Garcia already owes 22 of them in excess of $20 million,” Holm said, noting attorneys had also been awarded attorneys fees by Enright in the civil case.

Holm pointed out the 22 women in the civil case had also won the rights to their videos and could enforce take down notices when pirated copies of their porn videos resurface online or on search engines.

But many of the women have already spent money on counseling and in-patient hospital services recoverable through a restitution order, Holm added.

“The women aren’t really disillusioned by the court system. They prevailed in civil case and saw justice served in the criminal case where Garcia was sentenced to 20 years. If you asked them: ‘Does the criminal justice system work?’ I’d presume they’d all say yes,” Holm said.

The restitution hearing was continued to Dec. 10.

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