Man Says Tickling-Contest Film Defamed Him

     SALT LAKE CITY (CN) – The son of late legal giant George D’Amato claims in court that the indie film “Tickled” defamed him in its tale of “competitive endurance tickling.”
     David D’Amato filed a federal complaint on March 3 against MPI Media Group, Tickle Films, its directors and producers, and a former business partner.
     D’Amato, of New York, is the son of the late George D’Amato, a founder of the New York City firm D’Amato & Lynch, which specialized in insurance law. George D’Amato died in 2007.
     David D’Amato claims in the lawsuit that lead defendant David Farrier featured him in “Tickled,” which was screened on Jan. 28 this year at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah.
     Farrier, of New Zealand, specializes in reporting “the weird and bizarre side of life,” and initially focused “Tickled” on “competitive endurance tickling,” D’Amato says in the complaint.
     To uncover the identities of tickling competitors, D’Amato claims, Farrier shifted his focus “from explanatory to defamatory and expository endeavors.”
     Farrier co-directed “Tickled” with defendant Dylan Reeve, also of New Zealand, according to the complaint.
     D’Amato claims the film accused him of “ongoing criminal conduct,” including “pedophilia.”
     “The film claims D’Amato ‘had minors filmed being tickled and that he worked at 6 different schools in 6 years,’ thus falsely accusing plaintiff of abusing minors, pedophilia, child pornography and abuse of his students while employed by a school,” D’Amato says in the complaint. It adds: “D’Amato was never dismissed nor asked to leave from his school position for inappropriate behavior.”
     D’Amato pleaded guilty in 2001 to federal misdemeanor charges of computer fraud and abuse in Massachusetts. He indulged his online tickling fetish while working an assistant principal and director of guidance at West Hempstead High School in New York, according to a series of stories in the Philadelphia City Paper.
     A federal prosecutor claimed that D’Amato, under alter egos Terri DiSisto and Terri Tickle, harassed a student at Drexel University and tried to disable the school’s computer system, and also attacked computer systems at Suffolk University and James Madison University and sent “email bombs” to students, asking for tickling videos.
     In his new lawsuit, D’Amato claims his misdemeanors had no connection to pornography, pedophilia, abuse of minors or sexual deviance. The people being tickled were fully clothed, for instance.
     He claims the film accuses him of “being a child molester, abusing children, or harming children,” and referred repeatedly to his late father’s law firm.
     “The film accuses George G. D’Amato of using money and prestige to illicitly influence the outcome of a judicial court proceeding, thus falsely defaming the business reputation of the law firm, any trust established in George D’Amato’s name, plaintiff and the deceased,” the complaint states.
     He claims the film defamed him by saying he served time “in prison,” though he was sentenced to six months in a halfway house, and that it showed his name and a bank statement with a $30 million balance “and scribbled next to it the name of a George D’Amato Trust,” thereby falsely accusing him “of using family money to exploit young men and children.”
     Finally, the lawsuit states, the film ends by implying that he is “still shooting models” and “terrorizing young men.”
     In 2006, D’Amato sued present defendant David W. Starr in Manhattan Federal Court, seeking $20 million for defamation. A judge denied D’Amato’s request for a temporary restraining order in that case, which was transferred to California for lack of personal jurisdiction. D’Amato voluntarily dismissed that lawsuit in 2007 without prejudice. Starr appears in “Tickled,” according to the complaint.
     Reeve told Courthouse News on Friday that he was unaware of the allegations and declined comment.
     Farrier also declined comment.
     D’Amato did not respond to requests for comment.
     HBO holds U.S. television rights to “Tickled.” Magnolia Pictures acquired North American and international rights to the film, excluding Australia and New Zealand.
     They are not parties to the lawsuit.
     D’Amato seeks punitive damages for defamation and invasion of privacy.
     He is represented by Russell Gallian with Gallian Welker & Beckstrom, of St. George, Utah.

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