Porn Fraud Civil Trial to Continue Despite Criminal Charges

SAN DIEGO (CN) – The day after an online porn purveyor removed GirlsDoPorn’s videos and less than a week after federal prosecutors filed sex trafficking charges against its owners and operators, GirlsDoPorn lost a bid to stay the months-long civil trial brought by women who say they were duped to appear in its videos.

“I can’t see the benefit of staying this case for something I think was more than a specter on the horizon,” San Diego Superior Court Judge Kevin Enright said Tuesday in denying GirlsDoPorn’s request to pause the civil trial – now in its ninth week – until the criminal case is resolved.

Twenty-two women accuse GirlsDoPorn of lying to them by misrepresenting videos they shot for the company would only be sold overseas on DVDs or to private collectors. In reality, the flicks were posted on GirlsDoPorn’s subscription website and to some of the most trafficked websites in the world, including PornHub.

PornHub reportedly removed GirlsDoPorn’s videos from its website on Monday, according to Vice.

Last week, prosecutors filed sex trafficking charges against GirlsDoPorn’s owner Michael Pratt – who’s in his native New Zealand and is considered a fugitive – as well as videographer and GirlsDoToys co-owner Matthew Wolfe. Porn actor Ruben Andre Garcia and administrative assistant Valorie Moser are also named in the unsealed complaint.

All four defendants face up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine each if convicted on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

In court Tuesday, GirlsDoPorn’s attorney Daniel Kaplan pointed to the criminal case as the reason the ongoing civil trial needed to be paused.

“This case is being used as a direct conduit to the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office’s investigation,” Kaplan said, adding: “To be forced to participate in trial would violate our fiduciary duties to our clients. We don’t know if we’d be helping them or hurting them.”

Kaplan suggested staying the case for 120 days, but Enright said he didn’t see how things would “get better” by then.

“We’re all in civil world and don’t know what is going on in criminal world,” Enright said.

“I shouldn’t be making a decision this significant based on speculation,” he added.

Ed Chapin, attorney for the 22 Jane Does, disputed the attorneys on his team knew the FBI was investigating GirlsDoPorn. But he suggested Pratt’s disappearance shows he was “aware of potential criminal liability.”

“There is no better exhibit to his consciousness of guilt than the fact the he fled and is not subject to the jurisdiction of this court,” Chapin said, adding, “They’re still in business. They’re still doing the things they’re under indictment for and we’re suing them for.”

Enright said when balancing the interests of the parties he was concerned the impact staying the case could have on the injunctive relief the women are seeking to shut down the GirlsDoPorn website and get the rights to their videos.

Chapin confirmed some of the plaintiffs’ videos are still live on the website.

“These videos are still up. These poor women are still being harassed day in and day out. We need to get to the finish line in this case so they can sort out their lives,” Chapin said.

Across the street in federal court Tuesday, Wolfe appeared at a detention hearing in the sex trafficking case before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Lopez.

The videographer’s request to be released on $100,000 bond was denied, with Lopez expressing concerns about the “serious” allegations in the case, including witness intimidation.

Garcia is scheduled to appear for a detention hearing before Lopez on Thursday.

The civil trial is expected to continue this week.

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