By Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4) – A Denver judge has denied a request for a new trial from a lawyer who unmasked a Denver escort to her family, friends and colleagues.
In April, a Denver District Court jury ordered attorney Sean Saxon to pay $1.7 million in damages to a former escort, Jerene Dildine. The jury believed Saxon was guilty of outrageous conduct and invasion of privacy by outing Dildine in a form of “revenge porn.”
Saxon appealed, asking for a new trial based on what he argued were legal errors and irregularities during trial. He also asked for a reduction in damages. On June 8, Denver District court Judge J. Eric Elliff denied Saxon’s motion, essentially characterizing what Saxon had done as revenge porn.
“This problem is peculiar to our day and age, and has only come into prominence in the last several years,” wrote Elliff. “The jury’s punitive damages award in this case sends a clear message that such behavior is unacceptable and punishable to those who would engage in similar behavior. The growth in the disclosure of private photos, particularly of women, in order to shame, embarrass, or otherwise humiliate the victim as a result of a relationship gone sour has been well documented.”
Dildine was a teacher working in area public school systems, primarily teaching Spanish. But in 2013, she began searching Craigslist for part time work and tried bikini modeling. On one job she said the client offered her money for sex, and she agreed.
She soon created an online profile on a prostitution website using an alias and offering sex for $300 per hour.
“I had a lot of doctors, lawyers, professors, retirees, single people who didn’t have time to date. I liked it. It was very empowering,” said Dildine.
In late 2013, Saxon, a married Denver attorney, contacted her through the website. Although it began as a client- prostitute relationship, it soon turned romantic.
But Saxon was disappointed Dildine remained in the sex trade during their relationship and threatened to expose her secret life if she didn’t quit.
“He was very jealous even though he knew I had to keep doing it to pay for school and pay my bills. He hated what I did,” Dildine told CBS4.
When Dildine broke off the relationship, Saxon threatened extracted revenge by exposing her shadow life. He sent a letter to Dildine’s mother and father, brother and other relatives describing her life as a prostitute, including revealing sexual photos of her and online reviews of her sexual offerings.
He sent the same packet to her classmates and teacher at a Denver aesthetician school she attended.
Dildine considered suicide.
“I felt like I was dying … that my life was over. I thought it was too big to keep going.”
With the help of attorney Tom Overton, Dildine filed a civil lawsuit against Saxon claiming invasion of privacy and outrageous conduct. After hearing testimony, a jury sided with Dildine, awarding her $700,000 in compensatory damages and another $1 million in punitive damages.
Saxon argued that what he did was within his First Amendment rights.
“I profoundly regret much of the language I used in my communications when I exposed Ms. Dildine as a prostitute to people who know her,” said Saxon in a statement. “All the material I sent was true and was taken from Ms. Dildine’s own marketing materials that she placed on the internet and sent to her clients to promote her business. I do not believe that Ms. Dildine should be allowed to recover damages because of embarrassment over having her illegal conduct exposed.”
Dildine’s attorney, Tom Overton, said, “When you take private information and make it public to try to ruin her life, that’s an invasion of privacy. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your station in life is.”
In his ruling against Saxon, Elliff characterized Saxon’s behavior as “abusive and manipulative.” The Judge wrote that “…the amount of damages awarded by the jury was supported by clear and convincing evidence…the Court is not persuaded to reduce the punitive damages award.”
Overton said “The jury system works. Everyone is entitled to access to justice whatever their station in life. This was not a windfall to Jerene. The verdict was well reasoned and based on the harm inflicted by Saxon. The order denying post- trial relief really reflects this.”
Saxon said he plans to appeal the Judge’s ruling.
“I am disappointed that the judge failed to consider the central legal issue I raised or the proof that Ms. Dildine hid documents during the case and refused to provide evidence about her prior mental health treatment to the jury — either one of which I believe entitles me to a new trial. While I regret this unfortunate situation, neither the conduct of the trial nor the jury verdict are consistent with Colorado law. I will appeal the verdict.”