By Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4) – A Denver district court jury awarded a former escort $1.7 million in damages last month after concluding that one of her clients, a high end Denver attorney, was guilty of outrageous conduct and invading the woman’s privacy by “outing” her to her family, friends and colleagues.
“I just feel like this was the final battle and I won,” said Jerene Dildine, 44, who agreed to tell her story to CBS4 hoping it helps other women in similar situations. “I almost killed myself over being ashamed. I want other people to know you don’t have to die from shame.”
The attorney who was found liable in the Dildine case, Sean Saxon, told CBS4 he plans to appeal the jury verdict.
Dildine told her story to CBS4 in a series of interviews. She was a teacher working in area public school systems, primarily teaching Spanish. But in 2013, with fewer teaching hours, rising housing costs and a recent divorce that hurt her financially, she said she began searching Craigslist for part time work and decided to try bikini modeling to supplement her income. On one modeling job, she said the client asked her if she would exchange sex for money.
“I did it,” said Dildine. “And it was a very easy transition into that.”
Using an alias, she created a profile on a prostitution website 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. I had control over my life and I had options.”
In November of 2013, she was contacted through the website by Sean Saxon, a Denver attorney who specialized in drug and medical device litigation. He worked at a downtown Denver law firm. Although the relationship began as an escort-client relationship, within a short time it turned romantic.
“He was very charming. He was very curious and asked me a lot of questions,” said Dildine.
But Dildine said Saxon did not appreciate her continuing to work in the sex trade. She said he became angry and violent at times, and would threaten to expose her secret life.
“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 said the relationship with the married attorney alternated between loving and violent, with him psychologically abusing her and preying on her depression and self -esteem issues.
Dildine broke off the relationship and asked Saxon to leave her alone. She says he refused, continuing to stalk her and threaten her with exposure.
Eventually, Saxon followed through on his threats, sending 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 services.
He sent the same packet to her classmates and teacher at a Denver aesthetician school she attended, describing her as “a mid- level prostitute. I have attached her escort profile, some of her twitter posts, and some of the on- line reviews she has received for her activities,” wrote Saxon. “I should warn you that much of it is rather pathetically pornographic.”
Dildine says today, three years later, she can hardly fathom what Saxon did and how she felt at having her secret life exposed to family and friends.
“I felt like I was dying… that my life was over. I thought it was bad enough I should die from it. I thought it was too big to keep going.”
Dildine considered suicide.
Still, she said she just wanted Saxon to stop and leave her alone. She made contact with a Lakewood attorney, Tom Overton, who agreed to take her case.
“He outed her as an escort in the cruelest way possible,” said Overton. “Here was someone in a position of power taking advantage of someone who had issues that made her vulnerable.”
Overton helped Dildine file a grievance against Saxon’s law license and file a civil lawsuit against him for outrageous conduct and invasion of privacy.
“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,” said Overton, “All of us have the right to come before the courts and if someone has intentionally harmed us we can ask for them to be held responsible.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a police officer, a newspaper reporter, an escort; it doesn’t matter who you are or what your station in life is. The courts are open to all of us for that type of claim.”
Overton argued that even though Dildine was offering sex online, she did not use her real name and online photos of her did not reveal her face or her true identity. He calls what Saxon did a case of “revenge porn.”
Saxon argued that what he did was within part of his First Amendment right to free speech.
Last month, a Denver district court jury heard the evidence in the case and ordered Saxon to pay Dildine $700,000 in compensatory damages for what he had done and another $1 million in punitive damages. Saxon represented himself during the trial.
“It’s to punish him, but the message is this kind of behavior is not tolerated in our society,” said Overton. “It’s also a message to victims of domestic violence that they can stand up for themselves.”
Although he declined to be interviewed, Saxon told CBS4 in a written statement, “I am deeply sorry I became involved with Jerene Dildine, most of all because I betrayed my family. 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. 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 am appealing the jury’s decision. I do not believe that Ms. Dildine should be allowed to recover damages because of embarrassment over having her illegal conduct exposed.”
Dildine told CBS4 she really doesn’t care about the money — she just wanted Saxon to leave her life and leave her alone.
“You couldn’t have paid me that much money to go through what I went through for the three years that I did. I wouldn’t have taken it.”
She hopes her case sends a broader message about shame and the treatment of women.
“We have to stop standing by and letting it happen. Everyone needs to do something — everyone,” she said emphatically.
Dirdine said she still suffers from PTSD and is in therapy to deal with what Saxon did to her. But she is now running her own skin care business and says her life is improving.
Public records show that the State Supreme Court stripped Saxon of his license to practice law for three years and his former law firm fired him when they learned what he had done.