A judge ordered former congresswoman Katie Hill Tuesday to pay nearly $30,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs to a radio show host even though Hill dropped him as a defendant in her revenge porn lawsuit before his motion to dismiss could be heard.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco finalized a tentative ruling she issued Monday in favor of granting the fees to Joseph Messina, the host of “The Real Side” radio show. The judge was scheduled to hear arguments Tuesday before handing down a final decision, but none was offered by either side.
Hill sued her ex-husband, Kenneth Heslep, along with Messina, the Daily Mail, Salem Media Group, owners of the conservative blog RedState.com, and reporter Jennifer Van Laar on Dec. 22, alleging nude photos of her were published without her permission.
The 33-year-old Democrat alleged that after receiving explicit photographs of her, Messina failed to report them to law enforcement and then told the public about their content. Hill maintained the actions were part of a conspiracy to commit a violation of California’s revenge porn law.
Messina filed a motion to dismiss the part of the case against him on free-speech grounds on Feb. 4, but before the motion could be heard on March 11, Hill’s attorneys removed Messina as a defendant on Feb. 26. Messina then filed a motion for attorneys’ fees and costs of about $37,585, but the judge said that amount was unreasonable because no novel issues were encountered. The judge said a fair award of attorneys’ fees and costs is about $29,905.
All of the other defendants except for Heslep won removal from the case on First Amendment grounds, but only after hearings were held. Van Laar is seeking more than $110,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs in a hearing scheduled May 26.
Hill resigned in 2019 after the nude photos were published and news emerged that she had a three-way relationship with her husband and a temporary campaign staffer. She was also accused of having an affair with a member of her congressional staff.
Hill publicly blamed her then-husband for the release of the photos. Speaking in Congress in 2019, she decried a “misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching.”
Hill and Heslep officially divorced in October.
The 25th Congressional District includes the Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, and portions of the northern San Fernando Valley and eastern Ventura County.
The seat had long been held by Republicans until Hill’s 2018 victory over then-Rep. Steve Knight. After Hill’s resignation, Republican Mike Garcia defeated Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith in a special election to fill the final 7 1/2 months of the term.
Garcia then beat Smith again by a close margin in November’s election for a full two-year term.