NEW YORK — In early December, a federal judge lifted a temporary restraining order that halted distribution of Penthouse’s January issue featuring topless photos of Paula Jones, the woman who filed a sexual harassment suit against President Clinton in May.
After hearing the arguments of both Jones and the magazine, Judge Peter K. Leisure of the U.S. District Court in New York City denied Jones’ request for a preliminary injunction and vacated the temporary restraining order he had issued two days earlier.
“This court finds that the pictures in question have a relationship to the accompanying article and that the matter is in the public interest,” Judge Leisure said in his bench ruling.
At the time the temporary restraining order was issued, over 400,000 copies of the issue had already been sent to distributors and subscribers.
Jones’ lawyer, Joseph Cammarata, told the Associated Press that publishing the pictures taken in 1987 by a former boyfriend was an attempt to intimidate Jones. Cammarata argued before the court that use of the photos should be blocked based on a New York law requiring consent to use a person’s likeness for commercial purposes. Jones has also filed a $30 million lawsuit against the magazine.
Leisure sided with Penthouse lawyer Victor Kovner and several media organizations appearing as friends of the court, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which argued that an injunction against Penthouse would constitute an unconstitutional prior restraint of speech.
Leisure said the right to publish photos with a newsworthy article is not overcome just because an individual objects to them and claims they will cause irreparable harm.
Kovner told the AP that the pictures legitimately supported the article about Jones’ character and did not provide a distorted view of her.
Cammarata said he doubted he would appeal the ruling.
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