Juror to Drag Perfomer: 'Sorry You Went Through This'

Eric Posey wins $1.1M in defamation suit against blogger who falsely claimed he exposed himself
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 27, 2024 5:42 AM CDT
Drag Performer Wins $1.1M in Suit Against Far-Right Blogger
Eric Posey, of Post Falls, Idaho, embraces a supporter in court on Friday after a jury awarded him more than $1.1 million in damages in his defamation lawsuit against conservative blogger Summer Bushnell.   (Kaye Thornbrugh/Coeur D'Alene Press via AP)

A jury has awarded more than $1.1 million to an Idaho drag performer who accused a far-right blogger of defaming him when she falsely claimed that he exposed himself to a crowd during a Pride event in June 2022. The Kootenai County District Court jury unanimously found Friday that Summer Bushnell defamed Post Falls resident Eric Posey when she posted a doctored video of his performance with a blurred spot that she claimed covered his "fully exposed genitals," the Coeur D'Alene Press reported. In reality, the unedited video showed no indecent exposure, and prosecutors declined to file charges. "The judicial system did what needed to be done," Posey said after the verdict, per the AP. Jurors awarded Posey $926,000 in compensatory damages for defamation.

Because Posey proved that Bushnell knew her allegations were false when she made them or that she made the accusations with reckless disregard for the truth, the jury awarded $250,000 in additional punitive damages. Posey, who uses the stage name Mona Liza Million, performed three times at the "Pride in the Park" celebration wearing a long-sleeve leotard, black shorts, and tights, with a shiny metallic boa around his waist. He didn't remove clothing.

The Pride event made national news—not due to Posey's performance, but because 31 members of a white supremacist group called Patriot Front were arrested nearby and charged with conspiracy to riot. Bushnell posted a video that day of herself discussing the arrests, as well as footage from Posey's performance. "Why did no one arrest the man in a dress who flashed his genitalia to minors and people in the crowd?" she said. "No one said anything about it, and there's video. I'm going to put up a blurred video to prove it." The next day, Bushnell published the edited version of the video, which she got from a local videographer.

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It garnered thousands of views, sparking national news coverage and a police investigation. She suggested Posey had committed a felony and urged people to call for his arrest. Her attorney told jurors his client's allegations were "close to the line" but not defamatory, maintaining Bushnell's "honest belief" was that Posey exposed himself, though she testified she never saw the "fully exposed genitals" she described to others. Posey said he has faced death threats and harassment, and the edited images became the symbol of a national movement against drag. Following the verdict, jurors approached Posey outside the courthouse to shake his hand or hug him. "I'm so sorry you went through this," one told him. (More drag queens stories.)

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