LAS VEGAS (CN) - A celebrity surfer claims in court that Gawker Media defamed her on its Deadspin.com website, claiming she racked up $20,000 on someone else's credit card - and that the editor did it to help out a friend.
Hannah Cornett sued Gawker Media and its editor-in-chief A.J. Daulerio, in Clark County Court. She seeks punitive damages for defamation, privacy invasion and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage.
Cornett says in the complaint that the allegedly defamatory articles were published before Daulerio's friend sued her in a dispute over the $20,000, a lawsuit in which she claims she prevailed, two years later, in arbitration.
"Few publications better exemplify the demise of journalistic integrity in America than Gawker," Cornett says in her new lawsuit. "Through its publication, Deadspin.com, Gawker facilitated a series of fraudulent articles written by Gawker's editor-in-chief, defendant A.J. Daulerio, in an attempt to wreak havoc on Ms. Cornett's personal and professional life. The articles, published on September 15, September 16, September 20, and September 23, 2011, are absurdly grouped under the title, 'The Surfer Grifter' (hereinafter the 'Articles'). These articles falsely portray Ms. Cornett as a 'grifter', that is, someone who commits larceny through trickery.
"In actual fact, Ms. Cornett committed no crimes, and certainly did not commit larceny, and defendants fabricated that Ms. Cornett committed a crime, all without any investigation regarding whether a crime was even committed.
"Compounding its insults and injuries to Cornett, defendants then falsely reported that Ms. Cornett lied about her professional accomplishments."
Daulerio reported that Cornett used real estate mogul James Alesi's credit card without his permission at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, according to the complaint.
Alesi is not a party to the lawsuit. Cornet claims in the complaint that she "prevailed in an arbitration in the case of Alesi v Cornett
" on July 1, 2013.
"The finding of the arbitrator was that Cornett owed absolutely no monies to Alesi," the complaint states. "Thus, she could not have 'grifted' Alesi, because she did not owe Alesi any money."
Alesi filed his lawsuit against Cornett on Dec. 29, 2011, according to the Courthouse News database.
The CNS summary of that lawsuit, in Clark County Court, stated: "Conversion. Defendant, who came to stay at the Cosmopolitan from New York on plaintiff's dime, charged $20,000 worth of jewelry, clothes, liquor and other luxury items on plaintiff's credit card linked to the room."
In her new complaint, Cornett states: "The percipient witnesses from the Cosmopolitan Hotel - all of whom are located in Las Vegas, Nevada - will testify that there was no 'grifting' and that Alesi voluntarily assumed the bill for the hotel, and that the hotel charges were largely incurred not by Cornett but another woman in the room that Alesi had a relationship with. Thus, defendants' articles twisted the truth, acclaiming [sic] that Cornett had committed a crime (grifting aka larceny). In fact, Cornett prevailed in the civil action brought by Alesi, which confirmed that Cornett engaged in no such 'grifting,' larceny or otherwise. Rather, the claims were fabricated by Alesi, and also the defendants who published the false accusations."
Cornett claims that Daulerio had a motive for his alleged defamation.
"Cornett later determined that Gawker had abused its power as a 'media' outlet, because A.J. Daulerio, the author of these articles, was actually a friend of Alesi, and Daulerio wrote the false and defamatory articles about Cornett solely to help his friend Alesi. Specifically, Alesi wanted to pressure Cornett to pay Alesi's hotel bill, and the articles written for that nefarious purpose. Both Alesi and the defendants knew that Alesi was fully responsible for the hotel bill in question, but they believed that, through the publication of the defamatory articles, they could exert undue pressure on Cornett to force her pay a bill that she did not owe."
In addition to damages and punitive damages, Cornett demands a retraction and an apology.
She is represented by Airene Williamson with the Williamson Law Office, of Henderson, Nev.