Court upholds $5M defamation ruling against former Miss Pennsylvania
A former beauty queen who gave up her Miss Pennsylvania title after claiming the pageant was rigged must pay $5 million in defamation damages to Donald Trump's Miss Universe Organization.
A federal judge in New York has upheld the 2012 ruling ordering 28-year-old Sheena Monnin to pay damages for defamatory comments she made about the organization.
Monnin resigned her Miss Pennsylvania crown last June, claiming that the finalists in the 2012 Miss USA pageant had been picked in advance of the live broadcast. An arbitrator last year found that the comments were false, malicious and harmful, and there was no way for the contest to have been rigged.
She challenged the $5 million award, saying the arbitrator exceeded his powers, she lacked notice of the arbitration hearing and there wasn't enough evidence to show that her statements cost Miss Universe Organization a potential 2013 sponsor.
"The Court does not take lightly that Monnin is compelled to pay what is a devastating monetary award," District Judge J. Paul Oetken wrote. But he added that "a court's role in reviewing an arbitration award is necessarily limited" and that sympathy "may play no role in a court's legal analysis, and here, the law is clear."
In a statement on her Facebook page Thursday, Monnin wrote: "This is not about me being a 'sore loser' or wanting my '15 minutes of fame.' This is about [Miss Universe Organization's] admission under oath that they manipulate the judges' results to suit their own ends. This is not what they advertise to the public."
In his 30-page opinion, Oetken affirmed arbitrator Theodore Katz's ruling that Monnin's remarks on Facebook and NBC's "Today" show caused the pageant to lose a $5 million fee from BP, a potential sponsor.
Katz called Monnin, of Cranberry Township in western Pennsylvania, a disgruntled contestant and noted that she objected to the organization's decision to allow transgendered competitors