Every Two Marriages May Fail, But Intimate Photos Last Forever

Every Two Marriages May Fail, But Intimate Photos Last Forever

A photo may be worth a thousand words, but that does not mean its clear and convincing evidence. While married the defendant took intimate photos and videos of the plaintiff. Upon divorce the plaintiff wanted to make sure those photos were not made public, so she got a court order forbidding them from being distributed. Now those photos and videos have reached the Internet and the plaintiff wants justice.

Claudia Spriggs and Thomas Davis ended their marriage in 2005. As part of the divorce decree, Davis was forbidden from sharing, showing or distributing any photos or videos he had of Spriggs. If Davis was at anytime found to have violated the order, he would face sanctions from the court.

A month after the divorce, Spriggs received emails containing links to adult websites that contained photos and videos of her. She originally did not know the source of the photos and videos, but eventually filed contempt charges against Davis, claiming he leaked the photos in violation of the court order.

As part of the discovery for the case the sides were ordered to produce every computer they had access to from 2003 to the time of the case. The production order was granted in June 2006, with instructions to comply within 10 days, Davis finally complied in May 2007. When Davis’ computers were finally reviewed there was evidence of an Evidence Eraser program on the computer.

Even with the delay in production and the showing of the Evidence Eraser program a Magistrate Judge held that Davis was not in contempt for distributing the photos and videos. Spriggs objected to the Magistrate’s ruling, but the trial court overruled her objection finding that “there was no clear and convincing evidence that [Davis] distributed photos of [Spriggs].” Spriggs appealed the decision.

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Thomas G. David v. Claudia Spriggs, the Ohio Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s decision. To prove civil contempt for violation of a court’s order the plaintiff needs to show by “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant did in fact violate the order. When the potential evidence is located on a computer, photos being posted on the Internet and evidence of an Evidence Eliminator program on the defendant’s computer are not enough to find contempt. Specifically as to the Evidence Eraser program, the court noted that “testimony was presented that it would not be unusual for someone in Davis’ line of work, who has sensitive information on his computer, to use this type of program on a regular basis.”

At this point the evidence Spriggs requires is probably lost in the ether, but as far as the courts are concerned, Davis is not to blame. In the future if Spriggs needs evidence from a computer she would do better to enforce evidence production deadlines in a timely matter and make sure that even if there is a viable reason for the existence of an Evidence Eraser program, it be turned off until all evidence is collected.

Michael Zoller received his B.A. in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. He is currently a third-year law student at Seton Hall University School of Law, he will be receiving is J.D. in May ’11.

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Comments (2):

  1. This case is flat-out shady. There must have been more to the case that was not reported in the opinion. For example, the judge has dealt with these two parties in the past and Spriggs is a disaster and completely ludicrous in court.
    How could a judge find that the most intimate pictures of a person could be released to the world and let the offender just cover it up…after repeatedly disregarding discovery requests?
    Sanctions are typically granted when a party is caught “red-handed” and this situation seems to merit just that. Well, maybe Davis got off easy since he has since passed.

  2. I agree that the finding is a bit ridiculous. If Mr. Davis was the only person with access to the photos and was specifically ordered not to disclose them a contempt finding would seem to follow automatically. The evidence eraser is further evidence that he had something to hide.

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