When one New York woman allowed her financier husband to take some R-rated photos of her on their honeymoon, she probably never imagined that they would wind up in the hands of another woman. Or that they’d be the source of an alleged $2.5 million blackmail scheme.
Sandra Piedrabuena Abrams is the wife of Russell Abrams, the president of hedge fund Titan Capital.
Danielle Pecile is a former employee of Titan Capital and is suing Russell for sex discrimination.
Sandra claims that, during her employment with Titan, Danielle came into possession of a CD. This was no ordinary CD. No, Sandra claims that the CD contains semi-nude pictures of her that Russell took while the couple was on their honeymoon.
What’s more, Sandra alleges that Danielle attempted to use the CD to blackmail Russell into settling the sex discrimination case for $2.5 million.
Hmmm, sorta sounds like the plot to one of those cheesy soap operas that are being canceled right and left.
Anyhow, Sandra has sued Danielle in New York state court for conversion and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Now, Danielle wants to see what Sandra has on Facebook and her other social networking sites.
Of course, Danielle claims there may be relevant evidence on those sites. Sandra, on the other hand, probably thinks that Danielle is merely intent on causing more embarrassment.
Despite Sandra’s protests, the trial judge granted Danielle’s request and ordered Sandra to provide access to her social networking accounts in addition to her computer hard drive.
Tuesday, the New York Appellate Division stepped in and overturned the discovery order.
Apart from Sandra’s racy photos, the decision is not all that interesting because the state appeals court applied the rules of discovery in a rather straightforward manner to conclude that Danielle simply failed to justify the need for disclosure.
The court said that the trial judge “improvidently exercised its discretion in ordering [Sandra] to comply with the outstanding discovery demands. With respect to [Danielle's] demand for access to [Sandra's] social networking accounts, no showing has been made that ‘the method of discovery sought will result in the disclosure of relevant evidence or is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of information bearing on the claims.’…
“Because [Sandra] admits that she has copies of the photographs contained on the subject CD, [Danielle] has also failed to show that she needs access to [Sandra's] hard drive in order to defeat [Sandra's] conversion claim. Nor has [Danielle] shown that broad discovery concerning [Sandra's] finances, education, immigration status, and educational background is ‘material and necessary.’” (Abrams v. Pecile)
There doesn’t seem to be much good that will come out of this whole affair. But perhaps the case will give pause to all those who tend to forget that, once a photograph reaches the Internet, it is there forever.
– Pat Murphy