The case sparked national outrage when the 26-year-old man filed a defamation suit after his victim and her family called him a rapist on Facebook
A sex offender who sued his victim for $4m had his case thrown out in a California court on Monday, a decision advocates hope will discourage perpetrators from filing lawsuits that revictimize survivors.
Lang Her, 26, sparked national outrage when he filed a defamation claim against his 24-year-old victim Yee Xiong after he pleaded no contest to a felony assault charge, earning him one year behind bars.
Despite the plea deal and jail sentence, Her accused Xiong and her family of making false statements when they called him a rapist on Facebook. His defamation lawsuit is part of a growing number of high-profile legal complaints from men found guilty of sexual assault a trend that victims advocates fear could discourage survivors from speaking out.
Women who come forward and report these crimes have to know that they are not going to get sued, said McGregor Scott, who represented Xiong. I hope this sends a message that this is not going to be tolerated.
Xiong who has spoken publicly about her case and also released the impact statement she read in court told police that she woke in the early hours of 10 July 2012 to find Her pinning her down, according to court records. They were both University of California, Davis students at the time, and she said he sexually assaulted herin an off-campus apartment after a night of drinking.
Xiong ultimately endured two trials in the case, both of which ended in hung juries. In the second trial, 10 jurors voted to convict while two others both men voted not guilty, according to the Sacramento Bee. Lang Her subsequently pleaded no contest to assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, and a northern California judge sentenced him to a year in jail and five years of probation and also required him to register as a sex offender.
Just minutes after a sentencing hearing in July, Xiong was served with the defamation lawsuit.
It was astonishing, said Scott. This was all about causing her additional grief and causing her additional stress and revictimizing the victim for no purpose.
The complaint, which also named three of Xiongs siblings, said their Facebook posts labeling him a rapist had caused him mental and emotional distress and that he was seeking punitive damages of $4m.
Judge Stephen Berrier granted a motion for dismissal on Monday after Xiongs lawyers had argued that the social media posts were protected by the first amendment, Scott said. The judge also determined that Hers lawyers had failed to prove that they had enough evidence to take the case to trial.
Hers attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
Scott represented Xiong pro bono, but in dismissing the suit the judge also ruled that he was entitled to attorneys fees a critical factor in the decision that could deter others from taking similar measures, he said.
If youre going to bring these frivolous lawsuits, youre going to get hit in the pocketbook, said Scott, noting that he plans to donate any recovered fees to an organization that supports rape victims.
The dismissal comes one week after an embattled University of California, Berkeley professor at the center of three sexual harassment cases filed defamation lawsuits against the students he is accused of victimizing. Attorneys for the three women plan to make a similar free speech argument as Xiongs lawyers.
The rise in defamation claims comes at a time when survivors of sexual violence are increasingly turning to social media to name their perpetrators particularly when they feel colleges or courts have failed to protect victims.
At the sentencing hearing, Xiong addressed Her directly in her remarks, saying: Did you think I was going to stay quiet and let you get away with raping me? You really are the coward and fool that you know you are. Youre pathetic, desperate, and a monster.