Defamation / Reputation
Johnson v. Steele
Closed Mixed Outcome
Global Freedom of Expression is an academic initiative and therefore, we encourage you to share and republish excerpts of our content so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and you respect the following policy:
Attribution, copyright, and license information for media used by Global Freedom of Expression is available on our Credits page.
A Los Angeles Court sentenced former playmate of the year Dani Mathers to 30 hours graffiti removal service and three years probation for invasion of privacy for “body-shaming” another gym goer in an online post. The judge rejected both Mathers’ request for a diversion in the case so she would not face charges on her criminal record case and her defense that the privacy law she was charged under was unconstitutionally ambiguous . The case was used by the California State to promote and pass Senate Bill 784, an amendment to Section 647 of the Penal Code, increasing fines for anyone taking clandestine nude or partially nude photos of individuals without their knowledge or consent and allowing victims to seek restitution if the images were posted online. The Bill passed shortly after Mathers’ sentencing.
“Global FoE could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about the case and additional material regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.”
Playboy model, Dani Mathers, posted a photo of a fellow patron of her gym, L.A. Fitness, on snapchat with the caption “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either.” The photo was taken in the shower area of a 70 year old woman. Mathers pleaded no contest to the offense of invasion of privacy, and was sentenced to 30 hours graffiti removal service and three years probation. LA Fitness also banned her from its gyms and described her behavior as “appalling.” Mathers lost her job as a local radio host. After the fallout, she issued an apology alleging that she only meant to send the photo to a friend and not share it with all her followers. Although she requested a diversion in the case so she would not face charges on her criminal record, the Judge denied the request.
Mathers pleaded no contest to misdemeanor invasion of privacy and was sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to complete 30 hours of graffiti removal service. If the case had gone to trial, the model could have faced up to six months in jail.
The Judge rejected Mathers’ allegation that the privacy law she was charged under was unconstitutionally ambiguous. The case was used as a conduit for the California Senate to pass Senate Bill 784, an amendment to Section 647 of the Penal Code, increasing fines for anyone taking nude or partially nude photos of individuals and allowing victims to seek restitution if the images were posted online. The Bill passed shortly after Mathers’ sentencing.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This case presents a mixed outcome giving more weight to the privacy rights of the woman whose photo was posted online than Dani Mathers’ right to expression.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.