(WOMENSENEWS)–A circuit court judge in Michigan dismissed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ford Motor Company, citing interviews with reporters in which the plaintiff and her lawyer discussed evidence that was part of the public record.
Circuit Court Judge William J. Giovan said the woman, Justine Maldonado, and her lawyer had discussed the 1995 conviction of defendant Daniel P. Bennett on charges of exposing himself to three young women, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The case was dismissed last week.
Though there was no order forbidding discussion of her case, Giovan said Maldonado and her lawyer broke Michigan law by publicizing a conviction that has been expunged and that they had discussed Bennett’s conviction to prejudice potential jurors. Bennett’s conviction was expunged from his record last year after meeting the state’s good-behavior requirements.
"The behavior in question has been intentional, premeditated and intransigent," Giovan wrote. "It was designed to reach the farthest boundaries of the public consciousness."
Maldonado, an inspector at the Ford assembly plant in Wixom, Mich., filed the lawsuit two years ago against Bennett and the company. She is one of four women who have sued Ford in cases that involved accusations against Bennett.
Maldonado contended that Bennett exposed himself to her, demanded oral sex and followed her home. A Ford investigation found that Maldonado’s accusations, and those of the other women, were without merit, company officials said.
Three of the suits have now been dismissed. Maldonado said she planned to appeal and another plaintiff already has.
"Women have the right to talk about abuse," said Miranda Massie, Maldonado’s lawyer. "That’s what this comes down to."