A 19-year-old College of Charleston student has sued a man she got to know on Facebook and accused him of secretly filming them having sex, selling the video online and promoting it on Twitter.
A judge Tuesday ordered Harold “Tripp” Worthy, 26, to remove the video from the website that features people pleasuring themselves while chatting with paid users.
Worthy, an unemployed personal trainer who recently failed in his quest to become a contestant on the CBS reality series “Survivor,” is the focus of a criminal investigation in Lexington County, where he lives. He hasn’t been arrested.
The student, who was a freshman at the time, also is seeking monetary damages in a civil trial in Charleston.
“It’s very humiliating,” the student testified. “It’s something you don’t think is going to happen to you. It makes me sick to my stomach.”
During a brief interview, Worthy, who had a shoplifting arrest last year, denied surreptitiously filming himself having sex with the woman he pampered during an evening of partying on New Year’s Eve.
Such an accusation has become increasingly common as websites featuring amateur pornography, and the technology needed to produce it, grow more prevalent. Social media have played a role in attracting viewers.
The issue especially garners notoriety when it ensnares celebrities. This week, wrestling icon Hulk Hogan said he was embarrassed when, unbeknownst to him, a tape surfaced depicting a sexual affair he had years ago.
Doug Galluccio, an Internet crimes investigator with the Charleston Police Department, said adult websites catering to voyeurism have aided the rise of unwanted porn.
Creators’ motives include blackmail, sexual gratification and revenge. One of the first cases Galluccio handled, he said, resulted in the conviction of a man who posted images of his former girlfriend.
“People who do this don’t realize they’re leaving a digital footprint,” the detective said. “Any time you put something on the Internet and make it public, it’s going to lead back to somebody.”
The College of Charleston requires freshmen to undergo an orientation seminar that warns them of the Internet’s privacy threat.
“They do talk about sexual exploitation,” college spokesman Mike Robertson said. “They are told about electronic devices that could be hidden in areas considered private.”
In the recent case, the student claimed to be losing sleep over the film, and she dropped two classes.
She became aware of it, she said, on Sept. 25 when another alleged victim contacted her on Facebook. She was told that a Twitter user named Ian Atkinson — alleged to be an alias of Worthy’s — was posting about the video.
Incensed, the student’s boyfriend found and saved online pictures of the student. He also tracked down the video and purchased rights to view it for $44.99.
Saying he couldn’t afford an attorney, Worthy represented himself during Tuesday’s proceeding. He grew frustrated as the plaintiff’s attorney, Rutledge Young of Charleston, objected to his questioning, once dropping the legal book he was consulting to the defendant’s table.
During his own testimony, Worthy initially denied ever using an alias to post porn, but he stopped providing answers once Judge Stephanie McDonald informed him of his Fifth Amendment right to avoid incriminating questions.
He acknowledged being with the student Dec. 31. The two had communicated sporadically on Facebook and via text messages and telephone calls since she was a sophomore in high school.
But they met in person for the first time after Worthy invited the student to receive VIP treatment during a New Year’s Eve party at XS Nightlife in Columbia. They ate an expensive steak house dinner, then cut to the front of the line at the nightclub.
Worthy testified that he spent $1,500 on the evening. The student said she consumed five alcoholic drinks.
“He told me to order whatever,” she said. “It was on him.”
By 2 a.m., she was drunk and ready to leave, she testified, but she remembered nothing after that.
According to court documents, the two went to Worthy’s home in Cayce and had sex. The civil complaint alleges that Worthy never got permission to tape the encounter.
In the morning, the two awoke and ate brunch. Worthy checked the pressure on the student’s car tires and bought her gas before she drove home.
“He was a gentleman,” she said during testimony. “He was very sweet.”
The student contacted the police, who seized hard drives, a laptop, iPods, a cellphone and a media server from Worthy’s home.
It wasn’t immediately known Tuesday whether investigators had been in contact with other supposed victims.
The complaint alleges that Worthy “promotes himself (online) and his sexual exploitation of women in South Carolina through ... unauthorized and secret pornographic videos.” It mentions that photos of at least five women had been posted.
“Nothing is proved in any way,” Worthy said after Tuesday’s court hearing. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.