Welcome back to the case that poses the following legal questions, among others:
- Is it possible to have less than zero credibility, and
- What happens if both parties to a lawsuit suffer from that handicap?
I think the answer to the first question is yes — if a credibility level of zero means that no one believes anything you say, then negative credibility would mean that, just because you say something, people are more likely to believe the opposite is true. In legal terms, we would call that an inference or possibly a rebuttable presumption of falsity as to any fact to which the witness might testify.
The second question is harder, but it’s clearly at issue in the case filed on April 28 by Ashley Dupre (a.k.a. "Kristen") against "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis. Dupre’s allegation that she had no idea what "Girls Gone Wild" was all about did not really have the ring of truth, but then neither did Francis’s comment that he was shocked, shocked, to discover there was drinking going on and that he personally put Dupre on a bus home as soon as he learned this deeply disturbing fact.
At that point, it looked like this credibility battle was already at the Rocky-II–Finale stage, in which both fighters are laying on the canvas and neither one should get up but you figure one probably will at the end if only because Burgess Meredith won’t shut up otherwise. But the next day, Francis got in another punch. Late on Tuesday, April 29, he released a video that he said proved the falsity of Dupre’s allegations that she had not consented. Maybe — you be the judge:
Complaint, Paragraphs 13 and 14 (emphasis added):
13. At no time did Plaintiff consent to any use of her likeness or image in any manner or to be used for the advertisement or commercial gain of the Defendants.
14. It is the regular business practice of Defendants . . . to induce unsuspecting young girls to perform for their cameras.
Video released today:
Q: Do you know what "Girls Gone Wild" is?
A: [laughs] Yes, I do.
Q: Can I use this on "Girls Gone Wild"?
A: Of course you can.
The video also shows Dupre displaying a fake ID. That of course does not prove that Francis didn’t know he was dealing with underage girls, or that a 17-year-old’s consent would be legally valid. But it does tend to undermine Paragraphs 13 and 14.
Really, both parties ought to stand down at this point, before they reach critical mass and form a credibility black hole from which no truthful statement would ever be able to emerge. Though I’m concerned it may already be too late.