Plaintiffs win settlement over online mugshot sites

Jan. 7, 2014 at 5:42 PM

TOLEDO, Ohio, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Three Ohio plaintiffs are claiming victory over Internet sites that charged them to remove criminal mugshots posted online for the world to see.

Three residents filed suit against multiple criminal mugshot sites in U.S. District Court in Toledo after websites found their mugshots in the public record and posted them online. None of the three was convicted of their charges but the photos remained online at Mugshots.com, BustedMugshots.com and MugshotsOnline.com.

The websites post the images online, then charge the subjects steep fees -- sometimes several hundred dollars -- to have them removed, the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported Tuesday.

Scott Ciolek, the Toledo attorney representing plaintiffs Debra Lashaway, Phillip Kaplan and Otha Randall, called the operation immoral but said his clients were glad one result of the settlement is their photos will be taken down.

"The real effect is that you're not going to find these mug shots in general online searches,'' Ciolek said. "What these companies did was wrong in charging to take down the photos.''

A lawyer for two of the websites, BustedMugshots.com and MugshotsOnline.com, said his clients agreed to pay $7,500 restitution to the plaintiffs in addition to taking down their photos. Also, the attorney said his clients have ended the practice of charging people to take down photos.

MugshotsOnline.com has since ceased publication.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in several other states but the Ohio case is the first to reach a settlement.

The largest of the three websites, Mugshots.com, was not party to the settlement. The website is run out of Belize and has no agent in Ohio, meaning the lawsuit couldn't be served.

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