INDIANAPOLIS — Former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle’s legal attempt to shift the blame onto the parents of one of his child pornography victims for the girl’s emotional distress is a “bizarre” argument, one legal expert said Friday.
In a motion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, Fogle’s attorneys, Ron Elberger and Steven Groth, asked a federal judge to approve a third-party complaint to add the girl’s parents as defendants in the daughter’s suit, which seeks at least $300,000 in damages.
The filing argues that the parents of the girl — who unknowingly appeared in some of the child pornography that led to Fogle’s criminal conviction last year — are to blame for what it describes as her “destructive behaviors.”
It contends they fought and abused alcohol in front of her and may be liable for some or all of her claims Fogle faces in the suit, arguing that the family strife and their acrimonious divorce are among the causes of the girl’s distress.
It’s not particularly unusual for such third-party complaints to be filed in civil suits, and for attorneys to suggest that all of a particular victim’s alleged injuries may not have been caused by the defendant’s actions, said Harold J. Krent, dean of Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Institute of Technology.
But Krent said he’s puzzled by Fogle’s argument that the parent’s allegedly negligent supervision of the girl “caused her to suffer emotional distress and psychological injury,” as the court filing states.
Krent called that argument very unusual — even “bizarre” — because it suggests that somehow they were responsible for their daughter becoming a child porn victim.
“To suggest that negligent supervision of a child somehow led to these psychological damages, from being tricked into pornography, to becoming a child pornography victim, seems to me to be outlandish,” Krent said Friday. “That claim strikes me as being bizarre.”
He said Fogle’s attorneys want the girl’s parents added as defendants so that they “may share some of the fiscal responsibility” if any damages are awarded in the case.
M. Michael Stephenson, the attorney for the girl who is suing Fogle, has said his client suffered “significant emotional trauma” because of Fogle’s actions.
Stephenson declined to comment Friday on Fogle’s filing, saying only that “any statements will be filed in the federal court proceedings.”
Elberger, one of Fogle’s attorneys, also declined to comment Friday on the filing.
Fogle, a 39-year-old former suburban Indianapolis man, was sentenced in November to more than 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to distributing and receiving child pornography and traveling out of state to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor. Fogle has paid restitution to 14 victims, but they can still sue him for additional money.
Attorneys for the girl, who’s one of the 14 victims, filed a lawsuit in March against Fogle, the former head of his anti-obesity charity, Russell Taylor and Taylor’s wife.
Prosecutors said Taylor used cameras hidden in his Indianapolis-area homes to secretly film 12 minors and shared some of the images with Fogle. The pornography was produced over a four-year period. Fogle encouraged Taylor to continue filming children who were nude, changing clothes or engaged in other activities while visiting Taylor’s homes, prosecutors said.
Fogle paid $100,000 to each of a dozen victims, as well as two others he had sex with at New York City hotels. Both of those girls were under age 18 at the time, and Fogle paid them for sex, according to court documents.
Associated Press reporter Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed to this report.