As of April 1, 2011 two homeless residents, George Grayson and Kyle Shaw of St. Petersburg, Florida are suing J.P Florida Productions, its owner Jeffery Williams as well as six female employees of the production company which is responsible for the videos posted and sold on shefights.net. A temporary restraining order has been enacted and all eight defendants are each facing four charges including; violation of the Florida Hate Crimes Act, violation of the Civil Remedies for Criminal Practice, Battery and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.
NCH’s own AmeriCorps*Vista volunteer G.W. Rolle who is based in St. Petersburg noticed a large number of homeless men walking around with limps, black eyes and other visible wounds beginning early this year. After many inquiries he finally was told about a series of “beatdowns” being carried out by women associated with shefights.net. This company (J.P. Florida Productions) would recruit homeless men to participate in their fights after which they would be paid up to $50.00 for enduring the twelve minutes of non-stop beating by scantly clad women.
Several years ago, NCH mounted a campaign against a similar groups of videos that were released under the name, BumFights. These videos included homeless men beating each other up and performing dangerous stunts like banging their head through glass windows and going down stairs in a shopping cart. Rufus Hannah, now an NCH Speaker, and others who were compensated with a few dollars or a beer, suffered severe injuries as a result of the videos. In a 60 Minutes investigation in 2006, a link was made between the BumFights videos, and youth who were “copying” what they saw in the videos, leading to random violence against people who were homeless.
According to the defendant in the shefights.net case, the plaintiffs signed releases before they were beaten. However, neither Mr. Grayson nor Mr. Shaw ever had any knowledge that videos of the beatings were going to be posted or sold on the internet, in some cases for upwards of $600. Also the severity of the beatings was way beyond their expectations. During many of the beating the men were tied up, thus unable to fight back at all. Both plaintiffs have suffered severe injuries ranging from a dislocated jaw, to severe torso bruising to lacerations caused by whipping. Not to mention that after several of the beating the plaintiffs were never paid the money that they were promised.
According to an article published in the St. Petersburg Times on Tuesday April 12, the defendant, Mr. Williams, was quoted saying that he planned to counter sue claiming that the plaintiffs and their advocates lied and damaged his reputation. He also said “These men are crack addicts and will say anything for money.”
Legal counsel for Mr. Shaw and Mr. Grayson believe that the reason these men were targeted by shefights.net was because they were homeless and vulnerable. Hence, Section 775.085 Florida Statue also know has as the Hate Crimes Act has been invoked on behalf of the plaintiffs. A law that the National Coalition for the Homeless had a major hand in helping pass through the state legislature in the spring of 2010. This is the first time since October 1, 2010 when the act took effect that it has been invoked. Specifically the suit claims “Defendants chose to solicit, assault, and batter Plaintiffs because they were homeless, and Plaintiffs suffered injuries so severe as to evidence a hatred and contempt for people who are homeless.”
-Allison Sauls, Spring 2011 Intern