Friday, September 14, 2012 6:50 AM PT
Actress Says Gawker Defamed Her
in 'Surfer Grifter' Story

     LOS ANGELES (CN) - An actress claims in court that gossip blog Gawker falsely portrayed her as a "surfer grifter" who went on a $20,000 shopping spree in Las Vegas with someone else's credit card.
     Hannah Cornett says the stories Gawker published on its sports website Deadspin.com, titled "Surfer Grifter: The Weird Tale of Hannah Cornett and Her $20K Vegas Hotel Bill," are "fictitious in nearly every respect" and were based on an unreliable source "with an ax to grind."
     That source was James Alesi, a friend of Cornett's former roommate, Carrie Cutler, according to the 10-page lawsuit in Superior Court.
     Cornett, an actress and self-described athlete and philanthropist, claims Alesi invited Cutler, his friend, to Las Vegas in May 2011, and Cornett "simply accompanied" Cutler on the trip.
     When they checked in to the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Cornett says she placed her personal credit card on file for incidentals. Alesi later replaced her card with his own credit card without telling her, the actress claims.
     "During their stay in Vegas, Alesi pursued Ms. Cutler and engaged in sexual relations with her, and afterwards pursued Ms. Cornett, only to be rebuffed," the lawsuit claims.
     Cutler confessed the sexual encounter to her boyfriend, "after which her boyfriend joined her in Las Vegas and the two amassed charges on Alesi's credit card which Ms. Cornett has been falsely accused of," the complaint states.
     Though Cornett acknowledges ordering a massage to her room, thinking her card was still on file, she claims that "[e]ssentially all other charges were done by Ms. Cutler and Ms. Cutler's boyfriend."
     According to the Deadspin article, by Gawker editor-in-chief A.J. Daulerio, the $20,626 bill for hotel "incidentals" included a $1,966 charge at the Sahra Spa, $3,013 at a gift and clothing store, and numerous minibar purchases, including several $30 bottles of champagne.
     Alesi told Gawker that Cornett signed for all the purchases, but Cornett says Cutler was staying in her hotel suite and "could have either signed Ms. Cornett's name or used defendant Alesi's express consent."
     She says the articles also falsely accused her of lying about her career as a pro surfer and about her first- and third-place finishes in two triathlons.
     Cornett says Gawker knowingly relied on a source "with an ax to grind," and published the articles "in an attempt to wreak havoc" on her life.
     "Gawker threw caution to the wind in its reckless pursuit for more hits on its website despite the fact that Alesi completely lacked credibility and was plainly biased," Cornett says.
     "Rather than contacting Ms. Cornett about the story, Gawker published reprehensible propaganda in the absence of any reputable evidence whatsoever to support, verify, or corroborate it," the complaint states.
     Cornett has appeared on the TV shows "Hawaii Five-O," "Reno 911!" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" according to IMDb.com.
     Cornett seeks actual and punitive damages for alleged defamation and false light invasion of privacy. She is representing herself in Superior Court.
     Deadspin, Daulerio and Cutler are not parties to the lawsuit.
     Neither Gawker Media nor a representative for Cornett immediately responded to emailed requests for comment.