The Ballet Photo-Sharing Scandal Enters a New Phase in Court


A woman’s lawsuit that once challenged the culture of the New York City Ballet withered last month when a judge dismissed the company and several other defendants from the case.

The plaintiff, Alexandra Waterbury, 23, had discovered in May 2018 that her boyfriend, a principal dancer with City Ballet, had shared explicit photos and videos of her with others affiliated with the company.

Her 2018 suit contended that City Ballet played a role in condoning a culture that enabled such “fraternity-like” behavior. The suit led to scrutiny of the company as well as disciplinary action against two dancers who had shared intimate images of women, though not of Ms. Waterbury.

Those disciplinary actions have since been reversed, and the lawsuit now has only a lone defendant, Chase Finlay, the ex-boyfriend whose sharing of photos led Ms. Waterbury to feel so personally betrayed.

But the dispute remains a bitter legal battle that intensified earlier this month when Mr. Finlay, 30, offered an expansive rebuttal to her charges in a court filing. In it, he acknowledges sharing the photos but asserts that it was he who had been the victim of abuse at the hands of Ms. Waterbury. He accuses her of hitting him multiple times during their relationship and of unlawfully viewing and taking screenshots of communications on his computer, which ultimately became the basis of her case against him.

“Plaintiff’s emotional instability resulted in extraordinary fits of jealousy that would evolve into paroxysmal, violent rages and repeated physical attacks upon Mr. Finlay,” the court filing said, “and efforts, furtive or otherwise, to monitor his online communications.”

Mr. Finlay left the company in the summer of 2018 and has not danced professionally since.

Ms. Waterbury’s lawyer said that they plan to appeal the judge’s decision. Mr. Finlay has already filed his own appeal in the hope that an appellate court will decide that the remaining claim against him should not stand.

That claim, as of now, asserts that Mr. Finlay’s dissemination of the photos and videos of her was unlawful.

Mr. Finlay’s counterclaims, filed on Oct. 16, seek to undermine Ms. Waterbury’s case. In court papers, his lawyers argue that she had consented to the images of her being taken. The papers cite a text message conversation between the two of them from 2017 in which they discussed intimate pictures of her.

Ms. Waterbury’s lawyer, Jordan K. Merson, has said in court papers that, while Ms. Waterbury knew of the intimate photos taken early in their relationship, she had asked Mr. Finlay to delete them. Mr. Merson said in a statement that the photos and videos at the center of the lawsuit are different than the ones Ms. Waterbury believes Mr. Finlay is referring to in the new court filing. The photos that are the subject of her complaint were taken without her consent, Mr. Merson said.

Mr. Finlay’s court papers present Ms. Waterbury as a person who acted out of jealousy to unlawfully access and capture material on his computer, some of which was unrelated to her. The material included evidence that he had shared her images with others. Ms. Waterbury said in court papers that Mr. Finlay’s text messages and emails popped up on his computer when she logged on to check her email — as, she said, he had allowed her to do in the past.

Mr. Finlay’s papers further accused her of engaging in a “public relations campaign” around the photo-sharing scandal that allowed her to “financially profit and promote herself,” including plans for a clothing company called Waterbury Wear.

Mr. Finlay’s lawyer declined an interview request on his behalf.

A lawyer for Ms. Waterbury did not make her available for an interview but said in a statement that the counterclaims are “categorically false, retaliatory and designed to try to discredit the victim and to try to distract from Mr. Finlay’s conduct.”

Ms. Waterbury’s remaining claim stems from a law passed by the New York City Council in 2017; it is often referred to as a “revenge porn law” because it bars the sharing of intimate images with an intention to cause harm.

At the core of Mr. Finlay’s defense is the argument that he never meant to cause Ms. Waterbury harm by sending the images to others; the law requires defendants to have intended to cause “economic, physical or substantial emotional harm.”

Mr. Finlay’s sole intent in sending the photos, the court filing says, was to “titillate” or to “brag” to his friends.

“Mr. Finlay was frequently under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance when he sent the photographs but the dissemination was never done with malice,” the court papers say.

In the decision last month that narrowed the case, the judge also dropped from Ms. Waterbury’s lawsuit two City Ballet principal dancers who participated in lewd text exchanges with Mr. Finlay that Ms. Waterbury discovered on his computer.


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