NASHVILLE, Tenn. – An attorney for sportscaster and TV personality Erin Andrews told a jury Tuesday that Andrews felt horror, shame and humiliation when she discovered that someone had secretly filmed her nude and posted the video on the Internet.
“She was so afraid,” attorney Randall Kinnard said in his opening statement in Andrews’ civil lawsuit against the hotel’s owner, its manager and the man who pleaded guilty to stalking her. Kinnard said Andrews began to ask herself, “ ‘Who did this? Who could have done this? Where did it happen? Is somebody trying to kill me? Is somebody going to kill me?’ ”
The FBI later stepped in and discovered that an insurance executive who lived in a Chicago suburb had made the 4 1/2-minute recording in the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University.
In 2009, Michael David Barrett pleaded guilty to renting hotel rooms next to Andrews in three cities, altering peepholes and secretly shooting nude videos of her in Nashville and Columbus, Ohio. He rented a hotel room in Milwaukee but was not able to shoot video in that city because he received an emergency phone call, an attorney told jurors. Barrett was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.
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Andrews filed a $75 million lawsuit against Barrett, West End Hotel Partners, which is the franchise owner of the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University, and Windsor Capital Group, which manages the hotel.
Jurors will have to decide whether the hotel companies were negligent and failed in their duty to keep Andrews safe. And they will have to determine just how much she suffered emotionally as a result of the Internet posting of the nude recordings.
Kinnard told jurors that employees at the Nashville hotel told Barrett that Andrews would be staying at the hotel on Sept. 4, 2008, and granted his request for an adjoining room.
Andrews worked for ESPN at the time and was in Nashville to cover a Vanderbilt football game for the network.
Kinnard said Barrett’s request should have been a red flag for employees.
After Barrett heard Andrews taking a shower, Kinnard said, he took his phone up to the peephole in her room and recorded the video of her after she got out.
An attorney for the hotel companies said what Barrett did to Andrews was terrible, but he alone should bear the blame.
Lawyer Marc Dedman said there was no evidence that the hotel deliberately placed Barrett next to her. He said Barrett was an insurance executive who traveled extensively and knew the hospitality system so well that he was able to use an in-house phone at the hotel to figure out where Andrews was staying and requested a room next to hers that was being cleaned.
“He deceived, he connived, he stalked – that’s what Mr. Barrett did,” Dedman told jurors.
Barrett, he said, had gotten himself in financial trouble and filmed the videos of Andrews to make money. He tried to sell the nude videos to TMZ, Dedman said, but the celebrity gossip website declined and Barrett posted the videos himself.
He said Barrett would not be present at the trial but jurors would see video testimony of the stalker.
Kinnard told jurors that the secret nude recordings are still online and that Andrews still gets taunted by people who say they have seen the footage.
As terrible as what happened was, Dedman said, evidence will show that Andrews has thrived in her career and cast doubt on whether she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the filming. Andrews now works for Fox Sports and as a host on the TV show “Dancing With the Stars.”