Saturday, September 22, 2018
News Roundup

Woman behind 'attractive convict' mug shot sues for invasion of privacy

In the early hours of July 25, 2010, a Hillsborough jail deputy snapped a routine booking photo of Meagan Simmons, who had been arrested on a DUI charge. In the picture, her head appeared slightly and seductively cocked. Her hair, tousled just the right way. Her eyes, hazel and piercing.

The mug shot turned out like a glamor shot, and it launched a thousand memes. "Guilty of taking my breath away." "This is what a model inmate looks like." "Arrested for breaking and entering your heart." On countless websites, Simmons, 28, became known as the "attractive convict."

None of this escaped her notice. Last year, the mother of four from Zephyrhills tweeted "look who made the cut!" when her photo was part of an Inside Edition special about hot mug shots. She did interviews with the Huffington Post and the Daily Mail in April. There was even chatter she'd pose for Playboy if given the opportunity.

This week, however, she indicated she's had enough publicity. In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County, Simmons accused the background check website InstantCheckmate.com of using her picture for commercial and advertising purposes, without compensating her or even getting her permission.

Simmons declined to comment to the Tampa Bay Times and spoke through her attorney, Matthew Crist.

"At the end of the day, this is actually about intellectual property," Crist said. "If someone is going to use your image, they need to pay you for it."

He likened the issue to Colgate using Tom Cruise's image to sell toothpaste without his permission.

Interest in the photo simmered up in August 2012, when a compilation of images was posted to men's interest site the Chive under the headline: "Who knew mugshots could be so attractive." From there, Simmons' face made its way through various photo sharing sites. On April 3, a user named Vestra on Reddit posted her picture with the caption, "Can I have her cell number." Another user quickly followed with "I guess it's true, looks do kill." It went on from there.

Even today, Simmons has a strong social media presence — she has 1,182 Instagram followers and 2,434 Twitter followers. She told the Daily Mail last year she didn't much like the photo that has become so admired.

"I don't think it's that good a picture. There are other ones I would prefer," she said in the Daily Mail story.

So why does Simmons have an issue with the exposure now, when before she seemed to embrace it?

The distinction, Crist said, is that InstantCheckmate.com is using her image for obvious financial gain. The other pictures floating around are more for fun and enjoyment.

An InstantCheckmate.com ad attached to the lawsuit shows Simmons' photo with the caption "Sometimes the cute ones aren't that innocent." The Checkmate logo is displayed next to a button that says "check now."

InstantCheckmate.com did not return a call for comment.

In the suit, Simmons alleges the exposure has disturbed her peace of mind, invaded her privacy and caused her anguish. The suit seeks monetary damages and an injunction to prevent further use of her picture.

When asked how the situation caused her mental anguish, Crist said it was early in the lawsuit and the main point was that what InstantCheckmate.com was doing was illegal.

"The legal issue is it's your face, and your name. You own it," he said. "You can use it, you control it and when someone misappropriates it — that's when you're violating Florida law."

Comments
Pinellas Park man killed in rollover crash near Feather Sound

Pinellas Park man killed in rollover crash near Feather Sound

ST. PETERSBURG — A 47-year-old Pinellas Park man died Friday night after his pickup truck veered into oncoming traffic, rolled over and ejected him, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Troopers said the crash took place at 7:15 p.m. at Feather So...
Updated: 1 hour ago
USF’s Kitija Laksa begins play in FIBA Women’s World Cup

USF’s Kitija Laksa begins play in FIBA Women’s World Cup

Before resuming her assault on USF's record books, Kitija Laksa will try to make history with her homeland.A native of Riga, Latvia, Laksa begins play with her native country this morning in the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in Spain.Latvia is ma...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Football: Clearwater 34, Mitchell 7

Football: Clearwater 34, Mitchell 7

TRINITY — What at first looked like a defensive stalemate between Clearwater and Mitchell quickly turned into a rout.Clearwater had revenge on its mind Friday night after a 45-28 loss to Mitchell last year during the the regular seaso...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Football: Tampa Bay Tech 28, Hillsborough 27

Football: Tampa Bay Tech 28, Hillsborough 27

TAMPA — The decision was made as soon as Hillsborough got the ball back. Trailing by a touchdown with just over four minutes remaining against Tampa Bay Tech, the Terriers had the ball on their own 6-yard line.They hadn't been able to move the ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Football: Largo 35, Countryside 0

Football: Largo 35, Countryside 0

LARGO — The offense was relentless and merciless Friday night, but that has been the case a lot recently. Largo is scoring points in bunches and getting contributions from everyone. Add in a defense that has been smothering, as well as a special team...
Updated: 12 hours ago
How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

Active assailant. Run-hide-fight. Barricade the classroom. The language of preventing a shooting like the one this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is often filled with terms that can stir up fear in students, often out of necessity.But f...
Published: 09/22/18
Doby needed surgery. It cost $10,000. Twitter to the rescue.

Doby needed surgery. It cost $10,000. Twitter to the rescue.

Two full-time University of South Florida students found themselves with a $10,000 bill to keep their beloved mutt Doby alive. So they turned to the Internet.Twitter to the rescue — for once.It started Sept. 15, when USF student Sarah Marie Grassi le...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays bounce back big after a debacle

Rays bounce back big after a debacle

TORONTO — The way the Rays played Friday — all nine innings, lesson learned — in beating the Jays 11-3 provided the best answer on how, or even if, they could rebound from the crushing loss the night before that all but ended their ...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Football: Sickles 7, Freedom 3

TAMPA — Sickles needed a goal-line stand late in the fourth quarter to escape Freedom 7-3 on Homecoming and remain in the hunt for a Class 7A, District 8 title.Gryphons coach Patrick Murphy knew that facing the Patriots would be a battle. Freedom (1-...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Football: Armwood 24, Jefferson 14

SEFFNER — Armwood is becoming accustomed to winning close games.The Hawks fended off visiting Jefferson 24-14 in a defensive battle that featured a plethora of holding penalties in the second half.Armwood (3-1) earned two rushing touchdowns from juni...
Updated: 12 hours ago