A judge Tuesday ordered Penthouse magazine and its publisher Robert Guccione to pay $4.06-million to a former "pet of the year" who charged that he used her as a virtual sex slave. State Judge Elliott Wilk ruled that Guccione made sexual demands on Marjorie Thoreson as a condition of employment at Penthouse, where she worked from 1973 to 1980.
"Sexual slavery was not part of her job description," Wilk said.
Guccione's "cold and calculating . . . use of sexual coercion forced her to safeguard her employment by sacrificing her body," which is a violation of state law, Wilk said.
Thoreson, now 37, sued Guccione for $10-million, alleging breach of contract, sexual harassment and fraud.
She testified during the March 1989 trial that Guccione forced her to perform hard-core sex acts in a pornographic movie and used her sexual favors as partial payment to furnish a hotel-casino he owned in Atlantic City.
She said Guccione also ordered her to carry on a sex affair with his financial adviser so he would move from England to the United States. She said she severed the relationship because it appeared the adviser was going to leave his wife and four children.
Her attorney, Murray Schwartz, said the ruling is "for all the women like her who may have suffered at the hands of Guccione. He has finally been held accountable."
Penthouse attorney Jeffrey Daichman labeled Thoreson a liar and said an appeal was expected. The ruling "read more like a political manifesto about the women's movement than an objective analysis of the evidence," he said.
Guccione said in a statement that Penthouse presented evidence to the judge showing that Thoreson "was a former prostitute, drug-abuser and three-time felon who had violated her probation."
At the trial, Guccione testified that Thoreson was a potential Marilyn Monroe whom he had rescued from a life of crime.