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Viral video of local Sikhs partying with sex workers in Costa Rica subject of lawsuit

By ThisIsReno

Multiple phones were recording video of members of Reno’s Sikh community frolicking in May with sex workers in Costa Rica. But only one person is being sued for sharing video of plaintiffs Ranbir Chhina, Navdeep Singh, Kewal Singh, Opinder Dhillon and Amandeep Singh engaging in “adult entertainment.”

Nic Palmer of the Laub & Laub law firm recently filed a lawsuit against Parminder Walia for sharing videos of the group partying with prostitutes in the Central American country. The plaintiffs are claiming an intrusion of privacy.

“The Plaintiffs are business owners and belong to the Sikh Community, which is a conservative religion,” Palmer wrote. “The Plaintiff [sic] have suffered social and financial consequences due to the Defendants actions of posting the videos online.”

One of the plaintiffs, Kewal Singh Sekhon, was president of Reno’s Sikh Temple. Another was a member, according to a court document in the case that cited an article by Rajan Zed in 2012 published on This Is Reno.

“I sent the videos to the group of ten Sikhs to show that American Sikhs, despite the conservative values of Sikhism, know how to party and have a good time,” Walia said in a sworn statement filed in Washoe County’s Second Judicial District Court.

The plaintiffs, however, claim Walia “recorded intimate images of the Plaintiffs and without their consent uploaded the videos to a social media app. The Defendant’s conduct of filming the Plaintiffs and uploading the videos to a social media app is highly offensive to the Plaintiffs as it would be to any reasonable person.”

Walia, through his attorney, disputed this characterization of what happened.

“Do they think that they can eat cake from a prostitute’s breasts, live-stream it across the globe, yet then claim that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy?” Walia’s attorney wrote in a court document filed yesterday. “Plaintiffs had no expectation of privacy in their conduct at the party or their association with prostitutes, and Walia did not in any way invade their privacy.”

Walia denied posting the videos to publicly accessible social media. He said, instead, he shared video footage with a group of 10 other Sikhs, none of whom live in the United States, in a WhatsApp group. 

It went viral from there.

“A bunch of guys picked up some hookers and had a party. Everyone pulled out their cameras and took video. Some excerpts went viral, and now some of the guys think they can put the genie back in the bottle by filing a frivolous lawsuit,”  Walia’s attorney, Marc Randazza, argued in a motion to dismiss the case under Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statutes. “The genie isn’t going back in the bottle any more than the frosting they ate off of the hookers’ breasts is going back on the cake.”

SLAPP, or strategic lawsuit against public participation, is when somebody or a group of people sue someone else for public speech. An anti-SLAPP motion can be filed in those cases.

The group of plaintiffs is seeking damages greater than $15,000 from Walia for “reprehensible conduct and outrageous behavior.” But Walia said members of the plaintiff party were also videotaping the group partying. 

“Walia and others present at the party, including Plaintiffs Ranbir Chhina and Opinder Dhillon, took out their phones to record the events,” Randazza wrote. “It was obvious that Walia and these others were recording the party, and at various points during the party, one or more Plaintiffs stared directly into these phone cameras.”

The plaintiffs claimed Walia set up the party, but Walia’s sworn declaration says otherwise: “It was Plaintiff Ranbir Chhina’s idea to hold the party at a condominium complex with prostitutes available for hire.”

Walia said the group is only suing him because the videos went viral, but the behavior documented is a matter of public interest.

“Despite hamming it up for the cameras and livestreaming the events, now Plaintiffs want to bankrupt Mr. Walia for showing a small group of people these videos, who then found them to be such a matter of public concern that they helped the videos go viral,” Randazza wrote. “As far as viral videos and party footage goes, this would not have even registered as a particularly notable weekday afternoon in Las Vegas. 

“However, this video became of quite widespread interest within the Sikh community,” he added. “Plaintiffs are now upset that their community (or maybe just their wives) found out that they were cavorting with prostitutes and using the prostitutes’ breasts as substitutes for dessert plates.”

Randazza also cited a research article called “Sikhism & The Crisis of Modernity – Extramarital Relationships” that notes, “Sikhism strictly prohibits the practice of illicit relations to protect the honour of women and to strengthen the foundations of the institution of family.”

Walia said that, given Sikhism’s conservatism, “Anyone in the Reno Sikh community would be extremely interested in, and offended by, prominent figures in that community hiring prostitutes, enjoying their services, and partying with them in various states of undress.”

If the anti-SLAPP motion in front of Judge Kathleen Drakulich is successful, the plaintiffs will have to pay Walia’s attorney fees and a $10,000 penalty. A counter claim could also be filed if Walia is successful.

Read the complaint and motion to dismiss

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