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N.Y. judge rules against former Miss PA in dispute with Donald Trump

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AP Photo/Miss Universe Organization | Darren Decker
In this photo provided by the Miss Universe Organization, former Miss Pennsylvania Sheena Monnin of Cranberry competes during the 2012 Miss USA show on May 30 in Las Vegas. Monnin resigned her crown in June, claiming the Miss USA contest is rigged. An arbitrator ruled she must pay billionaire Donald Trump, the pageant's owner, $5 million for defaming the Miss Universe Organization.

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By Bobby Kerlik
Thursday, July 4, 2013, 4:42 p.m.
 

A federal judge in New York has upheld a $5 million ruling against a Cranberry woman who resigned as Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012 because she claimed the Donald Trump-owned Miss USA pageant was rigged.

An arbitrator ruled in December that Sheena Monnin, 27, must pay billionaire Trump $5 million for comments she made that the winners of the 2012 Miss USA Pageant were picked in advance. Monnin failed to place in the top 15.

U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken on Tuesday upheld the arbitrator's ruling, writing in a 30-page opinion that “The Court does not take lightly that Monnin is compelled to pay what is a devastating monetary award. ... Sympathy, or apparent inequity, may play no role in a court's legal analysis.”

A statement on Monnin's Facebook page appeared Thursday.

“This is not about me being a ‘sore loser' or wanting my ‘15 minutes of fame.' This is about the (Miss Universe company) admission under oath that they manipulate the judges' results to suit their own ends. This is not what they advertise to the public,” the posting stated.

Michael D. Cohen, executive vice president and special counsel to Trump, said the judge took the matter seriously.

“We applaud the judge's very articulate 30-page decision and will pursue all rights available to Mr. Trump under the law,” Cohen said. “I respectfully disagree with every statement made by Ms. Monnin in her most recent posting. One would think she would be very mindful of any future comments in light of this most recent decision.”

The judge relied on arbitrator Theodore Katz's finding that Monnin's earlier comments on Facebook and NBC's “Today” show cost the pageant $5 million from BP, a potential 2013 sponsor.

The judge ripped Monnin's former attorney, Richard Klineburger III of Philadelphia, writing that “Monnin put her trust in her attorney, believing that he would represent her interests to the best of his ability throughout the Arbitration process. Unfortunately, Klineburger chose to ignore the responsibilities owed to his client, along with the ethical duties governing his profession.”

The judge said Klineburger repeatedly asserted that Monnin was not required to participate in the arbitration process and did not represent her in the process.

Klineburger could not be reached for comment.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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