Ex-Miss Pa. shocked by $5M ruling against her
By Bill Vidonic
Published: Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 10:58 p.m.
A Cranberry woman who resigned as Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012, claiming that the Miss USA pageant was rigged, said on Saturday she was stunned that an arbitrator ruled she had to pay billionaire Donald Trump $5 million for defaming the pageant organization.
“I was shocked that was ruled against me, frankly,” said Sheena Monnin, 27, in her first media interview since the judgment was announced on Tuesday.
She added that “the most logical course of action is to fight” the ruling, but she's considering her options.
Monnin wrote on her Facebook page Thursday that a clause in the Miss USA contract gives top pageant officials the power to pick the top five finalists and the winner. She said her father, Philip Monnin, only recently pointed it out to her.
“I was not aware of the clause in the Miss USA contract which says that the Miss Universe Organization, Donald Trump and others have the legal right to choose the top five and winner,” Monnin wrote. “This is irrespective of any publicized selection process.”
Michael Cohen, executive vice president and special counsel to Trump, said on Saturday that the clause is part of contracts signed by pageant contestants. He described it as a catch-all.
“It's protection for the Miss Universe pageant and its owners,” Cohen said. “It has never been used. The judge's decisions have never been overruled by Mr. Trump, NBC or the Miss Universe Organization.”
The Trump-owned Miss Universe Organization, which runs Miss USA, said on Saturday that Monnin's “blatant disregard of the truth is in direct contradiction to the person she is attempting to present to the public.”
“They're saying it's a blatant disregard of the truth, but the truth is right here in the contract,” Monnin said.
Monnin resigned the state crown on June 4 after making comments that winners of the Miss USA Pageant, held in May in Las Vegas, had been chosen in advance.
Monnin failed to place in the top 15.
Arbitrator Theodore H. Katz, a former U.S. District Court Magistrate, said in a ruling signed this month that the method for judging the pageant “precludes any reasonable possibility that the judging was rigged.”
He said Monnin was disgruntled about not making it past preliminary rounds and objected to the pageant's decision to allow transgender contestants.
According to Katz, Monnin's comments on Facebook and NBC's “Today” show cost the pageant $5 million from a potential 2013 sponsor.
Katz did not require Monnin to remove her online comments and found no evidence that she deliberately tried to destroy the pageant.
Cohen said the arbitrator's ruling, which he said is final, proved that the judges alone chose Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island as the winner. Cohen added that Monnin's comments come on the heels of Culpo being named Miss Universe on Wednesday.
Monnin said her attorney, Richard Klineburger of Philadephia, told her that she wasn't legally bound to participate in the arbitration process because she had resigned her crown, and she didn't participate because she wasn't aware arbitration was occuring.
She said she's looking for a new attorney.
Klineburger couldn't be reached for comment on Saturday.
Cohen said paperwork throughout the arbitration process was mailed directly to her home. He said Klineburger acknowledged in letters that he had spoken to Monnin about the arbitration.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
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