Cou­ple loses le­gal fight against wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher, or­dered to pay $1 mil­lion

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Avi Selk

An au­tumn af­fair at the Petroleum Club in down­town Dal­las, the union of a full-time beauty blog­ger and the love of her life, ap­peared to be a gor­geous thing — marred by one mis­for­tune.

Three months af­ter the cer­e­mony, in front of a lo­cal tele­vi­sion crew, An­drew and Neely Moldovan showed off a box of glum, empty pic­ture frames.

Their pho­tog­ra­pher was with­hold­ing the im­ages, they told NBC af­fil­i­ate KXAS in Jan­uary 2015, and was de­mand­ing an ex­tra $150 when they al­ready had paid thou­sands.

“It’s heart­break­ing, be­cause, you know, these are our mem­o­ries,” Neely Moldovan said. And many agreed. “Wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher holds cou­ple’s pic­tures hostage,” blared the Daily Mail a few days later.

The Moldovans’ sym­pa­thiz­ers de­scended on pho­tog­ra­pher An­drea Polito’s re­view pages, call­ing her a scam artist or worse.

Her rep­u­ta­tion was ru­ined; her busi­ness dried up. And she closed her stu­dio. Then the story changed. Polito sued the Moldovans, claim­ing all they ever had to do to get their glossies was fill out a form, choose op­tions for their wed­ding al­bum and pay a small charge they had long known about.

The pho­tog­ra­pher showed the court emails in which she and her em­ploy­ees tried to ap­pease the cou­ple — even as the Moldovans were call­ing re­porters, whip­ping up a furor on so­cial me­dia and plug­ging their new­found fame to fans of Neely Moldovan’s beauty blog, Polito said.

On Fri­day, a jury in Dal­las de­cided that the tale of the ran­somed wed­ding pho­tos was not heart­break­ing, and not even true.

In fact, the ju­rors con­cluded, the ac­cu­sa­tions amounted to ma­li­cious defama­tion for which the Moldovans should pay the pho­tog­ra­pher more than $1 mil­lion dam­ages.

The Moldovans haven’t com­mented on the ver­dict, which they can still chal­lenge.

Neely Moldovan did not men­tion it to her thou­sands of fol­low­ers in her lat­est blog post, which con­cerned post-preg­nancy pore trou­bles.

But Polito, who hopes the jury’s de­ci­sion will help her re­build a ru­ined ca­reer, was happy to share her ver­sion of the saga with The Wash­ing­ton Post.

The pho­tog­ra­pher had built her busi­ness — in­clud­ing a 300,000square-foot stu­dio in down­town Dal­las, with em­ploy­ees and con­trac­tors — largely on word of mouth, she told The Post.

“They can’t re­fer a bride when this is go­ing on,” she said.

She told the court that only two clients were will­ing to sign with her af­ter news sto­ries ran, and she had to shut her stu­dio down and start liv­ing off sav­ings.

It’s not cer­tain that Polito will ever see the $1 mil­lion. Her lawyer, Dave Wish­new, said he ex­pects the cou­ple to chal­lenge the ver­dict.

Pho­tos by An­drea Polito, via The Wash­ing­ton Post

A jury found that Neely and An­drew Moldovan had de­famed and dis­par­aged An­drea Polito, above, and her pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dio — and con­spired to do so.

Ju­rors con­cluded the Moldovans, shown on their wed­ding day, should pay Polito more than $1 mil­lion in dam­ages.

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