Two years after a photo-sharing scandal involving explicit images rocked New York City Ballet, a judge has dismissed most of the legal claims made by the woman whose lawsuit started it all.
The woman, Alexandra Waterbury, had sued her ex-boyfriend, Chase Finlay, saying that he had sent sexually explicit photos and short videos of her, taken without her knowledge, to others affiliated with the company. Because Mr. Finlay had been a principal dancer at City Ballet, Ms. Waterbury also sued the company, as well as its affiliated academy, the School of American Ballet, which she had attended from 2013 to 2016.
Also listed as defendants in the lawsuit were two other principal dancers, Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro, who were not accused of sharing sexually explicit images of Ms. Waterbury but of other women affiliated with the company or school.
In a decision released late Friday night, Judge James Edward d’Auguste, of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, dismissed all claims against the ballet company and school, as well as those against Mr. Ramasar and Mr. Catazaro. The only legal claim that survived was one against Mr. Finlay that says he violated a city administrative code prohibiting unlawful disclosure of an intimate image.
“Mr. Finlay’s actions, as alleged, in secretly taking and then disclosing intimate images of Waterbury without her knowledge or consent, are deplorable,” Judge d’Auguste wrote, but he dismissed six out of seven of her claims against him, including assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
A lawyer for Ms. Waterbury, Jordan K. Merson, said in a statement that he disagreed with the court’s interpretation of the law in the decision.
“Ms. Waterbury will continue to fight to protect New Yorkers from going through what she has,” he said in the statement. Barring a successful appeal from Ms. Waterbury, the decision means that New York City Ballet, as well as Mr. Ramasar and Mr. Catazaro, has been removed as defendants from the lawsuit. Ms. Waterbury had blamed the company in her lawsuit for condoning a “fraternity-like atmosphere” that “permeates the Ballet and its dancers, and emboldens them to disregard the law and violate the basic rights of women.”
But because Ms. Waterbury was never a student or employee of City Ballet — and she was not a student at the school at the time of the “unconsented-to recordings” or text exchanges — the judge found that the company did not shirk responsibility and dismissed claims of negligence against it. The judge also said the plaintiff did not bring forward specific allegations that the company had reason to know its employees had a propensity for such behavior, rejecting Ms. Waterbury’s claims of negligent hiring and retention at City Ballet.
A spokesman for the company, Rob Daniels, said in a statement that City Ballet was “pleased that the court recognized that the company bears no responsibility in this matter.”
In 2018, as a result of the photo-sharing scandal, City Ballet fired both Mr. Ramasar and Mr. Catazaro. But the company was later ordered by an arbitrator to reverse the terminations; Mr. Ramasar returned as a principal dancer, but Mr. Catazaro decided not to rejoin the company.
The photo-sharing scandal, along with the retirement of Peter Martins, the company’s longtime leader, amid an investigation into reports of physical and emotional abuse (reports that he denied), helped spark a reassessment of the culture at City Ballet. Some women in the company made it clear to management that they would not be comfortable dancing with the men who were involved in the text exchanges, but in spring 2019, Mr. Ramasar was back onstage.
The claims against Mr. Ramasar resurfaced this year with the opening of “West Side Story” on Broadway, in which he played Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks. A group of protesters showed up outside the theater for several nights, demanding that Mr. Ramasar be fired from the show because of the sexual misconduct allegations against him. Mr. Ramasar’s girlfriend, Alexa Maxwell, a member of the corps de ballet at City Ballet who was the subject of the sexually explicit photos Mr. Ramasar had shared, defended his role in the show and said she had forgiven him.
In a statement sent through his lawyer, Mr. Ramasar, who also received explicit photos of Ms. Waterbury, said that he was grateful for the dismissal of Ms. Waterbury’s claims against him and that he was “looking forward to the future, having grown and learned from the past.”
Another defendant who was effectively dropped from the case by the judge’s decision was Jared Longhitano, who is described in Ms. Waterbury’s lawsuit as a junior board member at City Ballet. Her lawsuit said that Mr. Longhitano had participated in the exchange of “lewd, degrading and demeaning text messages about ballet dancers,” and that he once texted Mr. Finlay, “I bet we could tie some of them up and abuse them like farm animals.” The judge dismissed Ms. Waterbury’s claim of negligence against him.
Mr. Longhitano said in a brief phone interview that he was “satisfied with the decision and was looking forward to moving on.”
The surviving claim against Mr. Finlay, who resigned from the company before Ms. Waterbury filed her lawsuit, relates to a city law that made it illegal for someone to distribute an “intimate image” of a person without consent, when the intent is to cause “economic, physical or substantial emotional harm” if those images are spread.
A lawyer for Mr. Finlay, Ira Kleiman, could not be reached on Monday. In 2018, Mr. Kleiman called the lawsuit “nothing more than allegations that should not be taken as fact.”