Starbucks Barista Gofundme Mask: A California woman is suing the founder of a viral GoFundMe campaign that generated more than $100,000 after she publicly ridiculed a barista for requesting her to wear a mask inside a Starbucks in San Diego.
Amber Gilles, a yoga instructor, said a Starbucks barista refused her service because she wasn’t wearing a mask, prompting Matt Cowan to establish the “Tips for Lenin” GoFundMe last summer.
Gilles’ Facebook diatribe against Lenin Gutierrez on June 22 sparked a flood of donations and support for the barista.
“Meet Lenen, who refused to serve me because I wasn’t wearing a mask. I’ll wait for cops next time and carry a medical exemption “In the now-deleted post, Giles wrote.
Gilles requested Cowan for half of the $105,445 raised in July. Cowan and his media firm, Mercy Agency LLC, were sued last week for “violation of her right to publicity,” “misappropriation of her name and likeness,” and “false light breach of privacy.”
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Cowan told USA TODAY that the lawsuit didn’t surprise him. Last summer, he claims Gilles threatened to sue him if he didn’t pay her half of the money received on GoFundMe.
He said, “I was amazed she got a lawyer to handle the case.”
Michael Harrington, Gilles’ attorney, told USA TODAY that his client is seeking an undisclosed monetary compensation.
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Gilles, who lives in San Diego, told USA TODAY that she has received threats on Facebook and that her photography website has been hacked. She also claimed that she and her fiance have been “harassed by weird people” and have received calls in the middle of the night.
According to Eric Goldman, associate dean for research and a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, the action could be dismissed under California’s anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation law. The state law is intended to avoid litigation that dissuade people from speaking up about important public concerns.
“The First Amendment limits publicity rights, and I believe the First Amendment should apply here,” Goldman told USA TODAY. “I believe it will be a simple case. That there was no way to convey the narrative of the barista without mentioning what had transpired.”
There will be more GoFundMe initiatives in the future.
Gilles launched her own GoFundMe account, “Redress Defamation of Character,” on July 2 and had raised $5,695 of the $8,000 target as of Thursday.
“I’ve been assaulted by leftists who have formed several Facebook hate groups, I’ve been silenced on media platforms and censored, and now I have to be careful on what I say for court,” Gilles wrote on his campaign page.
Cowan, who lives in Irvine, California, has started a new GoFundMe effort to raise money for legal bills. He’d raised roughly $17,700 as of Thursday evening.
“I believe that everyone can see the absurdity of this suit and, as a result, are willing to assist with any of the fees that I am incurring or any future expenses that I may have,” he stated.
Despite the legal issues, Cowan said he had no regrets about creating the GoFundMe for Gutierrez and that he would do it again.
“By creating that GoFundMe and bringing the entire globe together, we were able to help transform someone’s life for the better,” Cowan added. “I’d always go with that.”
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