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A judge is poised to deal Katie Hill another legal blow by issuing a tentative ruling Tuesday dismissing Salem Media Group as a defendant in the former congresswoman’s revenge porn lawsuit alleging nude photos of her were published without her permission.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco wrote that Salem Media, owner of the conservative blog RedState.com, had shown that the photos were matters of legitimate interest involving a public official because they addressed Hill’s character and qualifications for her position.

RedState.com published one article in October 2019 with a link to a photograph of Hill brushing a female worker’s hair. The blog maintained the photo did not depict any “intimate body part” of Hill and argued that Hill’s actions called into question her character and ability to continue as a representative in American government.

In contrast, Hill’s attorneys maintained that the “core injury-producing conduct underlying plaintiff’s claims is the theft and nonconsensual distribution of her private sexual images,” the judge wrote.

But Orozco found that the distribution of the intimate images through their publication on a public website constitutes a “statement” or “other conduct in furtherance” of the right to free speech.

“Here, the intimate images published by (RedState.com) spoke to plaintiff’s character and qualifications for her position, as they allegedly depicted Plaintiff with a campaign staffer with whom it was alleged she had a sexual affair,” the judge wrote. “Accordingly, the images were a matter of public issue or public interest.”

The judge is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday before issuing a final ruling.

Orozco earlier this month granted similar First Amendment-based motions by the Daily Mail and reporter Jennifer Van Laar to be removed as defendans in the lawsuit.

Orozco previously said she was sympathetic to the impact of the publications of photos on Hill, calling the decisions by Hill’s ex-husband, Kenneth Heslep, to make the images available to the media, “tragic and unnecessary.”

The 33-year-old Hill submitted a lengthy sworn declaration in opposition to Salem Media’s dismissal motion.

“My nude body is not a matter of public interest,” Hill said. “Moreover, even if my alleged relationship was a matter of public interest, that does not justify the illegal worldwide dissemination of my nude image. I was humiliated and traumatized by the circulation of the nude image.”

Hill sued Dec. 22, alleging in her court papers that she lived in fear that if she ever tried to leave, Heslep would kill them both and their animals. Heslep remains a defendant in the lawsuit.

Hill “suffered extreme emotional distress, attempted suicide and was forced to quit her job, which in this case was the representative of California’s 25th Congressional District, one of the most difficult-to-get jobs in the universe,” her court papers state.

Hill and Heslep officially divorced in October.

Hill, a Democrat, resigned her seat in 2019 after the nude photos were published and news emerged that she had a three-way relationship with her husband and a campaign staffer. She was also accused of having an affair with a member of her congressional staff.

Hill publicly blamed her then-husband for the release of the photos. Speaking in Congress in 2019, she decried a “misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures, capitalized on my sexuality and enabled my abusive ex to continue that abuse, this time with the entire country watching.”

The 25th Congressional District includes Santa Clarita Valley, and portions of the northern San Fernando Valley, Antelope Valley and eastern Ventura County.

The seat had long been held by Republicans until Hill’s 2018 victory over Knight. After Hill’s resignation, Republican Rep. Mike Garcia defeated Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith in a special election to fill the final 7 1/2 months of the term.

Garcia then beat Smith again by a razor-thin margin in November’s election for a full two-year term.

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