KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville native and former friend of convicted fraudster Anna Sorokin is suing Netflix over her portrayal in the popular series ‘Inventing Anna.’
Knoxville native Rachel Williams is suing Netflix for defamation, claiming the company purposely portrayed her in a negative light. In the lawsuit, it alludes that Netflix may have portrayed her negatively because she sold the rights to her story to HBO.
Williams was a photo editor working for Vanity Fair when she meet Anna Sorokin, who was going by the name Anna Delvey and pretending to be a German heiress. The two become friends over the next few months and they would eventually go to Morocco together. According to the lawsuit, Sorokin told Williams believed she would pay for the trip. However, Williams would end up paying nearly $70,000 for the trip. Despite promises from Sorokin that she would be reimbursed, Williams said she only received $5,000 from Sorokin.
Following Sorokin’s indictment in New York for not paying hotel bills, Williams would help law enforcement find Sorokin in Los Angeles after she did not show up for court in NYC. She arranged to meet Sorokin for lunch as a way for the Los Angeles police to arrest Sorokin.
These events are portrayed in the Netflix series and the lawsuit claims Netflix made “a deliberate decision for dramatic purposes to show Williams doing or saying things in the Series which portray her as a greedy, snobbish, disloyal, dishonest, cowardly, manipulative and opportunistic person.” The lawsuit details that many of the actions shown in the series never took place in real life but would have real-life consequences for Williams.
The lawsuit claims she was subjected to a deluge of online abuse, negative in-person interactions, and derogatory characterizations in podcasts. Examples outlined in the lawsuit include:
- “Anna was definitely guilty for what she did, but out of all the characters you were the worst! Benefiting from the expensive shits she bought you! How did you even accepted her paying for you those luxury vacations? And then playing the victim role!”
- “Omg shut up Karen! Gold digging mooch”
- “I don’t feel sorry for you. You had choices and you made bad choices. Even if it’s not Anna Delvey, people can see through you. You are like many “”fake friends”” out there who would leech off to someone with status and money.”
The lawsuit claims that the damage to Williams’ reputation could have been avoided by Netflix. In the suit, Williams said she does not challenge “Netflix’s right to have an unpleasant character in the series,” but asks why the company chose to use her real name and personal details.
Many other people portrayed in the show were given fake names with some identifying details changed, including Sorokin’s business lawyer, her boyfriend, and her fashion designer acolyte. The claim put forward in the suit is that the decision to use William’s real name is evidence that Netflix intended to hurt her reputation.
According to the suit, Williams sent two notices to Netflix about her concerns that the series would cast her in a false light. Netflix reportedly told her the portrayal “will be within the bounds of the law.”
Williams is currently seeking a jury trial against Netflix. In the suit, she is seeking relief against Netflix for actual and presumed damages, punitive damages and temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief restraining Netflix from continuing to make defamatory statements about Williams, and to remove them from the series.
Sorokin was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison after a trial that drew international media attention. She was released from prison in February 2021 and is currently being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), awaiting deportation.