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Published: Thursday, 3/24/2011

Jury decides pageant breached contract by dethroning Texas beauty queen, judge returns crown

ASSOCIATED PRESS
SAN ANTONIO — A Texas jury ruled Thursday that a 17-year-old beauty queen allegedly told to "get off the tacos" after gaining weight was wrongly stripped of her crown and has had it returned by a judge.

Domonique Ramirez won her lawsuit against the Miss San Antonio pageant her attorney, Luis Vera, told the Associated Press.

"She won 100 percent," Mr. Vera said.

Judge Barbara Nellermoe then restored Miss Ramirez's crown, clearing the way for her to compete for Miss Texas and Miss America, according Court Clerk Grace Montalvo. After deliberating 11.5 hours over two days in the weeklong trial, the jury found that pageant officials, not Miss Ramirez, breached the contract.

"It's a sad day for us. We think the judge and jury made a huge mistake," pageant director Linda Woods said. "It's an injustice for the city of San Antonio, it allows young kids to breach contracts and violate authority without any consequences ... It sends the wrong message."

The size-2 teenager was fired in January over allegations of weight gain and bad behavior. Pageant officials testified that Miss Ramirez showed up to a bikini photo shoot overweight and made pictures "unusable."

But pageant officials claimed weight wasn't the issue. Instead, they said the 5-foot-8, 129-pound teenager was unreliable, chronically showing up late for events such as grocery store openings, and violated her contract in ways ranging from not writing thank-you notes to blowing off a physical fitness program and vocal lessons. It all added up to insubordination and breach of contract, they said.

Miss Ramirez denied gaining weight or being late.

After the verdict, pageant attorney Ben Wallis told the San Antonio Express-News that the verdict would cause confusion and that the Miss Texas pageant could refuse to invite Miss Ramirez. He declined to say if the pageant would appeal, only saying that the pageant has "contingency plans."

Jury foreman Jesse Sanchez told the Express-News that the verdict was "a hard decision" and that jurors found interest in the case "overwhelming." He declined to say why damages and fees weren't awarded to Miss Ramirez.

There was no immediate word on what would become of Ashley Dixon. Ramirez's runner-up was crowned Miss San Antonio in a courtroom last month after a judge refused Miss Ramirez's efforts to obtain a temporary injunction stopping the pageant from naming a new winner.


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