Miss N. Carolina fight goes federal

Pageant winner battles for recognition after ex-beau exposes topless photos

— An ugly battle over which woman will walk on stage as Miss North Carolina later this month in the Miss America Pageant moved to federal court Thursday.

A federal judge in Wilmington was assigned the case after a state judge agreed he no longer had jurisdiction in the lawsuit filed against the national pageant by Rebekah Revels.

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AP Photo

Misty Clymer, first runner-up in the Miss North Carolina pageant, responds to questions during an interview at the Wake County courthouse in Raleigh, N.C. Clymer says she is the true Miss North Carolina, but Rebekah Revels disputes the claim. Revels lost, then regained, her crown after her ex-boyfriend revealed the existence of topless photos.

No new date has been set for a hearing, and time is becoming a factor with the pageant's contestants expected to participate in preliminary events starting next week.

Revels, 24, won the state pageant in June, but she was fired as Miss North Carolina in July after an ex-boyfriend claimed he had snapshots of her topless.

She sued the state pageant and won the title back in a ruling Wednesday.

"I'm Miss North Carolina," Revels said, wearing her crown after the hearing Wednesday. "I feel like justice has been served. I feel like I was unfairly treated."

In the interim, however, runner-up Misty Clymer had been named Miss North Carolina to replace Revels, and the Miss America Organization has said it recognizes Clymer as the true Miss North Carolina.

Now, Revels is suing to force the national pageant to recognize her instead.

Both women have contracts with the Miss North Carolina organization, which is a franchise subsidiary of Miss America.

Attorneys for both women said they represent the true Miss North Carolina.

"She's packing," said Barry Nakell, Revels' attorney, referring to his client getting ready for preliminary events leading up to the Sept. 21 national pageant.

Clymer's attorney, Janet Ward Black, said "there's only one candidate eligible to go to Miss America and that's my client."

Revels' lawyer has suggested that both women should be allowed to compete.

"It's never happened," Black said. "It would certainly be exceptional."

The controversy began when pageant officials received an e-mail that referred to compromising photos of Revels.

Revels testified Wednesday in the case against the state pageant that Tosh Welch, a former boyfriend, surprised her by snapping two photographs while she was changing clothes. She has since broken up with Welch and recently sued him.

Her testimony disputed that of a pageant official, who said Revels told him that the shots were taken during "an intimate situation" with no mention that she was an unwilling participant.

Alan Clouse, the executive director of the North Carolina pageant, testified that Revels had said she had lived with Welch in a one-bedroom apartment while in college. The pictures and the cohabitation violated the pageant's morals clause, Clouse said.

Superior Court Judge Narley Cashwell, however, said the snapshots didn't prove Revels had violated the pageant's requirement that winners exhibit good moral character.

"I am satisfied that a finder of fact could conclude that she did not engage in an act or an activity that could be characterized as dishonest, immodest, indecent or in bad taste," he said.

Cashwell granted an injunction returning the title to Revels until her lawsuit against the state pageant can be heard. No date has been set, and it likely wouldn't be heard until after the national pageant.

Cashwell said in court Thursday that Revels' lawsuit against the national pageant was out of his jurisdiction, though. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge James Fox in Wilmington.

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