Exactly two months ago, I wrote
about one of the Prenda’s most brazenly frivolous case — Guava v. Skyler Case
(2012-L-007363) and its “cousin” — Arte De Oaxaca v. Stacey Mullen
(12-L-9036). That post ended with a report from the September 25 hearing, and the report was very promising: the subpoenas were stayed, Judge Tailor was angry: he seemingly clearly understood the real goals of the game that Prenda has been playing in his court, and he did not like it. He even suspected the collusion between Prenda and the defendant’s lawyer, Adam Urbanczyk, and did not hesitate to openly inquire about it. The next hearing date was set to October 26 (and was later moved to November 4), and the agenda was to discuss the motions to quash, the majority of which were filed by the alleged “co-conspirators,” represented by attorney Erin Russell
Some developments took place between these two hearings. These developments help to understand what eventually happened at the November 4 hearing and after it.
Prenda’s enemy #1
Erin Russell became John Steele’s Enemy #1 around the September hearing. Why? Because, as John believed, she brought too much publicity to what was going on in the obscure (on the national level) Cook County court, and (again, according to his beliefs) she informed the judges (or at least one judge — Tailor) about the real nature of these cases. No surprise that this knowledge jeopardized Prenda’s to-be smooth shakedown campaign, in which, as the blackmailers believed, nothing could go wrong, and the names of the putative extortion targets would be obtained without any opposition. The entire operation was supposed to fly smoothly under the radar of the public eye.
Was Steele right about the Erin’s role? My opinion: yes and no.
- Yes. Erin indeed filed damn good motions that explained the scam in detail, and the judge obviously listened to her.
- No. If Erin was not involved at all, someone else would open the judge’s eyes, and there is no way the blogosphere would not notice such a brazen assault on the judicial system: for instance, I started receiving hints long before the September events.
Anyway, you can look yourself how pissed off Steele was. The following sheer hysteria in one Steele-written, Duffy-signed document makes it clear: this apparently experienced and talented lawyer appeared to botch a lucrative scam, and she had no intention to go away.
Defendants’ role in the conspiracy
I’m not talking about thousands of alleged “co-conspirators,” but about the two “official” defendants in these cases, both represented by allegedly anti-troll EFF-listed attorney Adam Urbanczyk. The sequence of events in both cases was eyebrow-raising to say the least: Prenda and the defense signed an agreed order allowing the crooks to subpoena ISPs for subsequent shakedown without any opposition whatsoever, and without any court-imposed safeguards. Remember, in underfunded state courts, if adversaries agree on something, judges are more than happy to sign it: in many cases, judges do not even read what they sign. The Arte of Oaxaca case’s development was even more bizarre: such astonishingly short was the time span (two business days) between the complaint and the agreed order, which was signed prior to the defendant’s Answer, prior even to a formal appearance of the defense counsel!
One more bad-aftertaste-inducing incident took place on October 1, followed by a motion where Erin described Adam’s allegedly less-than-noble behavior:
Not a surprise that Adam immediately offered his side of the story, effectively calling Erin a liar, he even wrote a long and (sorry, Adam) unconvincing blog post about this ordeal.
In the meantime, Mr. Adam Urbanczyk continues to play a role of a diligent defense counsel, even though all his filings are rather toothless, and it is hard to brush off an impression that he acts in a major fear of angering John Steele and his gang.
Urbanczyk even filed an official deposition notice that listed mind-bogging 10 (!) questions, every one of which can be answered by anyone leisurely following this case after massaging the information this blog’s community managed to gather. Just compare this discovery request (which looks more like an example from a legal textbook) with the set of 300+ harsh discovery questions Jeff Fantalis presented to the trolls. (Fantalis’s questions ultimately led to Malibu Media paying its way out of disaster.)
What is Guava?
Before I continue to the November hearing, it is worth to remind that Guava is nothing else but Lightspeed Media. Remember, Adam Urbanzcik told us:
Guava, LLC, as we know it, is a rights-holding company and the case pending in the Circuit Court of Cook County is somewhat of a spiritual successor to the infamous 11-L-0683 Lightspeed Media case filed late last year in St. Clair County, Illinois. It is our understanding that Prenda’s experience with Lightspeed Media’s representatives being personally identified and threatened as a result of the lawsuits (the 11-L-0683 case, and others) has led to its clients forming these even more ambiguously-titled entities to (relatively) save face.
So it is clear that Lightspeed = Guava. Note that “Guava LLC” is an entity that most likely was never registered and does not exist — we could find a slight trace of it. If this this guess turns to be correct, there may be grave consequences for both Lightspeed (which is on sale as a company) and Prenda. Regarding Adam’s comment cited above, I object to using the word “spiritual” — these people have no soul, hence nothing about them can be described as “spiritual.”
Another solid proof of Guava/Lightspeed equivalency is a release agreement I received from a guy who had settled. I cannot publish this document in its entirety (as a matter of fact, I have only a fragment that the guy sent to me using TOR), but the line that connects both fraudsters is worth displaying:
Also, rewinding fast forward, Steele said the following during the November 4 hearing. My mind is reeling: just imagine a judge hearing all this crap (the wording is not exact, restored from a witness’ memory, but the meaning is correct):
Guava owns protected computers, but the files stored in that computers contain copyrighted stuff, and the copyrights belong to a third company. Guava goes after people because of hacking, but that third company, which also happens to be our client, may say: look, this IP address infringed our copyright, so we may decide to go after the same IP for copyright infringement.
So what does it mean? If you are not at work (not safe due to a lot of bad taste signatures and avatars!), visit this GFY thread, where Steve Lightspeed tried to brag about his “forensic” software, Arcadia Security’s THIEF 2.0., but instead of receiving a bubble bath of cheers, he was ridiculed by his peers, specifically because of the purported accuracy of his homemade scripts. So, since Plaintiff’s principal, Steve Jones, retained a script kiddie Steve Jones to use Steve Jones’s “forensic” software in Guava/Arte de Oaxaca cases, even setting the obvious conflict of interest aside, it can be safely guaranteed that at least half of the folks who received ransom letters, has nothing to do with the alleged “hacking.” Why feds don’t look into this, puzzles me. Or do they?
November 4th hearing
On October 24, two days before the hearing, Paul Duffy called the court clerk and asked to postpone the hearing because he “needed surgery.” Those who are not burdened with such funny qualities as honesty and integrity, often have an upper hand since they can lie appealing to empathy and get what they want. I have no idea if Duffy actually needed/had a surgery — it is not so difficult to check, but I bet he did not. Even more, his purported health issues are absolutely irrelevant: it is a common belief that Paul Duffy is a no one, a nominal president of Prenda, a patsy, that he does not write motions, does not argue in courtrooms, does not reply to emails. During both hearings, he did not open his mouth besides naming himself at the beginning.
I suspect that the real boss is not even John Steele, but rather Paul Hansmeier: Steele brought him to the hearing and communicated with him all the time, while Paul did not pronounce a word during the entire hearing.
The postponement was entirely strategic: by October 26 the dismissal of Erin’s clients was not finalized and she would clearly had a voice. On November 5, every one of Ms. Russel’s clients was dismissed (to the best of Prenda’s knowledge), and Steele could not resist a tirade in front of the judge (the wording is not exact, but the meaning is):
…it is not clear what this woman is doing here: her clients were not parties in the first place, and did not have standing to question subpoena, and now they are doubly non-parties after being dismissed.
He then even suggested that Erin had been seeking a cheap fame by means of being related to a case that has drawn national attention (his words). Well… I would say that it is a very questionable honor to have any, even most distant business with Mr. Steele: it is rather burdensome to take an emergency shower (the urge is overwhelming!) after being in the same room with this paragon of ethics.
The hearing was rather short: Erin’s motions were ruled moot, and the next hearing on the other two motions by the “co-conspirators” represented by Jeffrey Antonelli and another attorney was postponed until December 12. The subpoena stay was not lifted (which is good). Here is the order.
There is still hope that Judge Tailor knows what to do with this shame of a case, we will see. Note that phrase in the order “If all the pending motions to quash are withdrawn [...] plaintiff may motion this court for his [...] lifting of the stay” was added by the plaintiff, and, unlike I thought initially, does not mean much.
What happened to the dismissed “co-conspirators”?
All of them are being sued in federal courts all over the country. Prenda used its goons to file at least ten cases. I’ll talk about them below in more detail.
It is hardly a rational cause of events. Steele’s ego told him to vindicate Erin whatever it costs. First, let us see some of the statements widely believed to be tweeted by Steele. Of course, there is no strict proof (and he even mocked his correspondents: “What you know vs what you can prove little mice!“), but given his inside knowledge, his hallmark unique grammar mistakes, and the fulfillment of the promises, I’m 99% sure: it is John Steele.
So, his drunken rage resulted is some tweets that, if proven, in a normal country would cost a lawyer his license (the last one is especially egregious):
- I bet Mitch Goldstein is happy to have hired atty Russell.This is what happened 6 hours after her representation letter http://wefightpiracy.com/userfiles/GoldStein%20(IL).pdf
- @ThatAnonDude @Raul15340965 Yep, the Bull has huge balls. And her first two people we sued just settled! Hmmm, suing individuals is nice!
- @ThatAnonDude @ThePirateSlayer Ask Erin how that conversation with Mitch Goldstein went when he fired her, hired new atty and settled. SLAP!
- I wonder if 32 individual cases are currently popping up around the country right now for people represented by one particular IL atty:)
- Another former E.R. client in IL begging to settle, claiming their former atty never let them know the risks of fighting. Mmm, malpractice?
- @ThatAnonDude @CopyrightCat I just hope that none of the pirates ever cut a deal to get off in exchange for providing info on certain attys.
(See the entire collection of [supposedly] John Steele’s tweets — unfortuately without the context, out of conversations — here, here, and here.)
In addition, John appeared in the comment section and left the following turd from IP address 22.214.171.124 on October 4, 2012 at 5:48 pm:
I’ll take my medicine when things don’t go my way. I give credit to Erin Russell, although she was as surprised as I was the judge stayed the discovery. Don’t worry, all the info was already back except for one ISP. Oh, BTW, you pirates will note there is a new pleading in the Guava case withdrawing the IP’s of all of Erin’s clients from discovery. I wonder why? ? ? Hmmmm. Its a puzzle. Here is a clue. Check http://wefightpiracy.com/suits-against-individuals.php tomorrow at 5pm.
Again, congratulations Erin, I’m sure the rest of your clients will be as happy as Mitch Goldstein is in a couple of days.
As it is often said, no comments necessary. However, I cannot help quoting one comment from a reader:
Anonymous says on October 5, 2012 at 4:45 pm
Steele is trying to make it look like filing against Erin’s clients in federal court is a “revenge” tactic directed at them, to make things tougher on them, but it is really pragmatic and a sign of desperation.
If all of Erin’s clients are dismissed from the state case and put in a federal case instead, that means she isn’t there to monkey with his state case anymore, and he can show up with Adam and they can collude unopposed (although it may be a bit too late for that as this judge seems to know what’s up). THAT is the real game here, to be able to show up in court with his buddy and be the only two who get to have a say in how the case plays out.
The fact that this is a 5-Doe case and not 5 named cases is a giveaway, he’s trying to reduce the risk and cost associated with this move. Naming the Does raises the stakes and filing 5 suits costs 5 times as much. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t even bother to follow up on the 5-Doe case, lets it go 120 without service and it gets dismissed or he dismisses it. As long as their lawyer stays out of the courtroom in the Guava state case he doesn’t care.
So, in the end we see that John is just being a pussy as usual and can’t deal with a case when there is opposing counsel, especially if he’s getting his ass beat by a girl.
Erin should go thermonuclear on this bullshit. I would further suggest that this is getting way beyond sanctionable conduct.
Federal Guava cases
There are 10 federal Guava cases that list 1 to 3 “proper” IP addresses, the ones located in a particular state, yet majority, if not all of those complaints also demand the entire set, the same 34 IP addresses to be subpoenaed (actually 33 — one of the addresses is erroneously listed twice in all four complaints):
- Alabama: Curtis Hussey (Guava LLC v. John Doe, ALSD 12-cv-00678).
- California: Brett Gibbs (Guava LLC v. Doe, CAED 12-cv-02514).
- District of Columbia: Paul Duffy (GUAVA, LLC v. JOHN DOE, DCD 12-cv-01661).
- Illinois: Paul Duffy (Guava, LLC v. Does 1-5, ILND 12-cv-08000).
- Michigan: Jonathan Tappan (Guava, LLC v. Doe, MIED 12-cv-14441).
- Georgia: Jacques Nzaire (GUAVA LLC v. DOE, GAMD 12-cv-00398).
- Arizona: Steven Goodhue (Guava LLC v. Unknown Party, AZD 12-cv-02158).
- Ohio: Rod Mastandrea (GUAVA LLC v. Doe, OHND 12-cv-02512).
- Massachusetts: Daniel Ruggiero (Guava, LLC v. Doe, MAD 12-cv-11880).
- Connecticut: Daniel Ruggiero (Guava, LLC v. Doe, CTD 12-cv-01435).
Essentially, the fraudsters have duplicated their discovery requests in up to ten different jurisdictions simultaneously (is that even legal?), and it looks like at least four of those districts gave them what they wanted, probably unaware of what they are doing elsewhere. If the info has not been purged yet on the ISP end, they’ll get the names of the subscribers for up to 33 IP addresses courtesy of judicial laziness in AZ, MA, CT, and GA.
Note that time stamps are missing from the pleadings.
There are some unique developments in every one of these cases, but this post is already obscenely long. It would be nice to have a follow-up analysis (or at least simple reporting) of these developments. Any volunteers? Also, I will be grateful if you report any inaccuracies in this post.
The only thing I can’t help noticing is one particular blooper that appears in more than one complaint: some of these cases have been openly declared as copyright lawsuits. For instance, in the Alabama case’s complaint, we read on p. 2:
This Court has personal jurisdiction over the Defendant because, upon information and belief, they either reside in or committed copyright infringement within the State of Alabama.
This sloppiness has undermined Prenda bosses’ hard work of bulshitting courts — making them believe that copyright has nothing to do with the CFAA lawsuits. Only recently Steele, with foam dripping from his mouth, opposed Jason Sweets’ statement that Lightsped’s cases are essentially copyright actions:
Even the most inattentive review of the Complaint clearly demonstrates that this is not a copyright action. Smith chooses to ignore that fact and premises his Motion on arguments that, even if they were correct (which they are not), would be properly argued in an action involving claims for copyright infringement. Smith could have avoided needlessly wasting the Court’s time if he had based his arguments on what is actually in the Complaint, rather than what he may have been charged with if he were in a copyright case action.
Smith needn’t have bothered making the vast majority of the arguments in his motion, because this is not a copyright case. This case is about computer hacking and theft…
Apparently, Steele has neglected to inform his minions that mentioning copyright is a big no-no. Consequently, poor underemployed wannabe lawyers roam on legal fields like goats whose owner failed to tie them.
We will continue following these cases and their eventual downfall. Visit this page again: I will post updates.
Today’s Guava case management conference was super-quick: Duffy and Urbanzcyk (only those two presented, Steele has a bigger headache to address) said to Judge Tailor that they deposited their “clients”. The judge “thumbed nose at additional subpoenas” (in witness’ words) and set the next hearing to 1/16/2013: at that date he wants to see the transcripts of the said depositions, as if he does not believe that they were genuine (or even performed at all). I asked some lawyers, and they confirmed: such an order is rather extraordinary.
Today’s hearing, according to a witness, was quick: Judge Tailor once again reiterated his usual concerns about the case and ordered both sides to present deposition transcripts by 1/30/2013. Subpoenas are still stayed. It’s a one-line order:
Transcripts of both plaintiff’s and defendant’s depositions shall be provided to the court by Jan 30,2013
Next hearing is set to 2/20/2013, 9:20 am.
- All the documents from the state “hacking,” allegedly collusive cases are located on this page. A discussion is going on there as well.