Businessweek’s Prenda story
Yesterday Bloomberg Businessweek published probably the most thorough (as of today) article about Prenda: Prenda Law, the Porn Copyright Trolls by Clair Suddath. If you never heard the Prenda story, it is a must read to understand all the nuances. If you have been following these trolls for a while, read it anyway: it is worth your time.
Clair started writing this piece back in March. I don’t know how many hours she spent, I assume a lot. I saw many examples of sloppy reporting in so-called “big media”: Clair’s work is the very definition of the opposite of “sloppiness.” The number of people she interviewed (including yours truly) to get 100% understanding of the trolling world is staggering.
Investigating Prenda is like stepping into a swamp. Obviously, the author had much more material than what finally found its way to the feature. Editors enforce limits (it’s not only about the Internet, this article will be featured in the next printed edition of Businessweek). Something should have been sacrificed, so, regrettably, our community was not mentioned. Nonetheless, it is the least of my concerns: the goal of explaining the story of fraud and abuse to readers unfamiliar with the trolling phenomenon was met with an A+.
I will get back to Bloomberg’s article in a moment.
Scandal in St. Clair County
There is an ongoing scandal in the St. Clair County, IL involving two judges and a probation officer, among others:
If you can’t watch the video, here is a recap from another article.
ST. LOUIS — A southwestern Illinois probation worker who an FBI agent says admitted providing cocaine to two judges [Joe Christ and Michael Cook] , including one of died of an overdose at a hunting cabin while with the other jurist, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a federal drug charge.
James Fogarty, 45, of Belleville, entered the plea in East St. Louis to a cocaine distribution and possession count. He remains jailed without bond, pending a detention hearing postponed Tuesday by a magistrate judge after federal prosecutors cast Fogarty as a flight risk unworthy of bail.
Admitting he repeatedly sold cocaine to the two jurists, Fogarty said Christ used the drug on weekends and that Cook partook of the drug at Fogarty’s house roughly 10 times, Murphy wrote. Fogarty snorted cocaine with the two judges at times on golf trips and at least once at the Cook family’s lodge where Christ later died.
Remember the probation officer’s name — James Fogarty.
Prenda and St. Clair County
Regarded by many as a den of corruption, St Clair County court naturally attracted Prenda to carry out their shady dealings. We covered Prenda’s activity in this judiciary hell many times, from the first Prenda’s endeavor — Lightspeed Media v. Smith at al — to the ongoing mockery of justice LW Systems v. Hubbard. A former judge as Prenda’s attorney, a stubborn judge who only understands the language of the Supreme Court’s slap on the wrist, a redefinition of “Chutzpah” by Prenda (suing two telecom giants), a former Bar president lying to a court clerk… I can go on and on. It’s not a surprise that Prenda tries so hard to remand a vindictive SLAPP lawsuit Prenda v. Cooper, Godfread and the Internets back to this hole.
Service of the defendant
As I mentioned above, Lightspeed Media Corporation v. Smith et al lawsuit (initially St. Clair county, removed to ILSD — 12-cv-00889) was covered in this blog previously. There are more recent post-worthy events that I did not write about due to lack of time, maybe I’ll catch up later. One particular event is of our interest: the service of the defendant Smith. Clair Suddath’s article that I started this post with tells us the following story:
Tony Smith had a porn problem. A 27-year-old nursing student in Collinsville, Ill., Smith was listening to music and doing homework one night last August when he heard a knock on his apartment door. He opened it and an imposing-looking man with a flashlight handed him a lawsuit and his business card. A name was written in pen on the back. “Give this guy a call, he can help you get through this,” the man told Smith. “He’s looking out for people like you.” Smith turned it over and read the name: John Steele.
According to the complaint, Smith was accused of conspiring with 6,600 anonymous people to hack into computers owned by Lightspeed Media, an Arizona adult-entertainment company, and steal its porn. Before serving him with the lawsuit, Smith recalled, Chicago’s Prenda Law firm had mailed him threatening letters for three months. “They always said that if I went ahead and wrote a check for $4,000, they’d drop it,” Smith says. Because he didn’t know how to hack into anything and didn’t have any illegally downloaded porn on his computer, he’d thought it was a scam and ignored it.
Assuming Steele was a defense attorney, Smith called him. He says Steele explained the allegations and offered to help. Steele asked about Smith’s job (school made full-time work impossible), his roommates (none), and his computer (an old hand-me-down). The two talked for several minutes before Steele mentioned that he worked with Prenda, helping on a lot of its cases. Smith became suspicious and hung up. After an hour of frantic Googling, he determined that Steele “didn’t just work with Prenda, he ran Prenda,” he says. “That’s when I knew, I’m never talking to this guy again.”
Here is how Anthony Smith describes this event in a sworn affidavit. Scroll down to the photo of the business card in question:
Connecting the dots
I hope you have already connected the two dots: the probation officer James Fogarty, a charged drug dealer, was the one who served the complaint to Smith — the one who tried to trick Smith into calling John Steele. I bet that Prenda’s local attorney who handles Prenda’s dirty deeds in an even dirtier swarm of vermin was a middleman in this con.
Make your own conclusions.
There is another link between Prenda and Fogarty: Attorney who will be defending Fogarty, Clyde Kuehn, filed (together with Duffy and Hoerner) some pleadings on behalf of Prenda/Lighspeed Media. Both Kuehn and Hoerner served as St. Clair Bar presidents in the past; Kuehn (like O’Malley) is a former judge. The question why St. Clair Bar looks the other way when Prenda “plunders the citizenry” is rhetorical and does not require an explicit answer.
On 2/27/2014 James Fogarty was sentenced to five years in jail. I replaced “charged” with “convicted” in the post title.