Businessweek’s Prenda story
(c) boobs

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

Cocaine dealer James Fogarty

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.

Update

6/1/2013

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.

3/1/2014

On 2/27/2014 James Fogarty was sentenced to five years in jail. I replaced “charged” with “convicted” in the post title.

Comments
  1. Raul says:

    State courts are what they are, elected judges usually bankrolled by the plaintiff’s bar. The corruption is inevitable and this post is a jarring example of it. It is no small leap to imagine a
    small circle of attorneys and judges who can adversely impact a life whether under the influence of drugs or payola.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m starting to do some digging but does anyone know offhand if any of the judges implicated have heard Prenda cases? There were Lightspeed state cases in St. Clair, right?

    If not, this may only be the beginning if we already have one judge dead from an OD and another out on bail…

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh, and I almost forgot.

      OMFG.

    • SJD says:

      Two judges handled Prenda cases:

      Lightspeed: LeChien (the one slapped by the Supreme court).
      LW Systems v. Hubbard & and Prenda v Comcast : Gleeson.

      Some other judges signed subpoenas.

      As far as I know, neither Christ not Cook were involved with Prenda.

  3. Burk says:

    Nice detective work – this Fogarty business stinks of Prenda.

    Still, there’s something hinky about Smith’s story. Misquote?

    From the (excellent) Businessweek article:

    “Assuming Steele was a defense attorney, Smith called him. He says Steele explained the allegations and offered to help. [...] After an hour of frantic Googling, he determined that Steele “didn’t just work with Prenda, he ran Prenda,” he says.”

    From Smith’s affidavit:

    “Instead of contacting Atty. Steele, I contacted my friend who is an attorney. [...] After speaking with Atty. Sweet, I learned for the first time that John Steele, in fact, represented the Plaintiff’s law firm.”

    Anyone have an explanation for the discrepancy?

    • tonysmithjr says:

      The letters first came in and after Fogarty showed up I contacted my friend, we had no idea who Steele was and then I called Steele. After that we google’d him and found this site and what prenda was all about. From then I found Jason Sweet who I worked with to get rid of prenda

      • tonysmithjr says:

        My affidavit is correct and I’m pretty sure Clair was just getting the point across faster.

  4. SJD says:

    Fog(a)rty’s testimony in front of a St. Clair judge:

    “Before you accuse me, take a look at yourself!”

    (My generation will understand. Raul?)

  5. that anonymous coward says:

    Ohai!
    Oversight corrected…
    I think not mentioning FCT and DTD is a travesty in reporting on this.
    I can see an editor being “concerned” that “we” can’t be taken seriously… but given the wealth of information here and how much of it has been proven to be true should count for something.

    Someday maybe they will give the credit where credit is due.
    SJD and DTD deserve much more than being a footnote or an uncredited source…

    Well that and I still want a mention in a court filing in the footnotes not as a defendant…

    • DieTrollDie says:

      Thank you TAC. I try not let pride come before the fall, but still have some. Especially for all the people who have helped out in any way. Any small note means in real terms we have kicked some butt. Thank you everyone.

      DTD :)

      • that anonymous coward says:

        “Competing” with you and SJD to get mentioned in a footnote by a Judge looks really silly from the outside, but when you consider how horrible this ‘business model’ is sometimes you have to be a little silly just to cope.
        Everyone in the community has different skills and they work together to help, its an amazing thing. The community has grown by leaps and bounds, many eyes watching and reporting.

        Something important to remember is there would be not community without the 2 of you each starting a ‘place’ to help. You never got into the whole ‘measuring’ contest trying to say who is better, you just want to help. What once was a few voices is now a crowd of voices calling these things wrong, and helping other people avoid the fear.

        You all knew I was a loudmouth going into this, and thats why I popup here and there to promote the sites and the people who started them. It is one thing to run a story about issues with Pretenda or whatever defunct company they are sending demand letters out from now, it is another to make sure if someone targeted lands on that story they find the help they need from the community.

        And its not like I stole her cat…

  6. CTVic says:

    Copyright boobies reposted! LMAO!
    SJD, you never fail to please :D

  7. Anonymous T says:

    I hope that this tid bit of information will be investigated further. I question Steele’s utilization of a person who has admitted to dealing drugs to judges in the very court system and state in which Prenda et al have a history of getting some questionable rulings. Look at how hard they have fought to get the defamation cases back to St. Clair Co state court! Is this the only “job” Jim Forgarty did for Steele? No. There are rules about personal service. Were they followed? The guy is a probation officer, but he gave T.S. a card that said he was part of a legal division for an insurance investigation company with a PO box that appears to belong to a pediatrician. I know that this is about “copyright” so I don’t mean to hijack the thread; but I do hope that people will continue to share information about any funny business they have encountered with these trolls. As we’ve seen with the Alan Cooper saga – the damage done isn’t limited to John / Jane Does. Not even close! I expect that there’s much much more to the Fogarty / Steele connection. I just hope the info comes to light sooner rather then later, especially given their attempts to hole up in the IL state courts. Sooner someone shines a light on that crap, the sooner those roaches will scatter.

    • SJD says:

      You are not hijacking anything at all! Rampant corruption in the St. Clair is the very topic of this post. Here is more, by the way.Also, there are rumors that Fogarty has incriminated more than those two judges while talking to FBI. Hope this information will see the light of day.

  8. tonysmithjr says:

    Funny that you guys caught that so quickly, I could even send you a picture of the business card that he gave me with John Steele’s name and number on it. The business card from Forgarty that is

  9. tonysmithjr says:

    I see, I’m glad I saved that thing. Thought I lost it at one point and found it in my car before I sold it. Needless to say my attorney was excited to hear about it.

  10. […] Defendant in Prenda’s case was served by a charged drug dealer […]

  11. wearewatchingu says:

    Here’s an article I stumbled upon about former Judge Michael O’Malley, the retired Judge who was the first Lightspeed Attorney on the case before he quit & turned the case over to Kevin Hoerner.
    The article involves O’Malleys daughter:

    Former St. Clair County judge’s daughter had drug charge expunged

    http://madisonrecord.com/news/256638-former-st-clair-county-judges-daughter-had-drug-charge-expunged

  12. wearewatchingu says:

    Drugs are just the tip of the iceberg in St. Clair and Madison Counties

    http://madisonrecord.com/arguments/256573-drugs-are-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-in-st-clair-and-madison-counties

  13. wearewatchingu says:

    Traffic charges against alleged heroin dealer dropped by Christ day before becoming judge; Cook approves

    http://madisonrecord.com/news/256358-traffic-charges-against-alleged-heroin-dealer-dropped-by-christ-day-before-becoming-judge-cook-approves

  14. […] COURT: Who left him with a card that said call this person. They’re a very important lawyer from […]

  15. […] News and fightcopyrighttrolls.com both touched on the Steele  – Forgarty connection or at least what they knew about at the […]

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