Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Weber’

Prenda’s Sunlust Pictures LLC, v. Nguyen, (12-cv-01685) has started as a comedy, continued as a farce, and now enters the Theatre of the Absurd domain.

Last time I wrote about this eventful lawsuit less than a month ago and covered two significant events:

  • On 4/11/2013 defense attorney Graham Syfert stipulated withdrawal of his motion for sanctions against Matt Wasinger¹ and Brett Gibbs. As a part of the agreement, Gibbs filed a declaration, which unambiguously stated that the real puppeteers in this and hundreds of other lawsuits had always been John Steele and Paul Hansmeier. These two crooks continue to vigorously deny their involvement amid the overwhelming evidence and the deafening sounds of the spectators’ reflexive facepalms.
  • On 4/23/2013 Judge Mary Scriven issued a strongly worded order, granting Wasinger’s motion to withdraw and directing the plaintiff to urgently find a new counsel, who must promptly reply to Syfert’s pending motion for fees and costs. The judge was clear: if the substitution does not happen, this motion will be granted.

The actors in this comedy/farce/absurd case continue to live up to our expectations: four pleadings of various entertainment values were filed over the course of one week — since 4/29/2013.

Theatre of the absurd and alternate history

The fist and the funniest document is John Steele’s pro se motion for sanctions (he excused himself for publicly doing pro se despite being represented because “Brett Gibbs’ [sic] contradictory testimony in this matter has created an apparent conflict of interest…” — see the Footnote 1).

In a pot-calls-the-kettle-back fashion, Steele accuses Syfert of a fraud on the court. Why? Because, according to Steele’s words (and John is a paragon of candor, as you all know), the abovementioned Gibbs’s declaration is “demonstrably false.”

Wow. Let me remind you that Judge Scriven dismissed this very case (emphasis is mine)

[...] for failure to appear at this hearing, for failure to present a lawful agent, for attempted fraud on the Court by offering up a person who has no authority to act on behalf of the corporation as its corporate representative [...]


Prenda’s paralegal Mark Lutz,
without a coat and a tie

Let’s get back to Gibbs’s declaration… An obvious main goal of Steele’s motions is to neutralize the devastating effect of the said declaration, to “prove” that Gibbs is essentially lying, and hence to get spared from Syfert’s motions for sanctions (and a nationwide avalanche of similar motions).

To facilitate this “proof,” Steele presents a couple of exhibits (not separate PDFs, but appended to the motion):

  • An email from Syfert to Steele’s/Gibbs’s attorney Katherine Yanes, which does not stand out as anything illegal and/or unethical — a usual lawyerly correspondence, which Syfert definitely expected to be publicized: it happens all the time.
  • Mark Lutz’s declaration that presents an alternate history (a popular science fiction genre), but does it by also using the legacy of the XX century absurdists.
    • According to this declaration, Mark knew Daniel Weber and his generous wife Sunny Leone very well and spoke to them “multiple times in the past.” In real world, he denied this knowledge under oath on 11/27/2012. By the way, in his statement Lutz misspelled Weber’s last name (“Webber”).
    • There is an interesting exhibit to Mark Lutz’s declaration — a “Letter of Engagement” — signed by Paul Duffy purportedly on 11/15/2011. This document is not only absurd, but also, according to Syfert, a fake one (read the next chapter).

      Mark has been a big businessmen (albeit without a tie), a manager of his own adult companies. He even hired Prenda to represent his companies in courts! Big client my ass! It does not matter that in real, not alternate history, during the last two years a paralegal Mark Lutz (or, sometimes his alter-DID-ego Jeff Schultz) made thousands of calls with the signature line “This is Prenda Law calling,” and who listed himself as a “Client Services Manager for Prenda Law” on his (now removed) LinkedIn page. His notarized (on 1/10/2012) affidavit (page 15) unambiguously states:

      1. I am Mark Lutz, a paralegal formally at Steele Hansmeier, PLLC, and now employed by Prenda Law, Inc.

      So, Mark Lutz employed Prenda at the same time Prenda employed Mark Lutz. Marvelous. “In order to understand recursion, you must understand recursion.”

And this is just a couple of examples of small lies, half-truths and bluffs. If you read the November 27 transcript and Steele’s motion/Lutz’s declaration side by side, you will be overwhelmed with the number of contradictory statements.

The games Steele plays are ballsy and dangerous. Gibbs, most likely, has tons of evidence to support his claims, while Steele has to resort to stories that make Ionescu plays look concise.

Naturally, by neglecting a time-consuming task to reconcile statements made at different times, these guys want to buy as much time as possible to collect an extra buck (the extortion machine is still runs full revs: people report Lutz’s harassment calls and Duffy’s illegal letters daily). The only difference is that the time these guys are buying is now packaged in very small bags.

Graham Syfert’s third motion for sanctions: accusations of faking a document

I will not comment on Syfert’s third motion for sanctions that was filed on 5/1/203, soon after Steeles’ pro se short story in the alternate history genre. Unlike that story, the document embedded below can be read without rolling your eyes and shaking your head. In short,

  • Syfert adds a new “non-party” to the list of those who should be sanctioned, namely Paul Hansmeier, which is expected and natural.
  • In addition, Syfert shows the results of his homework: he went through hundreds of filings in order to solidly debunk new Steele/Lutz’s horseshit. Specifically, based on the genesis of Prenda’s letterheads, Syfert shows that the “Letter of engagement” could not possibly be signed at the alleged time: in 2011 all the letters contained Prenda’s Miami address, while the exhibit to Steele’s delirious motion shows the Chicago address only — a change that did not happen until around 2/29/2012.
White collar crime defenders look to withdraw from this mess. Judge Scriven strikes Steele’s motion

Steele’s motion discussed above was stricken on 5/2/2013 by the judge: according to the M.D. Fla. Local Rule 2.03(d),

Any party for whom a general appearance of counsel has been made shall not thereafter take any step or be heard in the case in proper person, absent prior leave of Court…

In other words, while a party (or a non-party) is represented, it cannot file pleadings pro se. Although Steele’s “white collar crime defending” attorneys indicated their intention to withdraw from the case (yet asking for an extension citing Brett Gibb’s out-of-the country honeymoon), they still formally represent Steele.

If you re-read Steele’s motion, you will find another yummy irony: by arguing that Syfert broke one of the M.D. Fla. Local Rules and filed his second motion for sanction without leave of court, Steele demonstrated once again his ability to read the rules selectively: as I just mentioned, the basis for striking his motion can be found in the same set of rules.

There is one unanswered question: what are the implications of Steele’s motion being stricken from the docket? I’m mostly concerned about the exhibits, one of which is claimed to be fake (“Letter of Engagement”) and the other may lead to perjury charges (Lutz’s affidavit). If the entire document is stricken, can the exhibits be admitted as evidence for any purpose? So far I couldn’t find the answer.

Mark Twain to Prenda

Once upon a time, in an alternate history, Mark Twain was addressing Steele, Hansmeier, Duffy, Gibbs and Lutz. One of his wise phrases from that speech is particularly worth reminding:

If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.

 


¹ Reminder: Wasinger is one of the tree short-term attorneys for Sunlust on this case: all of them, after learning the extent of Prenda’s infamous douchebaggery, ran from this case as from plague.

Thanks to Judge Wright’s resolution to get to the bottom of Prenda-related controversies, the poo-throwing among the Prenda gang members has recently escalated dramatically. In this light, yesterday’s event is not surprising. We covered the Sunlust fiasco (Sunlust Pictures v. Tuan Nguyen (12-cv-01685) extensively in December. This coverage started with a hilarious hearing where a stand-up comedian Mark Lutz tried to dupe Judge Scriven into believing that he was a Sunlust representative. Later we also wrote about apparent fact-bending in the series of declarations by the plaintiff and his lawyers, which resulted in a motion for sanctions against Gibbs, Steele, Duffy and Wasinger filed by the defendant’s attorney Graham Syfert. It is also worth mentioning that Prenda’s members (for the first time, to the best of my knowledge) have lawyered up.

Although the transcript from Judge Scriven’s courtroom gained a status of celebrity among court transcripts and was exhibited in numerous motions across the country, the case itself remained dormant for months — until yesterday.

On 4/11/2013 Syfert decided to withdraw his motion for sanction against Gibbs. In addition, all the issues with Matt Wasinger have been resolved. According to Syfert’s motion, this young attorney was “duped” by Prenda — he became Prenda’s local counsel for a short time, but unlike many other “local representatives,” either obtuse or ethically challenged, quickly understood that his career was at serious stake and called it quits.

The reason why Gibbs was also spared can be found in his damning declaration, which was filed as an exhibit to the motion embedded above. While the new statements contradict Gibbs’s previous ones, Gibbs seems to be more truthful now. He speaks about the lawyers who de-facto drove the lawsuit in question (it is not a big stretch to assume it to be true for all the other Florida cases). Is anyone surprised that these lawyers appear to be… John Steele and Paul Hansmeier?

Although those who have been following the Prenda quest find nothing new in Gibbs’s declaration, it is notable that his confession is now written is stone — in a public court document. No matter how obvious some things are, Prenda’s lawyers were good at concealing the smoking gun, and judges don’t like hearsay and conspiracy theories. Now we have juicy evidence.

In my opinion, one particular consequence for Steele is that Gibbs’s words imply that Steele and Hansmeier have been driving the Florida lawsuits, i.e. it possible that they have been practicing Law in Florida without license. Given that Steele signed an affidavit agreeing not to do it, I expect Florida Bar to be annoyed (to put it mildly). Remember that even though the law prohibiting practicing Law without license in Florida is rarely enforced; such practice is still a third-degree felony.

Media coverage
Update

4/24/2013

On 3/23/2014 Judge Scriven issued a strongly worded order, letting Matt Wasinger go (I sincerely wish good luck to him) and instructing plaintiff to find a new counsel in 2 weeks and after that to file an opposition to Syfert’s motion for sanctions. Otherwise she promises to grant this motion and order Prenda to pay up:

Followup
Update on the Sunlust fiasco

Previous coverage:

 

Despite the slow week, it did not take long for the defendant counsel Graham Syfert to react to the white collar crime defenders’ opposition to motion for sanctions in Sunlust Pictures v. Tuan Nguyen case (12-cv-01685). This time Graham concentrated on John Steele, accusing him of multiple fraudulent actions:


Pornographer Daniel Weber in India
  • Forgery of the first, and, possibly, second declaration of plaintiff’s principal, Daniel Weber. I wrote an investigative piece about it on 12/30/2012. Syfert analyzed the same sources (Web(b)er’s declarations and the Twitter feeds of both Sunlust Pictures principals Daniel Weber and his generous wife Sunny Leone) and, unsurprisingly, came to similar conclusions. In addition to our findings (misspelled surname, location and suspicious signatures), he also proves that it was physically impossible to fax the first declaration from India:

    Assuming that the fax was in the custody and control of Daniel Weber from execution to transmission, even if Mr. Weber owned or chartered a private jet capable of near supersonic speeds, it is still impossible that the affidavit was executed on the 17th in India and faxed from India on the 19th. The only possible way Mr. Weber had custody and control of Declaration of Daniel Webber from signing to transmittal, would be that it was executed in India and faxed from Los Angeles, which would just be odd.

  • Multiple misstatements, half-truths and outright lies in John Steele’s declaration and other documents. In particular, Graham Syfert:
    1. questioned the purported sale of “Steele Law Firm,”
    2. debunked John Steele’s arrogant statements that “all the bar complaints against him have been thrown out,”
    3. ridiculed John’s explanation of communicating with Mark Lutz in the courtroom (“Hey Mark, I’m here!”),
    4. analyzed mail recipients of the email chains between Gibbs and local attorneys, noting that while neither the “official” Prenda principal Paul Duffy, nor Plaintiff representatives were even included, the “BCC” field listed both John Steele and Paul Hansmeier — actual puppeteers of the ongoing criminal tragicomedy.
  • The following witty (yet absolutely up-to-the point ) paragraph has made my day, and, I hope, yours (the emphasis is mine)¹:

    Defendant previously filed for sanctions against Mr. Steele for his role in the November 27th hearing, and alleged that he drafted the letter sent to the court by Paul Duffy wherein Mr. Duffy stated he could not attend due to eye surgery. Mr. Duffy has filed a sworn statement that he wrote the letter. Dkt. # 40, Ex B. Therefore, Defendant withdraws only that portion of the previous motion for sanctions against John Steele to the extent that it alleged Mr. Steele wrote Mr. Duffy’s eye surgery excuse letter. In withdrawing that portion of the first motion for sanctions, Defendant has learned the valuable lesson that the name assigned to a specific electronic device does not necessarily mean that a person committed a wrongful act. Defendant and Defendant’s counsel apologize to Mr. Steele for his accusation in that matter.

    I hope that everyone has read the document in its entirety and did not miss some truly amazing pieces. If you did miss them though, I quote a couple (emphasis of the hilarity is mine):

    The Affidavit of Daniel Weber states that he was “unexpectedly in Los Angeles” which in itself seems peculiar, but his tweets show that he had dinner in Los Angeles on the 23rd of November and took his dog “Chopper” to the vet on November 24th.

    [...]it is also apparent that Mr. Weber was in New York City on November 30th, 2012, attending a party at Club Pranna on Madison Avenue and 28th Street.

    It is obvious from the public statements made, that as far as Mr. Weber was “unexpectedly in Los Angeles” he was also unexpectedly in New York three days after the hearing, attending a posh New York night club event with the other principal of Sunlust, his wife, Sunny Leone. Defendant found no details as to whether Chopper was also in attendance.

    Paragraph twenty of Steele’s affidavit states that he drove with Mark Lutz to Tampa to observe the hearing before this court, but paragraph twenty-one states that in the middle of the court proceeding, he felt the need to reassure his existence to Mark Lutz. (Dkt #40, Ex. D) Although they had spent four hours in a car together, found a parking spot together, went through security together, rode up in the elevator together, and entered the courtroom together, John Steele asks this court to believe that he suddenly felt compelled to notify Mr. Lutz, “Hey, I’m here.” as if Mr. Lutz was worried about John Steele suddenly abandoning him in Tampa, or turning invisible like a superhero.

    Defendant should not be forced to continuously be a gatekeeper of the correct spelling of the name of Plaintiff’s principals or the truth of statements made in this court under penalty of perjury.

    Media coverage
    Update

    1/14/2013
    On 1/14/2013 “white collar crime defenders” James E. Felman and Katherine E. Yanes replied to Syfert’s Second Motion for Sanctions, calling defendant’s accusations that are based on undeniably solid evidence “speculations.” One word: unconvincing. Well, I probably had unreasonably heightened expectations from this firm, but given the weakness of this opposition, KMF is rather a below-the-average provincial law firm. A tendency to simply ignore addressing tough accusations (the bogus dog excuse, for example), instead concentrating on relatively weaker opponent’s arguments or procedural issues is more a sign of a forum troll than a good lawyer. While reading this document by itself, it looks decent, but try to read it side-by-side with Syfert’s… Meh.

     


    ¹ I’ll try to explain the irony to the visitors who are not so familiar with the copyright trolling phenomenon: one of the gruesome and predatory features of the current blizzard of copyright infringement lawsuits is the astonishing percentage of false positives. In many occurrences (sometimes in 30% of all cases, as one infamous copyright troll, Mike Meier, admitted on the record) troll lawyers harass and extort people who have nothing to do with the alleged wrongdoing, but simply happen to pay the Internet bill (i.e. their name was “assigned to a specific electronic device”: a cable or DSL modem).

    As I reported last week, copyright trolls John Steele, Paul Duffy, Brett Gibbs (and Mark Lutz¹) hired the “best law firm in Tampa for white collar criminal defense,” Kynes, Markman & Felman, P.A. (“KMF” below), in an attempt to avoid sanctions after an embarrassing yet entertaining Sunlust Pictures v. Nguyen (FLMD 12-cv-01685) hearing on November 27, 2012. In my opinion, the con artists simply could not risk fighting the defense attorney Graham Syfert’s motion without an outside counsel, as it would result in another hearing with all the perils of answering judges’ questions under oath.

    As a part of the argument against sanctions, four declarations/affidavits were attached to the KMF’s response (by Daniel Webber, Paul Duffy, Brett Gibbs, and John Steele).

    Besides a coordinated attack on Graham Syfert, these exhibits also meant to explain the November blooper in detail, covering possible questions — in order to avoid further scrutiny by the judge.

    Not surprisingly, this blog’s readers scrutinized those declarations. Taking the occasion, I want to remind Prenda’s defenders one more time: this is not a run-of-the mill lawsuit with a handful of inattentive spectators, but a happening watched by hundreds of eyes. There is no way any lie, fact twisting, or crookery could be smuggled into the proceedings without us noticing.

    So, people did read the declarations. And they did notice two serious flaws in the first one, purportedly filed by the plaintiff, Sunlust Pictures’ owner Daniel Weber:

    • His surname was misspelled: an extra “b” appeared in both occasions: “Webber.” The first occasion is at the top of the document, and I can imagine that the undersigned could overlook it, but the second one is right under the signature line. It is doubtful that a person would not notice a misspelling at the very place he is signing (unless, of course, he is under serious influence²).
    • In #5 he stated that both he and his generous wife were out of the country, “in the country of India filming a film during extended period of time, including November 27, 2012.” Well, his Twitter feed told quite a different story:

     

    It is not a secret that this blog is the first thing trolls read in the morning, so those damning findings were duly noticed³: on 12/26/2012 KMF filed a notice to replace two exhibits, including the one embedded above, correcting those two “mistakes.” The new declaration is notarized this time (why?):

    Misspelling alone, while suspicious, is still easy to brush off: we are not robots after all, and our pornographer could possibly overlook an extra letter gatecrashing his surname. However, not to remember in which country you were less than a month ago… Mr. Weber tries to explain why he lied under the penalty of perjury in his previous declaration:

    Both my wife and I were in the country of India filming a film during extended periods of time in 2012, traveling back and forth between India and Los Angeles. To clarify my prior declaration submitted in this matter, I was originally scheduled to travel to India on or around November 27. 2012 and arranged for a representative to attend the hearing in my stead because I would be unavailable and because I believed that since I do not have intimate knowledge of the details of this matter, it seemed better for us to request the attendance of a person who has knowledge of the issues raised in the case.

    My original travel plans were disrupted due to an emergency surgery performed on my dog. Thus I was unexpectedly In Los Angeles on the date of the hearing. I understood my prior declaration to have focused on my plans for the hearing and I would like to apologize for any confusion.

    This is not a “clarification,” Mr. Weber, it is a 180-degree opposite statement. If you initially said that you were in India, and then “In Mumbai, India,” that would be a clarification. Also, analyzing Mr. Weber’s Twitter feed, we see a different story again:

     

    December 4 is not “on or around November 27.” Also note how argumentum ad passions (“appeal to emotion” — sick puppy! what can be more heartbreaking?) was used to distract the judge from a simple, undeniable fact: the initial declaration contained knowingly and deliberately stated falsehood. Under the penalty of perjury.

    [Update] Make sure to read the comments below. Some are exceptionally good. This one does a thorough job of reconstructing the sequence of Weber’s life’s events based on his and his wife’s tweets: more proofs of lying under oath. Other comments are worth your time too.

    Some people also suggested that Mr. Weber did not sign the initial declaration at all. Indeed, signatures on these two documents look suspiciously different:

     

    TAD commented:

    Weber all of the sudden decided to sign using his initials instead of a loopy “D” (the worst looking “D” I’ve ever seen), not to mention the “Ds” do not match. Notice on DE44.1, the “D” in Weber’s signature basically begins with a straight line. On DE40.2, it’s the opposite, loopy all of the way through. Then there’s that stray line next to the “D” on DE40.2, no idea what that is supposed to be.

    Two different people signed these two documents, I’m 99.99999% certain. Handwriting doesn’t lie and, although I’m no graphologist, I can tell the difference between two peoples’ writing when it’s blatantly obvious. I could point out more inconsistencies but I’m not really in the mood hehe.

    I have a bad feeling that this is indeed likely (especially given that Prenda is not a stranger to accusations of identity fraud), although without a conclusion by a licensed graphologist I would not make an affirmative statement. Courts do not like conspiracy theories, no matter how plausible they are. For example, everyone believes that the plaintiff-defendant collusion exists in Prenda’s Guava cases, but without a strict proof, I cannot call it a fact, only “a most likely way of events.”

    Regardless, KMF are now in a peculiar situation: while they started the representation as an honest law firm that “is just doing its job,” things have been moving towards a dangerous line, by crossing which they may find themselves indistinguishable from the crooks they represent. The story with Mr. Weber’s declaration is a huge step in this unfortunate direction.

     

    So, let’s see what people think: I did not throw polls for a while:

     

     

    Happy New Year!

    To finish on the bright note, I wish everyone happiness and peace in the oncoming year. Even to you, Daniel Weber and your generous wife Sunny Leone!

    I admit that I underestimated both the trolls’ greed and the judicial system’s inertia, and although “good guys” are clearly winning, the war is not over yet. We will continue to fight “bad guys”: anti-troll lawyers in courts, and we bloggers — on the Internet.

    Coincidentally, this is my 200th post! I do not plan to spend much time on these issues until 2013: see you all next year!

    Followup
    Media coverage

     


    ¹ For some reason, Graham Syfert did not explicitly name Mark Lutz in his motion for sanctions.

    ² Prenda defenders! I hope you appreciate my generosity: I supply you with fine ideas how to weasel out of this situation!

    ³ 1/3/2013 Update: Apparently Graham Syfert, as he indicated in his second motion for sanctions, notified Plaintiff about the discrepancies in the Weber’s declaration. So, maybe the community’s investigation was not the reason for Weber’s declaration amendment. Nonetheless, it does not contradict the fact that the crooks read this site first thing in the morning. They do (and, thanks to Brett Gibbs’s selfless efforts, some judges visit my humble blog as well). :)