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 [...]
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.
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.