Posts Tagged ‘Otis D Wright’

In a recent appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Paul Duffy wrote:

Prenda Law is currently winding down its operations and is in the process of dismissing its remaining cases pursuant to the instructions of its clients [sic]. In some instances, the requests for dismissals are being opposed, resulting in delays and ongoing law and motion proceedings that have precluded Prenda Law from completely ceasing its operations.

Fortunately, everyone, including judges (well, except some either lazy or gullible ones), takes these words with a grain pound of salt. Whom do you want to deceive, Paul/John/Paul? Bullshitting a Court of Appeals is a very good idea. Go on, we are ready for an illustrious show.

So, while a San Diego law firm Klinedist has been doing its best to avoid unavoidable — a total destruction of SS Prenda — in a joke of a court that is located in St. Clair County IL, a brand new shake-down campaign is underway. Unbelievable chutzpah. In this judicial stinking hole, where even the chief judge is seemingly in bed with Prenda (Judge Baricevic signed a carte blanche “agreed order,” the document that no self-respecting judge would even consider signing), a new lawsuit/petition was filed on April 15: Peg Leg Productions v. Charter Communications. Who are the signers? Paul Duffy and Kevin Hoerner. Of course.

 

I don’t want even try to go into this garbage petition’s details, it is too obvious what’s going on here.

So, what the hell is “Peg Leg Productions”? A painfully familiar name offends our sight once again:

 

Let’s reiterate the dates (I’ll omit many secondary events: refer to a titanic job by John Henry, who organized all the events in a nice timeline):

  • April 2: Prenda principals plead the Fifth declining to answer questions about the bogus corporations and their roles in those corporations.
  • April 15: A new lawsuit/petition Peg Leg Productions v. Charter was conceived in a scandal-rigged St. Clair County court.
  • May 6: Fleet Admiral Judge Otis Wright slammed his massive hammer on the Prenda player’s heads.
  • May 28: An entity that managed to file a lawsuit 1.5 months earlier was finally created: Lutz & [unborn] Sons as a CEO.
  • June 14: In an “emergency” motion, ostensibly Paul Duffy stated that “Prenda is winding down its operations.” And please, John Steele, don’t insult judges’ intelligence once again, bullshitting that Lutz’s funny businesses are independent from Prenda; that you, Hansmeier, Prenda, and Lutz have nothing to do with each other.

 

I must give a credit to some sense of humor our crooks have shown: referring to a stereotypical pirate attribute is funny, and at the same time is an unambiguous hint to who is the actual pirate.

 

Update

6/17/2013

Today Morgan Pietz filed his response to Prenda’s “emergency” appeal that incorporates the same findings that are the subject of this post. I’m happy to note that Morgan came to the same conclusions: he illustrated that despite Duffy’s claims (made under oath), the stubborn facts do not corroborate those claims.

Many remember that less than 3 years ago an infamous scumbag Steve “Lightspeed” Jones, a pornographer who specializes in “barely legal” genre (i.e. he recruits and films very young girls), articulated the “troll credo” that would become a modus operandi of the sleaziest porno extortionists:

People aren’t embarrassed when their neighbors find out they downloaded a few songs, but illegally trading midget, tranny, facials, and teen porn content? There is some news worth keeping from the wife, kids, parents, and neighbors.

Please feel free to continue to compare this to the RIAA…

Steve Lightspeed

(He said this in the context of hiring John Steele.)

I heard stories about troll harassers/collectors (not only Prenda’s, but Lipscomb’s, for example) threatening to tell relatives, neighbors, and colleagues that the victim is being sued in connection to an illegal download of pornography. Along these lines, Lipscomb’s collectors inflicted more harm upon citizenry than anyone else — see Fantalis’s story.


Paul Duffy: “Pleaded Fifth? So what?!”
(Click to enlarge)

Yet I never saw these threats explicitly written in a demand letter — until yesterday. No one else but Prenda came up with a new sleaze at the time when the entire gang, including the ethically handicapped attorney who signed it (Paul Duffy), pleaded the Fifth and was referred to the authorities for criminal investigation (as a matter of fact, Duffy pleaded the Fifth twice). Last week people started receiving new letters, this time not from involuntarily dissolved Duffy Law Group (like in April), not from fake/shell corporations, but from the “Anti-Piracy Law Group,” the latest Prenda reincarnation. An explicit threat to call one’s neighbors was added to this masterpiece of douchebaggery (emphasis is mine):

[...] The purpose of this step is to gather evidence about who used your Internet account to steal from our client [sjd: never mind that this case is about hacking, not copyright infringement]. The list of possible suspects includes you, members of your household, your neighbors (if you maintain an open wi-fi connection) and anyone who might have visited your house. In the coming days we will contact these individuals to investigate whether they have any knowledge of the acts described in my client’s prior letter. [...]

Anything goes if it helps to scare an uninformed extortion target:

[...] Internet is full of stories of people being brought to court by our firm, incurring significant legal fees and suffering large judgments [...]

I don’t know what part of their bodies these guys use for thinking: to see what kind of stories people will find, try to google “Anti-Piracy Law Group,” or visit antipiracylawgroup.com (copy and paste to make sure that this is real).

 

If I was not a relatively modest kind, I would tell you what to do with such letter. But you know it without me if you spend an hour surfing the “Internet full of stories.”

By the way: the lopsided second page is not a result of faulty scanning. This is exactly how the original printed letter looks like. Also, we probably have a new definition of “Chutzpah,” since the letters are dated 5/7/2013 — the very next day after Judge Wright’s smackdown.

Good news

I want to finish on a lighter note.

I hope that everyone is familiar with Friday’s surprise interview that John Steele gave to ArsTechnica. It does not make sense to discuss the things this narcissistic megalomaniac said on the record. I keep wondering if this pretentious paltry creature understands the extent of the damage he inflicts upon himself and his buddies when he opens his mendacious mouth in public. Funny enough, Jason Sweet used Steele’s words from this interview to argue against Prenda in the evening of the exact same Friday!

While the entire interview is good news overall, there is more to it: while John struggles with mastering a delicate art of shutting-the-fuck-up, some people are doing their job in silence. And some of them visit this site in the line of their duty:

 

I like it. I like it a lot.

Media coverage

We have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Congratulations to everyone involved, especially Morgan and Nick.

Media coverage

The transcript of the pivotal hearing in Ingenuity13 LLC v. John Doe (CACD 12-cv-08333) is now available as an exhibit to Blair Chintella’s motion for sanctions, which deserves a separate post (and is a must-read).

Enjoy.

 

Big thanks to Michael Stone for recapping.

Update

I said above that Chintella’s motion deserves a separate post, and intended to write about it, but Popehat beat me on that (Prenda Law: Let The Other Shoes Hit The Floor).

Ken White uploaded all the exhibits to this motion, as well as to another post-April 2 masterpiece — Jason Sweet’s motion for attorney fees in a dismissed (in panic) Lighspeed v. Smith et al. (ILSD 12-cv-00889) I want to point to one particular exhibit: a 1/25/2013 transcript of the hearing in the Hennepin County Court (Minnesota) — a hearing that has two major events associated with it: Spencer Merkel’s affidavit (ohai, Adam Urbanczyk!) and the “Love in the Elevator” serving of John Steele.

Although an epic hearing on 3/11/2013 was already devastating for Prenda, Judge Otis Wright apparently did not finish his job then: he has ordered a new hearing on 3/29/2013 4/2/2013¹, admonishing the alleged fraudsters for the failure to appear on March 11. Although they have enough time for weaselry — I’m sure that Steele & Co. will do everything possible not to be put under oath in front of Wright — it will be a very-very bad idea not to come to LA on March 29 April 2. Very bad idea. The countdown timer on the left has been reset.

Media coverage

 


¹Update: the hearing has been moved to 4/2/2013 for purely administrative reasons, I guess.

Yesterday I wrote that I would not be coming up with a story about yesterday’s eventful day. I provided a couple of links to eloquent, well thought pieces, especially by Megan Geuss (ArsTechnica) and Ken “Popehat” White. Yet this morning an anonymous commenter, who attended the hearings, shared his own story, which belongs to a post, not a comment. Even though we will eventually obtain and publish the transcript, personal perspectives of attendees are invaluable: only facts can be redundant, not impressions.

By Anonymous

No.

Gibbs did not have Wright wrapped around his finger. Believe me nobody who’s touched Prenda or their shells (that are “not even shells” in Wright’s words) should feel safe.

The tone of the hearing was set when Wright opened by calling out Prenda’s attorney:

    “ARE THEY HERE!?”

    “No.”

    “HAVE A SEAT!”


Federal Judge Otis D. Wright

That was basically all he wanted to hear, although there was a brief exchange that established they were supposedly available by phone (whether that would be a domestic or international call was not established). She took a dressing down for the last minute filing tricks, but the bottom line is Wright did not dignify their gamesmanship by letting their attorney make excuses, he did not waste time grinding through their objections, he said they had been given an opportunity to explain themselves, and since they chose not take that opportunity, he moved on. I can only imagine what she is thinking after sitting through that hearing, because I’m sure they didn’t fill her in on the backstory.

The next order of business was calling out Hansmeier’s deposition. The judge dismissively tossed a copy on the desk in front of him (seriously) and said he spent the weekend reading it and it was the most revealing document thus far. Wright was extremely upset with that deposition. Extremely.

“Someone has an awful lot to hide.”

Hansmeier is probably in trouble.

The rest is incomplete and not very chronological, just salient points:

Wright used the phrase “the lawyers have a pecuniary interest.”

He noted that none of these companies file tax returns.

The fact that LiveWire has no office, just a P.O. box in DC, came up. Gibbs’ lawyer started to make an attempt to make this sound legit, but then he said something about it being a “cloud office,” there were derisive snorts, and he just kind of gave up.

Wright took several specific shots at Prenda’s credibility. The word “lie” was used. And “fraud.” A few times when Gibbs was trying to pass blame to avoid giving a straight answer, Wright admonished him for doing “all the stuff that you do” to redirect responsibility. Expect a defamation suit against Judge Wright to be forthcoming…

Alan Cooper of Minnesota was there. He confirmed the bits we’ve heard, that Steele bragged about his copyright litigation plans, Steele’s goal was $10,000/day for sending letters, told Cooper not to answer any calls related to Steele’s companies. Denied knowledge of all of Steele’s uses of the name “Alan Cooper.” Basically, it confirmed what we had already heard and read in his letter, but no doubt putting this on the record, under oath, in front of this judge was very damaging to Prenda. Gibbs’s attorneys appeared to begin to counter Cooper’s testimony by asking Cooper if he had called Steele and left a voicemail asking “how are my porn companies doing?” Cooper simply said “no” and they gave up. This must have been a reference to the “iPhone record function” Steele was blabbering about on Twitter, but if there is anything there, Gibbs’s attorneys did not think it was worth pursuing. By that point Steele’s credibility had been shredded, and Pietz had played several voicemails of Steele threatening Cooper with more litigation, so I assume that if a recording (of someone) exists Gibbs’s attorneys do not have a copy and decided not to gamble on Steele’s word.

During the break Mitch Stoltz told us EFF took care of Cooper’s travel arrangements, so those guys deserve all our thanks and if you wanted to find a way to help with Cooper’s travel arrangements, make a donation to the EFF.

A new revelation that came out while Gibbs was under oath is that he was briefly a W2 employee of one or more of the shells, I think it was LiveWire and/or AF Holdings, but it’s so convoluted with the “mergers” and everyone owning everyone that it was hard to keep straight. That contradicted his prior statements that he had only ever been a 1099 employee. Of course he was never paid while he was on the payroll, and it was strange, he sounded like he was bewildered by the fact he had been an employee, like maybe they did that without telling him first too? Since he was under oath at the time he was perhaps less likely to be BS’ing at that point, but that was the story regarding his surprise “in-house counsel” job.

Wright dug into Gibbs quite a bit for pathologically failing to file notices of related cases, and Gibbs’ persistent confusion of “joinder” vs. “related” for filing purposes. He did a bit of digging into Gibbs weak and apparently inaccurate justification of his “investigation” of the properties. Wright said he had used Google Earth himself to take a look, so Gibbs ended up claiming that when he looked at maps of those addresses, the maps he saw had a different angle that totally gave the impression the house was surrounded by emptiness. It was not convincing.

For the juicier issues of Prenda’s decision-making process, Gibbs pretty much just passed the blame on to “senior members” with lots of “decisions were made” type responses. After all our speculation that Duffy is a nominal figurehead, it was very interesting to hear Gibbs talk about who gave his marching orders. It sounded like he basically never talked to Duffy, maybe once or twice was the impression I got. Even after the firm supposedly changed ownership and Duffy took over, whenever Wright asked who was giving instructions and making decisions, it was always Steele and Hansmeier. No matter where we were in the timeline or who was supposed to be the owner of what, whenever Gibbs was asked who gave him orders it was “Paul and John,” and according to my notes the order Gibbs spoke was “Paul and John,” which may be revealing: certainly Hansmeier has more direct involvement than I had believed to be the case. As they got to the newer entities, Lutz’s name was sprinkled in here and there, almost as if they were still in the process of reconstructing the story to shift more responsibility (read: blame) to Lutz. In any case, it was enough to make me wonder if Duffy is even a real person, or if he has had his identity misused too or what, because he doesn’t seem to do anything, so it doesn’t make sense that he would put his name on this powder keg of risk (unless of course he is getting fat checks, which may well be).

I will grant that Gibbs did a somewhat successful job of looking duped and misled. He was even asked directly if he felt duped by Wright, and after a surprisingly long pause said “in a way.” Not that I believe this could be true after two years of working with Paul and John, but I think he pulled it off. There were one or two points that even made me feel a bit of sympathy for him. For example, according to Gibbs’s testimony, many of the recent dunning letters bearing his signature that have been sent out for cases in other states used a stamp of his signature without his permission. He claims this began after he had decided to get out and sever ties with the firm, and that he told Lutz and Steele to stop (of course he didn’t notify any courts or authorities…). It sounded like a possible carefully constructed CYA, but given Steele’s vindictiveness it may well be that Gibbs is a “victim” in the sense that Steele has been attempting to set Gibbs up for even more trouble. Gibbs deserves every bit of trouble he may get, but I don’t want Steele to be allowed to weasel out of his own share of responsibility by using Gibbs’s name instead of his own. I can also believe that Gibbs did not know about the Alan Cooper and other possible forgery issues.

For the most part, the specific issues for which Gibbs was present became a sideshow. His attorneys kept returning to them, because that appeared to be all they were prepared for. My guess is they have absolutely no idea how deep the rabbit hole goes, but if they do know they have not had time to prepare excuses for the past two years of shenanigans, and they were overwhelmed. They had canned responses to the points on the OSC, but Wright was far more interested in digging into Prenda’s overall pattern of behavior and business model. Gibbs’s attorneys were unprepared to field those questions, and they occasionally offered up some objection that Wright’s line of inquiry wasn’t relevant to the OSC, but Wright rebuffed them by stating his concern was now patterns of practice and fraud upon the court. The last words from Gibbs’ counsel were an obviously prepared statement that seemed awkwardly out of place given the turn the hearing had taken; I believe they expected to show up, run through a prepared script, and call it a day. They are probably wondering what the hell happened.

What struck me as ominous for Gibbs and especially the rest of Prenda is that Morgan Pietz and Nicholas Ranallo appeared well prepared to go into greater depth to establish that Gibbs was working in more than an “of counsel” role, to argue the jurisdictional issues of the other Prenda guys, etc. But Wright really wasn’t interested in hearing more. But I don’t mean he didn’t find it relevant or convincing, more like he had made up his mind that this circus has gone on long enough. I would sum up his attitude at this point as “Why bother? I don’t need to hear this.” It was as if Wright was satisfied that he had more than enough for… Whatever comes next… And when he got to that point he was just done.

To me, the absolute standout moment of the day was when Gibbs stepped down from the witness box and Wright said “Good luck to you.” You had to be there to appreciate the menace in his voice.
For now, we can only guess what Gibbs might need that luck for.

Personally, I think Lady Justice is practicing her dropkicks.

Update

Here are another hearing attendee’s observations:

By jw

Since you ask for more impressions/observations, here are some from my own non-legal-expert perspective:

  • Many have noted the judge did not seem amused. While that is generally accurate with respect to Prenda’s (allegedly) fraudulent, deceptive, evasive practices, there were times at which the judge stifled laughter in apparent amusement. In particular: when he had to correct Waxler for saying the client “retains” attorneys; when Pietz corrected his use of the word “porno” with “adult entertainment.”
  • There was a nice moment in which, just before breaking for a 10-minute recess, the judge almost tenderly said “I hate to stop you [to Pietz]. But, since I care more about her [referring to the court reporter] than this case, and she has been going non stop since this started, we are going to break for 10 minutes.”
  • At one point, the judge asked Gibbs, under oath, if he understood his question, and then added, “Because I can hear you now… ’compound!’…”, making a joke about Gibbs’ extensive objections in the ~300 page deposition of Feb 19.
  • I was careful to observe Heather Rosing (attorney for Steele, Hansmeier, van den Hemel, and Duffy) throughout the hearing, since she got shot down so harshly by Wright at its opening. She was quite active throughout, talking animatedly to two other gentlemen who accompanied her there, and taking copious notes. She also at some point, spoke with Gibbs’s attorneys in an effort to apparently join forces to get them to contact her clients by phone. Though a phone appearance never happened, it seemed for a bit like they were trying to make it a real possibility. For what it’s worth, and this is only my impression, Rosing seemed a bit stunned by the revelations offered at the hearing, as if she hadn’t had the full story when she filed that ex parte motion… I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if she withdrew after yesterday’s revelations.
  • All the talk about popcorn, one might think there would have been a carnival atmosphere to the hearing. But it was really intense, people were quite glued to the proceedings, and very quiet. And, based on Wright’s demeanor and his strict no-food policy, it would have been terrifying to try to eat popcorn in there! I was even a bit scared to take a sip of my water in the room.
  • I have never been to a hearing before, so maybe court clerks are always awesome. But I have to say, I was really impressed by the court clerk running the show. She was a well-dressed, petite woman who was extremely attentive and obviously very on top of things in the room — keeping track of all the exhibits, etc. Wright’s two clerks (sitting behind the defense’s table… I think that’s who they were), were also interesting to watch. At one point, one of them, dressed very nicely in a purple tie and grey suit, handed Pietz his own flow chart Prenda diagram to use on the overhead “document reader” thingie when Pietz was having difficulty with the display from his iPad.
  • There were a bunch of reporters in the room. I noticed one young woman from the LA Times, who said at the very end of the hearing “I have a lot of reading to do.”
  • Wright clearly likes and respects all of the people that work for him, and vice versa.
  • Gibbs’s attorneys were making fun of Morgan (to themselves — I was just sitting behind them, watching closely) as he brought forward more and more evidence showing that Wright probably has jurisdiction over Steele and Hansmeier. It seemed like they were just saying it was overkill. The judge, however, seemed to appreciate Pietz’s efforts. At the end of the jurisdictional stuff, the judge said it was time for Plaintiff to go, and noted that they obviously would have no objection to the evidence Pietz brought forward to support Wright’s jurisdiction over Steele and Hansmeier, “Otherwise, he’s in [looking directly at Gibbs].”
  • I thought it was noteworthy that during Pietz’s questioning of Gibbs, Gibbs admitted that Steele and probably Hansmeier have his email passwords, and also his ECF password, allowing them to send emails as Gibbs, read all emails Gibbs receives (attorney-client privilege??) and submit things to the court as Gibbs. Apparently Gibbs also received emails to other attorneys (I can’t remember their names, one in Nevada…) and then was supposed to forward them on to the actual attorneys. When all this was being revealed, Judge Wright sat back in his chair and frowned.
Update 2

3/13/2013

Transcripts of the voicemails John Steele left on the Alan Cooper’s phone are available. As Dark Moe tweeted after the hearing,

…and another thing: The voicemail messages from Steele bothered me. Cooper did nothing to deserve being threatened with a lawsuit.

It’s sickening. Wish you could have heard the messages. My lawyer was moved over it. Couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

Before reading the following, make sure you allocated enough time to have a shower afterwards.

Usually I do some promotional stuff to get certain events noticed and publicized. Obviously, no need to do it today. I’ll leave it to the witnesses and more eloquent/professional folks to tell their versions of today’s story. I’m glad that today’s events caused so much interest, and I hope it is just the beginning. I’m happy that our community has contributed to this apotheoses in progress. Thank you all!

Stories about today’s hearing

 

We all knew that March 11 sanction hearing would make history (mind the countdown calendar on the left). After Judge Write ordered Gibbs to name Prenda’s decision makers, we hoped that the judge would order the senior members of the infamous copyright troll firm to appear in person and be questioned under oath. However, this outcome would be too good to be true. Today it has turned out both good and true. The judge’s order definitely made Prenda’s masterminds forget about people saying mean things about them on the Internet: this week the trolls acquired an unprecedented headache.

 

I expect to see some hasty filings tomorrow with all imaginable and non-imaginable excuses not to appear in Wright’s courtroom. You may remember that Paul Duffy claimed in November that he could not travel by air due to his health condition. I don’t want to imply it is not true, but it is worth mentioning that the doctor, who filed the sealed affidavit, is David J. Fletcher, Paul Duffy’s friend and co-defendant in a lawsuit that Duffy’s former employer Freeborn & Peters LLP filed against them alleging breach of contract, fraud, conspiracy, and breach of fiduciary duty. If Paul cannot travel by air, there are still trains that serve millions of passengers every year, and I heard that traveling by train through the Rockies is a fantastic experience.

One motion from Brett Gibbs — via his lawyers who “primarily defend lawyers in malpractice actions” — has already hit the docket: a request for these lawyers to appear “on behalf of their client.” I do not know if “on behalf” means “instead of” in this context: if it is so, I do not expect Wright to grant it (as a matter of fact, I misinterpreted this motion due to my legal ignorance — see the update below — the motion was granted on 3/6/2013).

Update: my layman’s (apparently incorrect) assessment prompted an attorney’s comment. Ken wrote:

I think you are misreading Gibbs’ lawyers’ application. They are asking for leave to make a special appearance. That usually means an appearance for a limited purpose, as opposed to a general appearance, which makes you that person’s attorney of record for all purposes in the case. Lawyers seek to make a special appearance to limit their exposure — to avoid being stuck as counsel of record in the case. If you become counsel of record, you’d have to move to withdraw if you wanted to get out (for instance, if your client stopped paying you), and the judge might or might not let you out. Judges can accept, or not, a special appearance.

Anyway, it is less than a week until THE hearing, and if anyone wants to attend it, I advise to come earlier to avoid standing in a doorway.

In other news

Today, for more than 12 hours, visitors of Prenda’s site wefightpiracy.com were being redirected to The Pirate Bay. According to this site’s commenters, it was a javascript redirection, embedded into the site code: apparently, “hackers” did not elect to deface the site in order to deliver a message. Of course, there is no proof, but both a lame execution of the “hack” and the astonishingly long time to fix the site, suggest an inside job: we will learn soon if our community is blamed for this “takeover.”

Update

3/9/2013
There was nothing unexpected in the yesterday’s events: those who were summoned to attend the hearing, did everything possible to weasel out. Naturally, they waited for the last moment and filed their motion outside of ECF, and, as a result it is still not on Pacer. Bad thing is that I was busy yesterday and couldn’t break the news. Good thing is that there are many who follow this saga real-time and more eloquent than me, so continue reading about this expected douchebaggery:

Update 2

3/11/2013
Yesterday Morgan Pietz lodged (filed) a copy of yesterday’s investigative piece in a Minnesota’s StarTribune (by Dan Browning). The reason is an alleged (and damning) evidence of another name misappropriation by Prenda, namely using the identity of Allan Mooney in Prenda’s filings without his knowledge, even supplying a “notarized” copy of his signature. I did not cover this particular alleged fraud explicitly, but those who read Morgan Pietz’s filings referred in recent posts, know what I’m talking about.

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the putative Putative John Doe in 2:12-cv-08333-DMG-PJW by and through counsel, hereby lodges with the Court a true and correct copy of a Minneapolis StarTribune Article published Sunday March 10, 2013, a copy of which is also attached hereto as Exhibit 1. As relevant here, the headline for this article would be that Allan Mooney of Minnesota is quoted denying knowing that his name is being used in connection with federal court filings made by Prenda Law, Inc. (including in the St. Clair County Guava, LLC action). Further, Mr. Mooney also denies knowing that he was listed as the organizer for MCGIP, LLC, a plaintiff Prenda Law, Inc. has represented in numerous copyright infringement actions. The yellow highlighting to the relevant section of the article dealing with Allan Mooney’s denial of his alleged role in Prenda lawsuits was applied by undersigned counsel.

Media coverage
After Judge Wright’s strong Order to show cause why copyright troll Brett Gibbs should not be severely sanctioned for all his troubles (Ingenuity v. Jon Doe — CACD 12-cv-08333), both parties — Gibbs (via a newly hired law firm “primarily defending lawyers in malpractice actions”) and Morgan Pietz have exchanged intensive pleadings. Gibbs has seemingly decided to save his ass by throwing the troll masterminds under the bus, while Morgan Pietz, having only a couple of hours before the filing deadline, wrote one of his best briefs explaining Gibbs’s and Prenda’s fraudulent, possibly criminal, activities.

Gibbs, while pointing his finger to Prenda, has been choosing his words carefully though, and employing so painfully familiar weaseltalk, managed not to call the real criminals by name.

Judge Otis Wright, tired of the said weaseltalk, issued yet another order yesterday, consolidating five Prenda’s cases for the purpose of the March 11 sanctions hearing, and mandating Gibbs to answer simple questions directly and unambiguously (a skill that this miserable troll is obviously lacking):

Brett Gibbs is hereby ordered to respond to the following questions in a separate brief, to be submitted by March 1, 2013:

  • The names and contact information of the “senior members of the law firm that employed Mr. Gibbs in an ‘of counsel’ relationship.” (Gibbs Resp. 2.);
  • The names and contact information of the persons who make “strategic decisions . . . whether to file actions, who to sue, and whether to make a certain settlement demand or accept an offer of settlement.” (Gibbs Resp. 2.);
  • The names and contact information of the “owners of these copyrights.” (Gibbs Resp. 2.) If these owners are business entities, then provide in addition the names and contact information of the principals of these entities.
  • The names and contact information of the principals of AF Holdings LLC and Ingenuity 13 LLC.

 

I envision Gibbs whining about such a short time given to him to produce answers. Yet, just stop and think for a moment: how long would it take to answer these questions for an honest attorney employed by a reputable law firm that conducts legal and respectable business? Five minutes? Ten?

Additionally, the judge ordered that

The parties may each file a supplemental brief, limited to five pages, addressing the issues raised in the parties briefs submitted on February 19, 2013. These supplemental briefs shall be filed by March 4, 2013.

So, expect more crocodile tears from one side and the sound of a hammer hitting another nail in the coffin of copyright trolling from the other.

Last, but not least, Judge Wright is damn serious about burying Prenda:

Further, Mr. Gibbs is reminded to appear in person at the March 11, 2013 hearing.

I would say it is safe to buy non-refundable tickets to Los Angeles if you want to attend one of the most important hearings in the history of Prenda’s downfall. And, in the meantime, John Steele and Paul Hansmeier will have a lot of uncomfortable talking to do during this weekend in Utah.

In other news

I hope you did not miss Arstechnica’s feature story about Raul, DieTrollDie, Morgan Pietz and yours truly:

 

Update

3/1/2013

Brett Gibbs replied to the Judge Wright’s order (embedded above) in the evening of March 1st, 2013:

  • John Steele and Paul Hansmeier were correctly named as the “senior members” of Steele Hansmeier PLLC / Prenda Law / LW Holdings LLC (“Livewire“). Paul Duffy was mentioned as Prenda’s sole principle.
    • Gibbs refused to provide their personal addresses and phone numbers in an open document, citing the publicly advertised number and Washington DC’s virtual office instead. Agreed to file the personal information under seal.
  • Gibbs claimed that “upon information and belief” both AF Holdings and Ingenuity 13 were organized “under the laws of St. Kitts and Nevis,” provided the address (Springates East, Government Road, Charlestown, Nevis — the address that is a “home” to a shitload of companies).
  • Mark Lutz was identified as a CEO of both fake corporations. He lives and works in Las Vegas, his address is not known to Gibbs, only the phone number. Agreed to file the phone number under seal.
  • One copyright (“Popular Demand”) was transferred from Heartbreaker Films LLC to AF Holdings, the other two copyrights (“A Peek Behind the Scenes at a Show” and “Five Fan Favorites”) were assigned to Ingenuity 13 directly (it is not clear who was the initial owner: naturally Ingenuity 13 did not produce the smut).
  • Neither Alan Cooper nor Salt Marsh has been mentioned at all.

 

First reaction

Mysterious Anonymous commented:

Gibbs’ response to the request for contact information is filed. Total load of crap, i.e. he doesn’t provide the contact information requested “out of an abundance of caution” and wants to file it under seal.

I called that.

These guys are so pathetic, using public resources to play the blackmail, pay us or else we name and shame game and of course they don’t want anyone to know who they are. I’m sure, given the documented shadiness of everything Steele has touched, Judge Wright considered the possibility that lots of people want a piece of these scumbags, and if he wanted to give Gibbs the option to file under seal, he would have.

It is also clear that Lutz is being set up as the fall guy. Why else would he suddenly become CEO of all of the Steele’s creations? No wonder he had the sense to try fleeing to Mexico, too bad that didn’t work out for him, soon he’s probably going to wish he stayed in spite of the muggings and jail and whatever the hell other trouble he got himself into. I would suspect Lutz is being used as their fake CEO without his knowledge or permission a la Cooper, but since he is still making calls and should be able to use the Internet, there’s no way he doesn’t know. That may explain why he’s calling as Jeff Schultz or whatever, it would be kinda weird for the CEO of a real company to make dunning calls personally.

Nice try guys but with all the dirt Pietz and Ranallo dug up regarding Steele’s ties to these frauds, I somehow doubt he is going to forget about the Alan Cooper thing just because they say Lutz is CEO now. It’s looking like Gibbs really is backed into a corner here, for some reason he is not willing to dox these guys even to save his own ass, but Wright does not seem likely to put up with this crap.

Update 2

3/4/2013
As directed by Judge Otis Wright, at least one of the parties, Morgan Pietz submitted his last (before the hearings) brief in support of sanctions. At the same time, Cory Doctorow posted his very emotional article on BoingBoing. In my mind these two write-ups are mysteriously connected. Connected by a clear message from the bottom of the heart of every honest individual: “Enough is enough!”

(See also Pietz’s declaration and exhibits that include a diagram of Prenda cobbleweb and wi-fi coverage maps similar to one we posted recently.)

A bit later, Gibbs filed his brief (via counsel). Nothing to comment on here, except the fact that the course on trying to clean himself up by blaming Prenda for all the wrongdoings was unambiguously confirmed:

[...]the Pietz Response relies on guilt by association in attempting to assail Mr. Gibbs for his mere association with, and the alleged activity of, Steele Hansmeier PLLC (“S&H”) and Prenda Law, Inc. (“Prenda”).

Mr. Gibbs no longer has a relationship with Prenda or Livewire Holdings LLC. He is no longer counsel of record for any cases involving Ingenuity and is counsel of record in one case for AF Holdings pending AF Holdings retaining new counsel.

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Saying that judges rarely use words “incarceration,” “fraud,” “automatic bench warrant” in an order to show cause would be an understatement. Nonetheless, Judge Otis Wright did just that in Ingenuity v. Jon Doe (CACD 12-cv-08333). Tired of apparent Prenda Law’s fraudulent activities, he ordered its counsel Brett Gibbs to explain his and his law firm’s behavior at a hearing set for March 11. Additionally, he allowed parties (Brett Gibbs and Morgan Pietz) to file briefs before February 19. A deposition of Prenda by Morgan Pietz was set to proceed on the same date.

Brett Gibbs tries to play a pity card, points finger at “Prenda senior people”

Copyright troll Brett Gibbs

A couple of hours before the deadline, Brett Gibbs filed his declaration through a newly hired law firm Waxler Carner Brodsky LLP, which has been “primarily defending lawyers in malpractice actions.” Although it was a relatively wise move (akin to an old lawyer’s saying that “a lawyer who represents himself in a court has a fool for a client”), the result was a pile of horse manure that does not pass a common sense scrutiny. The funny thing is that this spectacular failure does not characterize Gibbs’s defenders, it’s just too much lying to explain: no star attorney is capable of coming up with a credible story painting Gibbs an innocent kid deceived by evil grown-ups.

Regardless, the main huge news is that Brett has given up his stubborn loyalty and has started pointing his finger at Prenda’s “senior members” (Paul Hansmeier and John Steele):

I am and have never had an ownership interest in the copyrights involved in the Copyright Litigations. As discussed in greater detail below, I did not make strategic decisions like whether to file actions, who to sue, and whether to make a certain settlement demand or accept an offer of settlement in the Copyright Litigations. These types of decisions were made by the clients, after consulting with senior members of the law firms that employed me in an “of counsel” relationship.
[...]

I have never had a financial or fiduciary (i.e., ownership) interest in AF Holdings. AF Holdings was a client of S&H and then Prenda. The face-to-face and direct interactions between S&H and later Prenda with AF Holdings were handled by the senior members of the law firms and not me.
[...]

I have never met Alan Cooper, and do not know what the extent of Mr. Cooper’s role is in AF Holdings aside from seeing a signature from an “Alan Cooper” on the copyright assignments and pleadings.
[...]

I first became aware of a question regarding the identity of Alan Cooper when it was raised by Mr. Pietz.
[...]

I confirmed the existence of the client-executed verification either by seeing a copy of the signed verification, or at the very least, being informed by a representative of S&H or Prenda that a signed verification was in the possession of S & H or Prenda.

The explanation of the reason how Alan Copper’s fraudulent signature was verified by Gibbs and why he failed to present the original is simply stunning. Sure, it is a credible and sufficient reasoning that will clear Mr. Brett’s name so he will avoid sanctions:

In Case No. 84, Mr. Pietz first asked for a copy of Mr. Cooper’s verification to the petition to perpetuate testimony on or about December 2012, well after the petition had been discharged. Given the length of time since the case was discharged, I was informed and understand that S&H (and later Prenda) no longer has a copy of Mr. Cooper’s verification to the petition to perpetuate testimony.

Just a week earlier Steele and Hansmeier decided to delegate Gibbs’s responsibilities to Michael Dugas. After two and half years of collaboration, they have thrown Brett under the bus, so no surprise that his loyalty has evaporated quickly.

I’ll leave it to a reader to go through unconvincing excuses, which are not as entertaining as those that another troll’s mob mastermind, Keith Lipscomb, poured on Judge Baylson last fall.

 


Click to enlarge

[2/21/2013 update] It is not remotely funny anymore that Brett (to whom we already gave an honorable nickname “Pinocchio”) is lying without even thinking about the possibility of anyone doing some basic fact checking. Here is an example (thanks to a commenter for noticing):

From Gibbs’s declaration:

31. In addition, in order to rule out neighbors of the 1411 Paseo Jacaranda, Santa Maria, California 93458 location utilizing the internet connection, I performed a Google map search and obtained a satellite picture of the corner house located at 1411 Paseo Jacaranda, Santa Maria, California 93458. A further public search revealed that the house was approximately 1,200 sq. ft. which sat on a 6,534 sq. ft. lot. Considering the position of the house on the lot, and its position away from the neighboring houses, it seemed clear that, should the household have wireless internet, it would not have been accessible by the neighbors.

Alright. A typical wireless range is from 50 to 100 m. Look at the map: green circle’s radius is 50 m, and yellow — 100 m. So we are talking about 10-30 households capable of utilizing the wireless connection in question.

Can’t help noticing another funny argument in Gibbs’s declaration:

[...] the inconsistency did not prevent a prima facie showing of copyright ownership because the law only requires the assignment to he signed by the assignor. Given the court’s finding that the copyright assignment in Case No. 3335 was prima facie valid despite an issue regarding whether the assignee had properly executed the assignment. I had and have a good faith belief that the assignments in Case No. 6636 and 6669 are valid despite any alleged issue regarding the identity of Alan Cooper.

Or, as scruuball translated it to Twitter’s 140,

It doesn’t matter that we forged a signature, because we didn’t need it in the first place! Hah!

To our surprise, there is a certificate of AF Holdings’ incorporation, but the quality of the copy is poor, and I’m afraid that given St. Kitts’ secrecy laws, there is no way to validate that it is authentic. Even if it is real, this does not negate the fact that AF Holdings is a shell entity “owned” by Prenda. Note that nothing of this kind was presented for another fraudulent entity, Ingenuity 13.

The fact that Brett Gibbs has lawyered up has more significance: it will be easier for him to cut a deal with an Attorney General and (relatively) save his ass while allowing putting the major culprits behind the bars.

Morgan Pietz replies to Judge Wright’s OSC. One word: “Wow”

Defendant’s attorney Morgan Pietz had just an hour to review Gibbs’s weaselspeak. Admittedly, Morgan wrote the bulk of his response in advance, but still he managed to add thorough debunking of Gibbs’s whining. It’s impossible to pull pieces from this document, it is a must read from the first line to the last. It has is all: a long history of Prenda’s crookery, calling out lies and contradictions in Gibbs’s declaration, examples of more identity theft, damning revelations during the deposition of Paul Hansmeier (who, like a “boss” in an action computer game, appeared in the last episode).

I only want to quote the beautiful conclusion (links supplied):

The conduct of Prenda and its “of counsel” Mr. Gibbs in these cases undermines the integrity of the courts and the public’s confidence in the justice system. Here, Prenda has shown is that it is willing to do just about anything to obtain grist for its national “settlement” mill. Repeatedly, in hundreds of actions filed in courts across the country, Prenda has resorted to misrepresentations, halftruths, and questionable tactics, if not outright fraud, forgery, and identity theft. Until now, Prenda has gotten away with quite a lot of these kinds of tactics because it simply abandons its lawsuits, via a voluntary dismissal, after obtaining subpoena returns, and some settlements. Indeed, as noted above, Mr. Gibbs is already at it again, now sending out demand letters on behalf of Guava, LLC, which is now purportedly owned by Livewire Holdings, LLC not a mystery trust. Exactly who is responsible for the worst of Prenda’s actions here may not yet be clear, but this is the archetypical type of case, where there is a pattern of bad action that is done in such a way to avoid scrutiny, where a major sanctions is appropriate as a deterrent. This Court is urged not to go easy on Mr. Gibbs or Prenda Law.

 

Many paragraphs in this brief deserve separate posts, and sure we will continue shedding the light on Prenda and its epic downfall until the fraudsters cease their criminal activity and are severely punished.

Followup
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