Last week, we wrote about a bunch of the members of Team Prenda submitting separate filings with Judge Otis Wright, who has been the most vocal in calling them out for their questionable legal shenanigans, trying (once again) to go on the offense and accuse their accusers. John Steele, Paul Hansmeier, Peter Hansmeier and Mark Lutz all filed motions claiming that the lawyers representing the John Doe defendant in the case, Morgan Pietz and Nick Ranallo, had failed to serve each of them with updated filings concerning the case. Incredibly, they tried to suggest that it was Pietz and Ranallo who were acting fraudulently and should be sanctioned. It's the classic John Steele move of "I know you are, but what am I" any time anyone calls him on his activities.
Pietz and Ranallo, having now been ridiculously accused of fraudulent activity, have hired another lawyer, Lawrence Heller, to represent them on this silly tangent, and Heller submitted quite a response
, focused on John Steele's motion. The filings from the other three are dismissed in a footnote:
Mark Lutz, Paul Hansmeier and Peter Hansmeier have filed what they call "Notices to the Court," which are unsworn pleadings which attempt to evidence that they have not received certain pleadings since going pro se. Among numerous other defects, these "Notices" are neither verified, nor sworn under penalty of perjury and, to the extent they have any evidentiary value at all, should be struck or at least wholly ignored.
But the arguments against Steele's filing are much more serious. As you may recall, this was actually Steele's second attempt at making this argument, with the first one getting rejected by Judge Wright in less than an hour. The claims that Steele and the others were somehow taken by surprise by the filings in this case and were unaware of them are hard to support, and Heller makes that point excessively clear. First, Heller points out that Steele's claim that Pietz and Ranallo had submitted "scores of papers" without serving him, and that those papers were "requests for relief" was entirely bogus. Steele was represented by counsel for quite some time, and after he went pro se (representing himself) Pietz and Ranallo had only filed two documents, both merely opposing specific motions from Team Prenda.
Furthermore, Heller points out that the only one actually violating the court's rules are the members of Team Prenda who failed to properly notify a change in contact information, leading to the lack of direct service. Most seriously, Heller says that the email "evidence" that Steele submitted with his filing, which he claims is "proof" that Pietz knew he wasn't serving Steele, has been doctored
. And, finally, Heller points out that this all just seems par for the course for Team Prenda in playing word games rather than facing up to the fact that they're in deep trouble:
Although already sanctioned by this court, it is clear that neither Steele nor his contingent have learned their lesson. As frivolous as Steele's motion is, Pietz and Ranallo were compelled to retain outside counsel to defend it. Pietz and Ranallo should be compensated for having to respond to this baseless motion through the court's issuance, on its own initiatve, of an OSC re: Sanctions or, alternatively, through the court's setting of a hearing date for Pietz and Ranallo to have their Rule 11 sanctions motion heard...
It must be said: finally, enough is enough!
As for Steele's "evidence," Heller points out, as is clear from the email itself, that rather than an admission of a failure on the part of Pietz, Pietz's email is actually an attempt to stop Steele from avoiding
service, by noting that Pietz is happy to send Steele copies of the filing, by whatever means are most appropriate -- and that this wouldn't have been an issue if Steele had properly kept everyone informed of his correct contact information, as is clearly required by the court. Separately, they point out that plenty of evidence, including some submitted by Steele himself has clearly established what his email address is, which is also where Pietz sent copies of the filings that Steele claims were never given to him.
Moreover, Steele himself has submitted evidence to this Court definitively establishing
that he maintains at least the email address: email@example.com. Specifically, in his
"Amended" Motion For Reconsideration (ECF No. 205, pp. 6-7), Steele for, the first time
attaches as Exhibit 1 the email which be omitted from the original Motion for Reconsideration
(ECF No. 201), and which he swears, under penalty of perjury, that he received at the said email
address. Steele's submission of the June 23rd email confirms that he does in fact have an
email account he has used recently, and that he is therefore in violation of L.R. 41-6 and L.R.
83-2.4, for failing to provide that email address to the Court and to all parties. Similarly, Steele's
Illinois ARDC page lists a phone number; so he has one of those too, which he has also
neglected to provide to the Court or the parties. There can be little doubt that he also has a fax
number he failed to disclose. In View of Steele's violations of the local rule designed to facilitate
service of process, the instant motion is clearly brought in bad faith.
And then we get to the funny stuff. The email "evidence" that Steele submitted to the court was an email that Pietz sent, but when he sent it, it bounced back
, saying that there was no such email address. That leads to one of two possibilities, neither of which look good for Steele:
In view of Mr. Steele's sworn assertion that he actually did receive the June 23rd email
from Pietz, it is thus surprising that the email in question, which was sent to
immediately bounced back to sender from that address. (See Pietz
Dec'l., Exhibit 1). In light of the bounce-back, there are only two possibilities: either Steele
has somehow configured his Gmail account to automatically respond with false "Delivery to the
following recipient failed permanently" messages to all emails he receives, even though he
actually does receive the messages; or (ii) as seems more probable, Steele did not receive the
June 23rd email directly, but rather it was forwarded to him by one of his cronies who was also
included on Pietz's email chain. A close look at the top of Steele's Exhibit A shows partial text
remnants. Moreover, the email is of an abnormally small size. Both of these facts strongly
suggest that a header has been cutoff at the top of the email to conceal how it was received. It
seems apparent that Steele has purposefully omitted an email header, which would presumably
show one of his co-conspirators forwarding the June 23rd message from Pietz to whatever new
email address Steele is using nowadays.
Since Steele's motion, as well as his sworn affidavit, tacitly rely upon the premise that
he has not been in close contact with Paul Hansmeier, Paul Duffy, and counsel for Prenda Law,
Inc., about the bond issue since going pro se, one can certainly understand why he may have
been tempted to cut out the header showing him communicating with these people. In other
words, in what would seem to be a truly staggering--and foolish--bit of chutzpah, Steele
appears to have once again tried to slip a doctored document past this Court in the hopes of
getting his way.
Further, given that the firstname.lastname@example.org email address was used by "someone" to
register certain Internet domain names to "Alan Cooper" at a Phoenix residence where Steele's
sister lived with Anthony Saltmarsh, there can be little question as to why Steele might have
been tempted to discontinue using that account. Using that email address potentially links Steele
to criminal identity theft activity. However, thanks to his recent filing. Mr. Steele has now
sworn under penalty of perjury, that he has recently received email sent to email@example.com
even though that may be perjury.
You get the feeling that John Steele is stupendously bad at chess, while simultaneously believing that he could beat Kasparov and Deep Blue in concurrent matches. The more he talks, each time believing he's found the magic "out," the deeper he seems to dig his own hole. This is a different kind of digging than, say, a Charles Carreon, who would just keep fighting. Steele acts as if he really thinks that he has the whole system beat, when the reality is each time he tries to "beat" the system, he's just piling up another potential problem for himself.
For example, there's also more evidence that Steele is making claims to the court that are not just bogus, but where Steele's own actions show that they are bogus:
However, through what may have been an inadvertent slip-up, there is compelling
evidence that Steele was actually aware, or should have been aware of ECF No. 175 (Pietz's
opposition to Duffy's motion to approve the initial bond) since at least June 14, 2013. On May
23, 2013, Paul Duffy filed his motion to have the bond he posted on behalf of all Prenda parties
other than Gibbs approved by this Court (ECF No. 171). On June 3, 2013, Pietz filed a
response asking that the bond be conditionally approved, subject to certain conditions, and
subject to the posting ofan additional bond (ECF No. 175). It is this document, ECF No. 175,
from early June, which Steele would later say he was denied an opportunity to respond to. On
June 6, 2013, the Court entered the proposed order submitted with the response, conditionally
approving the bond, as requested by Pietz (ECF No. 176). On June I 1, 2013, Prenda Law, Inc.
through associate Philip Vineyard of the Kleindinst Firm, announced by email to all parties
(including to firstname.lastname@example.org) that they would be appealing the Court's order on the
bond (i.e., appealing ECF No. 176) and filing an emergency motion seeking relief from the Ninth
Circuit on that issue. (Pietz Dec'l., Exhibit B.)
By itself, the email from Philip Vineyard to Steele et al. Would have been sufficient to
put Steele on notice of the fact that proceedings were underway in the District Court on the bond
issue. See id. at pp. 1-2. The fact that Prenda was appealing the issue would also have put Steele
on notice that the bond proceedings had not gone as his similarly situated counterparts may have
hoped. However, that is not all that happens on the email thread.
On June 14, 2013, at 9:54 AM, Mr. Vineyard circulated to all parties what he styled a
"pre-executed version of Prenda Law's emergency motion to the Ninth Circuit" on the bond
issue. Id. at. p. 11
About a half hour later, at 10:20 AM, John Steele wrote back to Mr. Vineyard, copying
Vineyard then wrote back a few minutes later saying "Thanks, John. I shall amend the
motion to reflect this." Both the "pre-execution" version Vineyard circulated,
which Steele apparently reviewed and provided guidance on, as well as the final version
ultimately filed with the Ninth Circuit, extensively discuss Pietz's opposition to Duffy's motion
to the approve the bond (ECF No. 175). Clearly, Steele reviewed Vineyards motion on June
14, 2013, and Vineyard's motion discusses at length the opposition (i.e., ECF No. 175) to which
Steele states he was denied an opportunity to respond because he was unaware of it. There can
be no question that Steele had every opportunity to respond to Pietz's opposition, despite his
false claims, which form the basis of his motion, to the contrary.
Great motion. On page 5, I want to take issue with the bottom of the page, right
before footnote 23. No one that I am aware of (on our side) stated that Prenda or
anyone else had a policy of demanding a settlement amount just low enough to
avoid legal action. This is something the bad guys always claim." Id. at 14.
Further, Steele has known that there would be a dispute about the amount and conditions
of the bond since at least May 20, 2013. See ECF No. 175-2, pp. 1-5 (meet and confer email
from Pietz to Prenda parties, including to email@example.com, which was ignored by all of
them, except for some nonsensical ramblings from Mr. Duffy).
In view of all this evidence, it seems that Steele was just about as "shocked" about the
bond issue before this Court as Captain Renault was to find that gambling was going on at
Rick's Cafe Americain.
Here's a basic tip: if you're going to claim to a court that you have no idea certain documents are being filed, probably don't (a) use the same email address that the very same documents were mailed to and (b) don't send the counsel you're accusing of not informing you of documents filed in the very case in question -- that you insist you're not paying attention to -- email evidence that you're not only very much paying attention, but actively involved in the drafting, review and approval of filings in the case.
In a footnote, the filing also notes that this is more evidence that Steele has a leading role in Team Prenda's legal strategy, despite his claims to have absolutely nothing to do with any of it:
This obviously begs the question of why counsel for Prenda Law, Inc., whose "sole principal" is supposedly Paul Duffy is taking their marching orders from Steele, a party with which Prenda likely has a conflict (particularly in view of Hansmeier's deposition testimony that obtaining the Alan Cooper signatures was all Steele's doing).
This case just gets more and more and more entertaining.