Mutual 'Friend' Of John Steele And Alan Cooper Implies That Cooper Was 'Off His Meds' When Accusing Steele Of Identity Fraud

from the the-plot-thickens dept

A bunch of new filings in the main event Prenda case have added some new wrinkles to the ongoing soap opera. The documents were all filed by Heather Rosing, representing Prenda Law, Paul Duffy (officially Prenda’s only principal) and Angela Van Den Hemel (a paralegal at Prenda). She is not representing John Steele or Paul Hansmeier, who many have alleged are the real masterminds behind the Prenda scheme (Rosing did briefly represent both of them as well, but that was only in pushing back against appearing at the original March 11th hearing). However, the document that will undoubtedly bet the most attention is the one that Rosing filed as a bizarre character attack on Alan Cooper. It’s a declaration from a “mutual friend” of John Steele and Alan Cooper suggesting that Alan Cooper has mental problems and that he was “off his meds” when he made the accusations against Steele. You can’t make this stuff up (well, I can’t…). The declaration is full of hearsay, but basically Brent Berry, who claims he introduced Cooper and Steele, suggests very strongly that Cooper is not right in the head, and does crazy things when not properly on medication.

Beginning in late 2011, Alan began exhibiting unusual behavior on various occasions when I was visiting the property. Alan began acting erratic, frequently threatening to hurt others.

On several occasions, Alan bragged that “If I pissed him off, they would never find my body, just like the others”

Due to Alan’s strange behavior, I began to minimize my contacts with him unless others were around. Although I still consider Alan a very good person and a friend to this day, on some days he acted like a completely different person and extremely agitated. I later found out from Alan that the days he had acted very unusual were the ones in which he had not taken certain antipsychotic medication his doctor had prescribed.


Almost immediately I became aware that Alan’s mental state had further deteriorated and felt very uncomfortable to be alone around him.

On approximately August 13th of 2012, I went to Mr. Steele’s property to prepare it for a potential buyer. My girlfriend was with me on this trip. Alan came out of his cabin and was clearly in an extremely agitated state. Before I could even speak with him, he began threatening to hurt me. Due to the manner in which made the threats were made, his comments about past violence, I felt in fear for my life.

I immediately called John Steele and told him what happened and that I could not show the property under these conditions. I contacted the Aitkin County police department to report what had happened. Due to Mr. Steele’s request, I did not follow through with filing charges.

Alan has sent me a variety of bizarre text messages, accurate copies of which are attached in Exhibit A hereto. In these text messages, Alan threatened to shoot me, indicated that he was removing wood from Mr. Steele’s property, explained that he had some mental disorder(s), and apologized for his bizarre behavior.

Although Alan requested in his texts that I go to his doctor that was treating him for his mental illness.

Alan indicated that if I entered the property he would shoot me. Although Alan stated he would only shoot me in the foot, I felt out of an abundance of caution not to trust his assurance that he would only shoot me in a non-critical part of my body.

The full filing (linked above and embedded below, also shows these text message exchanges, poorly photographed. Here’s just one of them.

Frankly, reading the texts, they don’t sound quite as bad ad Berry suggests they are. And the statements clearly lack context, and appear to involve a lot of other discussions not shown in the screenshots. Most importantly, they seem to have absolutely nothing to do with Steele, Prenda, AF Holdings or anything like that.

In the same filing, Berry states that in hanging out with Steele and Cooper, he was involved in many conversations with them — and while he doesn’t seem to have full details, he suggests that Cooper was knowingly helping Steele out on various legal projects, including a “porn company.”

On several dates, I had occasion to be present when Mr. Steele and Alan would speak about various matters. Normally this occurred while we were sitting around campfire located between the two cabins.

Alan and Mr. Steele seemed to have a very good realtionship and Alan would routinely ask John how he wished he could help Mr. Steele for all the things Mr. Steele did for Alan, such as allowing him to live on the property for free.

It was clear from their conversations and references to Mr. Steele’s legal work that Alan was involved working with Mr. Steele. Alan did not seem upset about this relationship, and in fact often made jokes about not having to worry about ever buying beer again due to his assisting Mr. Steele.

I remember Mr. Steele at various times asking Alan to assist him with certain paperwork and I never saw Alan objecting to this assistance.

On at least one occasion. I recall Alan asking John, “How’s my porn company doing?”

It is not difficult to see where Steele is trying to go with this. He’s working on a character attack against Cooper, arguing that he’s mentally ill and “off his meds” while also suggesting that he was a willing participant in Steele’s legal activities. It would be interesting to see if there’s any other evidence to support this, because at first glance this seems quite sketchy (even beyond the typos and odd sentence structure such as sentences that are not complete). Second, almost none of it is conclusive. It’s all just vague hints and statements that present little actual evidence relevant to whether or not Cooper actually was helping out Steele. Vague claims of “this guy seems crazy and off his meds” seem unlikely to sway Judge Wright given everything else he’s seen. Even if we take Berry at his word, it suggests that Steele put someone he knew to be unstable in charge of one of his key “companies.”

Furthermore, the statements by Berry actually support the argument that Steele was really the guy behind the scheme, and that Cooper was a mere figurehead. The fact that he asks “How’s my porn company doing?” and all of the references in which Berry claims Cooper is doing work for Steele, if true, could actually add more evidence to the claim that Steele was pulling all the strings and using Cooper.

While the other documents aren’t quite as entertaining, they may have a greater impact. Rosing presents the “legal arguments” she wanted 25 minutes to make during the last hearing. It basically says the judge can’t do very much, and even when he can “sanctions are not appropriate,” because nothing was done wrong. Rosing also complains about the way the court is handling the case, including the fact that, during the first Prenda hearing, the judge allowed a lawyer in the crowd, Jason Sweet (who has fought Prenda multiple times), to speak up and make a point about how Brett Gibbs represented himself in the past. As our post by Ken White noted, this “Perry Mason” moment was highly unusual. The rest of the filing argues that nothing that was done is actually sanctionable activity, including pushing back against the claim that Gibbs did a bad jobs in determining if someone was likely guilty of infringement. As Ken White notes in his writeup about these filings a lot of this is irrelevant, since it only matters if Judge Wright relies on the things that Rosing objects to.

Rosing then moves further along the argument chain, noting that even if there are sanctionable activities “it wasn’t us!” It’s not quite throwing Steele and Hansmeier under the bus, but it comes close. There are also some procedural complaints about being summoned to California on short notice (along with the jurisdiction questions), but, really, the crux of the argument is that Prenda Law had no idea what was going on under its banner. They also challenge the point about Prenda’s refusal to show the cases as related based on another ruling that said they weren’t related. There may be some legitimate complaints in there, but the “we had no idea” argument probably won’t be that helpful to Paul Duffy, seeing as he’s officially the only principal of Prenda Law and has been clearly involved in many of the cases. I could see the court going easy on the paralegal, suggesting she was just dragged into this, but earlier evidence does suggest that she was involved in pushing AT&T and possibly other to fork over names, even the court had already said that Prenda had to put its subpoenas on hold.

Separately, Rosing shows how Duffy and Prenda have been dropping all the various Prenda related cases just to be safe, as an apparent sign of good faith or something.

All in all, Rosing may get a little somewhere with this filing, and may help her individual clients — Paul Duffy, Andgela and Prenda itself as a corporate entity. But it’s hardly a slam dunk, and should have little impact on John Steele or Paul Hansmeier who are represented separately. I’ll be curious to see if anything else comes out of the Berry filing, which seems like a pure joke at this point.

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Companies: prenda, prenda law

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Comments on “Mutual 'Friend' Of John Steele And Alan Cooper Implies That Cooper Was 'Off His Meds' When Accusing Steele Of Identity Fraud”

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Rikuo (profile) says:

Okay that screenshot says “Cooper”. But…is it the real Cooper? Have they gone to the trouble of providing proof that the messages from “Cooper” were sent from Cooper’s phone? It’s pretty easy to take one phone, name yourself Cooper on it and then send the messages, after having changed the calender date on both phones.

Even if the messages are legit…why would they have been saved and photographed from all the way back in September? IIRC, Prenda and Alan Cooper weren’t legal topics back then. I’ve just done a search on Techdirt for “Prenda” and the earliest Techdirt reported on them was December. If legit, that would mean that they’re paranoid and they save every single text message. Now that I think about it, that’s probably standard practice for lawyers, except when it inconveniences them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Even if the messages are legit…why would they have been saved and photographed from all the way back in September?

No need to, most smartphones (and that is clearly an iPhone or similar) save text messages forever. It is a simple matter to open the history interface and scroll until the message you want appears.

I wonder how easy it is to edit the messages database directly. And that “Cooper” at the top? Unless I am mistaken, that comes from the phone address book, and is easy to change at any time, so even if these are real messages, only the “Alan” mention would be somewhat reliable (did it strike anyone else as forced? The message mentions “Alan” and the phone address book has “Cooper”… convenient, isn’t it?).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

And a comment at the related ArsTechnica post mentioned another possibility: online fake iPhone screenshot generators. One of them even boasts of “pixelperfect images”.

So yeah, it could be an outright fakery, followed by the old tired “copy it several times to make it look older” trick.

The cracked glass layer is probably the key here. Could some amateur sleuth locate the exact same crack shape online? If some fake message generator has that exact crack shape, or if an alpha-transparent image of that crack shape could be found somewhere online, it would be evidence of outright fakery. Of course, it is possible that a fake message generator creates the crack procedurally; but then it might have telltale flaws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The cracked screen will be used to explain why the phone conveniently isn’t available for more detailed inspection, as having “cooper” at the top is meaningless and hardly evidence that these are actually from anyone in particular. So shall we get the phone provider to see who the to and from numbers were? Oh wait I don’t remember who my phone provider was. Actually I don’t remember having a phone even. I plead the fifth too, come to think of it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I don’t think they have much chance of getting away with it if it is fake anyway, Cooper is their adversary and is likely keeping watch. If they try funny business, undoubtedly Cooper’s attorney will notice, file a brief challenging it, phone records will then be supoenad, etc. Lying until caught about Weber being unavailable due to being in India when he was actually in California only got an earlier team a slap on the wrist, so I wouldn’t count deception attempts out, but I do think successful deception is highly unlikely.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Had to copy what our good friend Popehat wrote

” Duffy’s response is not badly written, and doesn’t seem to be wrong on the law, but it’s not at all the response you’d expect from a lawyer being accused of what amounts to a nationwide criminal enterprise. It’s like someone said “Ken, I have it on good authority that you routinely molest squirrels in a public park near your house,” and I responded “your accusation is without merit because that park is private.” “

Anonymous Coward says:

Your honour, that guy who we denied being the Alan Cooper in charge of our shell corporations? Well actually he was the Alan Cooper in charge of our shell corporations. He only says he wasn’t he’s a lunatic. We didn’t steal anyone’s identity, we just used a mentally unfit individual as a puppet instead. Then lied about it a bit. But the truth is he’s crazy. Crazy like a fox. Honest.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That is why I had to smash my face into something made of concrete earlier. Before, they specifically said that the Alan Cooper who turned up in court, the one who was a caretaker, WAS NOT the Cooper in charge of their company.

Now, they’re saying he is. So at this point all Judge Wright has to ask is “Were you lying to the court before, or are you lying now?”

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What? How do you figure that?

Here’s the situation

Statement 1: The Alan Cooper who is a caretaker for Steele’s properties is not the Alan Cooper who signed off as the man in charge of Ingenuity 13.

Statement 2: The Alan Cooper who is a caretaker for Steele’s properties is the Alan Cooper who signed off as the man in charge of Ingenuity 13, but is unreliable as a witness [in his own charges against Steele] for being off his medication. (Let’s ignore the fact that if true, then it means Steele and the others chose a man whom they knew to be mentally unbalanced at the very least to be their boss, and if he was the boss…then why the fuck is he still acting as caretaker?)

One of those two statements a lie. They cannot both be true.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:


“Q. Who is Alan Cooper?

A. Alan Cooper is an individual who was designated as a corporate representative of AF Holdings, LLC. The circumstances that led to Mr. Cooper’s designation as a corporate representative to acknowledge the copyright assignment agreement on behalf of AF Holdings, LLC, is that Mark Lutz — we’re backing up a little bit. AF Holdings makes use of corporate representatives, the reason for that is that obviously you guys know that there’s a lot of people out there who don’t like what we’re doing, specifically to people who have infringed on works and want to retaliate against people who are enforcing copyrights. “

“But he never says who Alan Cooper is. So he’s asked again, and the response is basically that only Steele knows and he’s not saying:

If you’re talking about the guy who’s in Minnesota and was John Steele’s former caretaker, all I can say is that AF Holdings — the only person who knows who this Alan Cooper is is John Steele and we asked Mr. Steele, is this the same guy, is this not the same guy, is there another Alan Cooper and Mr. Steele declined to respond on the basis that Mr. Cooper has sued Mr. Steele and they’re actively involved in litigation.

That may be the most ridiculous answer yet. The whole reason they’re “engaged in litigation” is because Steele hasn’t produced the Alan Cooper who signed the documents representing AF Holdings. The best way to end the litigation is pretty simple: have that Alan Cooper show up. Which should be easy enough… if he existed (ah, there’s the rub…). “

Since they didn’t come out and say it was the caretaker Cooper, they basically said (boiled down) that it was some other Alan Cooper, whom no-one outside of Prenda Law has yet to meet. Now, apparently the caretaker is the Alan Cooper whose signature is on those documents. Judge Wright will be asking why its only now that they’re answering the question of “Just Who the Fuck Is Alan Cooper?”

That One Guy (profile) says:

Yeah, considering the source, I think I’m going to go off the assumption that, barring a doctor and/or psychologist stepping forward to confirm the prescription of antipsychotics to Cooper, that the ‘Cooper is a nutjob’ attack is nothing more than character assassination in an attempt to discredit his claims of identity theft, as well as an attempt to shift some of the blame to him.

As for the ‘text messages’… those are just too priceless, and again, without verification from the phone company, in particular information as to exactly who sent them, assuming those are bogus as well is probably also a good bet.

Beech says:

Still doesn’t explain why the prenda guys never said anything confirming or denying whether or not there was another Alan Cooper. If this is the case, why didn’t they just say, “this Alan Cooper is the guy. He’s in it willingly, he’s just crazy” oh… Wait… Because that would have sounded just as retarded then as it does now

Anonymous Coward says:

i wouldn’t mind betting that all of this is pure fabrication, just like everything else that has gone before. i also wouldn’t mind betting that the only person who really has mental health problems is Steele. surely no one in their right mind would go down the road of trying to present so much bullshit if they were actually of ‘sound mind’, would they? it seems to me that there are people under ‘delusions of grander’ involved in this and are having problems retaining a grip on reality. these persons thought they had come up with a way of committing shakedowns, getting rich and having no come back to them. i’m still waiting to hear if any companies supposedly represented by these lawyers are going to have anything to say or if they are going to remain in the back room.

Anonymous Coward says:

I can’t say for certain off course, but how is it that every time that some wild story is documented by pictures: aliens, loch ness monster, yeti, insanity of someone threatening to laywers and businessmen etc. that the pictures are always bad, out of focus, cracked screen, black and white and really not descriptive at all. Are good cameras or screen capture software really that rare in these instances?
Or do these devices have a bullshit filter built in?

special-interesting (profile) says:


Thanks for coming guys lets begin the meeting for legal maneuvering to neutralize the latest sticky points.

Thats right. Anyone who testifies against us MUST be crazy! Hes supposed to be on our side wasn’t he? What kind of rat would sue us for just allegedly using his name (its not like we are admitting to anything of course) a few times doesn’t he understand who he’s messing with?

OK guys/staff what kind of dirt do we have on this dude anyway? Meds? Social problems? Being a housekeeper/gardener has got to be lame enough for derogatory comment hasn’t it? Hes been supportive of our noble copyright crusade on the hapless porn aficionados right? (Psst. Don’t tell him he was never going to see a dime of the offshore accounts stash) How can that be used against the fool?

The EFF? Aren’t they related to unsavory activities like defending human rights or the like? Yeah use that rallying cry thing too.

Great work guys use what we got for now and keep digging its always worked before. Meeting adjourned.


out_of_the_blue says:

Medicate Mike! Mania for Prenda Law.

This focus on lawyers and lawyering is not in your charter: “the Techdirt blog uses a proven economic framework to analyze and offer insight into news stories about changes in government policy, technology and legal issues that affect companies ability to innovate and grow.”

This is so lame I can’t even get my tagline up anymore.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Medicate Mike! Mania for Prenda Law.

“the Techdirt blog uses a proven economic framework to analyze and offer insight into news stories about changes in government policy, technology and legal issues that affect companies ability to innovate and grow.”

Tiis IS a news story about changes in…legal issues affecting innovation and growth.
Keep up. boy.

“This is so lame I can’t even get my tagline up anymore.”

We never believed you could ever get it up, boy.

Anonymous Coward says:

I am not a lawyer; I have no idea of what lawyers are like; nor do I have any idea of what the legal system is really like so the following questions are real.

How prevalent is such scheming, scamming, and slime bagging in the legal community? Are all lawyers basically this way?

If all lawyers and law are basically this way how is this an improvement on cowboy justice and six guns at high noon? At least with six guns it is over quickly, right or wrong, you do not spend the rest of your life in a place the sun does not shine due to a frame job.

Digdug (profile) says:

Re: Re:

All lawyers are not like this. Unfortunately the ‘good’ ones (meaning honest if not decent as well) don’t get much in the way of headlines because who wants to hear about someone who’s doing exactly what they’re supposed to?

The scamming and other nonsense behavior is likely centered far more around corporate legal teams than your average defense attorney/prosecutor. Lawyers with consciences typically go into defense/prosecution due to their beliefs while corporate lawyers get into it for the money. Of course as with all things there are exceptions 🙁

DubzDubz says:

Wow... This really isn't good for Steele...

Hasn’t Steele said that it wasn’t that Alan Cooper and that it was another Alan Cooper? Now, I think, Steele would either have to backtrack from his previous statements and admit that it was Alan Cooper, or he would have to produce the other Alan Cooper.

There must be some really awkward conversations around the water cooler at Prenda Law now that Rosing has done this.

Who is the real Alan Cooper? (Someone should write a book….I call dibs)

artp (profile) says:

I'm not letting the paralegal off the hook

There is something funny going on with her behavior, too. First off, she took the Fifth Amendment along with the other bozos. What possible reason could she have for doing that? It has been explained that pleading the Fifth in a civil case is possibly pointless, and may not prevent the judge from using the best information at hand in the worst way possible against them. A paralegal should be aware of the legal implications.

So, my question is, what does she have at stake here? I would think that a paralegal would just be an employee in a law firm, not a partner or co-owner of the company. It implies that she has a stake in this scam larger than just trying to stay employed.

When all is said and done, she might just be a scared, impressionable low-level road-kill of an employee, but I’m not trusting her with the key to my safe deposit box until we find out just how deeply entangled she is with this scam.

Trails (profile) says:


So this really isn’t good for Steele. Not sure how material any of that stuff is even if it’s true. Let’s take as a given for argument sake that Alan Cooper has mental issues (I, as a general rule, doubt anything Steele files, this is just for arguments’ sake), so what? Being a headcase doesn’t make one guilty.

The document Steele filled shows Steele in control of the day-to-day operations of the porn company, and as others have pointed out earlier, it makes both Cooper and Steele out to be liars when they represented that the gardener was not in fact the Alan Cooper in charge of AF Holdings. I don’t get it, how does this help him? Why did he file? This is cutting off nose (making Cooper out to be a nut) to spite face (providing evidence that Steele is actually running this).

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