Prenda's Former Porn Client Comes Forward About His Fears Of Working With Prenda

from the look-at-that dept

Claire Suddath, writing for Bloomberg Businessweek, has written up a pretty comprehensive article about John Steele, Paul Hansmeier and Prenda Law. If, for some reason, you haven’t been following this story through all the blog posts, Suddath’s article is a pretty good way to catch up on the basics. There are a lot of little things left out, but most of the key points are mentioned. There is one interesting new bit of info in there, which is that Suddath spoke to one of Steele and Hansmeier’s earliest porn clients (back before they switched to only suing on behalf of shell companies controlled by people associated with Steele and Hansmeier), Paul Pilcher of Hard Drive Productions. Pilcher explains that his deal with Steele and Hansmeier was a 50/50 split on any revenue gained, and that Steele and Hansmeier took care of everything, such that he had no idea about the various lawsuits. He just cashed the checks.

The money started rolling in. “They would send me a check for, let’s say, $35,000, for a month,” Pilcher says. “They’d be pounding their chest and jumping up and down, thinking they were the greatest in the world.” Over a year and a half, Steele and Hansmeier filed a total of 65 suits on behalf of Hard Drive against 4,760 people, according to court documents. Pilcher earned just under $200,000, he says, but he never knew what was happening with the suits, how many there were, or who exactly his company was suing. “Getting information out of [Steele and Hansmeier] was honestly kind of painful,” he says. “They claimed they didn’t want me to have records of specific things in case something happened.”

Now that’s interesting. Have you ever heard of lawyers telling their own clients that they don’t want the client to have records of lawsuits filed by that client “in case something happened”? Wow. Pilcher accepted this, even after courts started ruling against Prenda.

In early 2012, Hard Drive was sued twice for harassing plaintiffs to settle claims. Prenda took care of everything—Pilcher didn’t even have to show up in court—but he started to wonder what his lawyers were up to. “I got very uncomfortable feelings from them,” he says. “But I figured, Well, if there are judges involved, and they’re ruling for us, and money is coming in, then it must be OK.”

Now, Pilcher seems to realize that getting in bed with Steele and Hansmeier was a big mistake, and recognizes that lawyers may be gunning for him next.

The prospect of thousands of other people doing the same, or worse, terrifies Pilcher, although his Hard Drive Productions stopped working with Prenda last fall. “If these guys fold, I don’t know if I’ll have people coming out of the woodwork to sue or countersue,” he says. “I’m obviously legally exposed.”

Seems like an important lesson for other content providers thinking of going into the trolling game. It can come back to bite you. In the meantime, I wonder if Judge Wright or others might be interested in hearing some details from Pilcher about his experiences working with Steele and Hansmeier.

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Companies: hard drive productions, prenda, prenda law

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Comments on “Prenda's Former Porn Client Comes Forward About His Fears Of Working With Prenda”

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35 Comments
Mark D. (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think that’s an ethical duty, it’s more like the entire reason lawyers exist to begin with.

The client is the one that’s going to be responsible for their lawyer’s actions, so it’s their absolute right to know what their lawyers are doing under their name. HDP should have cut and run and filed a bar complaint immediately after they heard that.

GMacGuffin says:

Re: Re: Re:

Oh, it’s an ethical duty … for obviousness-impaired lawyers.

The CA Rule: B&PC 6068(m) and CRPC 3-500 are essentially the same as MR 1.4(a). Each requires a lawyer to keep a client reasonably informed about significant developments relating to the representation and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.

* * *
ABA Model Rule 1.4: Communication

(a) A lawyer shall:

(1) promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent, as defined in Rule 1.0(e), is required by these Rules;

(2) reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished;

(3) keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter;

(4) promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and

(5) consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

(b) A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.

Mark D. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s really more a quibble over labelling. I’m not saying lawyers don’t have to do these things; I’m saying it’s not a matter of ethics, it’s the entire reason the lawyer is being paid in the first place.

Not doing that isn’t an ethical violation, it’s a “you aren’t even doing your fucking job right!” violation.

Just splitting hairs really, no point in arguing it too much.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Wow

I think OOTB just posts nonsense some times because she doesn’t get enough attention in real life.

And yes as for the link……that’s how about 90% of the Internet porn genera of “Amateur Girls” operates. I am in total and utter shock that the people do that are afraid of Prenda….I’m definitely not ruling out the possibility that Prenda is working like a mafia, if not worse. My heart and my gut tells me there is more shocking news than even this…I just hope I can personally stomach it as my feelings tell me there is something much much worse behind Prenda than what has surfaced here.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

No innocence here

“Getting information out of [Steele and Hansmeier] was honestly kind of painful,” he says. “They claimed they didn’t want me to have records of specific things in case something happened.”

The second that your lawyer is telling you not to have records “in case something happens” is the moment that you should realize your lawyer is doing something so wrong that even he knows it’s wrong. The very next moment is the one where you fire him.

Hard Drive was engaging in what amounts to willful ignorance. They are just as morally at fault as Prenda.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: No innocence here

Well, depending on your point of view, Hard Drive was already morally at fault for producing porn in the first place.

That being said, I’d rather not have them charged for being “morally at fault” for Prenda’s actions. Sure, they’re far from innocent little angels, but hardened copyfraud schemers like Steele et al. (sans Gibbs the fall guy) Paul Pilcher & his cohorts are definitely not.

And like everyone else has said: “Shady company hires shady law firm. Shady company is shocked(shocked, I tell you!) when they realize that their lawyers are doing shady things.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: No innocence here

“Well, depending on your point of view, Hard Drive was already morally at fault for producing porn in the first place. “

I would not go as far as to say whether or not Hard Drive was morally wrong for making porn…but when you consider that they were under investigation for under aged girls…that is the breaking point if you do not think it wrong to making porn.

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

” Pilcher earned just under $200,000, he says, but he never knew what was happening with the suits, how many there were, or who exactly his company was suing. “Getting information out of [Steele and Hansmeier] was honestly kind of painful,” he says. “They claimed they didn’t want me to have records of specific things in case something happened.”

I love how the Prenda gang told their own client “they didn’t want me to have records of specific things in case something happened.”

Imagine that, I am sure that in normal in Lawyer Client relationships, except where Steele and Prenda are concerned.

I guess when the IRS comes the Federal Garnd Jury investigating the RICO case issues Pilcher a subpoena and visits Pilcher he ought to have some interesting things to tell them.

Another potential witness to nail the coffin lid shut on the Prenda gang.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Anyone else wondering why suddenly the former client is showing concern?

I wonder if he got new representation who explained that if Prenda falls, he might fall with them. So now he’s on the record saying I know nothing, I knew nothing, no one blame me.

Except for he was aware his company was sued for harassment, and cared so much he let the lawyers who ran the cases that got him sued handle it for him.

I wonder how many other ‘former’ clients will be coming forward trying to distance themselves…

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