Roca Labs Story Gets More Bizarre: Senator Threatens Bogus Defamation Lawsuit, While Nevada Quickly Rejects Bogus Bribery Charge
from the and-we-get-accused-of-working-for-roca dept
If you thought the Roca Labs story couldn’t get any more bizarre, well, then you haven’t been paying much attention, because no matter how bizarre the story was the last time you looked, it seems to get even more bizarre with the next step. We’ve already gone through the Roca gag order, lawsuit against PissedConsumer, lawsuit against unhappy customer, threats against witnesses, and weak attempts to use the fame of Alfonso Ribeiro and Tommy Chong in implied endorsements. Oh, and also the threat against us and the fact that a main “doctor” backing their product was a pediatrician who lost his license due to child porn claims.
Last week, the story got wackier, when Roca Labs’ founder, Don Juravin decided to file a highly questionable “integrity complaint” about a Nevada state senator, Justin Jones, claiming that Marc Randazza — the lawyer representing PissedConsumer — had “bribed” Jones to pass Nevada’s (very, very good) anti-SLAPP law. The bribery claims border on laughable and clearly suggest a continuation (or escalation) of Roca Labs’ legal strategy of trying to attack anyone and everyone. As we’ll explain below, it was also a really dumb strategy that has already failed, as the Nevada Attorney General wasted little time in totally rejecting Juravin’s integrity complaint as having no basis, whatsoever.
In the meantime, though, the story got even more ridiculous. And that’s because Senator Jones had his own lawyers (who didn’t initially appear to recognize what a bad idea this was) threatened Juravin with a highly questionable defamation lawsuit in response. Yes, the guy who helped get one of the absolute best anti-SLAPP laws in the country in place is threatening a highly questionable SLAPP lawsuit. Even though I think Juravin’s complaint is laughable, to threaten him with defamation in response? That’s just as laughable, and perhaps doubly so given that the Senator supported the anti-SLAPP legislation in the first place.
Even worse, the draft complaint that Jones’ lawyer Patrick Reilly sent, revealed that they planned to request “a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction and permanent injunction preventing Defendants from continuing to publish false accusations concerning the Plaintiff.” While there are some who have been trying to challenge this, historically, claims of defamation are not entitled to any sort of injunctive relief, as it’s classic prior restraint and a violation of the First Amendment.
Given that, both sides here look terrible. We have a company that has a ridiculous gag order on customers, has been threatening to sue just about everyone (including us) that presents any sort of negative opinion on their business, and clearly filed a bogus claim of “bribery” to piss off a lawyer fighting against them. On the flip side, we have a state senator who got a great free speech protecting law passed… and then appears to make himself subject to that very same law by threatening a very questionable defamation lawsuit, complete with prior restraint injunctions.
Oh, and the letter Reilly sent to Juravin and the draft complaint were both sent directly to us as well. Why? Because Reilly seemed to believe that (1) we’re a PR firm and (2) Juravin hired us to promote his bribery accusation. Both the letter and draft complaint claim that Juravin “engaged” us to “gain media traction.” So, already, in the past few weeks, Roca Labs has not only threatened us with a lawsuit and accused us of being a “mouthpiece” for Randazza, and now Senator Jones and his lawyers are, in turn, accusing us of being a mouthpiece… for Roca.
Well, holy fuck.
We’ve just been trying to report on the damn story, and highlight attempts to stifle free speech. We never expected to have multiple parties flinging legal threats at each other — and dragging us into the process with completely bogus claims of working for both sides of this ridiculous fight. Hey, leave us out of this whole thing, and maybe, just maybe, everyone should learn how not to try to stifle free and open speech.
Not surprisingly, Roca’s lawyer Paul Berger (the same guy who threatened us) quickly jumped on this massive gift that Jones’ lawyer handed him, and responded to Reilly’s threat by rightly hinting at the fact that Jones’ threatened lawsuit might open him up to the very anti-SLAPP law that Jones got passed. And that actually seems to be one of the very, very few legal arguments that Berger and I agree on. Though, really, I don’t want to even bother thinking about the irony of the SLAPP-happy Roca filing an anti-SLAPP against the guy who got the best anti-SLAPP in the country into law.
Either way, however, it’s all for naught. As I was working on this story, I got a phone call from Jones’ lawyer, Patrick Reilly, who appeared to realize the mistakes he had made. First off, he apologized for mischaracterizing Techdirt in the letter and draft complaint and suggesting that we were somehow working for Juravin. Furthermore, he said that Senator Jones did not, in fact, intend to file the drafted lawsuit. It sounds like Jones and his lawyers perhaps made a rash decision following a bogus integrity complaint — but they now recognize that their response was a bad idea.
And… the whole issue quickly became moot anyway, because the Nevada Attorney General has dismissed Juravin’s bribery complaint (pdf) already. The Nevada’s Attorney General’s office (who kindly provided me with the rejection letter) tells me that there was “insufficient evidence” in the complaint to believe that there was any criminal activity at all, and that Juravin’s “theory of the offense does not rise to the level of a crime.” Basically, it didn’t take long for the Attorney General to look at the complaint and realize that it was nothing more than someone’s personal vendetta against Marc Randazza for having the gall to be involved in a lawsuit which Juravin himself had started (along with his lawyer Paul Berger). Hopefully this means this particular tangent in Roca Labs story is over and done with. But, somehow, I doubt the overall Roca Labs story is over just yet….