Patrick Zarrelli Claims He's Filing Criminal Charges Against Us Because He Doesn't Like Our Post About Him

from the dude:-do-you-even-first-amendment? dept

So… a week and a half ago, we published an article, written by Tim Cushing, discussing the rather poor decisions of a self-proclaimed “reputation management” guy named Patrick Zarrelli. Zarrelli, it appeared, had been hired by Florida attorney Gary Ostrow, to improve his reputation, but instead, Zarrelli proceeded on a course that seemed more likely to destroy his own reputation, and potentially drag Ostrow further down with him.

The background: Ostrow, back in 2012, put out a ridiculous press release, claiming that he was “taking on all celebrity criminal cases in Florida.” The press release was so ridiculous and silly that it resulted in mocking and scorn from lawyers online, including Scott Greenfield and Mark Bennett. Apparently, three years later, Ostrow decided he wanted those posts to disappear from the internet. As we’ve seen, trying to make things disappear from the internet is generally a bad idea that has a history of backfiring spectacularly, often generating renewed interest in that which you wish to delete.

It tends to be even worse when you attempt to delete the content in the most ham-fisted manner possible, which appears to have been Zarrelli’s strategy. He called up Greenfield and Bennett, and did a weird passive-aggressive combination of threatening them with totally baseless legal threats, and a weird sort of “hey we’re all buddies, let’s just take this content down” ridiculousness. If you haven’t, you really need to listen to the voicemail that Zarrelli left Greenfield. I could describe it, but no description could do that voicemail justice. It includes a bunch of nonsense legal terms (“hot news exemption”?), a bizarre attempt to “trade” website design if Greenfield will take down the article (“let us improve your blog for you”), threats (“it’s not going to be fun for you”) and a bizarre listing of his family tree of “high-end lawyers.”

All this resulted in more blog posts from Bennett and Greenfield. Another attorney, Brian Tannebaum, apparently also was on the receiving end of ridiculous threats from Zarrelli.

Throughout it all, Zarrelli kept publicly (on Facebook and Twitter) putting up a show of bravado, and a few times suggested that the reason that everyone was pissed at him was because of some sort of “lawyerly bravado” that he felt they believed they needed to show before capitulating — rather than the truth: which is that these lawyers know Zarrelli has no legal basis for his claims, and they have little time for censorious jerks who are threatening them with bogus legal threats.

Now we get to the rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.

We had thought that, as with many such cases, Zarrelli might calm down, get a little perspective and move on with his life — possibly in a different business than “reputation management.” But, apparently, he (unwisely) chose plan B.

Yesterday afternoon a large envelope stuffed with hundreds of pages of paper showed up at my office, which appears to be a hilariously stupid threat that he’s suing basically everyone who made fun of him.

If you can’t read that “cover page,” here’s what it says:

Dear Tech Dirt [sic] Team,

A writer of yours named Tim Cushings [sic] is using your website to harass, stalk, libel, and cyber bully me online. We have filed criminal charges and bar complaints in seven states. We are now in the process of filling [sic] a federal lawsuit in Florida. Due to your companies [sic] high page rank, there [sic] attack articles about me dominate the search results. They are even above my own Facebook page.

Thank you,

Patrick Zarrelli

And, as you can see, there are large packets for the lawyers mentioned above — Scott Greenfield, Mark Bennett and Brian Tannebaum, as well as one for Tim Cushing, who is listed together with Sam Glover (I have no idea why). Each “cover page” lists a “criminal case #”: “Criminal Case #15-172076FLPD.” I can’t wait to see what criminal law it violates to “rank better than my Facebook page in search results,” but I get the feeling that the Florida police won’t be doing much with this.

Beyond the misspellings, the cover letter is just ridiculous. It doesn’t actually make any request to us. It doesn’t say that anything has actually been filed against us, or Tim directly, despite the clear attempt to imply as much. There is no effort to (as you’re kinda required to do) name what actual statements constitute violations of the law (he can keep looking, ’cause he’s not going to find any). Also, “harass, stalk, libel, and cyber bully.” Dude, he wrote an article about you fucking up. That’s not harassing, stalking, libeling or cyber bullying. That’s called reporting, and it’s damn well protected by the First Amendment. Whatever “criminal charges” he thinks he’s filed are not what he seems to think they are. Individuals don’t file “criminal charges.” That’s law enforcement’s job. It sounds like he may have just whined to some law enforcement folks in Florida who probably filed it in the garbage file where it belongs. Obviously, he’s not filing “bar complaints” against us or Cushing, since Cushing isn’t a lawyer. He very well may have against the lawyers listed, but those will all go nowhere fast.

If he’s seriously contemplating “filling [sic] a federal lawsuit in Florida” — well, then he should have had his lawyer contact us, rather than himself — and he might want to acquaint himself carefully with Florida’s brand new anti-SLAPP law, which we would almost certainly make use of in seeking legal fees for filing a bogus lawsuit whose sole purpose was an attempt to stifle Constitutionally protected speech.

Oh, and you might wonder what’s in all the pages in those packets. It is not — as you might think from the cover pages — any actual lawsuit or bar complaint or anything of the sort. It is not any actual demands or explanation of what laws he thinks we broke. Rather, each packet is just pages upon pages of screenshot printouts of the articles that we wrote, the comments on those articles, and comments found on Twitter and Facebook where people were mocking Zarrelli.

Dude: let it go. You messed up and people made fun of you for it. There’s nothing illegal about that (in either the criminal or the civil sense).

Update: After a bunch of requests, we’ve scanned in the full packets. You can see them below:

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Comments on “Patrick Zarrelli Claims He's Filing Criminal Charges Against Us Because He Doesn't Like Our Post About Him”

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95 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

What is it with certain lawyer types?

What is it with certain lawyer types? They get their law degree (from where is anyone’s guess) and then proceed to act like that is some sort of magic wand that they get to wave around to make people respect and fear them. It has the opposite effect on me. They deserve nothing but scorn and ridicule.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What is it with certain lawyer types?

Based on the voice mail referenced in the article, it sounded like his family is chalk full of lawyers and people with lots of power… not really sure how that in any way makes his statements more true or based in reality. I wonder how they feel about him using their names and titles in his legal quagmire in the making.

Whoever says:

Techdirt rank?

Due to your companies [sic] high page rank, there [sic] attack articles about me dominate the search results. They are even above my own Facebook page.

This doesn’t appear to be true — for me, at least. But Google’s search results are heavily influenced by your own search history, so it is more likely that the reason Mr. Zarrelli sees TechDirt results higher than his own Facebook page is that MR. Zarelli spends a lot of time Googling Techdirt!

TasMot (profile) says:

"Zarrelli Reputation" - Search this on Google

Ok, I’m just a poor schmo gettin’ by from day to day (impatiently waiting for the next chuckle from a TechDirt article). So just out of curiousity I did a search on Google (OK, I googled it) for “Zarrelli Reputation”. I mean after all, his whole business is reputation management, right? So the first FOUR pages of results are about how bad he is doing a managing his own reputation and some of the articles are feeling sorry about the clients that hired him.

Actually, this could mean that there is going to be more fun reading here. That’s about 40 to 60 lawsuits against various blogs and publications that are (what did he say):

harass, stalk, libel, and cyber bully me online

Come on, I’m already starting to salivate at all the articles on TechDirt about this little “Zarelli Circus of Legal Entertainment”.

Strangely enough, in working some Google magic, I could not find an article with a “positive” reference to Zarelli. Only articles about how badly he has messed up. I guess with everybody talking about his clown act, maybe he is hoping that no one will remember his client’s activities. He’s created the “Zarelli Google Trick”. It’s heavily patterned after the Jedi mind trick but is not a story of fiction and doesn’t actually work. It is however entertaining.

I hope George Lucas doesn’t sue him though; for creating a derivative work without paying for a license.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Zarrelli Reputation" - Search this on Google

And when Zarelli reads this, hopefully he’ll see your comment and think “Oh, so THAT’s how SEO ranking works!”

Because you just anchored all those other search results 😀

You even threw in a few things that will likely now show up in the suggested search terms when someone types in “Zarrelli” in Google.

I wonder if this cascades over to Bing, Yahoo! and DuckDuckGo? I’ve been out of the optimization game for a while now, so I’m unsure.

BW (profile) says:

Re: I think you're on to something...

Patrick Zarrelli actually CAN improve his clients’ reputation.

First, he associates his name with his client. THEN
He ruins his reputation SO BADLY that THEN
When you try to Google his client all you can see id articles about how stupid Patrick Zarrelli is.

Viola! The client’s reputation is improved.

See? It works!

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Teacups and snowflakes are certainly delicate

Two things came to mind whilst reading this. First, how much the Streisand Effect is like those trick birthday candles that cannot be blown out. They just keep on relighting, and relighting, and…

Second, with that comment about Techdirt showing up higher than his own Facebook page tells us an awful lot about his skillz as a reputation management expert extraordinaire. Makes one wonder how one might go about retraining (not a typo) his services.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sam Glover

http://www.otimollc.com/attorney-marketing-ideas/patrick-zarrelli-killer-reputation-or-reputation-killer
Includes an amusing screenshot of Zarrelli’s Facebook page – when he’s riled up his spelling improves slightly.

Sam Glover has written an article on lawyerist.com:
https://lawyerist.com/92408/lawyer-hires-internet-tough-guy-to-silence-internet-tough-guys/

Anonymous in Florida says:

Sue me baby!

Hey, I live in Florida…sue my anonymous ass off Patrick Zarrelli. Patrick Zarrelli is a royal douche bag!
Patrick Zarrelli, Patrick Zarrelli, Patrick Zarrelli…say that 3 times fast and get page ranking and criminal charges filed against you by Patrick Zarrelli.
Just in case Patrick Zarrelli didn’t notice. I’m using his name alot for page rankings. I’m looking out for you Patrick Zarrelli.

Keroberos (profile) says:

Each “cover page” lists a “criminal case #”: “Criminal Case #15-172076FLPD.”

All that means is that he called the cops about this. I’m assuming that the “FLPD” at the end of that case number stands for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, which of course has to file a case number for every complaint they get (even if it’s some nut-job who thinks aliens have implanted him with mind controlling devices). Any real criminal charges would come from a District Attorney’s office.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: How much would it cost?

What’s the going rate for custom awards these days?

I seen to get my share of spam from rthurman@smallbusinesscommunity.org, who will happily sell you an award for a little under a hundred dollars. If Mr. Zarrelli needs an award, I’d probably want him to pay for it himself. You can pay more for a fancier award, depending on how much support your ego needs.

alternatives() says:

Re: Re:

Individuals can file criminal complaints.

Yes. In fact the cop who creates the complaint the DA signs off on is doing it not as a cop but as a citizen. Because then you’d have an executive branch person (the DA) and an executive brancher – the cop – in collusion.

Now I, as a citizen, have tried to bypass the DA and get a Judge to sign off on a criminal complaint. Its like I just walked in with Plutonium.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Attn: Leigh

So many comments on this topic have been “deemed funny by the community”, all of them were inspired by Patrick Zarrelli’s performance art.

Let’s not forget that while Zarrelli’s own submission may have arrived by post, it was still a Reader’s Comment to Techdirt. Please do not deny him the Funniest Comment of the Week honors.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Attn: Leigh

No, really, next Insightful/Awesome will have to be split and Funniest given its own article. Or comment the fun in this article alone separately. Zarrelli managed to touch our collective funny spots in a way never seen before.

It’s the first time I spend part of the article and most of the comment section laughing like that. People are looking at me strangely here at work.

That One Guy (profile) says:

What strange priorities...

So he can go through all the hassle of throwing together a large threat letter to try and shut TD and others up, but he can’t spend five freakin’ minutes researching how well that sort of thing has gone in the past?

Time is precious, but come on, if you’re going to threaten someone, at least check to see how well that’s worked out for those that tried before you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just listened to the voicemail Zarelli left and yeah, I think I’d like to see his oh-so impressive list of family lawyers actually do something here. Perhaps Zarelli can also form a coherent statement without the overuse of “um” (stopped counting after five ums).

This guy deserves whatever negative attention he receives for that voicemail alone. Keep up the fight Techdirt!

Monday (profile) says:

SJ is crap

I linked over to SJ, and read more on Zarelli, his ego, his empty threats, and more comments. Some posts with great links to youtube, and his website etc. I made a comment that I had linked over there from here (TechDirt) and the comments are just as awesome – at both threads. The “Mod” deleted that comment.
Maybe you should think twice about doing advertising for some piss ant website, I had never heard of until yesterday morning, before making posts. Quid pro quo…

I’m just saying…

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