Federal Prosecutors Recommend Paul Hansmeier Spend The Next 12 Years In Prison

from the not-so-clever-Hans-heads-for-the-federal-glue-factory dept

Cue the Ron Paul “It’s Happening!!!!” gif. The wheels of justice have been grinding away for years now, but they’ve finally generated several years for longtime copyright troll/supervillain Paul Hansmeier. After making a career out of extorting settlements from alleged porn-watching infringers, extorting settlements from small businesses with bogus ADA complaints, attempting to hide his wealth from his creditors (some of which were owed money for sanctions imposed in copyright trolling cases), and otherwise putting on a one-man show entitled “Why We Hate Lawyers,” Hansmeier is facing the possibility of spending the next decade in prison.

The sentencing recommendation [PDF] prepared by the prosecutors has nothing good to say about Hansmeier. In fact, the prosecutors make it clear they’d have given him even more than the 12+ years they’ve recommended. (h/t Virgil Abt)

Here are the numbers:

As reflected in the report, the appropriate guidelines range for Paul Hansmeier is 135 to 168 months in prison.

And here’s the reasoning for the lengthy sentence:

Paul Hansmeier was the driving force behind this massive scheme. It was Hansmeier who came up with the idea to construct a copyright settlement mill focused on pornographic films. It was Hansmeier who directed his brother to upload clients’ movies onto file-sharing websites to lure downloaders. It was Hansmeier who drafted nearly all of the legal pleadings used to deceive judges. It was Hansmeier who invented phantom hacking allegations. And it was Hansmeier who lied to judges, dissembled in depositions, and coerced others to conceal the truth.

The government says John Steele was basically the muscle — an intimidating figure who also handled the bookwork for the scheme. But it was Hansmeier who did the dirtiest of the dirty work. And as such, he should be dealt with more harshly. And this is hardly the end of the government’s summary of Hansmeiers’ dirty work. The filing continues in this fashion for several pages — a fitting tribute to Hansmeiers’ scamsmanship.

The headings alone indicate the depth of Hansmeiers’ grift.

Hansmeier repeatedly deceived courts

Hansmeier and Steele owned and controlled the plaintiffs

Hansmeier invented allegations of hacking

Hansmeier protected himself by using proxies

The details interspersed between these headings are devastating in their description of Hansmeier and his long-running fraud.

Hansmeier concealed from the courts that he filmed and produced much of the pornography in this case himself, not for commercial distribution, but for the sole purpose of using the resulting pornographic movies as bait.

[…]

Hansmeier compounded his egregiously disgraceful misuse of Judge Bransford’s subpoena authority by lying directly to her face in open court…

[…]

Hansmeier hid the fact that he and his codefendant, John Steele, were the attorneys responsible for filing every fraudulent copyright infringement lawsuit in this case. Hansmeier and Steele recruited an alcoholic and now-deceased Chicago attorney named Paul Duffy to serve as the putative owner of “Prenda Law,” the firm that represented AF Holdings, Ingenuity 13, and the other sham plaintiffs in the various copyright cases.

[…]

[W]hen courts around the country sought to hold Hansmeier responsible for the fraud and damages he had wrought, Hansmeier resorted to perjury and suborning perjury to escape blame and retain the proceeds of the scheme. Hansmeier and Steele swore out false declarations, gave false testimony in depositions and at court hearings, and caused Lutz to do the same…

[…]

Even after Judge Wright’s widely-read order sanctioning Hansmeier, Hansmeier continued to hide the money he gained through the fraudulent scheme. Hansmeier transferred money into his new law firm, Alpha Law, into accounts controlled by his wife, Padraigin Browne, and a sham trust called “Monyet,” and then filed a fraudulent bankruptcy case concealing the fact that Hansmeier retained control over a substantial amount of the proceeds of his fraud case.

The whole recommendation is a depressing read simply for the fact this scam went unimpeded for so long. The government wraps up this ugly narrative with its recommended sentence, but only after offering this last appraisal of Paul Hansmeier.

In summary, Hansmeier was greedy, arrogant, devious, mendacious, and consistently positioned other people to be damaged by his conduct, even as he enjoyed the proceeds of the scheme he orchestrated. Even now, Hansmeier continues to accept responsibility only in conditional terms, hoping to convince the appeals court that his shocking abuse of his position of trust as a Minnesota attorney, and an officer of its courts, was somehow legal.

The government says its final call is 150 months, but the footnote attached indicates the government would have handed out so much more if it had not already agreed not to.

In the plea agreement, the government agreed not to recommend a sentence above 150 months.

Twelve years is a lot of time. But Hansmeier appears to have earned every day of it.

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Companies: prenda, prenda law

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Comments on “Federal Prosecutors Recommend Paul Hansmeier Spend The Next 12 Years In Prison”

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54 Comments
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If he had old Baghdad Bob wouldn’t have been so ardent a supporter of him though.

Hansmeier and Steele already have such a hard time fulfilling their duty as extortionate scu…err…law-enforcing pirate hunters, it would be a crying shame if they’d lose that one supporter standing in their corner. Much like the corpse of Saddam Hussein they don’t have that many people left in their cheerleading squad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sentencing guidelines are a crime in and of themselves in America today. Everyone who followed this saga know how agonizing it was to see a licensed BAR lawyer pulling shinanigan after shinanigan like what happened, but twelve years is Fucking Harsh like most sentences are. A. person can be sentenced for 10 years and guidelines increase so a person could end up serving 28 years etc etc… That ain’t justice baby. That is a hate crime.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Why did the courts allow his scamming to go on and on for so long?"

Stephen T. Stone has part of the answer in his reply, but there’s another angle which makes it really REALLY hard to stop this kind of scamming. Because copyright.

If anyone else were to mass-mail extortionate notices to thousands of citizens without a shred of halfway credible evidence the feds would have pounded down their doors after the first batch was sent.

The DMCA, however, exculpates almost any allegation made by a copyright holder – or anyone claiming to be such – unless it can be proven they aren’t acting in good faith. See the difficulty here?
In practice therefore, where copyright is concerned, burden of proof often relies heavily on the defendant to prove his innocence while the plaintiff often cannot be held accountable for a false allegation.

And that is why a veritable mountain of evidence had to be collected before the DA’s dared to make a move.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"That ain’t justice baby. That is a hate crime."

We’re talking about people with a diploma to negotiate in court turning the law into a flesh toilet for their personal pleasure at the cost of…anyone dumb enough to fall for outright extortion.

Pretty sure once you add up the charges of repeated perjury (which normally carries up to 20 years in penalty), not to mention years worth of obstructing justice and consistent contempt of court, 12 years is actually them getting off quite easy.

If your average petty thief managed to run a court through the wringer to the same extent I’m pretty sure he’d end up doing 70 or 80 years easily.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

We’re talking about people with a diploma to negotiate in court turning the law into a flesh toilet for their personal pleasure at the cost of…anyone dumb enough to fall for outright extortion.

That’s victim-blaming horseshit. The reason extortion schemes like this work is that it’s cheaper to pay off the extorter than to hire a lawyer. Plus, that way you don’t wind up with Google searches for your name producing a list of porn movies you (allegedly) downloaded.

Prenda’s victims weren’t dumb. They didn’t fall for the extortion scheme. They were innocent people who were taken advantage of by crooks.

Pretty sure once you add up the charges of repeated perjury (which normally carries up to 20 years in penalty), not to mention years worth of obstructing justice and consistent contempt of court, 12 years is actually them getting off quite easy.

Nobody ever gets the maximum sentence. Describing a maximum sentence without proper context is ill-informed and sensationalistic. Here’s more from Popehat:

Crime: Whale Sushi. Sentence: ELEVENTY MILLION YEARS.

Cloudy, With A Chance of Shitty Journalism

Bad Reporting on Matthew Keys’ Possible Sentence Conceals Prosecutorial Power

And here’s one that’s actually about Prenda:

Prenda Saga Update: John Steele Pleads Guilty, Admits Entire Scheme

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Mea Culpa.

"That’s victim-blaming horseshit. The reason extortion schemes like this work is that it’s cheaper to pay off the extorter than to hire a lawyer."

Blame my european background. Here in europe similar schemes work by outright conmanship since a tort is harder and more expensive to start.

"Plus, that way you don’t wind up with Google searches for your name producing a list of porn movies you (allegedly) downloaded."

That I don’t buy. Any such published list would make YOU the plaintiff in an open-shut defamation case. Prenda were douchebags of the highest order but I doubt they’d be dumb enough to risk exposing themselves legally to that extent.

"Prenda’s victims weren’t dumb. They didn’t fall for the extortion scheme. They were innocent people who were taken advantage of by crooks."

Innocent, certainly. I’ll retract and replace "dumb" with "not hard-nosed enough". Unfortunately editing isn’t possible here on TD.

Or perhaps not unfortunate. Baghdad Bob/Bobmail wouldn’t ever stop rewriting his false claims and straw men upon exposure…

K`Tetch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“That I don’t buy. Any such published list would make YOU the plaintiff in an open-shut defamation case. ”

WRONG.
In the US, court proceedings have ABSOLUTE IMMUNITY from defamation proceedings.

So rather than an ‘open and shut’ case, you have a ‘summarily dismissed’ case for failure to state an actionable claim, now pay them their defense fees for filing a frivolous and vexatious defamation lawsuit

That One Guy (profile) says:

Ah sweet schadenfruede...

Of all the things to take from him, this is one he can’t just ignore, stonewall, or pretend he doesn’t have, and hopefully one the judge applies to the full extent that they can.

Twelve years is a lot of time.

No, not really. Even ignoring for a moment the abuse of the legal system, lies and fraud, I’d say the level of suffering he and his ‘friends’ indifferently spread in order to make an easy profit more than earns that. This wasn’t just some one-and-done scam, they were doing this for years with absolutely no sign of stopping unless they were stopped, so years behind bars strikes me as entirely fitting.

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re: Ah sweet schadenfruede...

15% is a long time? Hell, I’d give 15% or more, right now, to have my health back to that of a normal 20 year-old.

But any amount of time in the hoosegow is a long time, when you refuse to admit and accept responsibility for your actions. I think that P.H. would rather take the prison time than spend even just 10 minutes alone with any of his victims, inside of a locked room.

sumgai

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Ah sweet schadenfruede...

"Chances are this shithead will get out of prison and go right back to scamming."

Probably. It’s pretty telling that at almost any time in the proceedings he could have fallen to his knees at the mercy of the court, and walked away with less than half that time, in a minimum security pen, to boot.

But no. He kept lying straight into the faces of judges and jurors who already had evidence proving him a sleazy perjurer playing for time in the sole hope that the court case might age to death around him.

Hansmeier is one of those people who can’t live without scamming or extorting other people. An honest job is beyond him.

Anonymous Coward says:

This was the sentence agreed to by the criminal. Considering the number of counts that could easily have been "rung up" — every single email sent out was an attempted extortion — this case could trivially have been a RICO. RICO can’t be used to threaten an accused, but both sides had to know the score.

No doubt: the perp knew it wasn’t going to be a day less than that. And the feds figured they had pushed the perp as far as they could without going to trial (which is such a painful and expensive trip for what was a foregone conclusion.)

Anonymous Coward says:

This is what the prosecutors are asking for.
When is the sentencing hearing where the judge actually hands down a sentence?

And has Steele been sentenced yet or when is his sentencing? Weren’t they holding off on sentencing him to make sure he gave them what they wanted on Hansmeier? So now Steele will find out how much time he gets?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: So...

"…is this the time to welcome him to the big leagues?"

Not until he manages to run a similar con and get away with it.

Trump has managed to scam his clients and colleagues for 40 years even before becoming president – that’s big leagues.

P.T. Barnum managed to write books about how to con people while he kept scamming them. That’s also the big leagues.

Hansmeier, in comparison, is that sleazy gossipmonger who can’t tell the truth even if doing so will get him benefits. Being a fully educated lawyer he somehow managed to lose money while breaking the law and getting caught with his pants around his ankles – in the US. That’s basically just fungus level of persistently being a slimy saprophyte.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: So...

Ooh those big words.. I just love them! And so graphic too. Getting caught with his pants down to his ankles! WOW! Someone could sure fantasize on that one!?! And a Saprophyte? Fuck! .. What’s a Saprophyte? Any way.. Cool journalistic spin. I’m sure Paul will be pondering That comment for years to come!

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

BYE FELECIA!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sure hope you didn’t leave your wife any more shoeboxes of cash, she totally isn’t the kind of person who would divorce you after grabbing all of your illegally obtained assets & stashing them… I mean its not like she was married to someone who ran one of the larges extro… oh right…

BYE FELECIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Salt Marsh was the mastermind of the whole scheme!

I do have to wonder what Steele did to get downgraded to mere "muscle". It appeared that he was an equal partner with Paul.

Duffy was the only criminal I felt sorry for, slightly. He was straight out of a Grisham novel. A down-on-his-luck drunk ambulance chaser, he was recruited as the front man for the Prenda part of the scheme. But all of the initial millions went to Steele and Hansmeier, and the scheme fell apart just as Duffy was to get his share.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You have to remember that Hamilton sincerely believes that only one person agrees with Masnick, hates copyright trolls, etc.

He’s had a hard time, what with Shiva Ayyadurai not inventing the Internet and having to watch one of the heroes of copyright get sentenced to the big leagues.

I wish I could say I was sorry, but that would be lying.

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