Prenda Law Accused Of Fraud On The Court In Defending Itself Against Claims Of Fraud On The Court
from the this-is-just-getting-silly dept
As a bit of background, we've been writing a number of stories lately about the copyright trolling law firm, Prenda Law, and some of its nuttier actions in a variety of cases. However, the case that still tops them all is the one from Florida that had the Abbott-and-Costello worthy hearing, involving bumbling lawyers all trying to disassociate themselves from the case, and the mysterious appearance of John Steele, one of the folks behind Prenda Law, who has been told not to practice law in Florida, in which he was clearly orchestrating things, and the judge called him on it. The lawyer for the defendant in that case, Graham Syfert made the case why Steele and Prenda Law deserved sanctions for its actions, but Prenda's actions just haven't stopped.
The firm hired a Florida-based law firm that specializes in dealing with "white collar crime" to defend itself, and then filed some declarations for some of the parties, including one Daniel Weber. Weber is the husband of Sunny Leone, and an executive at SunLust Pictures, the company that officially filed the original trolling lawsuit. As came out in the hearing, no one actually representing SunLust was in the court that day. There were lawyers hired by Prenda who wanted nothing to do with the case. There was a letter from Prenda "sole partner" Paul Duffy insisting that Prenda had nothing to do with the case, and there was John Steele -- who also denied having anything to do with the case, other than being generally interested. The "official" representative of the company was Mark Lutz, who had worked for Prenda, but who the judge eventually got to reveal was not actually a representative of SunLust in any way, shape or form. He was just hired to sit there and pretend to be a representative of the company.
So... Weber files a declaration that tries to explain why he couldn't be in court that day, claiming that he and his wife were in India filming a movie (which is what Steele had suggested in court). The only problem, as uncovered by the site Fight Copyright Trolls, was that Weber's own Twitter feed showed that he was very much in the country that day. It also showed that Weber misspelled his own name on the filing, writing it Webber. A new affidavit was quickly filed after this was called out, in which he claimed to "clarify" his earlier statement, arguing that he had originally "been scheduled" to be in India on that date, but had changed plans due to an "emergency surgery" on his dog. Again, FCT showed some Twitter evidence that suggested this wasn't true, and that Weber had made earlier statements showing he had no intention of being in India until early December (and that he and his wife had other travel plans around the US during this time, which they took, suggesting the "sick dog" excuse, even if true, wouldn't explain why he was unable to attend).
Now, following all that, Syfert has filed an incredible new motion for sanctions against John Steele, going even further in suggesting dirty tricks as it relates to the Weber affidavit. In other words, Syfert is suggesting that, in defending the charges of "fraud on the court," Steele is committing another fraud on the court. In the filing, Syfert claims that Weber's affidavit was not actually from Weber at all, but was actually created by John Steele himself. The filing notes a number of issues discussed above, as well as some other questionable things, including the timing of the execution and faxing of the document based on statements and corresponding tweets.
The Declaration of Daniel Webber was an attempted fraud on the Court, explaining his absence from the hearing first by distance in India, but no mention of a city, and somehow misspelling his own name or signing without reviewing a single word. The current amended exhibit, the Affidavit of Daniel Weber ... is another fraud on the Court by claiming an emergency dog surgery during the November 27th hearing, such surgery having occurred at least three days prior to the hearing, according to public statements. Also according to those public statements, Daniel Weber was recording a new album with his rock band on November 27th, 2012 and a behind the scenes video was recorded.The filing is full of more examples of questionable statements or behavior from Steele with relation to the case. For example, in Steele's affidavit, he explains why he was speaking to Lutz, but Syfert notes that this argument makes absolutely no sense given the context and other statements in the filing:
Although a correction has been issued to the Declaration of Daniel Webber, such correction would have not been made, and fraud would have continued, if not for the actions of Defendant. The amended Affidavit states that Mr. Weber was "unexpectedly in Los Angeles" due to a dog surgery on the date of the hearing, but evidence from his twitter account shows that he was in Los Angeles on the 23rd of November, and so Mr. Weber had at least four days to expect that he was in Los Angeles on the date of the hearing. Defendant should not be forced to continuously be a gatekeeper of the correct spelling of the name of Plaintiff's principals or the truth of statements made in this court under penalty of perjury.
Paragraph twenty of Steele's affidavit states that he drove with Mark Lutz to Tampa to observe the hearing before this court, but paragraph twenty-one states that in the middle of the court proceeding, he felt the need to reassure his existence to Mark Lutz... Although they had spent four hours in a car together, found a parking spot together, went through security together, rode up in the elevator together, and entered the courtroom together, John Steele asks this court to believe that he suddenly felt compelled to notify Mr. Lutz, "Hey, I'm here." as if Mr. Lutz was worried about John Steele suddenly abandoning him in Tampa, or turning invisible like a superhero.Then there's this slip up by Brett Gibbs, a lawyer for Prenda in California, who we've been writing about in connection to some of the Prenda California cases. As you may recall from the original hearing, the lawyer, Jonathan Torres, who Prenda had hired to handle the case, but who was desperately trying to get out of it, told the court that his only communication had been with Gibbs. Syfert notes that despite Steele claiming to have nothing to do with the case, in Gibbs' own affidavit to the court, he includes the email he sent to Torres which also shows who he bcc'd (which Torres never would have seen). Guess who's there?
The courtroom was entirely empty other than court staff, Mr. Lutz, Mr. Steele, Mr. Syfert, and the Defendant. Mr. Steele was the only person present in the gallery of this court. Mr. Steele was present when the Court took the bench, and before any proceedings. Mr. Steele did not relieve himself of the Court, and then re-enter- nor did he perform any other disappearing act until after the Court dismissed the case. Common sense states that Mr. Steele should have no desire or need to reassure Mr. Lutz of his existence within the courtroom in the middle of a proceeding. Mr. Steele, being an attorney practicing before the federal courts of the various states, should have known that it was improper for him to speak up in the middle of a proceeding. It is less likely that he was reassuring Mr. Lutz and it is much more likely that Mr. Steele was trying to explain to the struggling Lutz his role as a 1099 contractor who is available to be appointed for Prenda Law clients, or to inform him what attorney was hired.
Attorney Torres testified at the hearing that his only communication had been with Brett Gibbs.... John Steele has always denied any involvement in this case other than driving with Mr. Lutz to the hearing.It would appear this legal soap opera is far from over. Stay tuned...
In the Affidavit of Brett Gibbs, he includes e-mail communication between Gibbs and Torres regarding Prenda’s great interest in having Mr. Torres file another bar complaint against Graham Syfert for his actions in this case.... Gibbs blind carbon copies two e-mail addresses in his communication, so that Mr. Torres would not know that they were being sent to those particular individuals. He blind carbon copies firstname.lastname@example.org (John Steele, Illinois attorney, subject of this motion) and email@example.com (Paul Hansmeier, Minnesota attorney (also licensed State of Illinois, Minnesota and others), former partner of John Steele))....
John Steele and Peter Hansmeier were supposed to have sold all their interest in Prenda Law, Inc. to Paul Duffy and Joseph Perea when Prenda Law, Inc. purchased Steele|Hansmeier, PLLC. Also compelling and interesting is the fact that Paul Duffy, the man who sits where the buck is supposed to stop at Prenda Law, is unquestionably absent from inclusion in the correspondence between Gibbs and Torres.....
Who Gibbs chose to include on such an e-mail should be explanatory as to where final decisions rest as well as the true management of the many faces of the current Prenda Law. Not Mr. Duffy, Illinois Principal. Not Mr. Wasinger, Florida Plaintiff's counsel. Not Mr. Lutz, a Corporate Representative"for hire." Not Mr. Weber or Ms. Leone. Now that Perea is out of Prenda Law, Paul Duffy is really the only person who should have an interest in what is going on between Torres and Gibbs. Instead, we find Mr. Steele included.... For the level of involvement claimed by Mr. Steele, the urging of Torres to file a bar complaint against Graham Syfert is unnaturally Mr. Steele's concern. The use of the bcc, or blind carbon copy, ensured that Mr. Torres would not have record of Mr. Steele's or Mr. Hansmeier's involvement in the communication.