John Steele: I'm Just A 'Business Development' Guy Who Has Nothing To Do With These Lawsuits
from the keep-digging dept
There's so much ridiculousness in there. Let's hit just a few of the high points, but then go read the full interview to find your own favorite moments.
He talks about "battle-stations"? That tells you something about where this judge is coming from. In the same sentence he talks about attorneys having "moral turpitude," he uses Star Trek terms to describe it? It's really beneath the dignity of the court.John Steele is talking about something that's "beneath the dignity of the court"? Really? Anyone who has followed his efforts would laugh at that line considering everything he's done that's way beneath the dignity of the court, which is why he's now in the position he's in with Judge Wright's ruling.
As for the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few [a Star Trek quote at the top of Judge Wright's order]—that's not [how the legal system works]. If the needs of the few didn't matter, black people wouldn't vote in most Southern states.Yeah, that's right, Steele, align your situation with American slavery. Your situation is so analogous to slaves picking cotton in the South. Judge Wright is just trying to keep you down, huh?
The deposition that [former partner] Paul Hansmeier gave wasn't even certified. It shouldn't have even been allowed to be used. There are hundreds of problems with this order in my view.Note that he doesn't claim that Hansmeier didn't say everything that was said, which really helped show how screwed up the whole situation was. Just that it wasn't certified... tap dance, tap dance.
I—and others involved—have been in front of hundreds of judges. This is the first judge that has ever sanctioned anybody involved with Steele Hansmeier, Prenda Law, or whatever.Sanctioned, yes. But plenty of other judges have called out these practices as highly questionable for years. Sanctions are an extreme step, but plenty of judges have clearly questioned Steele's practices. And, other judges have claimed that he was involved in fraud on the court. It's just that they're still investigating.
I think the judge knows we're going to appeal. He wrote that the sanctions were designed to cost just less than [an effective appeal]. Look, you may hate me and the litigation that's gone on in the past, but most people have to be a little nervous when a judge puts out a number and says that.Uh, the whole point of that was to highlight the nature of Prenda's trolling scheme. To turn that around and suggest that that's a problem is hilarious. Steele seems to think that everyone in the world is a complete moron and he's the only one with functioning brain cells.
This exchange is amazing on so many levels. Let me summarize it: "I knew nothing! There's no evidence I knew anything!" "Um, there's direct testimony from the person who knows you were involved." "Where is the evidence on something entirely different?!" Nice one, Steele.
Steele: Not until I received an order to show cause. I've spoken to some of the other people [involved], and they're in a similar situation. I didn't know about this until February of this year. Until March I hadn't read a single pleading in this case. I, quite frankly, had never been involved in any case in California.
If there was evidence I was involved and [Prenda Law lawyer] Paul Duffy was involved in more than just the somewhat supervisory role of Brett Gibbs, then that evidence would have come out.
Ars: Brett Gibbs testified at the March hearing that you and Hansmeier were "senior partners" at Prenda Law. He says you were supervising. Were you?
Steele: No. Absolutely not. Where's the evidence that we supervised Brett Gibbs? Where are the e-mails?
Ars: Gibbs testified that you were in control of these entities. You ran them. You initiated cases, you settled cases.
Steele: Where are the documents showing that I own any of these entities? I've never even heard of a couple of them.
Steele really likes this "where is the evidence?" line to respond to actual testimony against him. He uses it multiple times, including about Alan Cooper's signature, where again, he chooses his words carefully:
I'm well aware Mr. Cooper said he never signed those documents. He said it was a forgery—those were words the court used. I'm very comfortable with the facts, and everything in my possession leads me to believe that Mr. Cooper's involvement with AF Holdings was different than what he led the court to believe. It will ultimately come down to a "he said, they said." Nobody I'm aware of, including myself, has ever forged Alan Cooper's signature. That is a pretty outrageous claim.Notice that he's speaking very specifically about the forgery aspect, and not about the misrepresentation part of it. Hmm... Also, Steele doesn't seem to understand that testimony is evidence. So, yes, there is evidence. It's called the testimony in the court by Alan Cooper.
And for the love of God, where is the evidence [of forgery]? If someone had found something, it would be on the front page of Ars Technica and half a dozen other sites within minutes. There's no way any of that evidence could exist. Because it's not true.
And then we find out what Steele is now claiming his real role is in all of this:
I work part-time with Livewire Holdings, one of the entities that Lutz owns. My role is on the business side. I acquire other adult content companies and deal with expanding the holding company. The main goal is to handle a lot of content and websites and to be involved in the adult space. For that, I'm paid a flat fee. I won't say how much, but it's a modest flat sum.Right. And that's why you showed up in court in some of these cases and Gibbs said you gave him specific directions on the legal issues. Because you're in "business development."
Again note how he tries to answer a different question. He already told Forbes the $15 million number was too high. Mullin is asking him about the "more than a few million" he already told another publication was the correct amount. And he responds by talking about the $15 million. This is not how you honestly answer questions. It's how you (very weakly) try to avoid responding to questions that you don't want to answer.
Steele: I think they've done a few cases. I'm not involved with that litigation. I don't file anything. You know, what pirates oftentimes don't get is that this is not a huge moneymaker. I know from past experience at Steele Hansmeier that over half the clients we got never made any money off suing pirates.
Ars: Well, how much money have you made? Last year a Forbes reporter suggested you could have collected $15 million in settlements, and you responded by saying the actual figure was "more than a few million." Have you made millions of dollars suing people?
Steele: I wish I had. At the time my wife made some joke wanting to know where I hid the other $14.5 million. There are a lot of costs associated with litigation.
Heh. No one goes to be a corporate representative in a big legal dispute "as a favor." And nice gratuitous attempt to attack Pietz thrown in for fun. Also, I wonder which of the questions "not a lot of people in a typical adult content company can answer" he is talking about. What about the one of who actually owns the company you represent? That one?
Ars: If you and Paul Hansmeier don't run AF Holdings, why would Hansmeier be the person who was sent to be deposed about AF Holdings?
Steele: I believe he went out as a favor. They needed a corporate representative, and he was authorized to provide that, for AF Holdings, for Mr. Lutz. You want to have a strong corporate representative to get up and deal with Mr. Pietz for seven hours. There's not a whole lot of people in a typical adult content company that can answer a lot of the questions that were asked.
Funny stuff. Of course, Hansmeier has been called out for very questionable class action objections which appear to involve objecting at the last minute to try to upset a settlement that's about to go through and then seeking cash to go away. In fact, there's a letter where Hansmeier directly promises to go away for $30,000.
Ars: And so what is Paul Hansmeier up to? I called him to talk about the order, and he referred me to you.
Steele: I believe he deals with some class action type of litigation. He also helps me when I'm looking for acquisitions, he's got experience in that area. So he works essentially part-time for Livewire. It's on a project basis.
Anyway, as mentioned there's even more in there that we didn't get to. I hope Steele keeps talking though. I imagine bits and pieces of his various statements are likely to show up in various court cases going forward as well.