Prenda Soap Opera: Steele Contradicts His Own Previous Claims, Lutz Disappears Again... And The Mother-in-Law Surprise

from the again? dept

We already posted Nancy Sims' account of what happened in the latest Prenda hearing in Minnesota, but wanted to follow it up with some analysis, because there was a fair bit of interesting stuff in there. As you may recall, this is the case that was reopened after it had already been closed, because the Court wanted to get to the bottom of whether or not Team Prenda was engaged in fraudulent practices. To that end, Magistrate Franklin Noel started demanding actual answers to very on point questions. So far, Team Prenda has continued to dance around actually answering those questions, and the hearing was no different. The things that stood out to me from Sims' writeup:

Mark Lutz's disappearing act:

Mark Lutz has made it something of a habit to not appear where he's required to. He missed a key hearing in San Francisco, as well as a deposition in Georgia. In the California case, it took Team Prenda nearly a week to even acknowledge that Lutz had an excuse, which it then tried to keep shielded from the public. After that was rejected (repeatedly), it was finally admitted that Lutz was apparently "detained" at the airport while trying to board the flight. In this case, they produced a boarding pass, though it's unclear why John Steele would have Lutz's boarding pass, or how he magically found Lutz's friends driving around the streets of Miami early in the morning (the hearing in Minnesota was in the late morning, so it must have been an early flight). It seems unlikely that courts are going to continue to forgive Lutz for his disappearing act when ordered by courts to appear.

It was especially pertinent in this case, given that the whole focus of this particular hearing was on the legitimacy of the copyright assignment to AF Holdings, and the point was to get everyone together in a room to find out who actually signed the document. Lutz not showing up can't make Judge Noel happy -- and he'd already demonstrated an awareness that Team Prenda is up to no good with all of its activities.

John Steele finally takes a stand... though he may wish he hadn't.

This was a bit odd. Seeing as Steele had pleaded the Fifth in the Otis Wright case in California, it seems like a badly miscalculated move to take the stand in Minnesota, where he needed to testify about some of the same issues. His testimony can go back and be used elsewhere, including in Otis Wright's court. You don't get to plead the fifth in one court, pretend that never happened, and then testify in another court.

Furthermore, Steele made a bunch of claims that appear to contradict previous claims. For example, he talks about how he supposedly helped Cooper set up VPR Internationale. Of course, we'd already discussed how the timing on this is wrong. In a previous filing in a case in Arizona, Steele had said, via sworn deposition, that Cooper had expressed interest in setting up a company in early 2011, and then later said that "Cooper ended up not moving forward with the ideas Steele proposed to him." Yet, VPR Internationale was formed in 2010 (i.e.,. before this conversation supposedly happened). And while it had Alan Cooper's name attached to it, it was done with John Steele's email account, and the physical address was of Steele's sister. Also, while Steele had said in the earlier case that Cooper never went forward with this company, now he's claiming he did, which would explain why actual lawsuits were filed under this. It would appear that in either this case or the Arizona case, something Steele said was blatantly false.

Also, the claims about hooking up Lutz and Cooper seem far fetched and unbelievable given a variety of other statements. Cooper directly denied ever talking to Lutz on the stand. But then there's the question of who actually got the signature, and here Steele starts to throw Lutz under the bus, saying that he believed that Cooper had authorized Lutz to sign on his behalf. That's interesting, because in the now infamous deposition of Paul Hansmeier in the case in Northern California, Hansmeier (who is now acting as the lawyer in this case, if you can keep all this straight) specifically said that Lutz had asked Steele about Cooper's signature and if it's legit. From that deposition in February:
Mark Lutz spoke to Mr. Steele and said, Well, I understand that there's an issue with this Alan Cooper and asked Mr. Steele point-blank, Is the signature a forgery. Mr. Steele said the signature is not forgery. And he asked him, Is the -- is this signature authentic. Mr. Steele says, yes, the signature is authentic. Based on Mr. Steele's representation, we have no reason to believe from what Mr. Steele said, at least, that the signature is a forgery or there's some sort fraud going on with respect to the signature.
So... to get this straight: in different cases, Steele, Hansmeier and Lutz have argued that Cooper actually signed the document, that Steele got Cooper to sign the document, that Lutz asked Steele if the signature was legit... and that Steele overheard Cooper and Lutz talking, believed that Cooper gave Lutz permission to sign his name, and that it's likely Lutz who signed for Cooper (something Cooper fully denies).

Of course, if, as they're claiming now, Lutz signed for Cooper, then why would Lutz have called Steele to confirm the signature is legit, as Hansmeier himself said while being deposed? Hansmeier and Steele simply can't keep their story straight -- and telling different courts wholly conflicting answers is generally not a smart thing to do (leaving aside the move to plead the Fifth elsewhere and then testify on the same issues later). I've said it before and I'll say it again: Steele reminds me of people I've known who think they're the smartest person in the world, when they're really not. They seem to think they can talk themselves out of any situation at all. But they generally end up making things worse and worse for themselves.

Thanksgiving in the Steele household may be chilly this year

The wacky issue to come out of the hearing is the involvement of John Steele's mother-in-law, Kim Eckenrode (Steele's wife's maiden name is Kerry Eckenrode). There had been earlier reports that Alan Cooper had received "a text message" telling him to call Paul Godfread, which is how Cooper first found out about his name being used in these cases, leading to his filings claiming forgeries. Team Prenda had long implied that this magic "text" had come from the EFF, which Team Prenda has sought to paint as some crazy group of radicals. But, it turns out that the text message, now entered into evidence, came directly from Steele's own mother-in-law, telling Cooper he should call a lawyer.

Steele tried to play this off by arguing (1) his mother-in-law was religious and disapproved of Steele working with porn companies and (2) she frequented blogs like DieTrollDie and FightCopyrightTrolls. Still, it's quite a leap from those two points to recognizing that Cooper's signature may have been used on filings in various cases without his approval. The fact that the elder Eckenrode understood enough about what was going on to alert Cooper that it appeared her own son-in-law was up to no good with his name just adds an interesting element to all of this. I'm almost surprised Steele didn't claim that Eckenrode was a dues-paying member of EFF.

Either way, I can't imagine that's good for family gatherings in the near future.

Get to the damn point

As is frequently the case, Team Prenda seems to want to do everything possible to avoid actually zeroing in on what judges are asking. In this case, the hearing was solely about whether or not the copyright assignment was legit, and Hansmeier tried to put a bunch of totally irrelevant people on the stand to smear Cooper, and then tried to get Cooper to talk about totally unrelated issues as well. I'm not sure why Hansmeier, Steele and Duffy seem to think this "baffle them with bullshit" strategy will be effective, because the deeper you look, it just makes them look more and more like they're not being straight with the court -- and, while they may think they're smarter than everyone else, I have faith that more and more judges clearly understand what Team Prenda has been up to.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    avideogameplayer, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 2:04am

    Sounds to me Lulz did a disappearing act and the rest of Team Pretenda is scrambling to save their own asses...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    That One Guy (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 2:13am


    I hear Mexico is nice this time of year, though the last time someone from the Prenda gang went there I don't think it went that well for them...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Dave, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 3:09am

    Hang 'Em

    We go back to the basic question of why the courts allow these shenanigans to proceed. We all know that any court in the land would issue a bench warrant if one of us failed to appear as ordered. Why do they get away with it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 3:54am

    Re: Re:

    Well, either that or an unmarked grave.

    Neither of which I would put past the insanity that is Team Prenda.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 3:59am

    John Steele: I need more rope!, more rope now!
    Judges: Take all the rope you need Mr. Steele.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 4:10am

    >his mother was religious and disapproved of Steele working with porn companies

    Must not be a very big deal if he went and worked with porn companies anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Nathan F (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 4:44am

    I can't decide if Team Prenda threw Lutz under the bus and he decided to start skipping hearings, or if Lutz missed a trial for some reason or another and Team Prenda decided to blame him first since he wasn't there to defend himself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Ninja (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 4:54am

    Lutz, The Magician.

    You know, after their lawyering business goes down in flames they could think of starting a circus or some stand up comedy. Natural talent I tell you ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 4:56am

    McAffe has the answer...

    bath salts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    peter, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 5:13am


    Wonder what her religious view is of him being a Lawye r (snark).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 5:52am


    It takes a lot of rope to get around his enlarged head.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 6:12am


    Good point. It seems there is plenty of room for another self-contradiction. Anyone else find it a bit weird that she is both allegedly very religious and reading as harshly worded blogs as dietrolldie and especially FightCopyrightTrolls?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    MrPendent, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 6:38am

    "Mother-in-law surprise."

    Worst. Sex move. Ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    DannyB (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 6:39am


    Their talent isn't comedy. Please do not suggest that it is.

    Their talent is lying and extortion. The comedy of getting caught in such a web of lies is completely unintentional on Team Prenda's part.

    I think they subscribe to the basic belief that the best way to extricate oneself from getting caught in a lie is to tell a bigger lie. Hey, it has worked a number of times before. Once you find something that works, stick with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Trails (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 7:51am


    Sounds to me that he figured out he was the fall guy and split.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    PRMan, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 8:22am

    Re: Re:

    I'm religious and I've been to those blogs...

    They're fighting extortionists, Christians are all about stopping abuse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 8:36am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Conversely, Keith Lipscomb - who claims to be a Christian - has no qualms in ruining people for pornography they did not download.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Edward Teach, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 9:05am

    Re: Hang 'Em

    Why have courts (multiple!) let these shenanigans continue? Because Judges are almost all lawyers. The judges are all protecting the legal profession, not the Prenda morons. The Prenda morons get a free pass because the judges reflexively protect the legal profession itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Loki, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 9:30am

    and, while they may think they're smarter than everyone else,

    While they may think they are smarter than most people, all they really seem better at is bullshitting, and good bullshitting requires a fairly limited number of "victims" at any given time.

    Their problem is that the number of eyeballs on their little shell game is no longer limited, and with more people watching the more likely that someone notices what shell the pea is under (or more likely that they've palmed it).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    MM_Dandy (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 9:56am


    So, if Lutz can no longer be found, what's going to happen to that Salt Marsh trust fund?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    DB (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:00am

    Contrary to belief above, telling different courts different things almost always works. It just takes too much time to research previous cases and review all of the testimony. And once a case is settled or has a final ruling, there is almost nothing that can be done about misleading or false testimony.

    Paul Hansmeier's deposition was an all-day interview, filled with tedious evasive answers. It was unexpected that it happened at all -- a single all-day deposition costs more than the Prenda settlement offer. The resulting transcript would normally not be easily available, and probably wouldn't be deemed worth reading by someone in a future suit. Even if a paralegal did read it, they probably wouldn't take notes on the critical statements that were superficially hearsay ("Steele told Lutz that Cooper told ...")

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Jack, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:05am

    Paul Responds

    Looks like Paul Hansmeier filed a response to the court order granting leave to file. It appears as if he is trying to set up some BS elaborate excuse for my Lutz didn't show. He is saying that as of noon today, he still hasn't been able to reach Lutz - but believes he will have a "good faith reason" for not showing. I wonder what it will be next - he can't say it was "federal authorities" again since he didn't even make it to the airport this time. Maybe they will file a missing persons report for one Mark Lutz...

    Too bad the "This Declaration is submitted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1746. I declare under penalty of
    perjury that the foregoing is true and correct." at the bottom of the declaration doesn't actually mean anything... 19.52.0.pdf

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re:

    How is it a contradiction? Even if it was his mother rather than his mother-in-law, he would be allowed to have a drastically different opinion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    DB (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:15am

    Only reason to file early...

    There must be a Bastard Lawyer Handbook of tricks they don't teach in law school.

    Such as always delaying filing until the last day of the last extension, unless you need to hide something. Then you file the next morning to have a colorable claim of not knowing anything factual, such as "I'm sure there is a good faith reason..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Scote, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:26am

    PH Cherry Picks for the court

    From PH's filing to the court:

    Mr. Lutz has previously complied with orders to appear, including in Ingenuity 13 LLC v. Doe, No. 12-cv-8333 (C.D. Cal.); AF Holdings LLC v. David Harris, No. 12-cv-2144 (D.Az.); and in this case, where he appeared in person at the August 5, 2013, case management conferences. "

    Which I read as "Please ignore Lutz' history of failure to appear in recent Prenda legal matters." Which I think is like saying "my client has driven sober on many occasions" to try to gloss over a history of drunk driving...

    Speaking of which, I wonder why nobody brought up the apparently outstanding arrest warrants for Lutz to the Judge's attention. Seems like those could be related...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:27am


    In my experience, bullshitters tend to think they're smarter than everyone else despite the fact that the need to bullshit proves they're wrong.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re:

    Magician then?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Trelly, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 10:41am

    The weather report for the Steele household should be updated, it is now chilly with a great chance of squalls.

    He might not like his mother-in-law, but my guess is her stock has gone up with people on the internet. She sounds like someone who sees right from wrong, and acts on it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    anonymouse, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 11:23am

    Re: Hang 'Em

    Sounds like they are acting similar to republicans, ignore the issues and bring up irrelevant things and maybe try to confuse everyone, sadly their minds are not clever enough to do it without letting everyone in the country know what they are trying to do.

    Steele really needs to be called in with Lutz and if they do not want to answer the questions they should be jailed until they do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Jack, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 12:46pm

    Re: PH Cherry Picks for the court

    I was thinking about that warrant when reading the filing too. I just wasn't sure if it was still active. I was just shaking my head the whole time reading point #6 about how he showed up in court on other occasions while ignoring the fact that every recent court appearance he skipped. Great analogy!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. icon
    That One Guy (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 12:57pm


    While normally that would indeed be the case, in this instance, where you've got a whole slew of people watching and picking every statement apart, no, saying one thing in one court room, and something else in another is very much not a good idea, because it takes all of a single email to those opposing Prenda, pointing out the discrepancy, to expose them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Jack, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Re: Hang 'Em

    WTF does Prenda and John Steel et al. have to do with the Republican Party, let alone politics, other than copyright law, at all? Yes - Republicans do that, but guess what? So do Democrats and every other person in the world of every political stripe who fancies themselves a politician...

    The only thing your comment did for you was show everyone else what a partisan hack you are. If you can't be outraged about something as outrageous as Prenda without invoking your hatred of your political team's "enemy", you have some serious problems and epitomize everything that is wrong with our country. You are part of the reason why asinine legislation that allows for the John Steel's of the world to exist in the first place. Pull your head out of your ass.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Scote, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 1:06pm

    Re: Re: PH Cherry Picks for the court

    I'm wondering of Lutz was scheduled to testify under oath subject to properly informed cross examination at any of the appearances he did show up for?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Stephen Hutcheson, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 1:27pm

    "Ooh, Mrs. Steele, is that a picture of your family?"

    "Yes! This is the oldest, Edward, my pride and joy. He's a used-car salesman in Chicago."


    "Not particularly. But ... as honest as--"

    "As a Chicago used-car salesman?"

    "Yes! And that's Edwin. He's a bit actor in several unsuccessful gay porn movies."

    "Uh, most mothers wouldn't mention that..."

    "Oh, we forgive him because he's good-looking ... and stupid. And this is Edwick. He peddles crack to schoolchildren."

    "And you forgive him?"

    "For what? He gives them a discount! And that's ... well, I really would rather not talk about John. I'm afraid he went to Law School and ... didn't turn out at all well."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 2:59pm

    Re: Re:

    Yeah Lutz will not be returning to Mexico, he did not enjoy his stay in jail the last time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 3:01pm

    Re: Re:

    Adoption papers will turn up.
    You can adopt adults...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 3:03pm

    Re: Re: Hang 'Em

    Nono they have finally hit the limit with them.
    Mind you this limit is much higher than 'regular' people get, and the penalties are often much less.

    Given the media coverage of this, they might end up having to make an example of Pretenda, the problem being the 'harsh' sentence will most likely only equal what a regular person would get.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 3:09pm


    Drawing inference from his run ins with the law, it would appear Mr. Lutz has a drinking problem.
    If you wanted a patsy, wouldn't you just feed his habit to the point where he blacks out before events where he needs to be?
    Then you can tell the courts 1 thing, tell him another thing (he'll believe you, your his buddy you got him out of that Mexican jail.) while whistling happily thinking your going to walk away scott free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 3:11pm

    Re: Re:

    Email is to slow... that shit went out on twitter right after the coverage of it was tweeted. I even included the page number.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 1st, 2013 @ 3:16pm

    " It would appear that in either this case or the Arizona case, something Steele said was blatantly false. "

    Mike Mike Mike... the world is not black and white.
    The correct answer is C. BOTH.

    Now we know I'm not a nice person and I've been accused of horrible things but...well....
    Has anyone checked the Miami papers this morning for reports a body found on the street/beach/ocean?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 4:22pm

    Well, they had to throw Lutz under the bus before he threw them under the bus. When the IRS CID starts asking him why "his company" didn't pay taxes on hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in income, he's going to change his story and blame Steele/Hansmeier/Duffy. Right now he's probably the one most likely to go to jail and the one who would have the least to lose by admitting he lied since he can't be disbarred. I wouldn't be surprised if, after he was detained a few weeks ago (assuming that actually happened), he got advice from a lawyer who wasn't trying to use him as a human shield telling him not to perjure himself anymore to save their asses.

    First Gibbs, now Lutz, next up: Duffy.

    Their new story that Lutz was authorized to sign Alan Cooper's name makes no fucking sense. In Hansmeier's depo he said that Lutz needed Cooper because "there are only so many hours in the day" and he's just too busy to sign his own damn name. If Cooper wasn't even signing his own name, what the hell DID he do there? And why would the company's CEO and sole official employee ever need to sign the name of someone else when he could obviously just use his own?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 5:32pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's not Steele having a different opinion that's the issue here. It's that Steele used his mother-in-law's alleged opinion to dispute Cooper's claims.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2013 @ 5:37pm

    Re: Hang 'Em

    I too have a hard time believing anything is really going to happen to them. I liken the relationship in the court room to something like Ralph the Wolf and Sam the Sheepdog. At the end of the day, it's g'night Ralph, g'night Sam and then punch the clock and leave for home.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44. identicon
    Paul Keating, Oct 2nd, 2013 @ 3:00am

    Perfect Defense

    Why has Lutz not appeared.

    A few ques from the Clinton era. Clinton got himself into trouble for testifying at a deposition (and playing - loosely speaking) with the truth. The then made that direct comment about "that woman".

    What he should have done was refuse any and all attempts to force him to respond at all. He should have not gone to the deposition. What would they have done? Throw the President in jail?

    Here, the conclusion left to the court after one side has not provided competent evidence establishing a fact is to rule that the fact has not been established. Thus, no assignment and judgment for the other side.

    In this case the court itself re-opened the case to investigate the settlement/dismissal. The most the court can do is declare the settlement/dismissal void and enter judgment for the defense (claimed infringers). The court can recommend that other authorities investigate further.

    The court could, though not likely, issue a bench warrant. However, this would take some doing and judges are not all that keen on being advocates/investigators. And, should he appear he can always take the 5th.

    I think this entire issue should be turned over to a DA to investigate a RICO charge. Either that or the NSA might......

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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