Prenda Loses Big Again; Court Orders It To Pay Back Settlement Money, Refers To Law Enforcement
from the and-another-one dept
Instead, we got a hearing in Minnesota that revealed some explosive new info, while Mark Lutz disappeared never to be heard from again. While Hansmseier and Duffy were never able to produce Lutz or answers to Judge Noel's questions, they did try to get Judge Noel kicked off the case.
None of the above strategies worked. At all. Judge Noel today not only rejected the request to pull him off the case, but also slammed Team Prenda, yet again, ordered them to pay back all the settlement money they got from the specific cases involved and then referred the case to law enforcement to look into the activities of Hansmeier, Steele, Duffy and Lutz. While he notes there are other issues being dealt with elsewhere, the main focus of Noel's inquiry was the legitimacy of Alan Cooper's signature -- and Judge Noel concludes, as have multiple other courts, that Cooper did not sign the document. And he's pretty thorough about it. He notes that AF Holdings, the shell company in question here, "failed to meet its burden of proving the authenticity of the copyright-assignment agreements."
Even more specifically, Judge Noel says that he thinks Steele lied on the stand:
Based upon Cooper’s side of these two conversations, Steele testified that it was his “understanding that he [Cooper] had given authority to Mark and his people if he wasn’t available, that he could sign the various documents as long as he understood what the document related to . . . .” Finding Steele’s testimony regarding his “understanding” of an agreement between Cooper and Lutz to be vague, the Court asked directly, “Did you hear Mr. Cooper give Mr. Lutz authority or permission to sign his name to documents?” Steele replied “yes.” The Court expressly disbelieves Steele’s testimony in this regard.Noel goes on to point out that AF Holdings failed to produce an officer of the company who was "capable of testifying to the authenticity of each copyright-assignment agreement." He doesn't make much of Lutz's not appearance (and subsequent disappearance) other than mentioning that Lutz did not appear.
In the end, the court finds that fraud was committed on the court and orders the return of all the settlement money and the payment of attorneys' fees, which should add some more to the top of what Duffy, Hansmeier and Steele have on their ever-growing tab. The court also notes that it would be a waste of its time to "untangle the relationship between Hansmeier, Steele, Duffy, Dugas, Lutz and Prenda Law, on the one hand--and the Plaintiff AF Holdings, LLC., on the other." Instead, "such investigation can more effectively be conducted by federal law enforcement...." While it's likely federal law enforcement was already looking into all of this after Judge Wright alerted them to the case, having another judge make a similar recommendation can't hurt (well, unless you're Team Prenda. Then it hurts).