Roca Labs Story Gets More Bizarre: Senator Threatens Bogus Defamation Lawsuit, While Nevada Quickly Rejects Bogus Bribery Charge

from the and-we-get-accused-of-working-for-roca dept

If you thought the Roca Labs story couldn't get any more bizarre, well, then you haven't been paying much attention, because no matter how bizarre the story was the last time you looked, it seems to get even more bizarre with the next step. We've already gone through the Roca gag order, lawsuit against PissedConsumer, lawsuit against unhappy customer, threats against witnesses, and weak attempts to use the fame of Alfonso Ribeiro and Tommy Chong in implied endorsements. Oh, and also the threat against us and the fact that a main "doctor" backing their product was a pediatrician who lost his license due to child porn claims.

Last week, the story got wackier, when Roca Labs' founder, Don Juravin decided to file a highly questionable "integrity complaint" about a Nevada state senator, Justin Jones, claiming that Marc Randazza -- the lawyer representing PissedConsumer -- had "bribed" Jones to pass Nevada's (very, very good) anti-SLAPP law. The bribery claims border on laughable and clearly suggest a continuation (or escalation) of Roca Labs' legal strategy of trying to attack anyone and everyone. As we'll explain below, it was also a really dumb strategy that has already failed, as the Nevada Attorney General wasted little time in totally rejecting Juravin's integrity complaint as having no basis, whatsoever.

In the meantime, though, the story got even more ridiculous. And that's because Senator Jones had his own lawyers (who didn't initially appear to recognize what a bad idea this was) threatened Juravin with a highly questionable defamation lawsuit in response. Yes, the guy who helped get one of the absolute best anti-SLAPP laws in the country in place is threatening a highly questionable SLAPP lawsuit. Even though I think Juravin's complaint is laughable, to threaten him with defamation in response? That's just as laughable, and perhaps doubly so given that the Senator supported the anti-SLAPP legislation in the first place.

Even worse, the draft complaint that Jones' lawyer Patrick Reilly sent, revealed that they planned to request "a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction and permanent injunction preventing Defendants from continuing to publish false accusations concerning the Plaintiff." While there are some who have been trying to challenge this, historically, claims of defamation are not entitled to any sort of injunctive relief, as it's classic prior restraint and a violation of the First Amendment.

Given that, both sides here look terrible. We have a company that has a ridiculous gag order on customers, has been threatening to sue just about everyone (including us) that presents any sort of negative opinion on their business, and clearly filed a bogus claim of "bribery" to piss off a lawyer fighting against them. On the flip side, we have a state senator who got a great free speech protecting law passed... and then appears to make himself subject to that very same law by threatening a very questionable defamation lawsuit, complete with prior restraint injunctions.

Oh, and the letter Reilly sent to Juravin and the draft complaint were both sent directly to us as well. Why? Because Reilly seemed to believe that (1) we're a PR firm and (2) Juravin hired us to promote his bribery accusation. Both the letter and draft complaint claim that Juravin "engaged" us to "gain media traction." So, already, in the past few weeks, Roca Labs has not only threatened us with a lawsuit and accused us of being a "mouthpiece" for Randazza, and now Senator Jones and his lawyers are, in turn, accusing us of being a mouthpiece... for Roca.

Well, holy fuck.

We've just been trying to report on the damn story, and highlight attempts to stifle free speech. We never expected to have multiple parties flinging legal threats at each other -- and dragging us into the process with completely bogus claims of working for both sides of this ridiculous fight. Hey, leave us out of this whole thing, and maybe, just maybe, everyone should learn how not to try to stifle free and open speech.

Not surprisingly, Roca's lawyer Paul Berger (the same guy who threatened us) quickly jumped on this massive gift that Jones' lawyer handed him, and responded to Reilly's threat by rightly hinting at the fact that Jones' threatened lawsuit might open him up to the very anti-SLAPP law that Jones got passed. And that actually seems to be one of the very, very few legal arguments that Berger and I agree on. Though, really, I don't want to even bother thinking about the irony of the SLAPP-happy Roca filing an anti-SLAPP against the guy who got the best anti-SLAPP in the country into law.

Either way, however, it's all for naught. As I was working on this story, I got a phone call from Jones' lawyer, Patrick Reilly, who appeared to realize the mistakes he had made. First off, he apologized for mischaracterizing Techdirt in the letter and draft complaint and suggesting that we were somehow working for Juravin. Furthermore, he said that Senator Jones did not, in fact, intend to file the drafted lawsuit. It sounds like Jones and his lawyers perhaps made a rash decision following a bogus integrity complaint -- but they now recognize that their response was a bad idea.

And... the whole issue quickly became moot anyway, because the Nevada Attorney General has dismissed Juravin's bribery complaint (pdf) already. The Nevada's Attorney General's office (who kindly provided me with the rejection letter) tells me that there was "insufficient evidence" in the complaint to believe that there was any criminal activity at all, and that Juravin's "theory of the offense does not rise to the level of a crime." Basically, it didn't take long for the Attorney General to look at the complaint and realize that it was nothing more than someone's personal vendetta against Marc Randazza for having the gall to be involved in a lawsuit which Juravin himself had started (along with his lawyer Paul Berger). Hopefully this means this particular tangent in Roca Labs story is over and done with. But, somehow, I doubt the overall Roca Labs story is over just yet....





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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2014 @ 10:25am

    Roca is filling the hole that Prenda left in my life.

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

    • icon
      DaveCA (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 10:40am

      Re:

      I was just thinking the same thing. It's nice to have a continuity of schadenfreude in one's life.

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

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 10:40am

      Re:

      Yeah, whatever happened to those guys anyway? Everything's been quiet with them lately...

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

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 5:28pm

        Re: Re:

        They have been handed more rope than they need to hang themselves, but are still squirming.

        3 motions Hans filed whining were rejected.
        Duffy has claimed that Prenda is folded and has no real assets, which is a cute trick to avoid sanction payments.
        Shame we have the financials they didn't bother to seal, that lead to very curious questions about how millions vanish.

        Nov Events
        Status hearing Pretenda v Internets.
        Duffy goes down to GA to represent in the Patel case (oh and Nazzy is back from his very important military mission much before the year he claimed before).

        But I'm not paying attention...

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

        • icon
          simality (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 11:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          There is also a motion hearing in Lightspeed on November 13th

          Not that I'm paying any attention either.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 25 Oct 2014 @ 11:02pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          If they're going to claim that 'Prenda' is dead and broke, then it seems the next logical step is to make them personally liable for the sanctions and fines.

          With the various documents showing a hefty profit from their activities, and Steele I believe claiming a while back about raking in millions on a regular basis, claiming that they are broke would likely raise more than a few eyebrows.

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

    • icon
      Sneeje (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 10:46am

      Re:

      Perfect 10 --> Righthaven --> Prenda --> Roca -->

      Can anyone else add to this lineage of laughable incompetence?

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

      • icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 10:53am

        Re: Re:

        Perfect 10 --> Righthaven --> Prenda --> Roca -->

        Can anyone else add to this lineage of laughable incompetence?


        I think Charles Carreon has to fit somewhere in there too...

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

    • icon
      Atkray (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 2:24pm

      Re:

      Between this:

      "Though, really, I don't want to even bother thinking about the irony of the SLAPP-happy Roca filing an anti-SLAPP against the guy who got the best anti-SLAPP in the country into law"


      and you having a hole filled by Roca digging a hole,

      my head is about to explode.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2014 @ 10:26am

    Bribery

    Accusing someone of bribery or being a beneficiary of bribery is not opinion but may well be actionable defamation.

    I don't see why instituting a defamation action is necessarily inconsistent with supporting an anti-SLAPP law.

    The anti-SLAPP law is only intended to wheat out baseless lawsuits chilling protected speech. not barring actions against genuine defamation which remains actionable.

    Also injunctive relief against speech once it has been found unprotected by a final judicial determination is not unusual.

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

    • identicon
      jackn, 24 Oct 2014 @ 10:48am

      Re: Bribery

      I agree. This ain't slapp now, this is real defamation.

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

      • icon
        Mason Wheeler (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 11:09am

        Re: Re: Bribery

        Seems to me it's real bribery, and I'm a bit mystified as to why Mike thinks the bribery claims are "highly questionable" and "border on laughable".

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

        • icon
          Sean J. (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 4:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: Bribery

          He doesn't like the Roca guy. Dohh

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

        • icon
          Whey Standard (profile), 26 Oct 2014 @ 2:20pm

          Re: Re: Re: Bribery

          How so? First, the fool that represents Roca Labs quotes the wrong law, NRS 197.010 only applies to members of the executive branch, and NRS 197.020 explicitly excludes state legislators from its definition of "public official". The correct statute would be NRS 218A.960 for state legislators like Jones, but even that wouldn't apply, because at the time, he wasn't a state legislator. Moreover, given that no value was discussed or even hinted at, and all indications are that this bill was widely supported in Nevada, you'd be hard-pressed to demonstrate that this offer controlled Jones' actions. Bribery analyses aren't stuck on formalities, they care about motivations and intentions, and here, you'd be hard-pressed to find corruption of either.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2014 @ 11:14am

      Re: Bribery

      I don't see why instituting a defamation action is necessarily inconsistent with supporting an anti-SLAPP law.


      Because complaints to official government agencies should be exempt. If I was raped, I should be able to file a complaint with the police without worrying that the rapist will sue me if I can't provide enough proof, or if what happened did not quite fall under the legal definition of rape. (Although, if my claim is actually proved to be false, criminal charges of filing a false report would absolutely be appropriate.) A complaint regarding possible improper conduct of an elected official is the very essence of what the First Amendment is meant to protect.

      The complaint Roca's founder filed references a specific quote by Randazza. If Randazza actually said that and it was true, there's no real grounds for a defamation lawsuit - everything after that is just conclusions. If Randazza said it but it was false, then the suit should be against him and not the Roca guy. If the Roca guy invented the quote out of thin air, then maybe a lawsuit would be appropriate - but the sample lawsuit did not allege this, and it seems very unlikely.

      Also injunctive relief against speech once it has been found unprotected by a final judicial determination is not unusual.


      But the sample lawsuit (which was never filed, apparently) said they also wanted a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction, in addition to any final injunction.

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

    • icon
      Adam Steinbaugh (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 12:34pm

      Re: Bribery

      It's not a statement of fact when the bases for the statement are fully disclosed. Then it's opinion, even if that opinion is objectively re-fucking-diculous. Even were it not, the asserted basis for establishing actual malice (i.e., the length of time before the election) is far less than clear and convincing.

      Nevertheless, I'm glad cooler heads on the senator's side prevailed before there was even a chance to criticize them for it.

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

    • identicon
      Whey Standard, 26 Oct 2014 @ 1:56pm

      Re: Bribery

      Saying someone "may" have committed bribery, or that it "appeared" bribery happened, and asking a public agency to look into it is not actionable, the only provable statements Roca Labs' attorney made in their letter to the state AG were about Randazza, not Jones, so Jones wouldn't have standing to sue anyway.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2014 @ 10:29am

    So this is what a company with questionable products and a large money pool does with its time.

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

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 24 Oct 2014 @ 10:30am

    With all this SLAPPing going on, I was wondering if I had accidentally gone to www.realhousewives.com.

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

  • icon
    Miles Barnett (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 10:48am

    Does Ken at Pope Hat Know About This?

    If so, he probably went blind from rolling his eyes into the back of his head.

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

    • icon
      Frankz (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 6:52pm

      Re: Does Ken at Pope Hat Know About This?

      Yes, Ken at Popehat finally wrote about it yesterday, saying he had been too involved in a trial all month:
      http://www.popehat.com/2014/10/23/the-impossible-censorious-buffoonery-of-roca-labs-am-i-being -punked-here/

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 8:56pm

        Re: Re: Does Ken at Pope Hat Know About This?

        That was so very awesomely.

        Notable gems:

        'The graphics of the Roca Labs substance remind me of the psychomagnotheric slime from Ghostbusters II, but I want to emphasize that I know of no evidence that Roca Labs' product has any supernatural properties.

        Yet the arcane and unnatural plays a role in Roca Labs' approach to the market — in the form of an unnaturally ridiculous approach to criticism.
        '

        **

        'They've sued Pissedconsumer.com on a theory that I will call "novel" because "batshit crazy" is rude.'

        **

        'That would have been a good time for a sensible litigant to reconsider their stance and strategy. Roca Labs isn't sensible. Roca Labs is not near sensible. The light from sensible will not reach Roca Labs for several generations.'

        **

        'First, Roca Labs took action through its "Independent General Counsel" Paul Berger, Esq.1

        1. He uses esquire after his name. You can tell a great deal about a lawyer by their use of "Esq." after their name. It's like if you're watching a movie and a pizza delivery guy shows up and porn music starts playing, you can pretty much tell what's going to happen next. It's not going to be Ibsen.
        '

        **

        Third, Mr. Berger sent a letter on behalf of Roca Labs threatening TechDirt with a defamation suit for covering the case and quoting court documents. I would characterize the letter as "resembling that of a pro se litigant regarding CIA mind beams."'

        **

        (After giving a rough time-line of their activities so far)

        'THE ARISTOCRATS!'

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

  • identicon
    Glen, 24 Oct 2014 @ 10:55am

    Well, holy fuck.

    I can't think of anything better to say at this point.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2014 @ 11:19am

    I can't help thinking of Monty Python's fish slapping sketch:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhJQp-q1Y1s

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

  • icon
    G Thompson (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 11:29am

    Told ya's!

    *munches popcorn*

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

  • icon
    CanadianByChoice (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 11:30am

    The Sequel

    "Roca Labs: Shades of Prenda" (A Sequel)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2014 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re: Bribery

    'Because complaints to official government agencies should be exempt. If I was raped, I should be able to file a complaint with the police without worrying
    that the rapist will sue me if I can't provide enough proof, or if what happened did not quite fall under the legal definition of rape. (Although, if my
    claim is actually proved to be false, criminal charges of filing a false report would absolutely be appropriate.) A complaint regarding possible improper
    conduct of an elected official is the very essence of what the First Amendment is meant to protect.'

    Yes, as to the meaning of bribery.

    I was perhaps too fast, bribery may be protected opinion if used in a figurative rather than literal sense.

    However, the exact accusation that an elected official is a beneficiary of bribery on account of passing law X is likely not protected speech in that specific context, and it isn't beyond the pale to argue that a court should decide the issue.

    The senator is a public figure and would have to prove that the statement was false and uttered with actual malice -- with knowledge of or reckless disregard for its falsity.

    It's a high burden, and unlikely to succeed in most cases, but not impossible.

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

    • icon
      Eldakka (profile), 26 Oct 2014 @ 4:46pm

      Re: Re: Re: Bribery

      IANAL, however if malice can include "a deliberate attempt to harm the professional reputation of a party in an effort to get them dismissed by their employer" then surely this would qualify?

      A lawyer retained by a defendant is accused of criminal acts of bribery by the plaintiff with no basis in law (i.e. the bribery laws don't apply at all as the target of the bribery is not covered by the bribery laws - they are not a public official nor were they a member of the legislature at the time of the actions).

      Sounds like malice to me...

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

  • icon
    Carl "Bear" Bussjaeger (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 12:00pm

    Well, damn.

    There goes my popcorn budget.

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

  • identicon
    David, 24 Oct 2014 @ 12:12pm

    It was nice though

    That Jones and Co. actually called and apologized. It takes bigger men to recognize their mistakes and apologize, rather than just keep digging themselves deeper.

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

  • icon
    Sean J. (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 12:13pm

    I think if Juravin will be sued he will then have the option to depose, do discovery and prove the AG wrong.

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

    • icon
      steell (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 1:10pm

      Re:

      The facts as I understand them.
      Randazza told the guy running for Nevada Senate seat that he would donate to his campaign and vote for him, if he pushed an Anti-Slapp bill should he be elected.

      If that is bribery, then a heck of a lot of people need to be indicted. Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers, George Soros, every local, State, and National party leader, and a large chunk of the American population.
      I am guilty as well, since I told a US Senator that I would donate to his campaign and vote for him if he supported the Second Amendment.
      Guess I better be getting things in order, since apparently I'm guilty of bribing a US Senator.

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

  • icon
    AC (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 1:05pm

    Who lost the SLAPP-bet?

    * This is a rhetorical, parody-style question, and does not imply any parties were involved in any unlicensed wagering.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2014 @ 1:34pm

      Re: Who lost the SLAPP-bet?

      "* This is a rhetorical, parody-style question, and does not imply any parties were involved in any unlicensed wagering."


      Ahh... yet another place where adding "with a computer" changes the potential outcome.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2014 @ 1:31pm

    Well, holy fuck.

    Totally the best part of the story!

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 1:37pm

      Re:

      Well, holy fuck.


      Totally the best part of the story!


      For what it's worth I debated taking out that line after I wrote it, but couldn't think of a good reason to. However, I did think that some of my team, when editing it, would question whether it was necessary in the story.

      Instead, the response I got was "holy fuck, indeed."

      So it stayed.

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

      • icon
        Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), 25 Oct 2014 @ 5:38am

        Re: Re:

        You let the Tims edit your stuff? No wonder... (kidding)

        It definitely feels more human with it in there.

        Not that there's anything wrong with robots. (I welcome our robot overlords and stuff.)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2014 @ 1:57pm

    Paul Berger - a fucking slimeball. Now working for a slimy company known as Roca labs.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Oct 2014 @ 2:05pm

    Well, holy fuck...prescriptive, sez I

    On behalf of us all, I hope that in the long run, we'll, wholly fuck Roca, et al.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Oct 2014 @ 5:52pm

    Dear Censorious Idiots,
    (Why yes you can just hear me saying idiots with JD's in your head when you read that.)

    ProTip - Calm your rage for at least the time it takes to Google things.

    Lets show why this is important...
    It was bad when there was just the overbroad never going to get it past a Judge threat in the letter, kinda making it look like even I law better than you.
    But to not bother to Google TechDirt before deciding all sorts of things, that were wildly wrong and make you look like an incompetent raging buffoon.

    If I wasn't a giving caring person and had hired you, I'd be filing complaints with the bar. You made a problem much worse then added a multiplier all while getting paid for actively harming the reputation of the client that much more.

    Yes clients rage, but professionals are supposed to keep them from making it worse, not just collect a check.

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

  • icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), 25 Oct 2014 @ 1:29am

    Somewhere cowering in a basement, John Steele just had his first WTF moment after reading this story about Roca Labs.

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


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