Patrick Zarrelli Claims He's Filing Criminal Charges Against Us Because He Doesn't Like Our Post About Him

from the dude:-do-you-even-first-amendment? dept

So... a week and a half ago, we published an article, written by Tim Cushing, discussing the rather poor decisions of a self-proclaimed "reputation management" guy named Patrick Zarrelli. Zarrelli, it appeared, had been hired by Florida attorney Gary Ostrow, to improve his reputation, but instead, Zarrelli proceeded on a course that seemed more likely to destroy his own reputation, and potentially drag Ostrow further down with him.

The background: Ostrow, back in 2012, put out a ridiculous press release, claiming that he was "taking on all celebrity criminal cases in Florida." The press release was so ridiculous and silly that it resulted in mocking and scorn from lawyers online, including Scott Greenfield and Mark Bennett. Apparently, three years later, Ostrow decided he wanted those posts to disappear from the internet. As we've seen, trying to make things disappear from the internet is generally a bad idea that has a history of backfiring spectacularly, often generating renewed interest in that which you wish to delete.

It tends to be even worse when you attempt to delete the content in the most ham-fisted manner possible, which appears to have been Zarrelli's strategy. He called up Greenfield and Bennett, and did a weird passive-aggressive combination of threatening them with totally baseless legal threats, and a weird sort of "hey we're all buddies, let's just take this content down" ridiculousness. If you haven't, you really need to listen to the voicemail that Zarrelli left Greenfield. I could describe it, but no description could do that voicemail justice. It includes a bunch of nonsense legal terms ("hot news exemption"?), a bizarre attempt to "trade" website design if Greenfield will take down the article ("let us improve your blog for you"), threats ("it's not going to be fun for you") and a bizarre listing of his family tree of "high-end lawyers."

All this resulted in more blog posts from Bennett and Greenfield. Another attorney, Brian Tannebaum, apparently also was on the receiving end of ridiculous threats from Zarrelli.

Throughout it all, Zarrelli kept publicly (on Facebook and Twitter) putting up a show of bravado, and a few times suggested that the reason that everyone was pissed at him was because of some sort of "lawyerly bravado" that he felt they believed they needed to show before capitulating -- rather than the truth: which is that these lawyers know Zarrelli has no legal basis for his claims, and they have little time for censorious jerks who are threatening them with bogus legal threats.

Now we get to the rule of holes: when you're in one, stop digging.

We had thought that, as with many such cases, Zarrelli might calm down, get a little perspective and move on with his life -- possibly in a different business than "reputation management." But, apparently, he (unwisely) chose plan B.

Yesterday afternoon a large envelope stuffed with hundreds of pages of paper showed up at my office, which appears to be a hilariously stupid threat that he's suing basically everyone who made fun of him.
If you can't read that "cover page," here's what it says:
Dear Tech Dirt [sic] Team,

A writer of yours named Tim Cushings [sic] is using your website to harass, stalk, libel, and cyber bully me online. We have filed criminal charges and bar complaints in seven states. We are now in the process of filling [sic] a federal lawsuit in Florida. Due to your companies [sic] high page rank, there [sic] attack articles about me dominate the search results. They are even above my own Facebook page.

Thank you,

Patrick Zarrelli
And, as you can see, there are large packets for the lawyers mentioned above -- Scott Greenfield, Mark Bennett and Brian Tannebaum, as well as one for Tim Cushing, who is listed together with Sam Glover (I have no idea why). Each "cover page" lists a "criminal case #": "Criminal Case #15-172076FLPD." I can't wait to see what criminal law it violates to "rank better than my Facebook page in search results," but I get the feeling that the Florida police won't be doing much with this.

Beyond the misspellings, the cover letter is just ridiculous. It doesn't actually make any request to us. It doesn't say that anything has actually been filed against us, or Tim directly, despite the clear attempt to imply as much. There is no effort to (as you're kinda required to do) name what actual statements constitute violations of the law (he can keep looking, 'cause he's not going to find any). Also, "harass, stalk, libel, and cyber bully." Dude, he wrote an article about you fucking up. That's not harassing, stalking, libeling or cyber bullying. That's called reporting, and it's damn well protected by the First Amendment. Whatever "criminal charges" he thinks he's filed are not what he seems to think they are. Individuals don't file "criminal charges." That's law enforcement's job. It sounds like he may have just whined to some law enforcement folks in Florida who probably filed it in the garbage file where it belongs. Obviously, he's not filing "bar complaints" against us or Cushing, since Cushing isn't a lawyer. He very well may have against the lawyers listed, but those will all go nowhere fast.

If he's seriously contemplating "filling [sic] a federal lawsuit in Florida" -- well, then he should have had his lawyer contact us, rather than himself -- and he might want to acquaint himself carefully with Florida's brand new anti-SLAPP law, which we would almost certainly make use of in seeking legal fees for filing a bogus lawsuit whose sole purpose was an attempt to stifle Constitutionally protected speech.

Oh, and you might wonder what's in all the pages in those packets. It is not -- as you might think from the cover pages -- any actual lawsuit or bar complaint or anything of the sort. It is not any actual demands or explanation of what laws he thinks we broke. Rather, each packet is just pages upon pages of screenshot printouts of the articles that we wrote, the comments on those articles, and comments found on Twitter and Facebook where people were mocking Zarrelli.

Dude: let it go. You messed up and people made fun of you for it. There's nothing illegal about that (in either the criminal or the civil sense).

Update: After a bunch of requests, we've scanned in the full packets. You can see them below:

Filed Under: anti-slapp, brian tannebaum, criminal charges, defamation, free speech, gary ostrow, mark bennett, patrick zarrelli, reputation management, sam glover, scott greenfield, threats


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  1. icon
    ArkieGuy (profile), 10 Nov 2015 @ 11:12am

    Re: Techdirt rank?

    Oh, I bet he Googles himself regularly!

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