Federal Prosecutors Recommend Paul Hansmeier Spend The Next 12 Years In Prison

from the not-so-clever-Hans-heads-for-the-federal-glue-factory dept

Cue the Ron Paul "It's Happening!!!!" gif. The wheels of justice have been grinding away for years now, but they've finally generated several years for longtime copyright troll/supervillain Paul Hansmeier. After making a career out of extorting settlements from alleged porn-watching infringers, extorting settlements from small businesses with bogus ADA complaints, attempting to hide his wealth from his creditors (some of which were owed money for sanctions imposed in copyright trolling cases), and otherwise putting on a one-man show entitled "Why We Hate Lawyers," Hansmeier is facing the possibility of spending the next decade in prison.

The sentencing recommendation [PDF] prepared by the prosecutors has nothing good to say about Hansmeier. In fact, the prosecutors make it clear they'd have given him even more than the 12+ years they've recommended. (h/t Virgil Abt)

Here are the numbers:

As reflected in the report, the appropriate guidelines range for Paul Hansmeier is 135 to 168 months in prison.

And here's the reasoning for the lengthy sentence:

Paul Hansmeier was the driving force behind this massive scheme. It was Hansmeier who came up with the idea to construct a copyright settlement mill focused on pornographic films. It was Hansmeier who directed his brother to upload clients’ movies onto file-sharing websites to lure downloaders. It was Hansmeier who drafted nearly all of the legal pleadings used to deceive judges. It was Hansmeier who invented phantom hacking allegations. And it was Hansmeier who lied to judges, dissembled in depositions, and coerced others to conceal the truth.

The government says John Steele was basically the muscle -- an intimidating figure who also handled the bookwork for the scheme. But it was Hansmeier who did the dirtiest of the dirty work. And as such, he should be dealt with more harshly. And this is hardly the end of the government's summary of Hansmeiers' dirty work. The filing continues in this fashion for several pages -- a fitting tribute to Hansmeiers' scamsmanship.

The headings alone indicate the depth of Hansmeiers' grift.

Hansmeier repeatedly deceived courts

Hansmeier and Steele owned and controlled the plaintiffs

Hansmeier invented allegations of hacking

Hansmeier protected himself by using proxies

The details interspersed between these headings are devastating in their description of Hansmeier and his long-running fraud.

Hansmeier concealed from the courts that he filmed and produced much of the pornography in this case himself, not for commercial distribution, but for the sole purpose of using the resulting pornographic movies as bait.

[...]

Hansmeier compounded his egregiously disgraceful misuse of Judge Bransford’s subpoena authority by lying directly to her face in open court…

[...]

Hansmeier hid the fact that he and his codefendant, John Steele, were the attorneys responsible for filing every fraudulent copyright infringement lawsuit in this case. Hansmeier and Steele recruited an alcoholic and now-deceased Chicago attorney named Paul Duffy to serve as the putative owner of “Prenda Law,” the firm that represented AF Holdings, Ingenuity 13, and the other sham plaintiffs in the various copyright cases.

[...]

[W]hen courts around the country sought to hold Hansmeier responsible for the fraud and damages he had wrought, Hansmeier resorted to perjury and suborning perjury to escape blame and retain the proceeds of the scheme. Hansmeier and Steele swore out false declarations, gave false testimony in depositions and at court hearings, and caused Lutz to do the same…

[...]

Even after Judge Wright’s widely-read order sanctioning Hansmeier, Hansmeier continued to hide the money he gained through the fraudulent scheme. Hansmeier transferred money into his new law firm, Alpha Law, into accounts controlled by his wife, Padraigin Browne, and a sham trust called “Monyet,” and then filed a fraudulent bankruptcy case concealing the fact that Hansmeier retained control over a substantial amount of the proceeds of his fraud case.

The whole recommendation is a depressing read simply for the fact this scam went unimpeded for so long. The government wraps up this ugly narrative with its recommended sentence, but only after offering this last appraisal of Paul Hansmeier.

In summary, Hansmeier was greedy, arrogant, devious, mendacious, and consistently positioned other people to be damaged by his conduct, even as he enjoyed the proceeds of the scheme he orchestrated. Even now, Hansmeier continues to accept responsibility only in conditional terms, hoping to convince the appeals court that his shocking abuse of his position of trust as a Minnesota attorney, and an officer of its courts, was somehow legal.

The government says its final call is 150 months, but the footnote attached indicates the government would have handed out so much more if it had not already agreed not to.

In the plea agreement, the government agreed not to recommend a sentence above 150 months.

Twelve years is a lot of time. But Hansmeier appears to have earned every day of it.

Filed Under: copyright troll, doj, john steele, paul hansmeier, sentencing
Companies: prenda, prenda law


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Mar 2019 @ 1:39pm

    Maybe he should’ve stuck to mailing lists and get-rich-quick schemes.

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

    • icon
      Madd the Sane (profile), 27 Mar 2019 @ 1:48pm

      Re:

      This was his get-rich-quick scheme. He just kept on wanting more and more and more…

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 2:11pm

      Re:

      Wow someone's got a corner office in your brain....good to know!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 2:23pm

      Re:

      Which get-rich-quick scheme was that again?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 9:35pm

      Re:

      Nah, all of them should get 12+ years as well.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 Mar 2019 @ 4:01am

      Re:

      If he had old Baghdad Bob wouldn't have been so ardent a supporter of him though.

      Hansmeier and Steele already have such a hard time fulfilling their duty as extortionate scu...err...law-enforcing pirate hunters, it would be a crying shame if they'd lose that one supporter standing in their corner. Much like the corpse of Saddam Hussein they don't have that many people left in their cheerleading squad.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 1:57pm

    Sentencing guidelines are a crime in and of themselves in America today. Everyone who followed this saga know how agonizing it was to see a licensed BAR lawyer pulling shinanigan after shinanigan like what happened, but twelve years is Fucking Harsh like most sentences are. A. person can be sentenced for 10 years and guidelines increase so a person could end up serving 28 years etc etc... That ain't justice baby. That is a hate crime.

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

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 27 Mar 2019 @ 2:05pm

      Re:

      The total harm caused here merits a harsh sentence. That harm may be spread out across many people. A few thousand here. A few thousand there.

      It also sends a message to others who would do this.

      I'm not saying whether or not this is the right sentence. But it sure feels right.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 2:23pm

        Re: Re:

        Why did the courts allow his scamming to go on and on for so long? The system is to blame as much as anyone else. Judges dragged their feet to allow the scams to turn monumentally into such a debacle.

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

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Mar 2019 @ 3:27pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Prosecutors have to be able to prove the facts of a crime, and gathering that evidence takes time. Also, due process. You may want to look into those two concepts.

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

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 Mar 2019 @ 7:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Why did the courts allow his scamming to go on and on for so long?"

          Stephen T. Stone has part of the answer in his reply, but there's another angle which makes it really REALLY hard to stop this kind of scamming. Because copyright.

          If anyone else were to mass-mail extortionate notices to thousands of citizens without a shred of halfway credible evidence the feds would have pounded down their doors after the first batch was sent.

          The DMCA, however, exculpates almost any allegation made by a copyright holder - or anyone claiming to be such - unless it can be proven they aren't acting in good faith. See the difficulty here?
          In practice therefore, where copyright is concerned, burden of proof often relies heavily on the defendant to prove his innocence while the plaintiff often cannot be held accountable for a false allegation.

          And that is why a veritable mountain of evidence had to be collected before the DA's dared to make a move.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 Mar 2019 @ 4:05am

      Re:

      "That ain't justice baby. That is a hate crime."

      We're talking about people with a diploma to negotiate in court turning the law into a flesh toilet for their personal pleasure at the cost of...anyone dumb enough to fall for outright extortion.

      Pretty sure once you add up the charges of repeated perjury (which normally carries up to 20 years in penalty), not to mention years worth of obstructing justice and consistent contempt of court, 12 years is actually them getting off quite easy.

      If your average petty thief managed to run a court through the wringer to the same extent I'm pretty sure he'd end up doing 70 or 80 years easily.

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

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 28 Mar 2019 @ 8:00am

        Re: Re:

        We're talking about people with a diploma to negotiate in court turning the law into a flesh toilet for their personal pleasure at the cost of...anyone dumb enough to fall for outright extortion.

        That's victim-blaming horseshit. The reason extortion schemes like this work is that it's cheaper to pay off the extorter than to hire a lawyer. Plus, that way you don't wind up with Google searches for your name producing a list of porn movies you (allegedly) downloaded.

        Prenda's victims weren't dumb. They didn't fall for the extortion scheme. They were innocent people who were taken advantage of by crooks.

        Pretty sure once you add up the charges of repeated perjury (which normally carries up to 20 years in penalty), not to mention years worth of obstructing justice and consistent contempt of court, 12 years is actually them getting off quite easy.

        Nobody ever gets the maximum sentence. Describing a maximum sentence without proper context is ill-informed and sensationalistic. Here's more from Popehat:

        Crime: Whale Sushi. Sentence: ELEVENTY MILLION YEARS.

        Cloudy, With A Chance of Shitty Journalism

        Bad Reporting on Matthew Keys' Possible Sentence Conceals Prosecutorial Power

        And here's one that's actually about Prenda:

        Prenda Saga Update: John Steele Pleads Guilty, Admits Entire Scheme

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

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 Mar 2019 @ 7:42am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Mea Culpa.

          "That's victim-blaming horseshit. The reason extortion schemes like this work is that it's cheaper to pay off the extorter than to hire a lawyer."

          Blame my european background. Here in europe similar schemes work by outright conmanship since a tort is harder and more expensive to start.

          "Plus, that way you don't wind up with Google searches for your name producing a list of porn movies you (allegedly) downloaded."

          That I don't buy. Any such published list would make YOU the plaintiff in an open-shut defamation case. Prenda were douchebags of the highest order but I doubt they'd be dumb enough to risk exposing themselves legally to that extent.

          "Prenda's victims weren't dumb. They didn't fall for the extortion scheme. They were innocent people who were taken advantage of by crooks."

          Innocent, certainly. I'll retract and replace "dumb" with "not hard-nosed enough". Unfortunately editing isn't possible here on TD.

          Or perhaps not unfortunate. Baghdad Bob/Bobmail wouldn't ever stop rewriting his false claims and straw men upon exposure...

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

          • icon
            K`Tetch (profile), 29 Mar 2019 @ 10:35am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "That I don't buy. Any such published list would make YOU the plaintiff in an open-shut defamation case. " WRONG. In the US, court proceedings have ABSOLUTE IMMUNITY from defamation proceedings. So rather than an 'open and shut' case, you have a 'summarily dismissed' case for failure to state an actionable claim, now pay them their defense fees for filing a frivolous and vexatious defamation lawsuit

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Mar 2019 @ 2:06pm

    Ah sweet schadenfruede...

    Of all the things to take from him, this is one he can't just ignore, stonewall, or pretend he doesn't have, and hopefully one the judge applies to the full extent that they can.

    Twelve years is a lot of time.

    No, not really. Even ignoring for a moment the abuse of the legal system, lies and fraud, I'd say the level of suffering he and his 'friends' indifferently spread in order to make an easy profit more than earns that. This wasn't just some one-and-done scam, they were doing this for years with absolutely no sign of stopping unless they were stopped, so years behind bars strikes me as entirely fitting.

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 27 Mar 2019 @ 3:28pm

      Re: Ah sweet schadenfruede...

      Whether or not he earned it, 15% of your life is a long time.

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

      • icon
        sumgai (profile), 27 Mar 2019 @ 4:12pm

        Re: Re: Ah sweet schadenfruede...

        15% is a long time? Hell, I'd give 15% or more, right now, to have my health back to that of a normal 20 year-old.

        But any amount of time in the hoosegow is a long time, when you refuse to admit and accept responsibility for your actions. I think that P.H. would rather take the prison time than spend even just 10 minutes alone with any of his victims, inside of a locked room.

        sumgai

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 5:36pm

        Re: Re: Ah sweet schadenfruede...

        Chances are this shithead will get out of prison and go right back to scamming. With any luck, 12 years will end up being a lot more than 15% of his life.

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

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 Mar 2019 @ 4:09am

          Re: Re: Re: Ah sweet schadenfruede...

          "Chances are this shithead will get out of prison and go right back to scamming."

          Probably. It's pretty telling that at almost any time in the proceedings he could have fallen to his knees at the mercy of the court, and walked away with less than half that time, in a minimum security pen, to boot.

          But no. He kept lying straight into the faces of judges and jurors who already had evidence proving him a sleazy perjurer playing for time in the sole hope that the court case might age to death around him.

          Hansmeier is one of those people who can't live without scamming or extorting other people. An honest job is beyond him.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 2:11pm

    This was the sentence agreed to by the criminal. Considering the number of counts that could easily have been "rung up" -- every single email sent out was an attempted extortion -- this case could trivially have been a RICO. RICO can't be used to threaten an accused, but both sides had to know the score.

    No doubt: the perp knew it wasn't going to be a day less than that. And the feds figured they had pushed the perp as far as they could without going to trial (which is such a painful and expensive trip for what was a foregone conclusion.)

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 2:18pm

    This is what the prosecutors are asking for.
    When is the sentencing hearing where the judge actually hands down a sentence?

    And has Steele been sentenced yet or when is his sentencing? Weren't they holding off on sentencing him to make sure he gave them what they wanted on Hansmeier? So now Steele will find out how much time he gets?

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 27 Mar 2019 @ 2:21pm

      Re:

      'So, turns out we didn't actually get anything useful from you, because damn were you guys obvious in what you did and just terrible at hiding it. Full sentencing it is.'

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

  • identicon
    Dan, 27 Mar 2019 @ 2:33pm

    So...

    ...is this the time to welcome him to the big leagues?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 3:03pm

      Re: So...

      I'd pay to see somebody say that to him when he's led away from sentencing. Hoping he doesn't "get time to put his affairs in order" before being allowed to report to jail on his own.
      It'd be even better if somebody could have a sign saying that, at the prison when he gets there.

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

    • identicon
      norahc, 27 Mar 2019 @ 8:34pm

      Re: So...

      So...

      ...is this the time to welcome him to the big leagues?

      No, now is the time to welcome him to the big house.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 Mar 2019 @ 4:16am

      Re: So...

      "...is this the time to welcome him to the big leagues?"

      Not until he manages to run a similar con and get away with it.

      Trump has managed to scam his clients and colleagues for 40 years even before becoming president - that's big leagues.

      P.T. Barnum managed to write books about how to con people while he kept scamming them. That's also the big leagues.

      Hansmeier, in comparison, is that sleazy gossipmonger who can't tell the truth even if doing so will get him benefits. Being a fully educated lawyer he somehow managed to lose money while breaking the law and getting caught with his pants around his ankles - in the US. That's basically just fungus level of persistently being a slimy saprophyte.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Mar 2019 @ 2:41pm

        Re: Re: So...

        Ooh those big words.. I just love them! And so graphic too. Getting caught with his pants down to his ankles! WOW! Someone could sure fantasize on that one!?! And a Saprophyte? Fuck! .. What's a Saprophyte? Any way.. Cool journalistic spin. I'm sure Paul will be pondering That comment for years to come!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 3:27pm

    It's generally good form to think through the harms caused to other parties by a get rich quick scheme before going full extortion. If the full time is served that is time well earned.

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

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 27 Mar 2019 @ 4:24pm

    It seem we finally have an answer to that question Blue keeps dodging.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 5:38pm

    Don't you just love it when copyright law is enforced?

    What a glorious day for copyright enforcement? Right, Hamilton, John Smith, Richard Bennett, and whatever dumbfuck pseudonym blue feels like using today?

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 27 Mar 2019 @ 6:14pm

    BYE FELECIA!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sure hope you didn't leave your wife any more shoeboxes of cash, she totally isn't the kind of person who would divorce you after grabbing all of your illegally obtained assets & stashing them... I mean its not like she was married to someone who ran one of the larges extro... oh right...

    BYE FELECIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 7:22pm

      Re:

      There once was a horse with no name
      Who said John Steele wasn't to blame
      When he was asked why
      He gave out a cry,
      "John wiped off my face when he came!"

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 6:55pm

    So, how does one "Govern yourself accordingly" while in prison?

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

  • identicon
    Canuck, 27 Mar 2019 @ 8:28pm

    Awesome news

    So with federal time, he'll do what, at least 85% or so of his sentence? So about ten and a half years? So out in late 2029 or early 2030? Damn, sucks to be you, Paul. Really sucks.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Mar 2019 @ 9:55pm

    and a sham trust called “Monyet,”

    "Monyet" is a Malaysian word for monkey

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

  • icon
    wshuff (profile), 28 Mar 2019 @ 4:55am

    So does this mean vindication for Salt Marsh? And Maybe Hansmeier can get some good time credit if he leads the authorities to Lutz’ body.

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

    • icon
      DB (profile), 28 Mar 2019 @ 11:27am

      Re:

      Salt Marsh was the mastermind of the whole scheme!

      I do have to wonder what Steele did to get downgraded to mere "muscle". It appeared that he was an equal partner with Paul.

      Duffy was the only criminal I felt sorry for, slightly. He was straight out of a Grisham novel. A down-on-his-luck drunk ambulance chaser, he was recruited as the front man for the Prenda part of the scheme. But all of the initial millions went to Steele and Hansmeier, and the scheme fell apart just as Duffy was to get his share.

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

  • identicon
    David Longfellow, 28 Mar 2019 @ 5:53am

    Good news

    Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
    Not.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Mar 2019 @ 7:12am

    I heard that this guy was also friends with Obama, so maybe he will get off with a little community service, just like Smollett.

    That seems fair.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Mar 2019 @ 6:25pm

      Re:

      Hi Hamilton. Finally decided to show up with crow in your mouth did you?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Mar 2019 @ 2:51pm

        Re: Re:

        Your limerick DIDN'T MAKE ONE IOTA OF SENSE! And besides that, it sucked probono. Don't ever write another poem. Ever!

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2019 @ 2:12am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Whose limerick?

          Someone doesn't pay attention to geolocation snowflakes, it seems.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2019 @ 5:25am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            You have to remember that Hamilton sincerely believes that only one person agrees with Masnick, hates copyright trolls, etc.

            He's had a hard time, what with Shiva Ayyadurai not inventing the Internet and having to watch one of the heroes of copyright get sentenced to the big leagues.

            I wish I could say I was sorry, but that would be lying.

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

  • icon
    bloodnok (profile), 1 Apr 2019 @ 6:41pm

    presidential material there

    do hope mr hansmeier is planning his second act. there's a fine tangerine precedent ....

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


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