A California attorney sanctioned for his role in a nationwide fraud scheme targeting alleged infringers of pornography copyrights claims that he should be exonerated so that he could testify against his former colleagues.
Brett Gibbs, a solo practitioner in Mill Valley, Calif., was sanctioned on May 6 along with three other attorneys associated with Chicago’s Prenda Law Inc. for creating sham corporations to extort settlements from individuals accused of illegally downloading copyrighted pornographic films. Gibbs filed a motion to vacate the judge’s sanctions order against him, arguing that new evidence shows he knew nothing about his former colleagues’ activities.
Vacating his sanctions order, he wrote, would allow him to drop his petition before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and testify against his former colleagues.
“Gibbs was in another league,” he wrote in an October 17 motion filed in federal court in Los Angeles. He claimed he knew nothing about the scheme and only did what his former colleagues told him to do. “His mistake was believing and relying on their statements, and transmitting them to the Court, unaware that they were false.”
Gibbs has requested a November 18 hearing on his motion.
Meanwhile, his former colleagues – John Steele, Paul Duffy and Paul Hansmeier – hired a new attorney to represent them and Prenda Law, which dissolved on July 26, in their consolidated appeal before the Ninth Circuit.
That appeal is due on November 19.
The attorney, Daniel Voelker of Voelker Litigation Group in Chicago, did not return a call for comment. They previously were represented by Klinedinst, which withdrew as counsel.
In his order, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright said the Prenda Law attorneys “suffer from a form of moral turpitude unbecoming of an officer of the court.” He imposed monetary sanctions and referred them to various licensing authorities for investigation of possible misconduct and to federal prosecutors for potential criminal violations of the U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Since then, judges across the country have made similar misconduct findings against the Prenda Law attorneys in other court cases, many of which don’t involve him, Gibbs wrote.
“New evidence demonstrates conclusively that Steele, Hansmeier and Duffy were never interested in protecting films from copyright infringement,” Gibbs wrote. “They only wanted to maximize settlement proceeds and use shell companies, organized in offshore jurisdictions, with no assets, accounts, employees or operations, to hide the fact that they were the true beneficiaries of Prenda’s extortion scheme.”
Wright’s decision to sanction Gibbs, whose role the judge acknowleged was more akin to a “redshirt,” was based on “an inadvertent mistake,” not lies, Gibbs wrote.
Contact Amanda Bronstad at firstname.lastname@example.org.