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Steele still works through Prenda Law at times. He declined to comment on the ownership of the entities he represents, saying that the lawsuits have resulted in death threats.
But at least two federal judges are demanding answers.
In Tampa, Fla., U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven dismissed “for attempted fraud on the Court” a case that had been brought by an adult film company. And she is a considering sanctions against Steele and others.
The judge’s ruling came after the film company’s attorney of record failed to appear at a November hearing. A “corporate representative” named Mark Lutz of Las Vegas, Nev., couldn’t answer basic questions and turned to a man in the gallery. It was Steele. He explained that he has worked on similar cases, but denied involvement in that case.
Lutz told the judge he makes $1,000 to appear as a corporate representative in infringement cases.
Seeking the mastermind
In Los Angeles, Wright has dismissed a number of the copyright cases and has ordered attorney Brett Gibbs of Prenda Law to explain who pulls the strings. Gibbs identified Steele and Hansmeier, and said Lutz was the CEO of the West Indies copyright holders.
Defense attorney Morgan Pietz challenged Gibbs’ assertions last week in a court filing, noting that Lutz had worked as a paralegal for Steele. “This ‘Lutz as mastermind’ story is simply not credible,” Pietz wrote.
Wright then ordered Cooper, Steele, Lutz, the Hansmeier brothers, Duffy and a Prenda Law paralegal from Minnesota to appear at Monday’s hearing to explain the ownership of the firms alleging copyright violations.
“If it is true that Alan Cooper’s identity was misappropriated and the underlying copyright assignments were improperly executed using his identity, then Plaintiff faces a few problems,” Wright wrote.
Star Tribune staff writer Abby Simons contributed to this report. Dan Browning • 612-673-4493