Charles Carreon Encounters Actual Legal Consequences

All of my coverage of the saga of Charles Carreon, his threats against Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal, and his dispute with a satirical blogger are collected here.

When I write about prolonged bad behavior in the legal system, I often get angry comments from people who say "when will the system impose consequences on people who act this way?" Take heart, I respond. The wheels grind slowly, but they grind. "Bullshit," comes the response. "Prove it."

Very well. How about an order requiring Charles Carreon to pay $46,100.25 in attorney fees?

Charles Carreon became infamous when he rashly threatened Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal, leading to infamy and spectacle. Later he made very foolish and extravagant threats against a satirical blogger, leading to a declaratory relief action against him. He evaded service for a while, then capitulated in that case, but has been fighting over whether he should have to pay attorney fees.

Today a federal judge in the Northern District of California granted the motion for fees by the satirical blogger, granting $46,100.25 in fees to the blogger's attorneys, Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen and attorney and blogger Cathy Gellis. They had been seeking a total of $77,765.25.

Judge United States District Judge Richard Seeborg's order awarding fees is devastating to Carreon. Judge Seeborg rejects Carreon's arguments one by one, and finds Carreon's litigation conduct rendered the case exceptional, justifying a partial award of fees under the Lanham Act:

While defendant’s threatened claims were not “exceptional” at the outset of this case, defendant’s actions throughout the litigation certainly transformed this case into an “exceptional” matter, deserving of an award of attorney fees. The Ninth Circuit has stated that “bad faith or other malicious conduct satisfies the exceptional circumstances requirement.” Boney, 127 F.3d at 827. Evidence supports a finding of malicious conduct during the course of this case. Defendant first went to great lengths, imposing unnecessary costs on plaintiff, to avoid service. Then, in response to this motion for attorney fees under the Lanham Act, defendant engaged in unnecessary, vexatious, and costly tactics in preparation of his opposition to the motion. The Ninth Circuit discourages major litigation with respect to attorney fees. See, e.g., Camacho, 523 F.3d at 981; Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983) (“A request for attorney’s fees should not result in a second major litigation.”). Defendant’s serving of interrogatories and taking of plaintiff’s deposition amounted to a mini-trial on plaintiff’s motion for fees. Indeed, plaintiff incurred an additional $37,650.25 in fees and costs after his motion was filed. Despite this additional discovery, defendant has presented no evidence to support his initial contention that plaintiff’s attorney is on a mission to “turn Internet gripe sites into profit centers for him and
Public Citizen Law Group.” Doc. #45, at 4. Defendant has failed to show that his additional discovery efforts led to anything other than additional frustration for plaintiff and his attorneys. Accordingly, plaintiff’s efforts to respond to defendant’s litigation tactics merit the imposition of a fees award.

Judge Seeborg rejects Carreon's argument that the settlement precluded an award of attorneys fees. Carreon drafted his own offer of judgment. He could have made it clear that the offer precluded fees. He didn't.

Defendant cannot now escape the consequences of his inartful drafting.

Charles Carreon could have escaped with a much lower award, or no award at all. The court declined to award fees for the filing of the declaratory relief suit itself, or for the brief litigation of its substance, finding that Carreon's initial threats did not render the case exceptional under the Lanham Act. The bulk of this order — $37,650.25 — results from Carreon's bizarre discovery demands in response to the motion for fees itself, which the court described as "unnecessary, vexatious, and costly." Most of the rest of the order — $8,450 — results from Carreon's evasion of service. So, instead of facing a costs bill for a few thousand dollars at most, Charles Carreon is facing a bill for $46,100.25. Character is destiny.

There are consequences for bad behavior. They come slowly. But they do come.

Note: I was going to wait for Paul Alan Levy to write about this first, since it's his win based on his work. But Adam Steinbaugh and Mike Masnick scooped me.

Edited to add: Paul Alan Levy offers his thoughts, plus some very kind words for which I am grateful.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Caudex says

    I can't wait to see Missus Carreon react to this. I wonder how long it'll take her to invoke Godwin's Law? And yes, I've ventured onto her little echo chamber. (My sanity was not in danger, since I'm already deranged.)

  2. says

    Justice Is Sweet! I'm just waiting for Tara's crazy rant on how Judge Seeborg is part of the Illuminati conspiracy and is being paid by Techdirt, Ken, et al., as well as some promise of appeal.

  3. says

    It reminds me of that joke about 100 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean. Somebody, whether the satirical blogger, or Public Citizen, or Cathy, will have to eat the balance. At least Carreon will feel the sting. I only hope he has assets.

  4. Mark says

    Now it would be good time to remind CC …

    That a judgment can be renewed indefinitely until collected, and that California judgments accrue 10% interest, which can compounded once ever ten years by capitalizing the accumulated interest

  5. Michael says

    Is there no way to inflict punishment, over and above the award of fees, for the behavior he has displayed?

  6. RavingRambler says

    @John Technically, yes, but who would hire him? His search results are likely going to be dominated by this debacle for ages to come.

  7. says

    @RavingRambler – True enough. But there are people who don't do research on the internet first (far more than I'd like to think about actually)

  8. Wondering says

    I'm glad for the ruling. But I have a feeling he'll find a way to evade actually paying the money.

    Didn't he sue Toyota for repo-ing his car?

  9. Lucy says

    That's a lot of money. If he wasn't just so awful, someone might feel bad for him. He really is just so incredibly out there awful though.

    It is nice to see the system work.

    So it's there a remaining $30,000 balance to be paid or was Satirical Charles's representation based on an awarded/pro bono basis?

    Great job Mr. Levy!


  10. John says

    Oh my god this is fantastic. What's the site the Tara posts her craziness at? Some site pretending to be a library… I can't remember the address

  11. says

    Good people do good things–I'm pretty sure both Satirical Charles and Mr Levy are very grateful for all you do, Ken.

    So are we. Thank you.

  12. NotPiffany says

    Heh. I love the "BOOM Headshot" tag. May we have the opportunity to see it again someday.

  13. TerryTowels says

    I wish the title had read "Chapter IVX: In Which Charles Carreon Encounters Actual Legal Consequences"

    Also, Levy had really nice things to say about you, Ken. Congrats, you help to uplift the image of lawyers.

  14. Trebuchet says

    @apauld: That link (for CC's new best friend) is made of pure awesome. Be sure to follow the link for Tom Forrest's resume. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles! He'll probably be spamming Ken any day now.

  15. RavingRambler says

    @apauld Oh. My. Goodness. The crazy is strong with this one, stronger than we knew.

  16. Kelly says

    Finally, *some* justice. Now, how long will it take to wring the money out of him?

    Also, that 'CC's new best friend' article was awesome!

  17. apauld says

    @Trebuchet – did you read Forrest's comments to others commenting on the story? Just Crazy. The last person to respond like that to stories involving them on techdirt was …. Tara Carreon! Yep, Charles wife; she kept us greatly entertained there for quite a long time.
    @RavingRambler – I found it interesting that birds of a feather do indeed flock together

  18. says

    @Apauld did you notice Tara wrote a rant/poem about Techdirt and Anonymous Coward? I swear, if I didn't know better, I'd say Tara was Forrest, perhaps they are at least friends from the hippie commune or something.

  19. En Passant says

    SassQueen wrote Apr 12, 2013 @3:02 pm:

    April is like the awesomest month ever.

    Sanctions from litigious asshats, needing
    Benchslaps to the face; feeding
    Popcorn forward markets fresh cash.

    Oatmeal warmed us up, freezing
    All in forgetful suspense, awaiting
    Process service on evasive counsel.

    But Wright surprised us, gaveling from another bench
    Orders to show cause. With Penda henchmen caviling,
    We ambled in his brilliance over to Popehat,
    And drank coffee, and talked for hours.

    OK Old Possum, I'll turn in my doggerel license now.

  20. Delvan Neville says

    @Tali McPike:

    You're working for the evil Penguin and the donkey people, too. I just know it!

  21. That Anonymous Coward says

    @apauld – SEO dude owes me like $25K. He made the offer, I accepted and told him where to send the cash. Mike's not emailed me yet to say its arrived.

    So finally this story has an ending.
    There was a new effect term coined, we met his wife O_O , and learned that justice does work.

    The problem for me is I'm from the age of the cashing in movie sequels, so I have this feeling this isn't the final chapter and some bad cross promotion will revive the franchise.

  22. Narad says

    Character is destiny.

    "Ηθος ανθρωπω δαιμων." One of Heraclitus's greatest hits. I don't know that I'd go for daimon as "destiny," but I do so hope that Charles and Tara are able to connect the dots between the pre-Socratics and their own Buddhist posturing, so that it really leaves a mark.

  23. apauld says

    I just realized that the one person who hasn't been thanked and praised for all of this is popehat commenter Chris R.; if it wasn't for Chris making a serious stand for his own first amendment rights (in the face of seemingly great adversity) Carreon (and possibly others like him in the future) would still feel free to be a censorious douchebag(s). Chris could've caved to the pressure and retreated but didn't. So thank you Chris, I hope you and your family are doing well now and into the future. Paul.

  24. Narad says

    That link (for CC's new best friend) is made of pure awesome.

    The fact that they immediately started posting stooge reviews on Yelp is priceless.

  25. orvis barfley says

    you are a good guy, ken white.  i am pleased to share the surface of this planet with the likes of you out there somewhere.

  26. darius404 says

    In the comments for that article, #44 Tom Forrest posts somewhat of a rebuttal, touting HTP Company as "#1 all over the world for "Internet Advertising Company" on Google". One trip to Google later, this turns out to be true.

    On a whim, I googled "HTP Company". In addition to it's own website and it's LinkedIn profile, I noticed the top search results included reviews of HTP…. by Ripoff Report and Yelp.

    One of the Yelp reviewers had something interesting to say about his correspondence with HTP. To wit, he felt business with HTP was mismanaged, and after complaining of this he received what amounted to a legal threat from one Charles Carreon.

  27. nlp says

    To wit, he felt business with HTP was mismanaged, and after complaining of this he received what amounted to a legal threat from one Charles Carreon.

    "And the seasons, they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down. We're captives on the carousel of time."

    If Charles Carreon is intent on making a fool of himself all over again then I have to start investing in popcorn companies. (Please note: the ponies referred to are not actually alive).

  28. Nicholas Weaver says

    Don't celebrate yet. Charles is amazingly judgement proof: His house is within the limit and his car is a dented door away from Arizona's bankruptcy protections for personal property, and given how badly he is at paying his bills, it is doubtful he has any other assets.

    In fact, even the $8K for ducking service and refusing to pay for it when asked is probably unpayable. And that was a bulletproof motion.

    Thus his decision to go "Full Carreon" in objecting to fees in the way he did rather than just say Your honor, the letter may have been a douchebag move, but its not an exceptional douchebag move makes sense: $8K, $80K, $800K, its all unpayable. So why not make the unpayable amount as big as possible?

    Thus my bet ($100, payable to public citizen. Any takers? No?): Charles will attempt to delay and appeal. The only thing which might limit his appeals are bond requirements, and he's going to move that he can't afford any such bond.

  29. Nicholas Weaver says

    Oh, and if anyone gets a threat from Charles Carreon in his capacity as an attorney for someone else (like said SEO dude): His office is in his house in Arizona. Which, according to the Arizona Bar, means he is probably practicing law without a license.

  30. says

    Tara speaks. Because securing a complete victory for the client, vindicating their rights, and being awarded $46k in attorney fees is blowing smoke up the client's ass.

  31. Trebuchet says

    @Trebuchet – did you read Forrest's comments to others commenting on the story? Just Crazy.

    Oh yeah! Not just crazy, but illiterate to boot! I love the other commenter correcting his grammar and spelling! I'd almost bet a dollar that HTP Company consists of Forrest and nobody else. His CV shows two stints at running HTP with a brief period of a real job in between. And don't forget: Intercontinental Ballistic Missles! Complete with a link to Wikipedia!

  32. Nicholas Weaver says

    Ken, it's like Tara isn't trying anymore. I was hoping for at least .2 Cox of craziness here. Instead we get this millicox of weaksauce. Where is the photoshopped penises? Where is the bad song?

  33. Lucy says

    She seems to have a strange affection for poop and orifices and running on hate.

    Someone should let her know the natural remedies aren't working, she should give real pharmaceuticals a chance.

  34. Lucy says

    Holy cow! That Tom guy just took on every commenter on that article. I just skimmed, but from what I saw, it was like… just who does that kind of thing??? Just arguing with everybody, like a drunk Chihuahua barging into a perfectly nice back yard BBQ and nipping at all the ankles. I couldn't read all the way through. I don't have the stomach for that kind of embarrassment. Just, wow.

  35. Nate2002 says

    I'm amused that without the ridiculous lengths he went to in order to object to fees he's ended up with a huge judgement against him. $8k would probably have been doable, hell, he just needs a couple of those SEO guys to represent and it's sorted. But $46k is the cost of some people's homes. It just reflects what's been his problem all along, the doubling down and going all in. I agree that by $46k it's probably not gonna get paid off, is there no way to garnish earnings?

    Interesting that Tara uses the English spelling of arse in that cartoon. And I'm also incredibly disappoint over the lack of dicks. Also…does she really think that Chris was/is paying $700 an hour (and thus will be stuck paying their debt)? I don't think she understands how pro bono works. Really, of all the responses she could have made, that's woefully lacking. TC, I am disappoint!

  36. ChrisTS says

    What in the name of anything is that woman's site? Apart from eye-blasting 'graphics,' I can only see one vulgarity laden rant after another (ok, there is the very finely drawn cartoon [cough]).

    This particular group of evil crazies is new to me (started visiting here for recent Prenda stuff). I just have no idea what to make of it.

    I also wish someone would explain to me what she thinks Buddhism has to do with it.

  37. says

    ChrisTS, I think that for any of the Tara/Charles Carreon BS to make sense, a person has to be under the influence of something strong–really strong.

  38. GrimGhost says

    @ChrisTS — if you can score some hallucinogenic mushrooms in the meantime, then yes. Or LSD. Mere ethanol alone won't put you in TC's frame of mind, no matter how much you drink.

  39. apauld says

    @TAC – I think your trying to accept his offer is what made him finally STFU. I should also mention (since I didn't at the time) that your comment:
    *pulls doll out of thin air*
    show us on the doll where the bad press touched you
    was brilliant.
    @Tali – I wondered if Tara and Tom were huffin' the same brand of glue

  40. orvis barfley says

    and here, all this time, i thought tara was the name of a house.  silly me.

    if my ship ever does come in, i've got the name ready for the eyesore i plan to build: thistle dew.

  41. Dan Weber says

    just who does that kind of thing?

    An SEO wizard, obviously.

    It will be very very hard to get any actual money out of Carreon. Can one get a lien on a debtor's house effectively?

    I'm glad the SEO wizard is paying Carreon money, though. That gives Plaintiff something to seize.

  42. Narad says

    I also wish someone would explain to me what she thinks Buddhism has to do with it.

    Charles and Tara were apparently at one time Lamaists, with Gyatrul Rinpoche as guru. Then, after leaving the compound and getting the law degree, etc., they tried to return and were bitterly disappointed in the process, with Tara ultimately claiming some version of Stockholm syndrome or something. I have no idea what sort of weird metaphysical glop they're stewing in now. You can check out Charles's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lama" or Tara's strange collage about nihilism (which confirms, to me at least, that all the prostrations and mantras notwithstanding, she never ever had the slightest philosophical grasp of the Buddhist part of "Tibetan Buddhism").

    I have little interest in plumbing the depths of this, but my general impression is that Tara got pissed off about being passed over in the hierarchy and not being declared a reincarnated Bodhisattva or some such. I have little doubt that she could readily liken koans to "Illuminati puzzles" at this point, and the whole thing seems to permeate her conspiratorial worldview.

  43. Joe Pullen says

    The Prius is gettin repoed for sure. Like Nicholas I don't trust that he won't attempt another douche move and attempt to appeal it up the chain if for no reason than to drive up legal fees for Satirical Chaz.

  44. Nicholas Weaver says

    The Prius won't be repo-ed: AZ bankruptcy protects a 5k car which sounds about right for an abused 10yr old Prius if Charles puts a couple dents in the doors accidentally.

  45. Rusty says

    Holy Keeerriiisttt – read a couple of Tara's well thought out brain dumps and all I can say is: Deb Frisch lives!

  46. says

    @Dan Webber, my bet is, at least one of those new clients is Forrest, our SEO Wizard friend, as darius404 pointed out that yelp review mentions (as does Forrest in the comments on Techdirt) that Carreon is HTP's legal counsel.

    @apauld no doubt, there is something connecting them, their flavor of crazy is much too similar.

  47. John David Galt says

    There are consequences for bad behavior. They come slowly. But they do come.

    They came for one rather inept bad guy, but only because he was able to find a "dream team" for free (major attaboys to Ken and Levy!) That's a far cry from proving the general case, especially in cases where officials are the bad guys.

    It's progress. But we need to know how to multiply it.

  48. That Anonymous Coward says

    @apauld – He offered me $25K cash why would I not accept?
    I set Mike up to work as my proxy and offered him half of the cash for Insider status on TechDirt for life for accepting the payment on my behalf.
    The doll comment just sorta happened around the time I was calling him Mr. Butthurt. I felt it was classier than a Waaambulance comment, and was far more entertaining. His repertoire of comments seemed to run out of steam after puffing up his chest about how awesome he was and I started pointing out the virtual offices and how he was creating an awesome public record for potential clients to see how he works, poorly. He then fell back on the tried and true 'I'm taking my ball and leaving!'… and came right back.

    I'd like to think I am doing an awesome job of redeeming the epithet 'That Anonymous Coward'.

  49. Clownius says

    Ken please never link a site that evil again.

    Beyond the absolute levels of Butthurt the site itself is a disaster. First time in a very long time i have seen such a badly coded site. It even froze my computer at one point……

    The rant though was amazing. It appears we are not dealing with sane people there…..

  50. apauld says

    @TAC – You have.

    I guess I was extra jazzed about your doll comment, because it was a great response to my intentionally watered down question to mr forrest.
    I had been sitting on my couch, discussing the story with my son, who was here for his high school's spring break, when one of us found a picture of "the world's #1 SEO consultant." A picture that was put online by "the world's #1 SEO consultant" himself. After discussing the article and the issues around it and then looking at the picture that mr #1 SEO guy put of himself online, my (17 year old) son stated that "maybe you shouldn't make fun him, he seems kinda pathetic."
    Though once he responded to my watered down question with his cookie cutter bile, it would have been game on again; but alas he did finally take his ball and go home.

  51. That Anonymous Coward says

    @Clownius – That webpage was nothing, pray to whatever you hold holy that you never stumble upon a page maintained by Crystal Cox.

    @apauld – I tend to not water things down, especially when dealing with someone who seems to delight in trying to show how much better they are than other people who dare to question them. (This would explain my repeated run-ins with Copyright Trolls)

    Oh my FSM, I hadn't bothered to look for a picture of him until now. He struck me as being tone deaf and to wrapped up in his 'skills' to understand the internet, and it looks like I was right. O_O

    Anyone who disagreed with him was a moron, and he had all of these accomplishments to back up why he was better than everyone else. Which mirrors the interactions with Charles and Tara, I did these cool things that one time and it should buy me a pass on things.

    It gives me concern, we've all seen the current 'entitled' generation. Kids who fresh out of college expect to be Sr. VPs and globe hopping by the 2nd week on the job, have we missed an Older Generation who are to smug in their tenuous grasp of technology that was cutting edge 15 yrs ago and think that gives them a pass forever?

  52. says

    After mere minutes on Tara's website, I became convinced that everything she's writing is a desperate attempt to get someone like Ken to sue her for defamation so she can play the hypocrite card.

  53. Mark says

    That's funny: is redirecting right now to that has a Ramones video embedded.

  54. ChrisTS says

    @Grim Ghost

    "if you can score some hallucinogenic mushrooms in the meantime, then yes. Or LSD. Mere ethanol alone won't put you in TC's frame of mind, no matter how much you drink."

    Well, I did my best with what I had on hand and did manage to forget most of yesterday.

  55. Caudex says

    @ChrisTS, @Grim Ghost
    I got my hands on, in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, “…two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls."
    Miz Carreon's site becomes less "demented ravings" and more "rantings of eldritch creatures beyond space and time" when you're tripping on all of the aforementioned. It's glorious.

  56. Caudex says

    @Mark, I'm guessing he's trying to dodge a DDOS–there's a method of combating DDOSes that involves redirecting like that. I'd doubt it's someone else, since Chas loves him some Ramones.

  57. Chad Miller says

    Kirk Taylor: Novel theory, but it goes back a lot further than that. You should see the stuff she put up during the Bush administration. And by "see" I mean "avoid, particularly at work".

    Speaking of hypocrites, one thing she (temporarily) deleted included a picture of a journalist she didn't like photoshopped to have a penis in each hand. This was fun to point out right around the time that "rapeutation" site went up.

  58. Narad says

    In a perhaps amusing sidelight, when I went looking for Tara's opinions on Zen, I stumbled across a posting on The back story is that Kelley Lynch, Cohen's former business manager, was found in 2005 to have stolen about $5 million from Cohen over the years, and Cohen got a $9.5 million judgment (which she never paid, of course; last year, she was sentenced to 18 months for continued harassment).

    So, apparently Lynch had some history with… Tara and Charles! This seems to tie back to Tara's resentment over June Campbell. As for Zen, all one gets is Charles's "review" of Cohen's Ten New Songs. Apparently, he doesn't like either. (Although, as a subitist of the Huineng variety, I can't say I think much myself of the Japanese fixation on zazen.)

  59. Narad says

    Miz Carreon's site becomes less "demented ravings" and more "rantings of eldritch creatures beyond space and time" when you're tripping on all of the aforementioned.

    Her repudiation of ayahuasca is not to be missed.

  60. Notme says

    All the concern over hypocrisy and dementia overlook one clear explanation: trolls gonna troll.

  61. Lucy says

    She explained details of his exceptional behavior.

    Dealing with him was no easy feat. Like she says, legal professionals simply shouldn't behave that way.

    Thanks for that link. Nice work Ms. Gellis!

  62. Mark says

    TC's radio silence seems to indicate that CC is probably going to appeal. Hmm… Probably shouldn't put the popcorn down yet.