Lawsplainer: What's Going On With That Troll Joshua Goldberg, Anyway?

Ken, you need to explain the Ninth Circuit's decision about the interaction between Section 512(f) of the DMCA and fair use law, particularly in the context of surviving motions to dismiss or summary judgment.



You can't make me.

Fine. God. You're such a child. Will you write about SOMETHING please?

. . . . maybe.

Like what?

Joshua Goldberg.

The multi-faced troll the feds just arrested? The one everyone wants to pin on "the other side" of whatever argument they're having?

yes him

Seems kind of a cop-out to me. But fine. What's he charged with, and how?

The feds — more specifically, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida — have filed a criminal complaint charging Goldberg with one count of distributing information about explosives and destructive devices.

Only one count?

It's only a complaint. See, in the federal system, prosecutors can seek a complaint — an accusation approved by a U.S. Magistrate Judge, based on the probable cause demonstrated in a written and sworn affidavit by a federal law enforcement officer — or get an indictment, which is an accusation issued by a grand jury.

But unless they plead immediately, all federal defendants charged with felonies are entitled to be charged by grand jury indictment. So if you're looking to arrest someone based on a complaint, you don't necessarily have to throw all of the charges in there — you'll have the chance to throw more in when you draft an indictment and go to the grand jury.

So he could get charged with more later?

Sure, if they've got the evidence.

Right now he's charged with one count of distributing information about things that go boom under Title 18, United States Code, Section 842(p).

What's that when it's at home?

It's a statute making it illegal to teach people how to make bombs so they can use them in a crime, basically:

(2)Prohibition.—It shall be unlawful for any person—

(A) to teach or demonstrate the making or use of an explosive, a destructive device, or a weapon of mass destruction, or to distribute by any means information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction, with the intent that the teaching, demonstration, or information be used for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence; or

(B) to teach or demonstrate to any person the making or use of an explosive, a destructive device, or a weapon of mass destruction, or to distribute to any person, by any means, information pertaining to, in whole or in part, the manufacture or use of an explosive, destructive device, or weapon of mass destruction, knowing that such person intends to use the teaching, demonstration, or information for, or in furtherance of, an activity that constitutes a Federal crime of violence.

Hmm. So it criminalizes teaching about things? Could that be a First Amendment violation?

Some will say so, but I don't think it's a very strong argument. Notice that the crime requires that the defendant intend that the information be used in a federal crime of violence. A federal court in San Diego considered a First Amendment attack on the statute and rejected it on that basis:

The specific focus of the statute is not on mere teaching, demonstrating, or disseminating information on how to construct a destructive device, but upon teaching, demonstrating, or disseminating information with the specific intent that the knowledge be used to commit a federal crime of violence.

Courts have upheld similar statutes so long as they require that the defendant intended to further an illegal act.

How are they going to prove what Goldberg intended? He's a troll. The whole point of his existence is saying things he doesn't mean.

Well, their case got a hell of a boost when Goldberg effectively confessed to the elements of the crime.

The complaint and supporting affidavit are here. The feds say that Goldberg provided bombmaking information to be used in a terrorist attack on a Kansas City September 11 memorial. The feds have a confidential informant posing as a potential domestic terrorist, referred to as "CHS" in the complaint. They monitored communications in which Goldberg encouraged CHS to engage in a terrorist attack using bombs at the Kansas City memorial, and sent him links to pages with instructions for making bombs, and suggested what sort of shrapnel to use in the bombs.

Now, Goldberg could have engaged in the troll's typical defense — that he knew that CHS wasn't a real terrorist and was stringing him along. I wouldn't want to go to a jury with that, but it's colorable. But Goldberg blew that defense by talking to the FBI when they raided his house:

JOSHUA GOLDBERG admitted that he provided that individual with information on how to manufacture bombs. JOSHUA GOLDBERG further admitted that he believed the information would create a genuine bomb. Specifically, JOSHUA GOLDBERG stated that he provided the individual with instructions on how to create a pressure cooker bomb. When creating the pressure cooker bomb, JOSHUA GOLDBERG admitted that he instructed the individual to include nails and to dip the nails in rat poison. JOSHUA GOLDBERG also admitted that he instructed the individual to place the bomb at an upcoming memorial in Kansas City, Missouri that was commemorating the September 11,2001 attacks. JOSHUA GOLDBERG stated that he believed that the individual did intend to create functioning bombs and would actually attempt to use them to kill and injure persons. During the course of the interview, however, JOSHUA GOLDBERG made varying statements in an attempt to explain his actions in providing bomb making information to the individual. In general, JOSHUA GOLDBERG claimed that he intended for the individual to either kill himself creating the bomb or, if not, that he intended to alert law enforcement just prior to the individual detonating the bomb, resulting in JOSHUA GOLDBERG to receive credit for stopping the attack.

So. By failing to shut up — which one should always do when confronted with federal agents, at least until one gets legal advice — Joshua Goldberg has made the government's case dramatically stronger.

Is this going to be another case where there was never going to be any terrorist attack because the defendant was dealing with a government agent all the time?

Sure looks that way.

So, how much time could he do?

The statutory maximum for the charged crime is 20 years. But, as Popehat readers know, his sentence will be calculated using the recommendations of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines; the statutory maximum is only a ceiling and usually has little to do with the actual sentence. Plus, the feds will probably load more charges on when they indict.

We have very little information, and we don't know the final charges yet. But it appears to me that under the applicable guideline, taking into account only what's in the complaint, his recommended sentence will be very substantially less than 20 years. As currently charged, it's more like a couple of years if he pleads guilty. Of course, a judge can go above the guidelines, and may well do so in a case this vivid.

So. What's next for him?

He appeared in court and his Public Defenders agreed that he would stay in custody pending a bail hearing. That's often, though not always, a sign that the defense thinks they have a tough argument to get him out on bail. He's entitled to bail unless the government can show that's he's a danger to the community or flight risk in ways that amount and conditions of bail cannot address.

Normally, the next step would be for the feds to indict him, and for him to enter a not guilty plea on the indictment. But today apparently he got new lawyers and the U.S. Magistrate Judge ordered him to be evaluated for competency to stand trial.

What? He's trying an insanity defense?

Not necessarily. Competency is different than insanity. The insanity defense goes to whether the defendant can be held responsible for his actions. A competency exam assesses whether the defendant is even competent to stand trial — that is, whether as a result of mental illness he's "unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense."

So if he's incompetent, he walks without even going to trial?

Oh no. First he gets evaluated at a federal psychiatric facility for up to 30 days. There's one in Springfield, Missouri, for instance. Then, if the judge finds by a preponderance of the evidence that he's competent, he stands trial. If the judge finds him not competent, he gets sent back to the federal psychiatric facility for up to four months to see if they can make him competent using drugs and therapy. Then he gets sent back for another assessment, and maybe more therapy and drugs, and so forth. He's in custody the whole time. Eventually, if it looks impossible to make him competent but he's still adjudged dangerous, he can be committed long-term.

The process of being shipped to a place like Springfield, and "treated" there, and returned, is notoriously unpleasant. I think I might prefer to get tried and sentenced. I mean, assuming I helped people make bombs or something.

What do you anticipate happening next?

He'll be back in 30 days, or longer if the parties agree to a longer time. The judge will make a determination of his competency, which the parties may or may not contest. Then, anything can happen. Remand to treatment if he's not competent, a guilty plea to minimize exposure, trial, and everything in between.

By the way, if his competency is in question, if I were his lawyer, I'd be thinking about whether I could get his confession thrown out. It's not a Fifth Amendment violation to take a confession from someone who is incompetent; a defendant still has to show police coercion. But a defendant's lack of competence can be one factor in determining whether law enforcement coerced a confession. It's worth a look for his defense.

Is that all?

For now.

Now do the DMCA case!

Bite me.

And Now, Rodeo Clowns Inspire Some Nuanced Parsing

Faced with a story of outrage resulting from a rodeo clown dressing up as the President of the United States, I would like to make ten points:

1. It is right and fit that the President of the United States, whoever that is at any given moment, should be mocked, ridiculed, parodied, insulted, and generally reviled.

2. It is a good thing to live in a country where you can mock, ridicule, and revile the leader and not be arrested, disappeared, prosecuted, or murdered.

3. It is — to borrow Teddy Roosevelt's phrase — unpatriotic, servile, and morally treasonous to complain that ridiculing and mocking the President at an event like a rodeo is "disrespectful."

4. It is contemptible to suggest that there is something wrong with ridiculing the President at an event paid for with public funds. If public funds render an entertainment event the wrong venue for ridiculing public officials, then we should stop supporting entertainment events with public funds.

5. Some people hate the current President for really stupid reasons, instead of really sensible ones.

6. Some of the hatred of the current President is related to cultural factors including, but not limited to, the color of his skin.

7. Some people are going to act like a huge pain in the ass because I wrote #6, even though I said "some." These are people who will refer to any discussion of race as "race baiting."

8. Some descriptions of the announcer at the Missouri State Far asking the crowd if they would like to "see Obama run down by a bull," and whipping up crowd enthusiasm, sound extremely creepy and not fun-time-rodeo-clownish at all. If those descriptions are accurate, it is reasonable to inquire whether the display was calculated to play upon the racial and cultural factors referenced in #6, above, for a cheap cheer.

9. It's possible for a criticism of a politician to be racially tinged, and for the outcry in response to be both rational and defensible (to the extent they suggest that racially tinged crowd-pleasing is ugly) and irrational and indefensible (to the extent they suggest that there is anything wrong with a rodeo clown mocking the President).

10. Rodeo clowns don't need to confront shades of gray. Grown-ups do.

True Threats, True Incitement, Or Truly Crazy? The Rhetoric of Deranged Cyberstalker Bill Schmalfeldt

This is the first in a multi-part series exploring the legal significance of violent online rhetoric by individuals including the vile Bill Schmalfeldt.

I defend some spectacularly awful speech here. I don't often defend it morally — I call out ugly speech all the time — but I routinely argue that hateful speech is protected by the First Amendment.

When I do, people occasionally ask me if I could so easily reach the same conclusion if I were the target of the speech. Would I so easily dismiss speech as mere rhetoric not satisfying the true threat doctrine if it gleefully imagined my murder? Would I snark about "butthurt in the first degree" if extreme words were directed at me?

On the one hand, I could argue that it's not an apt question. The essence of the rule of law is that we don't let the alleged victim decide whether the alleged perpetrator is charged or convicted or punished. Rather, we put the question before someone we hope to be a principled neutral to apply a predetermined set of rules.

But on the other hand, it's a fair question.

So. Let's see, shall we? Let's see how I analyze someone who publishes my address and phone number and fantasizes at length about me being brutalized and murdered.

[Read more…]

In Which I Offer Apologies

It has been brought to my attention by Charles Carreon — the attorney of Oatmeal v. Funnjunk fame — that I have victimized the following persons and entities in a reign of terror:

Thomas Menino, Mayor of the City of Boston
The Legislatures of Arizona and Connecticut
Michael Meehan, Chief of Police of the City of Berkeley
Meghan McCain
The Federal Trade Commission
Imaginary Lawyer David Blade

. . . . and many others.

In these depredations I have been aided by persons and entities identified by Mr. Carreon as "rapers," including but not limited to PZ Myers, Marc Randazza, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the University of Reading Atheist, Humanist & Secularist Society.

This is because of Plato.

I would like to apologize sincerely to everyone I have tyrannized1

Hilarious New Team Prenda Argument: Judge Wright's Order Is Irrelevant Because of Gay Marriage

All of Popehat's Prenda coverage is collected here.

When last we left the Prenda Law team, it was reeling from a devastating sanctions order and referral for criminal investigation. Now, as predicted, defense attorneys across the country are filing that order in cases brought on behalf of Prenda Law clients.

This has already led to one comical result.

You may remember that Attorney Jacques Nazaire, representing Prenda Law entity AF Holdings in Georgia, filed an angry and rather bizarre opposition to a defendant's motion for sanctions there. Now, in response to that defendant filing Judge Wright's order — which is what Judge Wright clearly contemplated, and which involves informing the Georgia federal court of an order that is patently relevant to the proceedings — Jacques Nazaire has doubled down and flipped out.

In his objections to defendant Patel's filing of Judge Wright's order about Prenda and AF Holdings, Nazaire argues that the filing is late and not authorized by the local rules, because it is effectively a "sur-reply" – that is, a reply to a reply. That's what just about any lawyer would say; it's within the realm of reason.

But then:

9. While this Court may or may not agree with some of the issues presented in
the California case, unbeknownst to the defendant, the California case will not necessarily become a mandate on this Court. It is solely within the discretion of this Court to follow or not follow the decisions made in the California case.

10. The defendant should realize that California has different laws than
Georgia, a different Governor than Georgia; a different legislative body than Georgia, different business needs than Georgia and different views than Georgia and as such all of its decisions cannot serve as a mandate for Georgia.

11. For example the California Courts have legalized gay marriage. Perry v.
Schwarzenegger 704 F.Supp.2d 921 (N.D. Cal., 2010);Certified question, 628 F.3d 1191 (9th. Cir.); Answered 52 Cal.4th 1116 (2011) Affirmed, 671 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir.) Such a decision cannot serve as a mandate on Georgia Courts to legalize gay marriage as well.

Sure, Nazaire is trying to make a point that the decisions of a United States District Judge in one state do not dictate the decisions of a United States District Judge in another state. But he's doing it in a hilariously silly and inflammatory way. Moreover, the core argument is misleading: both cases are copyright cases premised in federal law, and Judge Wright's decision was premised in federal law. This isn't a case about California or Georgia state law.

Nazaire then proceeds to start throwing Prenda principals under the now battered and flat-tired bus, suggesting he shouldn't be sanctioned:

19. Defendant also argues that plaintiff’s counsel should have made reasonable inquiry of the signature. Prior to filing the document, the undersigned contacted Prenda Law to find out whether or not Mr. Cooper would be available to testify at trial but was advised that they could not locate Mr. Cooper. The undersigned was advised that Mark Lutz and Peter Hansmeier would be available to testify as witnesses. Had the undersigned realized that the Electronic Frontier Foundation was hanging with Mr. Cooper, he would have been able to track down Mr. Cooper and questioned him about the documents. It turns out that Mr. Cooper was a caretaker of one of the properties of a Prenda Law member and had left said property in August, 2012.

20. Therefore, even if the undersigned had placed a knife to the throats of each of Prenda’s members, none would have been able to give him Mr. Cooper’s contact information at the time on November 5, 2012 when Plaintiff commenced its law suit. It is certainly not the first time a company has lost contact with an agent (or alleged agent as stated).

I'm going to give Mr. Nazaire Internet Points for responding to Star Trek references with a "Hangin' With Mr. Cooper" reference that is far more subtle.

Nazaire is also infuriated that his opposing counsel submitted one of his emails:

32. Additionally, an email containing information that was sent by the undersigned, in strict confidence, to Mr. Chintella was presented as evidence in that California case by Mr. Chintella. Chintella went behind plaintiff’s counsel’s back without any notification and submitted the email contents as evidence in order to influence the California case; the same case that now he presents to this Court as a mandate; the same Georgia case from which he intends to profit.

Yeah, here's the thing: if you write something to opposing counsel, especially in a case like this, you should expect it can get filed in court if it's relevant.

Nazaire's filing is furious and more than a little manic.

Is this real life?

Hat tip to Fight Copyright Trolls, via Twitter.

Schadenfreude Is Not A Free Speech Value

Let he or she who has not gloated at the misfortune of the wicked throw the first stone!

Not many of you should be throwing, because I'd wager that most of you, like me, secretly snicker when the awful are made to feel awful by circumstance.

But in the free speech arena, we can't afford to applaud the legal reversals suffered by assholes. We have to sigh, cowboy up, defend the loathsome from censorship, and question judgments and convictions they sustain.

Here are two examples.

[Read more…]

If A Bigfoot Hunter Doesn't Have His Reputation, What Does He Have?

America is an increasingly crass nation, true. But there are still some places where decorum and good breeding are expected and even demanded.

For instance, anyone acquainted with cryptid enthusiasts knows that a gentleman seeking introduction to their society must first build a solid repute for probity. In turn, those admitted to the drawing-rooms and salons of the cryptidologists know that only the most polished among them can aspire to the rarefied circle of Bigfoot hunters, the royalty of the cryptid-seeking community. And yet even Bigfoot hunters — elite as they are — can encounter self-doubt when they ask themselves, "yes, my poise and quality have made me a Bigfoot hunter, but do I possess the savoir-faire necessary to achieve a position amongst the Bigfoot hunters of Florida? Can I persevere in that imperial land, where the exacting standards for urbanity and good deportment strain the abilities even of graduates of the finest finishing schools in Tampa and Orlando?"

By necessity, when swimming in these heady waters, a good reputation is everything. So you see, when one Florida Bigfoot hunter accused another Florida Bigfoot hunter of being crazy, the latter had no choice but to sue for defamation.

[Read more…]

Crystal Cox: Not A Free Speech Advocate

First of all, remember what I said before: the most important thing you need to know about "blogger" and "investigative journalist" Crystal Cox is that she is the sort of person who will retaliate against a critic by registering a domain in the name of the critic's three-year-old daughter as part of a campaign against him.

But there's something else you should know, too: Crystal Cox is not a sincere supporter of free speech. Crystal Cox is not a defender of the First Amendment. Crystal Cox supports free speech for Crystal Cox, but for her own critics, Crystal Cox is a vigorous (if mostly incoherent) advocate for broad and unprincipled censorship.

This should not surprise us. As I mentioned before, free speech cases often involve defending vile speech by repugnant people. Nearly as often, those repugnant people are no respecters of the rights of anyone else. Do you think the Nazis who marched at Skokie, if they had their way, would uphold the free speech rights of the religious and ethnic minorities who protested them? Do you imagine that Fred Phelps' church, given its choice, would permit the blasphemous and idolatrous freedoms it rails against?

No. We extend constitutional rights to people who, given the opportunity, would not extend the same rights to us. That's how we roll.

Crystal Cox is no different. Eugene Volokh and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are appealing the judgment against her to vindicate (through however flawed a vessel) important free speech issues. But just because Crystal Cox wants free speech for herself, that doesn't mean she supports it for others. In fact, she consistently takes the stance that criticism of her is unlawful and will be met with lawsuits and complaints to state and federal authorities.

Take, for instance, her cross-complaint in the Oregon defamation suit against her. She sued a vast array of people, including all the attorneys in the law firm representing the plaintiff suing her, as well as miscellaneous government entities:

For Complalint against Counter Defendants David Aman, Esq Personally and Professionally, Tonkon Torp Law Firm and all partners, associates and of counsel in their professional and individual capacities, Obsidian Finance LLC and any/all affiliates, Kevin Padrick Esq. officially, professionally and personally, David Brown Esq. professionally and personally, Ewan Rose Esq. officially, professionally and personally, Patrick Flaherty Esq., Bend Oregon District Attorney Office officially, professionally and personally capacities, Deschutes County, Stephanie DeYoung, CPA StudebakerDeYoung CPA PC -Stephanie Studebaker LLP , Mark Neuman, Lane Lyons, Brian Stevens, Tim Larkin, Summit Accomodators Inc. and any and all affiliates, Sean Boushie, Lincoln County Montana District Attorney Bernie Cassidy, P. Stephen Lamont, CEO of iViewit Technologies Inc, Robin Clute Personally and Professionally, and John and Jane Does.

In her Cross-complaint, Crystal Cox asserts that all of these people have engaged in a conspiracy to harass and defame her — by suing her for defamation. Crystal Cox can say whatever she wants about you, but if you say "Crystal Cox defamed me," well, that's illegal:

Plaintif has harmed my Oregon Real Estate Brokerage License by filing a frivolous lawsuit and defaming me among potential real estate clients as I am a licensed real estate broker in the state of oregon.

Writing scores of deranged sites blasting strangers through oddly capitalized screeds is fine when Crystal Cox does it, but if anyone puts up a site that criticizes her, that's a "hate blog" and it's actionable:

Counter Defendant Bernie Cassidy aided and abetted Counter Defendant Sean Boushie to continue on hate blogs, and hate groups, and in conspiracy against counter plaintiff.

Registering domain names incorporating the names of enemies and accusing them of crimes is swell when Crystal Cox does it, but if you try to convince others that she's evil, well, that's actionable too:

Stephen Lamont defamed me in sending emails to all iViewit shareholders to join a hate group against me. This group was and is ran by Sean Boushie of Montana, who claims to this day to be working with David Aman of Tonkon Torp and Kevin Padrick of Obisidian Finance to harm my and financially ruin me.

This pattern repeated in Crystal Cox's motion to exclude a witness. (This witness, a hapless fellow who apparently earned Cox's ire by writing a letter to the editor she didn't like, obtained a restraining order against her; she accused him of a raft of offenses and tried to get a restraining order against him, but was rejected by the court.) Once again, the motion shows Crystal's freakishly narcissistic view of free expression: Crystal Cox can accuse everyone she wants of anything she likes and say any terrible thing about them, but if someone criticizes her in vivid terms, that's "extreme hate, harassment and intimidation" justifying excluding them as a witness.

Finally, consider Crystal Cox's response to the recent attention to her behavior by blogs including this one, not to mention stories at Forbes and the New York Times. Writers, including me, have presented Crystal Cox's own words, her own domain registrations, her own emails, and her own court documents, asked readers to evaluate them, and asserted that they show that Crystal Cox is an evil person who has engaged in what appears to be a campaign of extortion. Crystal Cox crows about her own supposed right to attack strangers on the internet without evidence or reason (or diction, or grammar, or a grasp of reality.) Does she extend that same right to her critics? Of course not. Here's how she plans to respond to her critics:

And now Kashmir Hill of Forbes, David Carr of the New York Times, Marc Randazza, Kenneth P. White of, Tracy Coenen, Randazza Legal Group, have launched a campaign to set up a Blogger for Extortion when I was not accused of Extortion in an Criminal Complaint, nor was I on trial for extortion and now this Lynch Mob has put me under Extreme Duress and ALL will be named in my Federal Hate Crime Filing, Criminal Complaint, Judicial Complaint, FBI Complaint, Attorney General Complaint, Bar Complaint and Department of Justice Complaint.

Crystal Cox is no free speech defender. Crystal Cox is no First Amendment advocate. Crystal Cox is merely that familiar, universally scorned and loathed figure of the playground — the bully who can dish it out, but can't take it.

Every time you think of her, remember: Crystal Cox is someone who will register a domain in the name of the three-year-old daughter of her critic as part of a campaign against him.

"Investigative Journalist" Crystal Cox's Latest Target: An Enemy's Three-Year-Old Daughter

Here's the most important thing you need to know about blogger and "investigative journalist" Crystal Cox: when she got angry at First Amendment attorney Marc Randazza, she didn't just register the domains and and in order to attack him. She registered and — the names of Randazza's wife and three-year-old daughter.

That's Crystal Cox in a nutshell — an appropriate receptacle.

[Read more…]