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Jammie Thomas May Face RIAA Trial Alone 143

Posted by Soulskill
from the suspicious-timing dept.
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "With her trial coming up on June 15th, Jammie Thomas has received a motion by her lawyer to withdraw from the highly publicized case, Capitol Records v. Thomas. Ms. Thomas said in a written declaration (PDF) obtained from her by her lawyer that she was not opposed to the lawyer's withdrawal, and waived any hearing on the matter. The court papers submitted by the lawyer (PDF) also indicated that the RIAA was not opposed to the withdrawal — i.e. it graciously consented to Ms. Thomas having no legal representation — but was opposed to any continuance (i.e. the RIAA wants to make sure that Ms. Thomas does not have sufficient time to find other legal representation, or to prepare to handle the trial herself, or to enable new counsel to prepare to handle the trial). Nice of them."
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Jammie Thomas May Face RIAA Trial Alone

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  • Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @05:14AM (#27977375) Homepage Journal

    Bought off or warned off?

    • by arbiter1 (1204146)

      i got 1000$ on bought off, but with a month she should be able to find someone or even see if EFF can help with some input

      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

        by paganizer (566360) <.moc.liamtoh. .ta. .1evorgeht.> on Saturday May 16, 2009 @07:20AM (#27977801) Homepage Journal

        I have to admit I'm sort of puzzled about this whole thing. I'm not a Lawyer, but I would happily offer to assist if I was; I've done loads of non-profit volunteer work. A lawyer friend in Nashville recently told me he would volunteer 80 hours to any RIAA case, if it was local.
        They are HATED, and some of the people who hate them are Lawyers; there should be volunteers coming out of the woodwork.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          A lawyer friend in Nashville recently told me he would volunteer 80 hours to any RIAA case, if it was local.

          Lawyer... friend? Told you, and you believed him?

          The fact that nobody HAS stepped out of the woodwork yet suggests that, you know, nobody REALLY wants to get involved.

        • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Maestro4k (707634) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @01:02PM (#27979937) Journal

          They are HATED, and some of the people who hate them are Lawyers; there should be volunteers coming out of the woodwork.

          I think the problem here may be that Jammie Thomas' case looks like a lost cause. As I recall the RIAA has said publicly that they'll have no problem proving actual infringement (they had Media Sentry actually download some files from Thomas' alleged share on Kazaa), there was a serious possibility that Thomas may have deliberately handed over a hard drive that wasn't the original one as well. And don't forget that the jury very obviously thought she was lying, they could have awarded only $750 a song damages, but they chose $9,250 a song.

          While the RIAA is evil, Thomas isn't doing those who oppose the RIAA a favor by going to trial again. She's very likely to loose, and that'll set a precedent in the RIAA's favor.

          It is pretty scummy of the RIAA to oppose a continuance though, but then again, we knew they were evil already so it's not surprising.

          • by Tuoqui (1091447)

            So many angles of attack on the RIAA case...

            1) MediaSentry is not a licensed private investigator. Therefore their evidence could very well be considered suspect in and of itself.

            2) You could make a case that 9250x of the item 'stolen' is cruel and unusual punishment and thus against the constitution. Sure it is a civil case but the government is the one issuing the 'punishment' as a result of the laws the government has on the books. Back in the old days you'd pay 3 times the item's cost or return 3 of the

            • 0. There is a very famous saying in law, "omnia praesumuntur contra spoliatorem." This means "presume all against the spoiler." This means that if you destroy evidence while on notice that there is a civil suit (i.e., as soon as you receive a copy of the complaint), and you destroy evidence, it shall be presumed that the contents were against your interest. Basically, if X sues Y, Y destroys hard drive, the fact-finder (often a jury) can assume that whatever was on the drive was against the destroyer's inte

          • "Yeah, it's pretty scummy of RIAA, but [unsubstantiated speculation]."

            The RIAA will say anything they can get away with. The war they are fighting is not just in the court rooms. They are trying to cow the public (us) into the desired behavior in spite of the fact that they haven't a legal leg to stand on.

            Why would they object to a continuance if they really think they can win?

            • Why would they object to a continuance if they really think they can win?

              You've hit the nail on the head. The one thing they fear the most is a fair fight.

        • Read the article, especially the second declaration.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by russotto (537200)

      Bought off or warned off?

      Well, on the one hand, he's apparently withdrawing so he can retire to his personal Caribbean island. On the other hand, he cites as the reason for his sudden retirement stress the death of his two dogs and favorite horse. So I'd say "both".

    • -- especially the second declaration --

      The lawyer says he has put in a lot of potentially effective gratis. He also indicates that he's stretched a little beyond his ability.

      Also mentions that there are a number of lawyers ready and able to take over, if they can be given the time to prepare.

      Ergo, he's tagging a partner.

      Which is why the RIAA wants to object to a continuance.

  • Bad case (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maroberts (15852) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @05:25AM (#27977425) Homepage Journal

    I'm not terribly convinced Jammie Thomas is a great case to fight the RIAA with;

    Have I misunderstood the paperwork? reading between the lines it appears her lawyer is withdrawing and he is concerned that he has information contradictory to the line of argument his client wants put forward, and as an officer of the court, money matters aside, he feels he cannot go on.

    • Re:Bad case (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lloyd_Bryant (73136) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @05:44AM (#27977497)

      I'm not terribly convinced Jammie Thomas is a great case to fight the RIAA with;

      Have I misunderstood the paperwork? reading between the lines it appears her lawyer is withdrawing and he is concerned that he has information contradictory to the line of argument his client wants put forward, and as an officer of the court, money matters aside, he feels he cannot go on.

      I read it differently. The motion is filed for in camera review, because it contains information that would be of use to the plaintiff, so he wants to keep it limited to just the judge. It's quite common for a lawyer to have information that contradicts his "official" stance in the case, so such information by itself probably wouldn't constitute a reason to withdraw.

      It appears that money *is* the primary factor here. Jammie Thomas owes him a lot of money, and even though she's promised to make payments, he doesn't want to allow her to dig herself in deeper. He tried once before to withdraw from the case, but the court refused him permission to do so. This may have had something to do with his rather lackluster performance during the previous trial...

      • It appears that money *is* the primary factor here. Jammie Thomas owes him a lot of money, and even though she's promised to make payments, he doesn't want to allow her to dig herself in deeper. He tried once before to withdraw from the case, but the court refused him permission to do so.

        He's such a nice guy that he doesn't want to see her put herself into terrible debt, BUT he's not such a nice guy as to give her his services at an affordable rate?

        • Re:Bad case (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2009 @06:07AM (#27977585)

          He's a nice guy because so far he's done almost $130,000 worth of work on this case, for which he will never get paid for, as he mentions on page 3 this PDF file [beckermanlegal.com].

          He also says this:

          "In its previous Order the Court noted "that the Defendant has offered to continue
          to make regular, monthly payments to Toder, which evinces a good faith effort, on her
          part, to make good on her debt to him
          , and is also an indication that communications have
          not, in fact, broken down between Toder, and his client, to such an extent as to warrant a
          withdrawal." Order of August 31, 1997 (Dkt. No. 48). Please see Declaration of Brian
          N. Toder filed concurrently (under seal) with the instant motion which demonstrate the
          opposite.

          So when he first tried to leave the case, it looks like the court said "No, she says she's gonna try to pay monthly sums, and you guys can work it out". Looks like she's not keeping her end of the bargain.

        • He's such a nice guy that he doesn't want to see her put herself into terrible debt, BUT he's not such a nice guy as to give her his services at an affordable rate?

          Who said anything about him being a nice guy? He doesn't want her to go deeper in debt to him, because he's not sure that he'll ever get paid...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Yes, I think you have, she can't afford to retain her lawyer. It is unlikely she is going to be able to pay $100,000 of lawyers fees.

    • I'd say that it is just as likely that he is looking at the RIAA's track record and saying to himself...."can I win against these guys given the slime-ball bs tactics they use"? and "Do I really want that loss on my record"??

      -Oz
    • As someone else points out, there are many ways of reading between the lines.

      When risks hit certain points, you tend to re-consider even a "sure thing". Approximately USD 130,000 could feed my family for three or four years, easily.

      If we are going to read between the lines, I'll offer this: He says there are other lawyers ready and willing to take over, if given the time (continuance). I'm guessing he's getting out of the way so a specialist can take over and make good and sure that the client gets her lega

  • When your lawyer won't even stick around to see you get torn apart in the courtroom, perhaps it's time to cut a deal.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Manip (656104)

      Only bad lawyers walk away from a guilty party just because of their guilt. Hell that's what corp. lawyers could paid in the millions for.

      More than likely a financial, reputation, personal, or conflicting issue.

      • by KillerBob (217953)

        Believe it or not, ethical lawyers do exist. I've got some lawyer friends who won't take a case to defend a guilty party. It's got nothing to do with wanting a 100% win track record, and everything to do with feeling that it's wrong to get a guilty party off on a technicality.

        • by addsalt (985163)

          it's wrong to get a guilty party off on a technicality.

          I can certainly understand the sentiment. I could see myself having a hard time working for someone who I thought was guilty of a heinous crime(if I was a lawyer), but the guilty party still needs representation.

          The goal of an ethical lawyer defending a party should not be to try to find dishonest loopholes, but to ensure that the prosecuting party is playing by the rules.

          • by Luke-Jr (574047)
            If the defendant confesses, all lawyers are required to withdraw (or at least, they are prohibited from lying). If the defendant doesn't confess, no lawyer has the authority to judge him on his own. Their job is to continue working to prove that he may not be guilty, despite the evidence suggesting he is.
    • When your lawyer won't even stick around to see you get torn apart in the courtroom, perhaps it's time to cut a deal.

      I'm sure she tried hard to do that. But what the RIAA has no doubt done is to raise the settlement bar to a number she can't afford. Partly out of retribution. Partly out of a desire not to see the case settle at this juncture, because, in its present posture, the case is an embarrassment to the RIAA and a stern rebuke to their moronic legal theory. Partly because they know she's defenseless, having either no lawyer or having a lawyer who's there only involuntarily.

      I know these guys. This is how they work. They smell blood.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2009 @06:44AM (#27977703)

        Ray, I'm curious why you haven't said much at all as to why her lawyer might be withdrawing from the case. Aside from your customary, thinly-veiled swipes at the plaintiffs, I don't see anything addressing this. If her case is as strong as you have been implying consistently in your comments over the past months (and I think I've read every single one of them), it certainly seems odd that an attorney would bail on a slam-dunk case like this one. Surely there has to be another (more objective) explanation or two?

        Thanks, /HJ

        p.s. I'm not trying to be a troll, and I happen to dislike (and disagree with) the RIAA and their tactics as much as anyone else here. But it's equally hard for me to stomach an ostensibly neutral (in the sense of not being involved with this case), eminently qualified observer such as yourself constantly cheerleading for the defense, while giving no quarter whatsoever to the possibility that the opposing side's arguments might have at least some merit.

        • I'm not trying to be a troll, and I happen to dislike (and disagree with) the RIAA and their tactics as much as anyone else here. But....

          I suspect you are a troll, but...

          1. He is leaving because he hasn't been paid.

          2. I have never expressed any opinion about the underlying case; I am not familiar with the facts of this particular case.

          • by Timesprout (579035) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @07:27AM (#27977821)

            the case is an embarrassment to the RIAA and a stern rebuke to their moronic legal theory

            I have never expressed any opinion about the underlying case; I am not familiar with the facts of this particular case.

            So which is it?

            • the case is an embarrassment to the RIAA and a stern rebuke to their moronic legal theory

              I have never expressed any opinion about the underlying case; I am not familiar with the facts of this particular case.

              So which is it?

              Fair question. Let me clarify.

              I have never expressed any opinion about the underlying facts. I.e., I don't know what Ms. Thomas did or didn't do, or what was going on with her computer, etc.

              I do know that (a) Jacobson's testimony, upon which plaintiffs' entire case rested, was bogus and inadmissible; (b) the plaintiffs' legal theory, which has now been rejected by the Court, was bogus; (c) plaintiffs have no evidence that defendant was a "distributor'; and (d) their statutory damages theory is unlikely to pass constitutional muster.

              • I do know that (a) Jacobson's testimony, upon which plaintiffs' entire case rested, was bogus and inadmissible; (b) the plaintiffs' legal theory, which has now been rejected by the Court, was bogus; (c) plaintiffs have no evidence that defendant was a "distributor'; and (d) their statutory damages theory is unlikely to pass constitutional muster.

                Given all that, we're back where we started. Strong case, high profile, "evil" opponent - the sort of case many lawyers take pro-bono anyway. When her attorney

                • by Fieryphoenix (1161565) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @10:10AM (#27978679)
                  I care just as much that the RIAA not behave outrageously towards guilty defendants as for innocents. If a tactic or procedure is not kosher, it's not kosher no matter who's in the box.
                • by DMalic (1118167)
                  I think it's fairly obvious Jammie Thomas is guilty. That's why the jury voted her down in the first place - and, more importantly, that's why the RIAA chose to push this case to trial (rather than one of the ones they dropped). However, they are also using it to push the "making available" offense and gigantic statuatory damages which I find revolting. (I also point to the hilarious ineptitude of their expert witness..) I would have no problem with a legitimate prosecution of Thomas if it weren't for th
                  • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                    by edward2020 (985450) *
                    Nope - not guilty. Perhaps liable.

                    You do know the difference between criminal and civil law, don't you?
                    • by DMalic (1118167)
                      I think she's guilty in a moral sense and not liable in a civil law sense =) Isn't the RIAA trying to push some law to make non-commercial copyright infringement criminal?
                • by Ghubi (1102775)

                  If that's the case, then we're left with an uncomfortable possibility: namely, that his stated reasons for leaving might be legitimate.

                  Of course I didn't RTFA, wasn't money his stated reason for leaving?

                  Maybe he has a mortgage. Maybe he took a loan to buy an expensive car. Maybe he has student loans. Maybe he has a nagging wife. Maybe he was stupid to take on a case he couldn't afford to finish. Maybe he's just a rich asshole who wants to get paid whether his client is guilty or innocent.

          • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

            by cliffski (65094)

            Wow.
            You really think anyone who doesn't spit and curse at the RIAA whilst declaring Jammie Thomas to be innocent is a troll?
            Is that how you fight court battles?
            "I'm not responding to the prosecutor because I suspect they are a troll".

            • Yeah, because someone posting conflicted views on a subject as AC while declaring themselves not to be a troll is definitely genuine. Plus, uh.. he did respond?
        • by Lloyd_Bryant (73136) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @07:15AM (#27977791)

          Ray, I'm curious why you haven't said much at all as to why her lawyer might be withdrawing from the case. Aside from your customary, thinly-veiled swipes at the plaintiffs, I don't see anything addressing this. If her case is as strong as you have been implying consistently in your comments over the past months (and I think I've read every single one of them), it certainly seems odd that an attorney would bail on a slam-dunk case like this one. Surely there has to be another (more objective) explanation or two?

          Not NYCL (and IANAL to boot), but I don't think this case is a "slam-dunk". Yes, the judge messed up big time with that jury instruction, and with a binding precedent that the plaintiff must show actual distribution (as opposed to "making available"), the RIAA's case doesn't look all the rosy. But there's still one issue that I don't believe has been resolved - do the downloads made by MediaSentry (under whatever name they're using this week) constitute unlawful distribution? Because that is the *only* distribution that the RIAA's goon squad can actually prove, and there's some case law that seems to say that the distribution has to be to the public, and distribution to agents of the copyright holder don't count.

          • by KillerBob (217953) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @07:54AM (#27977947)

            do the downloads made by MediaSentry (under whatever name they're using this week) constitute unlawful distribution?

            MediaSentry is an unlicensed investigator. As such, any evidence they gained is inadmissable.

            • MediaSentry is an unlicensed investigator. As such, any evidence they gained is inadmissable.

              Tell it to da judge. The case against Jammie Thomas is based *solely* upon the "evidence" provided by MediaSentry. Yeah, they have a hard drive, with songs on it, but there's no proof that these were offered for upload except for MediaSentry's word.

              I'm not sure if this was even argued by her attorney...

            • by shentino (1139071)

              Only if an objection to that effect is made...or the judge is gracious enough to blow the whistle on it.

              If she fails to object on those grounds:

              1. The evidence gets to come in
              2. She cannot even appeal based on that, because by failing to object she waived her rights.

              IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that's the way it works out.

            • MediaSentry is an unlicensed investigator. As such, any evidence they gained is inadmissable.

              In a civil case?

              In this jurisdiction?

              The trial judge would seem to disagree.

        • by Meneth (872868)
          Reading the Toder memorandum, it seems that Jamie's lawyer isn't getting paid.

          The settlement attempts failed. A trial date looms. Defendant's counsel has been working as the Court has ordered, having expended thus far $129,485 of uncompensated-for time that will never be recovered, coupled with the likelihood that a similar, additional amount will be incurred if ordered to continue representation of defendant who originally caused this firm by means of false representations.

          • Reading the Toder memorandum, it seems that Ja[m]mie's lawyer isn't getting paid.

            That's what it's all about. Most lawyers, like most other people, don't like to work if they're not getting paid for it (unless that's what they agreed to do, which he didn't). Lawyers like anyone else have families to support and bills to be paid.

            • Why has he continued to represent her up to this point? I understand he tried to withdraw from the case previously and was barred from doing so. But certainly, he could have withdrawn after the first trial. I also don't understand why Ms. Thomas has continued to keep him as her lawyer considering what a totally pathetic job he did the first time around.

              I could present two solid arguments as to how someone else could have her IP number and login ID. One of those arguments fits in well with the state
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cliffski (65094)

        or maybe she is guilty as hell, her lawyer knows it, and didn't want to fight a battle he would inevitably lose badly?

        But no, as she is being prosecuted by the record companies, she MUST be innocent right?

        Amazing though it sounds, a lot of people DO pirate music, some of them get caught, and a very few of them are stupid enough to try and feign innocence in that situation.

        • The lawyer wants to cut his losses at this point.

          This is independent of whether Jammie is guilty of the heinous tort of copyright infringement of 24 songs, for which RIAA was happy to have her fined $222,000. (And yes, I added that tidbit just to bait you.)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jammie_Thomas

    "A hard drive containing the copyrighted songs was never presented at the trial."

    "The judge in Thomas' trial ordered a retrial because recent case law has cast doubt on the theory of "making available" as sufficient for infringement."

  • by rastoboy29 (807168) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @06:21AM (#27977629) Homepage
    You know, for all the vitriol on this board, it seems surprising to me that money isn't overflowing this nice lady's coffers for lawyers.
    • by goffster (1104287) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @07:53AM (#27977943)

      Maybe because no one particular feels like supporting someone who, apparently, is
      "guilty as charged".

      The facts of this case are very hard to dispute. If you read the comments of the jury, the outcome of the case is not in doubt.

      I think people are far more likely to support someone who might, actually, not be guilty, or is having their rights trounced upon.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 16, 2009 @07:39AM (#27977883)

    Is this the kind of justice we can expect in America? Having your life financially ruined by astronomical damages for copying songs?! How can any sane judge with any sense of justice even allow this to continue?

    We all knew stories about backward country with religious zealot wielding harsh laws punishing poor oppressed victim for seemingly trivial offense, but this kind of cases are telling you the America is not that much different, it is just that corporates+money have replaced the religious zealots+dogma.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They play both sides, and cut their losses and run if things get sour.

      Our NYCL makes out to be a good guy (and I'm sure he is personally), but don't get confused by the fact that he's defending "our side" of the battle against the RIAA. He won't do anything that isn't in his business interests either. Ethics don't come into it for lawyers.

      So yes, this is the state of "justice" in America. It's a business.

      (Worth noting that Europe is somewhat unique in the world in this area. While EU justice is far from

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Paradise Pete (33184)

        He won't do anything that isn't in his business interests either. Ethics don't come into it for lawyers.

        I don't personally know Mr. Beckerman, but based on what I've I'd say that ethics enters into nearly everything he does.

        • I am dubious. He is only 'ethical' in the sense that all the RIAA lawyers I have met are ethical (and I have met about half a dozen); that is they have enough faith in the cause they are defending it to do the best job they can.

          The fact that that cause happens to coincide with Slashdot's general groupthink is merely a lucky coincidence.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            If "the best job they can" is to bring in unlicensed investigators as their only evidence, and use questionable legal theories, and (admittedly) choose to sue housewives and schoolchildren as "examples" in order to "intimidate" others... then yeah, their ethics are very highly questionable, whether you think they are nice guys or not.
            • Do you really think that NYCL is any different? I don't. Part of being a lawyer is knowing what lines you can cross and knowing what lines you can't, and then crossing the former for your clients and not crossing the latter.

              • "Part of being a lawyer is knowing what lines you can cross and knowing what lines you can't, and then crossing the former for your clients and not crossing the latter."

                That statement alone belies any pretention you may have of claiming ethics on the part of anybody. If this is what you claim to be "ethical" lawyer behavior, no wonder you think they are all corrupt.
    • Is this the kind of justice we can expect in America? Having your life financially ruined by astronomical damages for copying songs?! How can any sane judge with any sense of justice even allow this to continue?

      This particular judge seems to be aware of the problem. On September 24, 2008, he wrote [blogspot.com]:

      "The Court would be remiss if it did not take this opportunity to implore Congress to amend the Copyright Act to address liability and damages in peer to peer network cases.... The defendant is an individual, a consumer. She is not a business. She sought no profit from her acts..... [T]he damages awarded in this case are wholly disproportionate to the damages suffered by Plaintiffs."

      • Hmm... I don't know, but isn't it obvious here, that the RIAA payed that lawyer to stop working for her? I mean, if they didn't do it, they will, as soon as they read this.

        Is there really no way, to make the government think that the RIAA is linked to the Al-Qaeda, and has to be tortured in some offshore prison? Why some poor Arabic slobs? Why not them? ^^

      • Judges have expressed opinions that Congress should fix bad laws in the past. How often does Congress listen to the Judiciary and fix the law? (I can't think of an example that didn't have many non-judicial lobbyists pushing for the change.)
  • Donation site (Score:5, Insightful)

    by debrain (29228) on Saturday May 16, 2009 @09:27AM (#27978379) Journal

    Why doesn't Ms. Thomas set up a legal fund donation page via PayPal, for example? I'd contribute some funds to this cause. It deserves attention.

    Has she sought legal aid? Or the support of the ACLU, EFF or a law school? Her time is running short. This is an unfortunate situation because the likelihood of setting an important precedent very favourable to the RIAA is quite high, now.

  • Public defenders (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jimmy_B (129296) <slashdot@jimrandom h . o rg> on Saturday May 16, 2009 @11:12AM (#27979179) Homepage
    Individuals defending against lawsuits from corporations should be given public defenders. The only reason that right isn't in the Constitution is because corporations didn't exist at the time it was written.
  • this is part of why im donating to EFF frequently anyways. even if my donations are small. im sure there are many like me.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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