SANTA ANA — The nearly two year lawsuit against Art Pedroza and the OrangeJuiceBlog is over. Federal judge David O. Carter issued a minute order on Thursday, December 15, awarding $30,000 in damages on charges of cybersquatting, trademark infringement and unfair business practices to Thinking Liberally Media, the publishers of TheLiberalOC blog, Madison Alexander PR, Chris Prevatt, Ryan Trabuco and Claudio Gallegos.
Our phones and email inboxes have been filling up with messages of congratulations all day Friday from elected and non-elected partisan politicos throughout Orange County who learned of the judgment. Everyone we’ve heard from is happy about the news.
This award is on top of a $17,000 judgment against the OrangeJuiceBlog awarded in November 2010 and about $8,000 in additional unpaid sanctions for Pedroza’s repeated failure to turn over his hard drives as part of discovery ordered several times by the court. We filed our final motions for summary judgment in the case citing Pedroza’s admission on the material facts in the case, the multiple emails from him begging for mercy and asking us to drop the case. If our motion had been denied, we would be headed for trial in January.
The motion was granted largely on the grounds that Pedroza failed to file a response in a timely fashion. Opposition to our motion was due November 28. Judge Carter cited Pedroza’s failure to file a timely response effectively meant Pedroza granted consent to our motion.
We did get a copy of a response document by Pedroza that was filed late on December 15 after the judge issued his ruling. In that document, Pedroza repeatedly insists that buying web domains similar to TheLiberalOC, Madison Alexander PR and the defendants– then routing them to hardcore gay pornography and the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) which promotes legalized sex between men and young boys — was parody and therefore protected speech. Pedroza’s defense also contained a number of inaccuracies — that as the defendent, he sought to buy the domain “ArtPedroza.com” from Dan Chmielewski first (that isn’t true), and that he offered a straight swap of all the domains he bought for “his” name (that isn’t true either; he repeatedly insistened on including SeanMill.com owned by Trabuco), among others.
Interestingly enough, Pedroza still did not know he had lost the case by mid-Friday afternoon, having sent an email to the court seeking to move the hearing back two and a half hours citing a meeting at work he could not get out of.
The damages awarded — $30,000 — is about the norm for cases like this. When the original judgement and sanctions are added, the total damages Pedroza will have to pay are about $55,000. The case stretched out for nearly two years because just before we were supposed to go to trial in May, Pedroza filed for bankruptcy which froze the case. We filed for, and won, a relief of stay and after another round of hearings (Pedroza failed to show for one), the December hearing date was our last shot at a summary judgement. We’re confident we would have had our motion granted on the law even if Pedroza got his paperwork filed on time.
In two years, we have held our ground while Pedroza went from “Veganza”, to “I want to resolve this on my terms,” to “screw you,” to a suicide threat, to finding Jesus, to nice blogging on NewSantaAna, web consulting on behalf of Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, and council members Sal Tiniajero and Michele Martinez without ethically disclosing these facts on his blog, and back to nastiness, bankruptcy (his second), groveling, and then to angry attack mode. At the very beginning, Pedroza said to us, “you can’t put Pandora back in the box and it is on.” He was right. It was on and we did not waver.
For all of us, the case has never been about the money but about protecting our names, our professional reputations, and our business rights. As many in Orange County politics know, a handshake truce with Pedroza has the shelf life of a Tuna Sandwich outside on a hot August day. So the judgment we have received with the full force of the law behind it means Pedroza cannot ignore it like the “handshake agreements” he so often has in the past. And we will take steps to protect our legal rights again in the future if we need to.
There has been a lot written about in the suit on mostly OJ and New Santa Ana blogs and in many posts that have since long been scrubbed (to hide the truth?); anonymous commenters have been allowed to post all manner of rumor, innuendo and outright lies about us, our friends and our families. It has not been an easy two years and in cases like this, you find out who your friends are. All of us at Thinking Liberally Media want to express our thanks and gratitude to our friends that stood by us and encouraged us to stay strong. Thanks a million.
We also want to express our thanks and gratitude to our lawyer, Todd Gallinger, who did a fantastic job of managing our case and setting our expectations accordingly. Todd, dubbed “Jihad Todd” and a “Terrorist Lawyer” by Pedroza’s friend, Santa Ana planning commissioner Sean Mill, brushed aside criticism and never wavered in his belief we’d win this thing. Our thanks to Todd and his magnificent team at Gallinger Law.
A frequent theme in Pedroza’s email appeals to us was that he was bullied as a child and that he stood up to bullies. But since then, Pedroza has become the bully of the blogsphere. During the past two years, we’ve stood up against the bullying tactics of Pedroza time and again. His failed response to our motion neglects reference to Gay Porn and he seldom mentions NAMBLA. He suggests that he is the victim of “stalking and terrorizing” behavior, and for someone who used the “parody” and “they started it” defense, he didn’t understand the April 1st post where we had a Pedroza doll was in fact, parody. He used that post to make an accusation that TheLiberalOC was supporting perverts in Santiago Park because of the April Fool’s Day post we did with the Art Pedroza doll. It strains logic to see his point.
Pedroza fails to see that the real bully in the blogsphere is him. We are pleased to see him finally held accountable for his actions.