Swatted by the Lizard Squad - My Experience


Swatted by the Lizard Squad - My Experience
by Susan Basko, Esq.

Back in Fall of 2014, I was swatted, as it turned out, by a member of the Lizard Squad in the UK named Jordan Hunter or Jordan Lee-Bevan.  That serial swatter has been sentenced to 16 months in prison.  You can read more about him HERE and HERE and HERE.

Jordan Hunter was a white teenager with a thick Liverpool accent who pretended online that he was a Black ghetto gang member in Chicago.  He called himself GDK Jordie,  GDK meaning "Gangster Disciples Killer." This is his twitter account, @GdkJordie, that, until he was arrested, was filled with his nonsensical ideas of what a Chicago street gang member would tweet.   On Youtube, you can watch and hear a video of the last interview of GdkJordie, interviewed by DJ Akademiks.  DJ Akademics ran a Youtube show called Chiraq, which was about gun crime in Chicago.  DJ Akademics did not for a moment believe that GDK Jordie was from Chicago.  The interview is, by turns, hilarious and pathetic, as this British teen tries to convince the audience he is a ghetto gang dude.

UK law enforcement  described the swatting crimes as "communicating information which he knows or believes to be false to another person with the intention of inducing in him or any other person a false belief that a bomb or other thing liable to explode or ignite is present in any place or location," according to Section 51(2) and (4) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

Most of the swats committed by Jordan Hunter were done by telephone.  Here, you can listen to the actual audio of a 911 call made by Hunter, as he sat in his bedroom of his mother's home in England, to a college in New York State in the U.S..  The call is preposterous, but the dispatcher seemed taken in by it, and safety measures had to be taken. The incident resulted in a huge police response.

The swat that Jordan Hunter committed against me was done using email sent to the list serves of multiple campuses of a very large university in the U.S.  I personally believe that Hunter made the swat for someone else that had been stalking and harassing me at the time.  If anyone knows about such a thing, I would like if they would let me know.

At the time I was swatted by this Lizard Squad member, I had been terrorized for quite some time by members of a nefarious online antisemitic hate and harassment group called the Rustle League, as well as by their associates in ISIS, and by other online malicious groups engaged in stalking and defamation and invasion of privacy, such as Bullyville/ ViaView, Inc., Encyclopedia Dramatica, and Doxbin.  I have made "a zillion" complaints to the FBI and they were working various angles already.  Thank goodness.  Thank goodness I had all those complaints on file, because when the swat went in against me, the officer in charge of the response looked up my name on the FBI database and saw that I had been the victim of all these cyberstalkers for quite some time.  Because I was already a known victim of cyberstalking, the officers were pretty sure the swat was a hoax, but they also had to make sure it was a hoax.

At the time I was swatted by this Lizard Squad member, I had already been stalked and harassed for years by the above named groups.  I then began receiving crazed emails from a lawyer connected to some of the groups.  This is a man I had no connection to and no communication with -- just a crazed stalker.  Then he filed a genuinely bizarre court case against me, making all sorts of wild allegations with no basis in truth.  He also put my name into other insane court filings in other cases where I was not a party, lawyer, or witness, -- cases involving people I never heard of before that.  I then received a voicemail from a male voice, taunting me about the crazed lawsuit filed against me.  Then, right on the heels of that, the swat was made, using my name in an emailed bomb threat sent to a major university.  All of these horrifying things were done to me one right after the other -- the crazy emails, the crazy court filings, the insane court case, the taunting terrorizing voicemail, and then the bomb threats made using my name, meant to swat and terrorize university campuses with over 75,000 students.  The bomb threat hoax was like the icing on the cake of a series of intense stalking episodes over a short period of time.  That is a whole lot of stalking and terrorization that has come my way -- and I wish I could say it is all over, but it is not.  Some of these same horrid people continue to own domains and emails in my name, to run defamation/ smear websites, to stalk my friends and family, to purchase private materials to post on their stalking sites, and on and on.  I long for justice against these menaces of society. I have patience.

How it went down:  It was a nice Fall day.  I went to teach my Entertainment law class.  That day,  I invited a dear friend and colleague from the music industry to join me in teaching the class.  The class went very well, and we both felt happy. When the class was over, we went out for lunch and some fancy craft beers.  Then I went home, where I was met by our security guard/maintenance man, who we had hired to fix little things around the place and carry a gun.  He was hired because I was (and am) being stalked and harassed and threatened by crazies from the internet.  I wanted to take a nap, so I told him he could leave, because I wanted no noise. He left, and I fell into a very deep sleep.

Three hours or so later, I woke up from my nap.  I puttered around a bit, drinking ice water and reading emails.  Then, I turned on my phone and found I had a voicemail.  It was from an officer at the Joint Terrorism Task Force, trying to contact me about a situation at this big university.   The Joint Terrorism Task Force calling me about a bomb threat they received.  Yes, that's right. A voicemail from an officer at the Joint Terrorism Task Force about a bomb threat at a big university.  The officer asked me to return the call directly or to call the FBI office in the town where the main campus was located, leaving both numbers in the message. Since I am aware that people spoof calls, I looked up the phone number for that FBI office and called.  (It was the same number that had been left on the voicemail.) The FBI phone was answered by an agent who seemed relieved to hear from me.  He knew my name and said they had been waiting to hear from me. I was patched on through to the officer from the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).

Let me tell you that waking up from a long nap to a voicemail from the Joint Terrorism Task Force about a bomb threat is a way to get a stroke or a heart attack. I shook for days afterwards.

I spoke with the JTTF Officer, who told me that a bomb threat had come in on their list serve.  The bomb threat used MY NAME and said I was upset and had put bombs on the campuses.  The Officer looked up my name on the FBI records and saw that I have been the victim of "tons of" acts of  cyberstalking and harassment, so they figured the bomb threat was a hoax.  But, they needed to check with me.  The multiple large campuses were on high alert and the University President was in his office, waiting to leave. They needed to make contact with me first, and everyone was getting impatient.

I assured the JTTF Officer that the bomb threats were certainly not from me, that it was someone hoaxing me -- which is what the Officers had already figured.  How much did those 4 or 5 hours on high alert cost them?  How much panic did this cause?  The multiple campuses involved have a total of over 75,000 students.  That is a lot of people to endanger by making a bomb threat hoax against them.

Being swatted further terrorized me.  I was already being terrorized by having domains purchased in my name that were being used to post lies about me, by having false court filings made by harassing stalkers, by having death threats made against me, and on and on and on.  Having this swat attempt made against me, in such a big dramatic way, resulted in more terrorization.  My life had been threatened by members of the Rustle League and by their two associates in ISIS -- so I was afraid terrorists would show up in person in my classroom or at my home.  I had my life threatened in detail by "Nachash of Doxbin," and had almost casual death threats tweeted at me by James McGibney of Bullyville/ ViaView, a known serial stalker who also owns a bunch of domains in my name and uses them to lie about me and post shocking defamation and invasions of privacy.  A bomb threat was made against me by yet another malicious person.  I received insane emails by a lawyer associated with some of these groups, in which he claimed that I, a lawyer and grandma from a loving family, who has never even gotten a traffic ticket, was a terrorist in a plot to kill him.  I had years of antisemitic and hate tweets, filled with the most vile garbage, launched at me by the members of Rustle League, Encyclopedia Dramatica, and Doxbin.  I was utterly horrified that one of these predators would show up in my classroom or at my home -- in person -- and attempt to kill me or the others there. That is, I guess, the whole point of these people terrorizing me in the first place.  They terrorize to instill fear and more terror.  And -- it works.  We victims of terrorization are not supposed to admit that the acts of terror frighten us or change the way we do things.  But this is not true.  Terror is terror, and it works for its purpose.   That terrorizing others is a sport for the people I have named is quite a bit more mysterious.  How were they raised that they lack in empathy, common sense, and even lack any fear of being caught and held accountable, is beyond anything I can understand.

We, the victims of acts of terror, are not supposed to mention the names of those who commit those acts of terror against us.   To that silence, I say, no more.  I am speaking out.  You are evil, engaged in evil acts, and I am speaking out.

To the assholes who have spent so much time and effort swatting me, making websites to lie about me, filing insane stuff in court --  Sorry, assholes, this swat was a "dud."  The FBI and JTTF were so onto you and what you do, they did not go trying to find me.  They did not stop classes or call in bomb squads.  They did not send police in SWAT uniforms.  They looked at my name and knew you and your online friends have spent years trying every possible method of harassing me.  They did not "question" me.  They called me and left a voicemail to say, "We think this is a hoax, but we need to make sure." They called me on the phone and asked me.  I said, "Yes, this is a hoax.  Sorry, I was out having lunch and then went home and took a nap.  My phone was off and sorry for the delay in listening to your voicemail."  That's it.  You did not get police or FBI running around.  You did not get bomb dogs sniffing.  You did not get tanks rolling up.  You did not get students being led out of class, their hands raised.  You did not get officers armed with rifles running around checking for bombs or snipers. You got people in an office making a phone call.

Make no mistake.  I was shaken.  I still am shaken when I think of being swatted, mainly because it is incomprehensible to me that people can be so casually evil.  I am shaken by the years of being stalked by crazies -- of having websites made in my name, being stalked intensely, being impersonated by people owning domains and emails in my name, by one person filing insane court filings against me, by constant hacking attempts, by having malicious people purchase my emails and recordings of my phone calls to place online as a means of stalking me.  I am shaken by having death threats against me posted on Twitter by various people, people with whom I have had no contact and to whom I never did anything.

So, I was swatted, the Campus police and FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force determined it was a hoax -- then what happened?  I was asked to give a statement.  At first, there was talk of the FBI or the JTTF Officer interviewing me, and then I sent a long written statement, and it was decided that was good enough.  They already had many complaints from me and had already arrested numerous people based on my complaints. They knew I was credible.   I gave a written explanation of the years of cyberstalking I have endured and those I know are responsible, and those I suspect.  It's quite a list.  I let them know each person who has bought or owned a domain in my name, each person who has created a website, account, or email in my name.  I let them know about a bomb threat against me that someone had emailed to me.  I let them know about the crazy court filings and emails sent to me that included bizarre interpretations of my life and my relationships.  I let them know about the death threats and the bomb threats, the stalking, the attempts to "social engineer" my family and friends and even long-ago acquaintances.  I let them know about my emails being purchased and posted online by known long-time stalkers.  I let them know about my personal information being posted online, about the countless attempts to hack my financial and personal accounts.  I told them about the late night phone calls, the obscene photoshopped pictures, the Youtube videos created to be death threats and terrorization.  I had already reported all of that before, as it occurred.  I have had so many stalking and harassment crimes committed against me, that at times, I have had to make multiple reports in one day.  I had to take on an assistant to help make the reports, because it was taking up so much of my time.

When I saw the email that was sent in my name, the bomb threat made to the University campuses, I was not surprised.  It followed a false narrative that my stalkers have used for some time.  The theme, the lie, was that I was upset with my life and had nothing to live for, and would therefore bomb and shoot up a university. The reality, aside from the facts that I am a totally sane and peaceful and loving person, was that I was happy, out teaching my law students that morning, then eating lunch and drinking craft brews with a dear friend, and then home taking a nap.   The bomb threat email used proper grammar and spelling, which leads me to think someone besides Jordan Hunter aka Jordan Lee-Beven aka GdkJordie wrote it.  If you know who, let me know, please.

About a year after the swatting attempt, SEROCU raided the home where GdkJordie lives with his mother.  They seized his computers.  On his computer was found my name. It was then determined that he had made the bomb threats against the University campuses using my name.  I received this good news from the Officer at the JTTF via email and phone, along with a request that I make a victim statement.  The JTTF Officer in the U.S. emailed me the form used in the UK by SEROCU.  I had so much to say in the narrative section of the form that I added many extra pages.  I emailed it back in, no doubt giving them lots of material to work on.

For anyone that wants to call me a "snitch" or other such derisive terms -- I have made it clear all along that I report crimes committed against me.  In addition, I report crimes and potential crimes I know about that are against the public safety.  By now, all of my stalkers and harassers should realize this.  It's very simple.  If you commit a crime against me, I will report you.  Period. 

The SEROCU form asked if I would be willing to attend a trial. I said, "Yes," and hoped for a free trip to England.  That never happened, but the thought of it was the one bright spot in this otherwise dismal situation.

I also made it clear, in writing there on the SEROCU form, that I was not interested in the swatter being sent to prison, or getting a long sentence, but in stopping his harmful actions.  He and his friends, sitting in their bedrooms at their parents' homes, seemed to have no cognizance of the dangers and trauma they were causing to real world people.  They need to know they endangered lives.  They need to know that impersonation, swatting, stalking, hacking, and harassment are crimes that harm real people.  It was way too easy for them to think these were pranks or jokes.

As it turned out, the Lizard Squad members, in the UK, the U.S., and in Finland, have all received extremely light sentences.  They are mostly idiotic kids with undeveloped consciences that were led on by each other and by the e-fame of being in such a group.

I have other hopes.  I hope that some of my other stalkers, people who are old enough to know better,  are brought to justice.

I will never be made whole. The damage that was done to me will never be rectified.  That is the case with almost all crime victims.  Crimes are committed against us, and if we are lucky, the perpetrators are found, and sometimes they face the justice system.  The damage done to us as victims is never addressed.  We lose so much, and it is never brought back to us.  Years of my life have been made less because I have been, and continue to be, stalked and cyberstalked by malicious menaces.




Mark Zuckerberg Senate Testimony: My Review



Mark Zuckerberg Senate Testimony: My Review
by Susan Basko, Esq.

April 11, 2018.  Yesterday, I watched a good portion of Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, testifying before the U.S. Senate.  The hearing lasted about 5 hours.  Each Senator was given a few timed minutes to speak and ask questions.  I missed the first part, so I  could not tell in what order the Senators were being called.  It did seem to be alphabetical or in order of seniority in the Senate.  Many of the Senators stated they are Facebook users.  Most of them did not seem to understand how things work, such as Facebook privacy settings, third party apps, Terms of Service.  The basic information that I hoped to get from the hearing was never addressed. These would have been my questions:

1. The app in question was a personality quiz.  Were the quiz answers that people gave included with the basic account information that was sold to Cambridge Analytica?

2. Do other quizzes and similar apps retain the answers given by those who take the quizzes, and are those retained alongside basic user information?

3. Are app/ quiz makers free to retain the answers and basic user info, if they do not sell it? Are they free to sell it?  Have other quizzes and apps sold the information?

 4. Has gathering of information of third party information gathering stopped, as Mr. Zuckerberg stated?  When did this stop?  The Facebook privacy settings showed this as still happening just about a week ago. By this, I mean, that when a Facebook friend uses an app, it gathers the information of unsuspecting friends, unless they opt out on privacy settings from allowing third party app collection of information.  Has this really stopped?

4a. Is it fair for Facebook to change users' privacy settings? For example, a few years back, I made the settings to not allow any third party app to access my information.  Then, I went recently and saw that the privacy settings had been changed and all my information was being made available, without my input or knowledge.  Why is Facebook changing the settings without my input or knowledge?

5. If a Facebook user has things set to private, such as their Friends list and their birthdate, is that information still harvested by apps and quizzes?

6. Regarding the personality quiz app designed by Aleksandr Kogan, did it harvest the user information of the friends of those who took the quiz?  Did it harvest the information of the "friends of friends" of those who took the personality quiz?

7. What was the name of the personality quiz?

8. It seems suspicious/convenient to me that Facebook automatically changed user's third party privacy settings to make all data available to third parties, even when we had previously opted out of third party sharing, and then there was this app harvesting and selling third party info.  Can you explain why the privacy settings regarding third party harvesting were changed automatically?

In my viewing of the Senate hearing, none of these questions were answered.  Instead, Senators fussed about the difficulty of reading the long Terms of Service or of not understanding they can delete any post at any time or of not understanding that Facebook has lots of privacy settings.  The questions of the interface between apps/ quizzes and user info, and the use of that information by the app owners were not ever made clear in the hearing.

Review of Mark Zuckerberg's performance during the hearing:  I thought he did incredibly well.  He was placed at a desk on the floor, all by himself -- a genuine hotseat.  Funny pictures online showed he was sitting on a thick cushion, a "booster seat," according to one meme.

Mr. Zuckerberg addressed each Senators as "Senator," rather than as "Sir" or "Madam," or by name. This was a very good move.  It showed sexual equality of the men and women Senators, and he did not need to worry about getting tripped up on any names.  Everyone was "Senator."

One Senator tried to strong arm Mr. Zuckerberg into backing a piece of legislation to extend the online child privacy act upwards to age 16.  This particular Senator seemed like he was trying to garner Mr. Zuckerberg's endorsement, right there in the hearing, of a piece of legislation he had not seen and that had not even been written.  Mr. Zuckerberg wisely and astutely did not agree to this, while remaining polite to the Senator.

A funny few moments came when Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois asked Mr. Zuckerberg if he would mind sharing what hotel he stayed at the night before.  Mr. Zuckerberg pondered, looked embarrassed, and then replied that yes, he would mind sharing that.  The question was a little set-up by Senator Durbin to show that there are some things we all want to keep private.

Mr. Zuckerberg wisely and honestly referred a lot of the questions over to his team, saying they would work with the Senators to provide answers and find solutions.  All told, Mr. Zuckerberg came across as a smart person, honest, and genuinely concerned with connecting people worldwide with their friends and families.  He also showed a concern for not providing a platform for such things as terrorism, violence, or bullying.  He referred to Facebook users as a "community."  Mr. Zuckerberg's wide-eyed enthusiasm of creating a worldwide community seemed to finally be informed with the stark fact that there are many bad actors with nefarious intent out there in the world.  A platform may be neutral, and while the vast majority of people will use such a platform to do good things, there are also plenty of people waiting to rush in and use it for bad purposes.   

One surprising moment came when Mr. Zuckerberg genuinely seemed to not know what Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act entails, and how being a "pipe," as he referred to ISPs, rather than a "platform," as he referred to Facebook, could change immunity under Section 230.  He repeatedly stated that Facebook is responsible for the content.  He also mentioned several times that Facebook is planning to implement AI (artificial intelligence) to root out bad actors or bad content, such as terrorism.  He also stated that Facebook plans to have 20,000 humans screening content in native languages.  He stated that much terrorism is language-specific and would take a human to understand the nuance of it.  

When break times were called during the hearing, many Senators left, making the room less crowded each time.  After the meeting closed, Mr. Zuckerbeg went around shaking hands with several of the Senators, and then was escorted out.  Mr. Zuckerberg may have left his notebook behind on the desk, because an AP photographer took a photo of Mr.Zuckerberg's notes and posted it online.  The notes were very basic and showed that he planned to keep his answers light, not technical, and to refer tricky questions over to his team.

All in all, I would give Mark Zuckerberg an "A" on his performance before the Senate.  It would have been an A+ if he had understood the questions about Section 230 of the CDA, or the legal differences between being an ISP and a content provider.  His lack of knowledge on this topic seemed genuine and perhaps his response does signal trouble with how Section 230 has been interpreted to mean that an ISP can have tort immunity if its users fill the site with defamation and invasions of privacy.  To me, it sounded like Mark Zuckerberg was saying that was not good enough for him, that he wants to provide a good platform that creates Community.  And maybe that should be the goal of all social media platforms, rather than hiding behind the legal immunity protections.

Copyright: How to Protect Your Visual Art


Copyright: How to Protect Your Visual Art
by Susan Basko, Esq.

Visual art is often copyright infringed these days, in large part because of online printing companies that allow art created by anyone, without properly vetting the source. There are several things you can do to help protect your visual art.

Examples of visual art protected by U.S. Copyright include (but are not limited to):

Advertisements
(visual / photography)
Architectural Works
Artwork (2D, 3D)
Blueprints
Board Games (visual aspects)
Buildings
Carpeting
Cartography
(maps / globes)
Cartoons, Comic Strips, Comic Books
Catalogs (visual aspects)
Craft Kits Drawings
Fabric Designs
Flooring Designs
Geologic Charts
Graphic Designs
Greeting Cards
Illustrations
Jewelry Designs
Labels (visual aspects)
Logos
Maps
Masks
Models
Paintings
Photographs
Posters
Prints / Reproductions
Product Packaging
Puppets
Scientific Drawings
Sculptures
Stationary
Stencils
Technical Drawings
Textile Designs
Toys
Vessel Hulls
Wallpaper
Websites
Wrapping Paper

HOW TO BEST PROTECT YOUR VISUAL ART:

1. Register Copyright with the U.S. Copyright office on each visual art work.  In some instances, registering a group of works as a collection is more affordable.  Registering each work separately and carefully providing a name that actually describes the content of the work, and giving solid contact information, goes a very long way in protecting copyright.  While copyright theoretically exists on any work that is creative and original and set into tangible form, the only way to make use of Copyright protections is to register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office.  Registration before the work is infringed or shortly after it is created is the only method that brings the possibility of statutory damages and attorney fees in case of an infringement lawsuit.  There is no substitute for Copyright registration. There is virtually no copyright protection on any work unless it is registered.

2. Put the Copyright sign onto the work.  That's the copyright symbol ©, followed by the first year of publication, followed by the name of the copyright owner. © 2018 Susan Basko   Having the copyright notice on your work gives notice and also removes any defense that the infringement was inadvertent.

3. Watermark the copyright symbol and name of the owner using a watermarking or tagging app, or by including it into the design itself.

4. License Information you provide must be crystal clear.  "The work must not be altered.  The artist's name must not be removed. No derivative works allowed without permission." Etc.

5. Periodically Check to see if your work is being infringed online, on social media, by online sellers, in stores, by art or photo licensing companies, by print-on-demand companies, elsewhere.

6. Send take down and removal notices. Learn how to do this.  The most potent way to tell someone to take down your art work is by providing the registered copyright information.  To be able to provide that, you need to first register copyright on the work.

7. Work closely with a lawyer who will help protect your copyrights.

Jason Lee Van Dyke Applies for "Proud Boys" Trademark

Specimen from Proud Boys Trademark Application
Jason Lee Van Dyke Applies for "Proud Boys" Trademark
by Susan Basko, esq.

BIG Update!  April 8, 2018.  Jason Lee Van Dyke has sent in changes he would like published -- so I am going to put them below each paragraph, labeled "From JLVD," and highlight those in a soft blue tint.  That way, you can compare what I wrote and what he is saying, which seem to be clarifications.

April 8, 2018.
  Jason Lee Van Dyke, a Texas lawyer who calls himself the Sgt. at Arms of the Proud Boys, is soon to get the registered trademark on the words "Proud Boys" under International Class 35, described on the application as "Association services, namely, organizing chapters of a fraternity and promoting the interests of the members thereof."  The application, filed August 9, 2017, was published for opposition on February 20, 2018. There is a 30 day opportunity to object.  The USPTO application page shows no oppositions, thus the mark is most likely going to be entered onto the principal register under the ownership of JLVD Holdings, LLC, of Crossroads, Texas.

From JLVD: This is false.  I am the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the Proud Boys.  There is no Sergeant-at-Arms for the fraternity as a whole.

The Proud Boys is basically a group of white men that might be called KKK-Lite.  The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has labeled the Proud Boys a hate group, and you can read about that in detail at this LINK.  The last few paragraphs of the long SPLC write-up covers Mr. Van Dyke.

From JLVD: This is false.  The Proud Boys is a multi-racial organization with two criteria for membership:  (1)  The person must be biologically male; and (2) The person must believe that the West is the Best.  By this, the “West” refers to western culture generally while recognizing the contributions of a multitude of races to the West.  In fact, our bylaws explicitly prohibit membership by persons associated with white nationalism, white supremacy, or the alt-right.  This would naturally include the KKK. 

Note: Mr. Van Dyke has also applied for a trademark on "West is the Best." As of this date, that trademark application is on its Final Notice of rejection, based on technicality involving the specimen.

Jason Lee Van Dyke is notorious for several years ago posting shocking racist tweets on Twitter.  The tweets use the word "nigger," and show a photo of a noose, and make death threats.  Mr. Van Dyke says he was responding to harassment.  The tweets will not be shown here to avoid repeating that hate, but they can be easily found on the internet if anyone has a need to see them.

From JLVD: This is accurate except that I was not responding to harassment.  I was responding to an individual that had posted my social security number, and those of both my elderly parents, on Twitter while encouraging other users to rob us.  I have said repeatedly that I regret by choice of words, but I absolutely do not regret threatening that individual and I would do it again using different words. 

Tom Retzlaff, a notable pro se litigant from Arizona and Texas, filed a bar complaint against Jason Lee Van Dyke.   The Texas State Bar dismissed the complaint, and Mr. Retzlaff appealed that decision.  The appeal result found that complaint showed violations of several ethical rules and the matter was sent back to the State Bar for findings.

From JLVD: This is false.  The bar initially dismissed the complaint as an inquiry, which means that the complaint failed on its face to allege professional misconduct.  Mr. Retzlaff appealed to the Board of Disciplinary Appeals which found that, when considering the complaint and nothing else, it alleged a violation of the rules on its face.  The only effect of this ruling was to return he complaint to the State Bar for investigation.  The investigation is ongoing and no findings have been made one way or the other.

Meanwhile, Mr. Van Dyke had been offered and accepted a position with the Victoria County, Texas, Criminal District Attorney's Office on March 1, 2018, and the offer was rescinded on March 21, 2018.   Jason Lee Van Dyke believed that Mr. Retzlaff was behind the rescission of the offer. Jason Lee Van Dyke then sued Tom Retzlaff for defamation, asking for $10 million.  Mr. Retzlaff then filed with the court a settlement offer, demanding $75,000 from Mr. Van Dyke to settle the lawsuit, or stating he would take much more in an anti-SLAPP motion.  

From JLVD: This is false.  Mr. Retzlaff admitted in his bar complaint, dated December 20, 2017, that he was the person responsible for the rescission of the job offer.  This is how I obtained the legal basis to sue him over the rescission of that offer.  On or around March 27, 2018, he was also responsible for my termination from a different company due to his own postings online about the company.  He is being sued for that as well.  I didn’t sue him for $10 million: I sued for $100 million.  Mr. Retzlaff’s settlement offer has been received, and it has been rejected. 

 An anti-SLAPP is a motion allowed in some states, including Texas, aimed to end a lawsuit quickly when it has been brought for the purpose of silencing speech on a public topic. SLAPP stands for "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation." An anti-SLAPP motion that is won requires the Court to award sanctions to the defendant/ motion plaintiff.  In that settlement offer, Mr. Retzlaff goes into a full-fledged rant about the inappropriateness of someone who belongs to the Proud Boys and who makes racist posts on Twitter thinking he can work for a District Attorney's Office.  If you have always wanted to read a court filing that includes the word "shithead," you might want to look this one up. I'd post it here, but I do not want to get too far off-track from the topic of this trademark application.

So, that is the lowdown on who JLVD and the Proud Boys are -- now back to this trademark application.  Below, you can see the category of the goods or service is International Class 35, described as "Association services, namely, organizing chapters of a fraternity and promoting the interests of the members thereof."

Okay, so Proud Boys is a fraternity.   


Proud Boys Trademark Application showing description of the service

Proud Boys Trademark application stating JLVD  Holdings as owner.

Jason Lee Van Dyke lists himself as the attorney of record as well as the correspondent on the file.


Proud Boys trademark application, showing Jason Lee Van Dyke as both the attorney and correspondent.

When applying for a trademark, one must include a "specimen," which is an example of the mark being used in commerce.  In this application, Mr. Van Dyke provided 3 specimens, shown below.



The first specimen is shown above.  It shows the words "Proud Boys," a clenched fist, and the word "Uhuru."  As far as I know, "Uhuru" means "Freedom" in an African language, and is a symbol of the African Nationalist movement.  Okay, whatever.
 This second specimen looks like a picture of a rooster wind vane.


This last specimen shows a t-shirt with the words "Proud Boys," with an American flag in the background.  By the way, this appears to be a "fake specimen," meaning a stock photo from a t-shirt printing company, not a photo of an actual real, existing t-shirt. However, since it is one of three specimens, its inauthenticity would probably not kill the application.

The big question is whether the USPTO will allow a group that is said to be a racist hate group to have a trademark on the name of the group.  There are two legal factors in this.  First, is that the Trademark Manual of Examining and Procedure, Section 1203.01, as well as Section 2(a) of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §1052(a), prohibits trademarks that are "scandalous or immoral." The second factor is that the goods or services themselves must be legal.  For example, marijuana is federally illegal, and so trademarks cannot be registered where the good, or product, is marijuana.  

The mark "Proud Boys" is not in itself "scandalous or immoral," for example, as a pornographic picture  or words would be.  But the connotations might be scandalous or immoral.  A 2005 application for a trademark on the "Southern White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan" was rejected by the trademark examiner on the Section 2a basis, as follows:

"Section 2(a) Refusal
Registration is refused because the proposed mark consists of or comprises immoral or scandalous matter.  Trademark Act Section 2(a), 15 U.S.C. §1052(a); TMEP §1203.01.  According to the attached evidence from the Internet, the proposed mark includes the wording KU KLUX KLAN and is thus scandalous because a majority of the public finds references to the KU KLUX KLAN offensive in light of their beliefs and historical behavior.

 To be considered “scandalous,” a mark must be “shocking to the sense of truth, decency or propriety; disgraceful; offensive; disreputable; … giving offense to the conscience or moral feelings; … [or] calling out for condemnation,” in the context of the marketplace as applied to goods or services described in the application.  In re Mavety Media Group Ltd., 33 F.3d 1367, 1371 , 31 USPQ2d 1923, 1925 (Fed. Cir. 1994); In re Wilcher Corp., 40 USPQ2d 1929, 1930 (TTAB 1996).  Scandalousness is determined from the standpoint of “not necessarily a majority, but a substantial composite of the general public, … and in the context of contemporary attitudes.  Id.

 A mark that is deemed scandalous under Section 2(a) is not registrable on either the Principal or Supplemental Register.  TMEP §1203.01."

However, since then, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case involving a rock group called the Slants that its name could be registered as a trademark, although the name was considered "disparaging" to Asian Americans.  However, that ruling was made under a different part of the Lanham Act, which forbids a trademark that brings disparagement upon any person, living or dead.  You can read about that case at this LINK, which includes the document of the ruling made the U.S. Supreme Court.  To me, it looks like this ruling does not affect the law that refuses trademarks that are scandalous or immoral.

"Proud Boys" does not have the history or notoriety of the Ku Klux Klan, so most likely the name itself would not be considered "scandalous or immoral."  A case could be made for that, however, based on information of the Southern Poverty Law Center site listings on both the Proud Boys and one of its subgroups called FOAK

Let's look at a few other groups that some might consider "scandalous," that have or are seeking to register trademarks on their names:

The OATH KEEPERS has a pending trademark application on these categories:

“Association services, namely, promoting the interests of current and formerly serving military, peace officers and first responders by advocating its members disobey any order that violates the Constitution of the United States; charitable services, namely, organizing volunteers to undertake charitable projects in the field of disaster response,” in class 35;

 “Training services in the field of disaster preparedness, civil defense operations and physical security,” in class 41.

The Southern Poverty Law Center also lists Oath Keepers as an extremist group, although the site gives no examples of any "hate" activities.  The Oath Keepers application was published for opposition on February 20, 2018, the same date as the publication on the Proud Boys application.

The BLACK PANTHER PARTY: Since 2012, the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, Inc. has had a registered trademark on "The Black Panther Party" in these categories:

Educational services, namely, organizing and conducting educational youth conferences; museum curator services, namely, exhibiting to the public historical archives; developing tutorial and mentorship programs, namely, training youth in black history, conflict resolution and reading and writing; producing documentary films.

Books in the field of history, politics, art, philosophy, psychology, science and social commentary; Calendars; Graphic art reproductions; Newsletters in the field of history, politics, philosophy, psychology, science and social commentary; Newspapers; Pamphlets in the field of history, politics, philosophy, psychology, science and social commentary; Paper bags; Photographs; Posters; Stationery.

NATION OF ISLAM: In 2010, Muhammad's Holy Temple of Islam on Stony Island Avenue in Chicago, Illinois, applied for a trademark on the words "Nation of Islam" as "religious instruction services."  The Trademark Examiner refused the application as being "merely descriptive," meaning the words "nation" is equivalent to "group of people" and "Islam" is a religion, so the trademark is merely describing the service being provided and does not have any secondary meaning.

However, the Trademark Examiner also found that the trademark "Nation of Islam" (NOI) had "acquired distinctiveness" over 5 years in continuous use, and offered that the trademark could be registered by the group if they responded within 6 months stating their acceptance and acknowledging that the trademark had been in use for 5 years.  The Attorney of Record never replied to the USPTO, and the application was considered Abandoned and Dead.   It seems odd to me that the trademark was not accepted by the NOI group on the basis of acquired distinctiveness. That Maryam Mosque on Stony Island Avenue is now considered the headquarters of the Nation of Islam and could rightly lay claim to the trademark.  The failure to respond within 6 months could have been an oversight or misunderstanding of trademark process.

The Southern Poverty Law Center considers Nation of Islam  an "extremist group." Despite the group's history associated with anti-White racism, the Trademark Examiner did not raise an objection of the trademark being "scandalous or immoral." 

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE PROUD BOYS TRADEMARK APPLICATION?  So far, it looks like it will be granted. The Trademark Examiner has not made a finding of the trademark being "scandalous or immoral," nor has there been an investigation as to whether the activities of the group are considered illegal.  

However, as they say, it's not over till the fat lady sings, so let's keep an eye out to see what happens.
This could happen.


Zaiger Motion for Attorney Fees Denied

Trolls, such as inhabit Encyclopedia Dramatica

Zaiger Motion for Attorney Fees Denied
by Susan Basko, esq.

Chief Judge Patti Saris has denied Brian Zaiger's Motion for Attorney Fees against Jonathan Monsarrat. Monsarrat sued Encyclopedia Dramatica and Brian Zaiger, as its owner, for copyright infringement.  That cause was dismissed as being time-barred by the statute of limitations for copyright claims.

In denying the motion, the Court stated that Monsarrat's claim was not frivolous or brought for unmerited reasons.  In addition, the Court stated that Zaiger was "unduly nasty." The order states that Zaiger's defense counsel "informed the Court that as soon as the litigation concluded, his client intended to re-post the photograph at issue."  That "defense counsel" would be either Mark Randazza or Jay Wolman, who is with Randazza Legal Group.  Jonathan Monsarrat's lawyer in this case is Richard Goren.  In addition, the Court stated that defense counsel filed, in open court records, the questionable photograph, before the Court was able to rule on Monsarrat's objections to the filing. 

The "photograph at issue" refers to a photograph posted on Encyclopedia Dramatica that was photoshopped to imply or state falsely that Monsarrat is a "pedophile."  Encyclopedia Dramatica is a website that routinely defames and stalks people.  Jonathan Monsarrat had struggled for years to get the website and its owners to remove the defamatory photo and article.  At one point, those items had been removed, and were replaced onto the site later.  From the sounds of things, Encyclopedia Dramatica and its owner thought they would be allowed to play that game ad infinitum.  Defense Counsel was even using the lawsuit court filings to play that same nasty game, as the Court has noted:

"Finally, the defense has been unduly nasty. See Lotus Dev.
Corp. v. Borland Int’l, Inc., 140 F.3d 70, 76 n.5 (1st Cir.
1998) (observing that “courts have exercised their discretion to
tailor fee awards in light of the behavior of the parties during
litigation”). For example, defense counsel informed the Court
that as soon as the litigation concluded, his client intended to
re-post the photograph at issue, see Dkt. No. 74 at 3-9, and
defense counsel filed in the public record the offensive and
allegedly defamatory “Jonmon” page before the Court could rule
on Plaintiff’s known objections, see Dkt. Nos. 45, 47-5, 56.
 Accordingly, Defendant’s motion (Dkt. No. 116) is DENIED."

This long-running lawsuit is not over yet! As stated in the Order, the Court has not yet ruled on Defendant's Counterclaim.  The lawsuit was filed March 2, 2017, making it over a year old, with 124 docket entries thus far.

The denial of this motion leaves Zaiger with a rumored $100,000 in legal fees.  All of that could have been avoided if Encyclopedia Dramatica were run in a responsible manner.  The site is a cesspool of hate and defamation and obscenity, dished up to harm reputations and cause distress on its victims. Basic respect for the reputations and rights of others, coupled with providing an easy contact method as well as registering a DMCA agent, and intelligent responses to takedown notices, would have avoided this situation.


Why School Walkouts are Elitist



Why School Walkouts are Elitist
by Susan Basko, esq.

I'm going to explain why national or regional School Walkouts are elitist. Please follow along. I have done legal work in this field.

 A school walkout means students walk out during school. This is tolerated differently in wealthy white schools than it is in schools where most students are poor, Hispanic, Black, and/ or immigrants.

 Wealthier white schools may use a walkout as a teaching moment. The principal or teachers might endorse or participate.

 Most Hispanic and Black schools have much stricter rules and policies. These usually cite "gang" activity as the reason for much stricter rules and increased punishments.

Schools within the exact same school district may (and often do) have different rules for schools that are predominantly Hispanic or Black. These rules are often hard to locate and may be disseminated only within the school, or not disseminated.

Walking out or advocating for a walkout in a Hispanic or Black school can result in expulsion or even arrest. Many such schools do not even allow for flyers to be passed in or near the school.

In addition, students from lower economic homes will have much harder times getting legal help. There is no financial or social incentive for the school to be lenient. There aren't usually lawyers in the students' family social circles.

Also, many Hispanic and Black students who walk out are, in fact, walking out into dangerous neighborhoods, where danger of being shot or beaten up exists on a daily basis.

Also, many Hispanic students may have immigration issues, or their parents may -- which makes any arrest or school trouble much riskier, especially now.

There are many other reasons - but basically, school walkouts are elitist and those who are from Hispanic or Black schools disproportionately face consequences.

In addition, even Saturday marches can be a burden on poorer students, who may not be able to afford transportation, may face danger in travel, and may be expected to work or care for siblings on weekends. It can help if buses or transportation can be provided.

If you want all students to have a fair chance to participate in a protest, don't hold it on a school day and don't run a walkout. Walkouts are elitist.


March for Our Lives to End School Shootings: How to Plan a Protest


March for Our Lives to End School Shootings:
How to Plan a Protest
by Susan Basko, esq.

Students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are holding a nationwide march against School Shootings on Saturday, March 24, 2018.

You can help fund the march by donating to this GoFundMe:
https://www.gofundme.com/8psm8-march-for-our-lives

You can read more about the plans, as they develop, here:
https://www.marchforourlives.com/

You can read FAQ here: https://www.marchforourlives.com/faq

HOW TO PLAN A MARCH - BASIC INFO:

1. Look around and see if a march is already planned for your city, town, suburb, or school. If so, you may wish to join those already planning. Or you may wish to start your own.

2. The DATE is Saturday March 24, 2018.

3. The TOPIC is to End School Shootings.

4. The theme color is ORANGE.  That is the nationwide color.  That means, anything orange helps - orange hats, orange shirts, orange jackets, orange signs, etc.

5. Pick a TIME and PLACE.

6. A Two hour time slot is what is usually allowed by most cities and also is the most successful at having a peaceful, legal protest that remains on topic.  The best time slot on a Saturday is usually a 2 hour time slot in the range between noon and 4 pm.  Such as noon - 2:00pm  or 1:00pm - 3:00pm or 2:00pm -4:00pm.  Personally, I think 2:00pm to 4:00pm is best. That way, people can start arriving any time after 1:00pm and if it goes a little over 4:00pm, it is no big deal.

7. PLACE: Most protests will probably be a RALLY followed by a MARCH.  If you hold the rally in a publicly-owned plaza, you should not need a permit, but you should check with your City or town to see if some other group has reserved the space for that time slot.  You'll need to call whoever it is that books the space.

A REAL GOOD PLAN FOR AN EASY PROTEST IS TO HAVE A RALLY IN A PUBLICLY-OWNED PLAZA for 45 minutes, and then go for a MARCH for an hour,  and then end out back at the same plaza.  That way, people can easily find where they locked their bikes, or find the public transportation that they arrived on, or find where they parked their car.

If you are not getting a permit, in most places, you CANNOT DO these things:
1. Build a stage or platform, hang any banners, set up any tents, or serve food.
2. Set up a sound system (except maybe a very small one)
3. Block the streets.

If you are not getting a permit, in most places, you CAN DO these things:
1. Gather round and a speaker or announcer can stand on an existing staircase, bench, etc.
2. You can use a bullhorn or small sound system that can be carried by one person.
3. You can have signs, drums, balloons.
4. Invite people to speak.
5. Invite people to play music or drums.
6. MARCH.  If your group will fit on the sidewalks, they should go on the sidewalks. If your group is large and needs to be in the street, the police are supposed to facilitate it so you can march in the street or in part of the street.

IT IS NEVER LEGAL TO DO ANY OF THESE THINGS at any PROTEST:
1. Put stickers on any surface.
2. Spray paint on anything.
3. Start anything on fire.
4. Surround any vehicle.  Tip or rock any vehicle.  Harass occupants of any vehicle.
5. Bring any weapons or fireworks.
6. Throw anything.
7. Break any glass.
8. Break anything.
9. Hit or harm any person in any way.
10. Threaten any person or harass any person.

8.  PUBLICIZE. ONCE YOU HAVE YOUR TIME AND PLACE, then PUBLICIZE that using Facebook, Twitter, emails, word of mouth, press releases, etc.

INVITE live streamers, citizen journalists, independent media, mainstream media.  

9. PLAN YOUR PROTEST.
Invite speakers. Invite Music. Get people to make signs (hold a sign-making party?)
The nationwide theme color is ORANGE.

A Good Two Hour Agenda might look like this:

1:30pm - 2:00:   People arrive.  Music Playing. People setting things up,
2:00 - 2:45:  Rally with speakers, each with a time slot that you keep to tightly. Ideally, a featured speaker might be given 6 or 7 minutes, and others might get 4 or 5 minutes. Less is more.
2:45  - 3:45: March - and end back at rally location. When planning a route, go out and walk it in advance to see how long it takes.
3:45 - 4:00: Clean up.

HELPFUL HINTS:
1. Get people to bring bottles of water.  You can place boxes of bottles of water on the ground or on a bench, so people can find it and take a bottle.  Having water available will prevent people from getting dehydrated and sick.
2. Bring a whole box of garbage bags and CLEAN UP the space afterwards.  Leave the space better than you found it.  Get the garbage bags into a trash bin if possible, or take them home with you.  If you leave trash bags on location, they will likely be ripped open and the contents scattered.
3. Ask people to please not bring flyers, since these end out all over the ground.  If someone brings flyers, tell them to be sure to pick up all the flyers at the rally and along the march route. Hand them a trash bag for this purpose.
4. Plan for bathrooms.  For this march, people will probably not be renting portapotties -- but if they can, that is good.  Find out what bathrooms might be nearby or along the route.
5. Public Transportation, Parking, Bike Racks.  Gather all this information and let people know.
6. Handicapped. Try to plan your location and route so that handicapped people will be able to participate.  That means finding what public transportation is nearby and accessible, planning a route that has safe street crossings and ramps, which nearby places have a handicapped-accessible bathroom, pacing your march so handicapped people can keep up, and possibly assigning helpers to those who are handicapped, if they want a helper(s).
7. ALWAYS clean up afterwards!  Leave your rally plaza and march route better and cleaner than you found it!
8. LEGAL: Have phone numbers for lawyers or legal organizations in case things happen and anyone gets arrested.
9. MEDIA. INVITE live streamers, citizen journalists, independent media, mainstream media.  Make videos and post them online!  Take lots of pictures!  Live Tweet your march.
NOTE: IF YOU LIVE STREAM, TWEET, TAKE PICTURES, ETC., THEN YOU ARE EXPANDING YOUR MARCH PARTICIPATION TO FAR MANY MORE PEOPLE WHO WERE NOT ABLE TO BE THERE IN PERSON.  

SEE THESE OTHER POSTS FOR EXTRA INFORMATION:
How to Run a Protest: Basics
Quick Protest Planning: 10 Easy Steps
Questions about Protests
Agents Provocateurs
Hijacking a Protest: How to Prevent It