I was indicted on two counts of criminal copyright infringement in January of 2019. Honestly, I was quite excited. I can fight for something I believe in which is Real Copyright Reform, possibly go to jail for a short time but continue to fight. To me it was just a way to discuss the very real problem of “Orphan Works”.
However, the night before there were signs of a real problem. The prosecutor at that time, James Moore had filed a motion of detention because he wanted to convince the magistrate Judge that I was a Danger to Society.
I was ready to go to Jail, demand a speedy trial and go on with the fight. My Lawyer talked me out of it. “Doug, this could take years, it’s a complicated case. You don’t want to go to county Jail”
So I was released on bail....and I waited…. And waited….And waited....
Aside from several more failed attempts by Mr. Moore to have me detained nothing much happened until the Mail Fraud charges were stacked on. My Lawyer said, “This gives them some juice. Jim really wants you in Prison.”
Why did Mr. Moore want me in prison so bad? This wasn’t a violent crime and I believed they would have a hard time finding damages. Conjecture Time: The Government was running out of time. The statute of limitations on the Walmart Theft Ring was up in October, 2019.
So the Trial was set for October. I said to my lawyer, “I thought it was a complicated case. Find a way to extend it.”
His answer: “The date’s pretty solid. The Government wanted to have it earlier…”
I’m sure they did.
Heidi had actually pleaded guilty to mail fraud in April of 2019. The Government kept it sealed until just before the trial. I have ideas on why they did that, too. But let’s keep going with this factual thread first.
I have zero animosity or hard feelings about Heidi pleading guilty. Just the opposite, as I have said before, my only regret was getting her involved in this mess. I love Heidi and I always will.
After her guilty plea was revealed, I met with my lawyer. The conversion went a bit like this:
MY LAWYER: “In an unusual move, the government has offered to let Heidi go if you plead guilty to the 3 charges.”
ME: “Then I’m pleading guilty.”
Slight pause. Thoughts of the Walmart Theft Ring peek through the clouds of my anxiety.
ME: “...But, what happens if the government doesn’t get the information they are looking for out of me? What guarantee would I have that they would not just charge Heidi with something else?
MY LAWYER: “No 100% guarantee, but the offer is coming from the government.”
ME: “Can I talk to Heidi first?”
MY LAWYER: “No.”
ME: “Can you talk to Heidi?”
MY LAWYER: “No.”
ME: “Can you talk to her lawyer and ask him if she wants me to plead guilty?”
My lawyer pulled out his phone.
MY LAWYER: “Let’s find out.”
I sat there while the two lawyers had a very brief legalese conversation. My lawyer hung up his phone.
MY LAWYER: “That answers that. No.”
ME: “Um, she doesn’t want me to plead guilty or…”
MY LAWYER: “He won’t ask her the question.”
As part of my bail restrictions I could not have contact direct or indirect with Heidi or the other 50 people named as witnesses in my case. At first I was very upset with Heidi’s lawyer… this was a potential chance to get his client free of the charges. No felony record for her at all. After several days of deep consideration, I decided to go to trial.
Months later, Conjecture time again: What if Heidi’s lawyer didn’t even know about the Government's offer to set her free if I pleaded guilty? Did I screw this up even worse?
I may never know and I still struggle with the decision to this day.
There was no doubt in my mind, the Government threatened to prosecute members of Heidi’s family to get her to plead guilty. I know this for fact because I saw the letter from Prosecutor James Moore sent to Heidi. It was very similar to this one he sent my lawyer:
The only difference between the two letters, was that Jim named Heidi's family members by name of who would be charged with conspiracy.
We are nearing the end of “Copywronged” but I’m trying to keep each blog entry a certain length. So next time more last minute tricks by the Government and more behind-the-scenes of the Walmart Theft Ring.
Yay! How exciting! Join us!