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Another shoe drops for Hansmeier

How many feet does this guy have, anyway?

In case you missed it, the future looks increasingly bleak for Minnesota’s most notorious IP lawyer, Paul Hansmeier. Hansmeier, you may recall, spent much of last year embroiled in a contentious bankruptcy before getting his law license indefinitely suspended by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

In December, Hansmeier was arrested for a brazen shakedown scheme in which he and his co-conspirators are accused of bringing hundreds of bogus copyright infringement suits against internet users for downloading pornographic movies. In some cases, the government says, Hansmeier et al. actually produced short porn movies, which they then uploaded to file-sharing sites as bait.

It is never a good sign when the feds slap you with a 17-count indictment, but it is virtually always a terrible sign when your co-defendant cuts a deal.

That happened in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis on Monday when John Steele, Hansmier’s former law partner and fellow U of M Law School alum, entered no-contest pleas to two felony charges in connection with the “porno trolling” scheme — conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Under the terms of the 16-page plea agreement, the Pennsylvania resident faces a likely sentence of eight to 10 years, although that could be trimmed based on his future cooperation.

Ken White, a former federal prosecutor who has chronicled the unseemly saga on the law blog, Popehat, opines that the deal puts more heat on Hansmeier.

“He’s, at best, second in the door, and can’t hope to get much credit for cooperation unless he starts giving up third parties,” White writes. “The wheels grind slowly, my friends, but they do grind.”

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