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In SDNY Film Marketer Fending Off Restitution Fires One Lawyer and Brings Back Second From Elevator

By Matthew Russell Lee, Video

SDNY COURTHOUSE, February 14 – In the 26th floor courtroom of Judge Kimba M. Wood in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Valentine's Day a man fired his lawyer then asked for the services of a free Criminal Justice Act attorney - who had just left the courtroom, and the 26th floor as a whole, down in the elevator.   

The man firing his lawyer stated his name as Steven James Brown. He was charged with "advanced fee" fraud of misrepresentations in marketing movie rights. Beyond a 63 month prison sentence imposed by Judge Wood he and a co-defendant are faced with paying restitution under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act.

During the February 14 proceeding reference was made to a film that did, in fact, make money ("Angels Sing") and to another for which Nicholas Cage got paid, "Left Behind." A house in Calabasas, California was sold but the transactions costs, the government argued, should not be off-set from the restitution due.   

Perhaps due to all this pay back, Mr. Brown stopped paying his lawyer Walter Mack, who was also in court on February 14. Brown told Judge Wood he hopes to hire another lawyer in a week's time. Judge Wood asked him, How will you pay for it?   

I have colleagues who will pay, Brown said.

Hearing that, Judge Wood told the CJA lawyer Zachary Taylor, who had been sitting in the front row, that he could go. He headed to the back, where one lone reporter - this one - was covering the proceeding, and then out to the elevators.   

Judge Wood asked Walter Mack to be sworn in and testify about the end of his representation of Steven Brown, in lieu of an affidavit. Suddenly Brown asked if he could have a lawyer, the free one who just left, for this part of the proceeding.   

Yes, Judge Wood said, bring him back in. But Zackary Taylor was gone. The Assistant U.S. Attorney suggested him might be down on the fifth floor of the Danial Patrick Moynahan courthouse, and sent a colleague down to bring him back.    

Soon Taylor and Brown were conferring, in the front row, as Walter Mack explained how he was brought into the case by a person he had prosecuted, when he was with the government. And so it goes in the SDNY, up the down staircase, a surprise a minute in any courtroom. This one is 16 Cr. 436. Watch this site.

When two wedding gift registry copies began duking it out in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on February 13, Judge Katherine Polk Failla asked an attorney she had admitted pro hace vice if she would be speaking, at least at the next conference. "A girl can dream," Judge Failla said, saying she was referring to herself. And in fact the younger lawyer did speak, explaining that Zola's logo had been taken by Prezola in the UK. The latter had started a trademark action which was stayed in favor of the Federal case before Judge Failla. The two side wanted a long period of discovery, into September, explaining that it would be hard to depose people over the summer. Judge Failla pushed back, noting that if that argument started being accepted in February, no work at all would get done. She offered the mediation services of Magistrate Judge Aaron, and set a preliminary next date for September 18. The commercial can was kicked down the road. The case is 1:18-cv-10213-KPF Zola, Inc. v. Prezola Ltd. This too is Federal court. Back on February 11 a dispute about coffee mugs erupted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York before Judge Gregory Woods who is also handling the criminal leaking of Treasury Department reports, see below. Vermont potters Zcups LLC, represented in Judge Woods' courtroom by a young couple and their two sons, accuse Home Essentials and Beyond of selling knock off coffee cups with teh same slogans on this, "A Cup of Hope," in violation of trademark and trade dress. But Home Essential's lawyer questioned why their cups didn't have the "TM" or "R" symbol on them, and said that in any event Home Essential was no longer selling these mugs. Judge Woods encouraged settlement, saying that litigation is expensive in light of the total volume of 6000 mugs mis-sold, allegedly. It was agreed the parties would exchange sales information under a confidentiality order, and try to dispense with this cup of bitterness. The case is 1:18-cv-09196-GHW Zpots LLC v. Home Essentials & Beyond, Inc. and, yes, there were not other journalists there but for Inner City Press. A Cup of Exclusives. Also before Judge Woods on January 30 the U.S. Treasury employee accused in October of leaking Suspicious Activity Reports about Paul Manafort and others, Natalie Edwards, pleaded not guilty.

Afterward on Worth Street, Inner City Press asked her lawer Jacob Kaplan of Brafman & Associates about a statement made during the proceeding, that another person's device was also search. Kaplan acknowledged that had been said, adding that he didn't know who it was. Video here, Vine here.  Discovery will begin once a protective order has been negotiated. The next court date is April 2 at 4 pm. Watch this site.


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