Extorting settlements from illegal downloaders of Internet pornography may not be a long lasting career, but it could prepare practitioners for any number of other exciting and remunerative opportunities, such as doing opposition research for the Democratic National Committee, gathering “intelligence” for the National Security Agency, or reviewing applications for tax-exempt status from conservative nonprofits for the Internal Revenue Service.


What Prenda attorneys Paul Duffy, Paul Hansmeier, and John Steele will do next -- assuming they remain at large -- is anyone’s guess, but they might fit right in at the nation’s capitol making friends (and intimidating enemies).


Our preference would be to see the guilty individuals disbarred and incarcerated so that they can’t devise new scams. In the current era of professional lawlessness, however, they’re more likely to wind up in D.C. – especially if the trawler-full of dirty-minded downloaders caught in Internet traps happened to include some prominent legislators or jurists.


In the last few years, the wet-dream team from Prenda has filed hundreds of complaints accusing tens of thousands of sex-seeking websurfers of illegally downloading porn from the Internet sites of its clients (which included shell corporations created by the attorneys themselves).


The three Prenda pretend-prudes were always willing to drop the suits and keep the identities of smut-loving defendants confidential for a fee. Last May, however, the predatory money-making scheme began to unravel.


That’s when U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II in California sanctioned Prenda Law, Duffy, Hansmeier, Steele, an associate, and two Prenda “clients.” He also referred the not-so-smooth operators to the criminal investigation unit of the IRS, at least one U.S. Attorney’s office, and the state and federal bars where they are admitted to practice.


Since then, several other judges have sanctioned Prenda and its unprincipled principals.


This scam now may be in need of some creative criminal defense lawyering.

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