Piracy, IMAGiNE, and UTN ....the end

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cherwonk

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Well we made the 10 hour drive to Norfolk, got a room and a 12 pack. All things said I figure each trip cost me close to $800 each, between gas, food, rooms and lost work, these were expensive trips.

I showed early for court, too bad my lawyer wasn’t so inclined. The guy looked as if he slept in his suit. In the court room I final got to put faces to the names of Stash, Hoad, and EZ. We had never met in person. I was shocked to see that Stash and Hoad were as old as I was. I was also surprised when Hoad and EZ both plead out that very day, unbelievable. Well I plead NOT GUILTY, need to see what they have for evidence. After court I have to go to the Norfolk Probation office and check in and of course donate some urine. A few hours later I meet with my Lawyer, he suggests I plead Guilty. Seems they have cooperation from one of the Admins from UTN. As it would turn out the only person from torrenting I have ever met.

I am offered a deal, of the 6 charges they have brought against me, they’ll drop 5 of them if I plead out to the Conspiracy charge. The other 5 have to do with uploading and downloading, all they have is an IP address. We all know that in the US a IP is not a person. Those charges will not hold water in a court of law. Conspiracy on the other hand, let’s just say the odds against me there. Still I couldn’t plead to this, it was a Felony, definitely prison time. In the agreement the final line was “he received and expected to receive “private financial gain” from the offense as defined in the copyright statue §2B5.3”. I had never taken one penny from the site or any staff or member of any site. I told my Lawyer it wasn’t happening, we drove home.

A week later I had my evidence DVD in hand. This had all the evidence the Federal government had against all of us. It had Pay Pal accounts and who had access to them it had Skype conversations, it had pictures and dates and times and other people bank accounts and social security numbers and lots of other stuff. Of all the stuff there, my folder…. had squat. They had my Pay Pal account showing that I had donated monies to UTN and 2 other sites. They Skype conversations between my minor son and his minor friends. They has text messages from one of my daughters to one of her friends. My question is why? Why have this crap in my folder? Was it to show me what they were capable of obtaining? None of it was incriminating.

But still they pushed for the Conspiracy, they pushed hard for it. I tried to get the wording of “financial gain” removed from the indictment. Of course they couldn’t do this, no gain, no felony. I asked my local Lawyer some questions, he was hesitant to answer. But in the end I found out you can’t beat Conspiracy.

My attorney in Norfolk was worthless, I couldn’t get him to look at the evidence. I couldn’t get him to stand up to these people. I sort of expected more from him, what was I thinking? He was being paid by the courts. We were in Norfolk for a reason, all the heavy hitter cases are in the Eastern District of Virginia. The government has the Judges, the Prosecutors, the Public Defenders it wants all in place there. It’s a rigged system.

After numerous phone calls and emails I finally caved. No matter what anyone tells you, the odds of beating Conspiracy are 1 in 100. They might even be less than that. I did manage to get the indictment reworded though

“he committed the offense for purposes of “private financial gain” under § 2B5.3(b)(4) and 17 U.S.C. § 1011 in the form of his receipt of thousands of pirated copies of copyrighted works, which he obtained without paying for such items.”

With this ruling the US Courts opened the door for the potential of thousands of Felony cases against downloaders. If financial gain is pirated movies, we are in deep shit.

With my plea comes another trip to Norfolk, this is my 3rd one in as many months. I find out that I’m there the same day that BDK is there. Yeah he’s the Admin that turned against us. Here’s a guy that if I’m not mistaken got caught camming and blew us in. One of the 2 people on UTN that made money from the endeavor. He made financial gain and only got 23 months. Damn good thing I didn’t see him that day. After my plea I had to meet with the prosecutors, they wanted my cooperation. Questions upon questions that I, as the coder of the site couldn’t answer. I never met anyone, other than BDK. I didn’t have a photographic memory, so the ip’s and locations they wanted were a “I don’t know”. Supposedly they had our databases, I asked why if they had them are they bothering asking me these questions. After that they asked a strange question, one that didn’t really hit me till I got some info when I got out. They asked about INK, DIGITALINK. I had nothing there, other than he was banned from the site. That was the end of it, I left and met my wife and son, we drove home.

On November 29th 2012, I drove to Norfolk for the last time. Armed with letters from my employer and the Robotics Team I mentored, letters I forwarded to my Lawyer, I showed up for sentencing. Of course my Lawyer never gave the Judge any of my letters. I wasn’t surprised, he was as worthless as tits on a bull. Yes I did let know this after my sentencing, hopefully everyone in the Federal Building heard bitch him out. As you all know I received 40 months in a Federal Prison. That and I had to repay $15,000 to the MPAA, it’s a hell of a lot better than the original $450,000 they wanted. With good time I have to serve 34 months, 30 of it inside, 4 months home detention.

My feelings about this? What can I say? I got screwed, bigtime. There was no profit, no monetary gain, surely there wasn’t thousands of dvds. I was decent person, I gave back to the community, I volunteered my time, gave my money to those I could help. I am a father of 3 great kids. I’ve been married for 27 years to a fantastic wife, one that has stood by me and still stands with me. I knew that our lawmakers and the people in my government were crooked. I just didn’t realize how bad it was. These people will take all the money they can, they will do this and pass laws for the people that give it. Chris Dodd and the MPAA give millions to our Senators and Representatives. He gives millions to the Dept. of Justice and Homeland Security, something is definitely wrong with that picture. It’s as if the MPAA is paying to have the laws it bought enforced and prosecuted.
 

monkies8it

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My deepest empathy and well-wishes go with you. Thank you for sharing this with us, and for all you have shared in the past as well. I find this all completely appalling. It is clear that copyright law has become completely subverted to protect producers, manufacturers and distributors NOT artists or creators. Just one more example of the US becoming more and more twisted and capitalistic to the detriment of citizens and to the benefit of corporations. Sickening.
 

othersna

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Again sorry to see you go through this. Yes, the Federal criminal justice system is indeed rigged against the defendant's favor. I've heard stories that Federal public defenders are lazy and will push a client to plead out so it's less work for them and your story confirms this (again). It is a bummer when one defendant who may have done a worse crime turns on a fellow defendant, and then gets off easier. (All part of the same system.)
 

MorTal

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Dam bro Glad you got out and so sorry you had to go though all that with your family. This will show the world that the LAWS in the USA are how much money can you get in your pocket.. RIP to UTN one of the great groups of all time.
 
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oklahomaboy

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Thanks for sharing all of that. Man what a journey.
Compared to what you've gone through, my torrenting-life experiences have been a breeze.
Hope you and the family are coping well with it.
 
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Dwarsligger

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It seems your lawyer was quite useless to you indeed. I know our justice system can't be compared to yours but here in many cases the one with the best (read as most expensive) lawyers has the best shot of winning his case, no matter what that is. Do you have the feeling you could have done alot better even than you did with a decent defense by your side?
 

cambo

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Can't even imagine the pain you and the family been through during that time, hope things are on the improve.
Take care
Cambo
 

cherwonk

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It seems your lawyer was quite useless to you indeed. I know our justice system can't be compared to yours but here in many cases the one with the best (read as most expensive) lawyers has the best shot of winning his case, no matter what that is. Do you have the feeling you could have done alot better even than you did with a decent defense by your side?
With a good lawyer I think I would've side stepped the prison sentence for sure, the case they had was sketchy at best. But with the representation I had there is no way I could risk 30years going to trial.
As for my life now... its as if I never went to prison. Same home, same wife, same job.... the only real difference is me. I've lost 100 lbs and I've lost something else, mentally... not sure how to explain it. Hopefully its something that wont be important.
Thanks for listening and understanding, I hope to contribute to this site and its members for a long time to come.
 

othersna

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I think I might have talked about this before. One of my son's friend's dad is a Federal criminal defense lawyer and we were at a party and were chatting, so I just asked him what it's like doing that kind of work. He says the US Attorney's office doesn't like to lose cases. So initially, they will choose cases to prosecute where they think they have a good chance of winning. Then they pile on the charges to make it look like the defendant can go to prison for a long, long time unless he settles and will pressure the defense lawyers to settle. They have huge resources to spend on basically harassing the defendant and his lawyer until he gives up.

He said when he defends a case, his best chance is when he can convince the Feds that they will lose in court. Since they don't want to lose cases, it is embarrassing if they go to court and lose, so sometimes they back off for that reason.

I also note there have been defendants with huge resources (Martha Stewart, Michael Milken) who lost or settled Federal cases. (John Gotti won some, but ultimately lost in the end.) The only guy I can think of who won big recently was Mark Cuban, for a Federal Civil (non-criminal) case. Cuban also said the Feds were just overzealous in trying to nail him but he wouldn't back down.
 

monkies8it

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Yeah that's not just the Feds, that's all prosecutors. All the way down to County. Pile it on until you plead to something so they can chalk up a conviction and move the case through court. Of course, knowing that judges are essentially lazy can work to your advantage as well, but again that requires an attorney who is good enough to convince them that prosecuting would be more work than it's worth.
 
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glurk

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The real problem is the lack of accountability, THEY have nothing to fear or lose.
 

petergriffin

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I was never a part of UTN, but needless to say, was a good read. UTN was a pirate stronghold for good media, thanks to everyone. Lets all huddle up and say this "One for All and All for One" :)

@cherwonk -> glad ur keeping up and wishing u all the very best, long live piracy.
 
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Dwarsligger

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That and I had to repay $15,000 to the MPAA, it’s a hell of a lot better than the original $450,000 they wanted. With good time I have to serve 34 months, 30 of it inside, 4 months home detention.
Lets all huddle up and say this "One for All and All for One"
I think in his case it was just "One for All", I doubt anyone helped him out financially...
 

cherwonk

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I think in his case it was just "One for All", I doubt anyone helped him out financially...
That you are correct on, Sean Lovelady has $7,500 to repay. For some strange reason Willie Lambert decided not to take the offer and is stuck with $449,514 to repay.
I'm stuck with $100/month till its repaid... but the thing is after you've finished your "Supervised Release" its up to the MPAA to collect the monies owed.
 
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BlastGT1

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Cherwonk, my old friend! Wow, I just read your series of posts, and I had no idea this happened to you. I am truly sorry that you went through the grinder of that farcical theater known as our justice system. This is why I was so paranoid for a long time, to the point of refusing to reveal even my geographic location to anyone, although that wouldn't have mattered if I had been targeted, as your story quite clearly points out. It's simply unbelievable how corporations are allowed to lobby and dictate law to the point where downloading movies and music are essentially as criminal as murder. I know from the occasional talks I had with you (back in the day) that you're a good guy, and it's incredibly wrong that you were treated this way. Nevertheless, you're not rotting in jail, caged like an animal, so for that I am thankful.

It's been way too long since you and I have talked, and I'm thrilled to see you again, old man! Ping me in IRC sometime or shoot me a message here, we should catch up.
 

ZBoy

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Thank you for sharing you story! I am interested in one point in particular. How did they get you? In you letter from prison you state the site UTN was the point of fail. But how exactly? Additionally: Did they taped you phone? Did they read your emails? Did you use PGP? Did they taped your Skype calls? Extra Questoin: Where did you release before UTN?

I guess you could do a popular AMA on reddit.
 
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cherwonk

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Thank you for sharing you story! I am interested in one point in particular. How did they get you? In you letter from prison you state the site UTN was the point of fail. But how exactly? Additionally: Did they taped you phone? Did they read your emails? Did you use PGP? Did they taped your Skype calls? Extra Questoin: Where did you release before UTN?

I guess you could do a popular AMA on reddit.
Lots of questions......
They had been looking for a long time, most of time we had our tracks covered. Renting servers from people who rented them from resellers who got them from server farms. Thats how the XtremeSpeeds Admin got busted, we rented from him. But in the end unless you've got a site with just group members on it you risk getting busted. Sites need staff, staff is usually someone not associated with the group. That opens things up for moles. But what got us was one of our members getting popped while filming. After that all it took was to monitor his connection and they were in our site, in the darkest corners of it. We had chat rooms for staff, encoders, and for the 7 members of IMAGiNE. They had screens of that room, there was only one way that could happen.
I saw no evidence of a phone tap in the "Discovery DvD" I was given(supposedly has all the evidence they had), But it did have Skype conversations of my minor son talking with his minor friends about Steam Games they were playing. <---this pissed me off.
I didnt use Skype, although some of our members did. One in particular wondered why they immediately went up to his attic to retrieve his USB HD with his Win 7 OS on it. Its what he used to axx the site, what he used to do his torrenting. They heard him tell another member were he hid it.
LoL before UTN sorry, cant tell you that. This site is still running, if you dont know I cant say....
hope this shows you that once you are found, they can see hear and watch everything you do. Best to stay out of the radar scope. We knew things were real hot, we were in the process of changing names from IMAGiNE to... another. IMAGiNE would have ceased to exist in another 2 or 3 weeks. But it was too late already they had us.
 
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Dwarsligger

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You did your time for the things you've done, and many people (like myself) only have respect for the work you and other group members (from any group) do or did. After all we as pirates, or the just sharing ones, grab your stuff without much risk tbh...
But I have 2 questions for you: Knowing what you know now, would you still have done it? And now when rejoining forums and maybe trackers, do you also meet people from before avoiding you, or newer people doubting you?
 

cherwonk

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You did your time for the things you've done, and many people (like myself) only have respect for the work you and other group members (from any group) do or did. After all we as pirates, or the just sharing ones, grab your stuff without much risk tbh...
But I have 2 questions for you: Knowing what you know now, would you still have done it? And now when rejoining forums and maybe trackers, do you also meet people from before avoiding you, or newer people doubting you?
I just answered one of these on Torrentfreak... for myself if I had it to do over... I'd do it again, knowing what I know now, I would do it differently. No site only original members allowed to the chat server, only 2 members allowed to speak with suppliers. Would I do it again, as in now. Not on your life, I dont even download anymore. I can help more with advice on staying safe and friendly conversation.
People avoiding me, LoL
Just the opposite, I get the god stuff and :bowdown:alot in the few places I do go. Hey I did things, we gave and we gave and then some of us gave more. We arent anything special, we just wanted to give back to a movement that we took from for so many years. Dont quote me, but I'm sure I could get into just about any site I wanted to. All I'd have to do is ask. I did my time, all of it. I didnt get out early or get my sentence cut..... or get tried separately from the rest of the members. I went I plead I did the time and now its done. All I want is to help those that want it and given just a bit of respect, of which I get more than I could IMAGiNE.
 

mrtoke09

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You did your time for the things you've done, and many people (like myself) only have respect for the work you and other group members (from any group) do or did. After all we as pirates, or the just sharing ones, grab your stuff without much risk tbh...
But I have 2 questions for you: Knowing what you know now, would you still have done it? And now when rejoining forums and maybe trackers, do you also meet people from before avoiding you, or newer people doubting you?
all i have seen is people giving him love including myself :)

I just answered one of these on Torrentfreak... for myself if I had it to do over... I'd do it again, knowing what I know now, I would do it differently. No site only original members allowed to the chat server, only 2 members allowed to speak with suppliers. Would I do it again, as in now. Not on your life, I dont even download anymore. I can help more with advice on staying safe and friendly conversation.
People avoiding me, LoL
Just the opposite, I get the god stuff and :bowdown:alot in the few places I do go. Hey I did things, we gave and we gave and then some of us gave more. We arent anything special, we just wanted to give back to a movement that we took from for so many years. Dont quote me, but I'm sure I could get into just about any site I wanted to. All I'd have to do is ask. I did my time, all of it. I didnt get out early or get my sentence cut..... or get tried separately from the rest of the members. I went I plead I did the time and now its done. All I want is to help those that want it and given just a bit of respect, of which I get more than I could IMAGiNE.
ofc you guna get :bow: bro we never forgot any of you guys wot you fellas done was is very much appreciated ;) :p
 
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