A guitar player suing Google and YouTube for removing a music video from the video-streaming website has filed a court motion demanding the dismissal of a Google lawyer from the case for allegedly calling him a “scumbag” in the San Francisco federal courthouse.
The alleged conflict started in a hallway on the 15th floor of the courthouse on Dec. 16, according to the motion filed by lawyers for Stephen Sieber, 60, and first reported by legal website Law360.
Google lawyer David Kramer “characterized Mr. Sieber on multiple occasions as a ‘scumbag,’ which then led to an extended and heated confrontation between the two of them,” said the motion, which demanded Kramer be removed from the case and slapped with an unspecified financial penalty.
“Google’s method of litigating is intimidation,” Sieber said in an interview Thursday. “They’re bullies.”
Sieber’s stage name in the music group The Rasta Rock Opera is “Stevie Marco.”
A spokesman for Kramer’s law firm, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, called Sieber’s motion for removal of Kramer “baseless.”
“The allegations are wrong,” said lawyer Leo Cunningham. “We’ll be filing our response in court soon, and until then we’re not in a position to elaborate.”
Sieber’s motion alleged Kramer had broken courthouse-conduct rules and a California criminal law that bans public speech likely to provoke immediate violence.
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Kramer, who had not met Sieber in person, was walking past Sieber and other lawyers before a hearing in the case, Sieber said in an interview. A lawyer offered to introduce Kramer to the others, Sieber said.
“He said, ‘I’m not shaking hands with anyone, because that guy’s a scumbag’ — looking at me,” Sieber said. “I said, ‘You just called me a scumbag in a federal court. You can’t do that.’ He just kept walking. Then he turned to me and he says, ‘I called you a scumbag because you are a scumbag.’”
After the incident, Sieber’s motion alleged, the two men were a few feet apart and “on the verge of physical combat.” .
Sieber said Kramer then began saying, “Who is this guy?” as if he didn’t recognize Sieber, who was central to the rock video that was pulled from Google’s YouTube for purportedly violating the company’s terms of service.
“I said … ‘You know exactly who I am. I’m the rock star. I’m the star of the show. I’m the featured performer in the video,’” Sieber said. “He kept saying, ‘Who is this guy?’ like, mocking me, wanting me to punch him or something. I almost did.”
Sieber said he believes courthouse video and audio would show Kramer to have been in the wrong.
On Wednesday, a judge ruled that Sieber’s motion would be addressed only by pleadings from both sides.
Sieber said it was “outrageous” that the judge would not be conducting an investigation, including review of courthouse video and audio.
“It appears it’s being swept under the table by the financial power of Google,” Sieber said. “To quote Donald Trump, the system is rigged.”
Sieber said Thursday he plans to file a criminal complaint against Kramer over the lawyer’s “fighting words.”
Earlier in the case, Sieber had a conflict with his former attorney. Sieber had been represented by Virginia lawyer John Kiyonaga, who on Tuesday sued Sieber in Washington, D.C. Superior Court.
Kiyonaga alleged that Sieber led him to believe the case against Google “was worth millions of dollars and would produce a sizable attorney’s fee,” according to Kiyonaga’s lawsuit. “Sieber told Kiyonaga that Google had twice offered to settle the case, having previously made an offer of $4 million to settle, and having most recently made an offer of $14 million to settle.”
Relying on Sieber’s assertions, Kiyonaga agreed to represent him and worked more than 130 hours on the case. But in a later discussion with another lawyer of Sieber’s, Kiyonaga learned that “Google had never made any offers to settle,” according to the lawsuit. “When Kiyonaga confronted (Sieber) regarding his prior representation, (Sieber) admitted that he had lied, and that no such settlement offers had been made.”
Kiyonaga and Sieber came to an oral agreement about compensation for the work the lawyer had done, but Sieber subsequently refused to sign an agreement, the lawsuit said.
Sieber in an interview called Kiyonaga’s claim “a bald-faced lie” and said he’d never told the lawyer Google had offered to settle.
Sieber has a history of court action, including a dismissed libel case against the Washington Post over the paper’s coverage of a dispute Sieber had with contractor-reviews website Angie’s List about a review of his construction business. In related proceedings dealing with a bankruptcy by Sieber, a judge found Sieber had put forward “outrageous, unsubstantiated accusations of conspiracy and misconduct arising from the normal administration of a bankruptcy estate.”
The judge in that 2011 case found that Sieber’s “unwarranted inferences and conclusory allegations” were “not based on any facts alleged and amount(ed) to nothing more than a lengthy explication of frivolous legal and factual arguments.”
Sieber said in an interview that he’s filed five to 10 lawsuits. “I’m not a habitual litigant,” Sieber said. “When somebody harms me, I don’t resort to violence, I resort to the law. I’m a pretty savvy litigator.”