Yesterday we wrote about Eccie.net, the apparently-local escort-review site that's suing an anonymous blogger for libel. The blogger goes by the name of Ty Steel and has a whole host of accusations against Eccie: that its reviews are biased, that it's run by "pimps," that it participates in "human trafficking" -- pretty much exactly the sort of language that lands you head-spinningly quickly in court.
Before the post went up, we perused a few of the hundreds of posts by Steel on another website, EccieLeaks, that's dedicated to criticizing Eccie. The blogger and a crew of friends have a simmering, long-standing series of gripes against the site, which they've spilled much digital ink laying out in detail.
"He's been writing a lot of things online for a long time," says Kenton Hutcherson, the lawyer for KCN Infosys, the company that runs Eccie. His firm, Hutcherson Law, does a lot of Internet defamation cases.
KCN is currently trying to find out who Steel is, in order to better sue him (everyone involved seems certain that the blogger is in fact a man). They've already subpoenaed Google, which own Blogger, the site Steel uses for his anti-Eccie blog. They want information about Steel's IP address, Hutcherson says. "We have to go through the discovery process, but I'm 99 percent sure we'll get it."
But the original post also brought a flood of angry emails from another anonymous writer -- this one going by the name of a popular porn actor -- who chided us for "swallowing Steel's story hook, line and sinker." The writer, who declined to give any information about his connection to the story, wanted us to know that Steel runs a competing prostitute website, which is the basis for his vendetta against Eccie.
And indeed, Steel does seem to have at least a couple of failed prostitute review board-type sites under his belt (pun and/or innuendo not intended), including one that he tried to sell to other EccieLeaks participants a little over a year ago.
"I have a hooker review site I'd like to sell," he wrote. "No, I'm not referring to the fair play site. Unfortunately or fortunately, I don't know which, I was scammed out of that site late last year by a scumbag. However, I did create a clone of the original site, except that I added additional features and an improved look. I no longer have in any interest in owning or managing a hooker review site due to increased job responsibilities."
"We do know a few things about him," Hutcherson, Eccie's lawyer, says. "My understanding is he may have tried to launch a competing website a long time ago, but it wasn't successful." That included a site called Fair Play Reviews, he says. "We don't think he's running a competing website now. But we don't know who he is yet."
In another thread on EccieLeaks, Steel talks about wanting to "shame" the owners of Eccie. "I think that if they can be shamed through the media, especially by the DFW media, that will do the trick," he writes. "Usually the best way to try a case is not in a courtroom, but in the court of public opinion." He promised a "major story" on Eccie soon.
Another poster encouraged him to also write letters to the editor and post multiple comments on every story about the lawsuit, including personal information about the people that Steel claims run Eccie. "If you happen to have any spouse information or their children's full names, be sure to include that also because kids tend to Google each other all the time," that poster wrote. "Phone numbers? Include them!"
"A story like this could grab the front page of the Observer," another poster added. "Be sure to mention that the site promotes underage prostitution, tie in with the BackPage/Craigslist hooker witchhunt ... and add in human trafficking, and you are guaranteed a story." (Editor's note: Throw in a JWP connection and we might rename the paper in your honor.)
Hutcherson says his clients aren't involved in running an escort service.
"The answer to that is no," he says. "Emphatically no. Ty Steel has said that my clients are affiliated with certain spas and those are false statements. That is not true. They do own and operate this review site. They provide a forum where people can express their free speech and talk about these things, but that's all they do. They don't run any escort business, spa, massage parlor, anything like that. Their involvement is strictly limited to operating this website."
Hutcherson says his clients are also concerned about EccieLeaks. "We don't know who's behind it. But on Eccie, which is my client's site, they have content available to the public and what they would call premium content. You have to pay money for that. EccieLeaks have copied 80,000 pages from Eccie.net and posted that. Ty Steel says he has nothing to do with that. There's no way to verify that. Our suspicion is that it's somebody else and Ty Steel is limited to what he's posting on Blogger. He has also made a lot of posts on EccieLeaks."
He added that there are "some things in the works" with respect to EccieLeaks. Like trying to take the site down?
In the same thread on EccieLeaks where Steel discusses the case and media coverage of it, he calls one of the alleged owners of Eccie his "puppet," adding: "I'm the one pulling your strings, and I continue to make you dance around for me like the puppet that you are." Later, he promises that, "If for some reason this court case does go into full swing, I promise that all will be revealed."
Indeed. A hearing is set for July 11 to consider KCN's motion to compel Google to turn over Steel's IP address information. "I'm very confident the court's going to rule in our favor," Hutcherson says. "Once that's done, Google will probably turn the info over right away."