January 13, 2004

Another lawsuit in Linux land

Author: Joe Barr

NewsForge learned recently that Scott Draeker, the founder and CEO of Loki, the now defunct, bankrupt, closed-up-and-gone Linux game company, filed a $19 million lawsuit for defamation of character against longtime Linux journalist Dennis Powell and his Linux news site, Linux and Main.The suit was filed in May of last year over three articles at Linux and Main which were published a year earlier. The first article reported in a delay in the bankruptcy process caused by Draeker's failure to appear. The second was a retrospective on the life, problems, and death of the game company. The third story was not about Loki at all, but did reference the earlier reporting.

We spoke with Dennis Powell by telephone this past week after learning of the lawsuit during the the popular Internet streaming broadcast of The Linux Show, where Powell was appearing as a guest.

Powell told us that he was never asked for a retraction for any of the articles. Powell said that the first contact he had with Draeker and his lawyers came in April, a month before the suit was filed. It was a notice that a lawsuit would be filed if a settlement was not agreed to.

Powell rejected the settlement and the lawsuit was filed. When asked the possibility of a settlement now, he said "No, I haven't done anything wrong. Absolutely not." He added, "If someone can demonstrate to us that something we have printed is in error we will retract what we printed that was in error and publish a correction, prominently."

Powell still stands by his stories. He told us, "I am not certain that we printed anything that was not in fact, in the record of proceedings in California judicial bodies, sworn to under oath in connection with Loki. And much of it to which he objects was sworn to by him under oath. So I think that he is suing us because it is stuff that is embarrassing that he didn't want to have made public."

Powell says his attorney in California is working to have the case thrown out as being frivolous. If the case does go to trial, Powell expects that it will be late this year. He also expects that it will cost him tens of thousands of dollars to defend himself. But evidently it's not just lawyers which are expensive in California. The $19 million dollar suit filed by Draeker includes $1 million for medical costs resulting from the publication of the stories.

We also spoke to Scott Draeker by telephone. He told us he could not comment because of the pending litigation, and referred us to his attorney, Francis Drelling.

Before speaking with Draeker, we had asked his attorney by email if the case was still active and if he was still representing Draeker. He replied: "Yes, the case remains active and our firm is still legal counsel in it. The Defendants have filed a demurrer and a motion to strike portions of the complaint. We will be filing our oppositions later this month."

Powell blames the American legal system for the situation. He says, "We live in a government of the lawyers, by the lawyers, for the lawyers. Or as James Herriot put it in one of his books, 'You and I can always lose, lawyers never do.'"


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