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The situation: Axanar's Ares Studios Patreon has been struggling all month. It lost so many donations since the beginning of June that all its earning progress for May and the first half of June virtually disappeared. Activity remains volatile, however, as in the last couple days the campaign, despite losing donors, got a much-needed cash infusion of $69, raising earnings to equal what it was on May 27.

1. Peters Abandons Lawsuit Against Burnett After Premature Victory Call

It's over. For now… After prematurely declaring victory two weeks before, producer Alec Peters dismissed his lawsuit against former Axanar director Robert Meyer Burnett. Peters had claimed Burnett stole Axanar Productions' property and didn't repay $30,000 in loans.
  • Dismissed. Peters' attorney filed for dismissal Thursday in Georgia state court after Burnett — apparently unexpectedly, according to emails obtained by AxaMonitor — filed a response to Peters' legal complaint, as well as a motion asking the judge to dismiss the lawsuit.
  • Unexpectedly contested. In the email, Peters told Burnett's lawyer, Torin Dorros, the reason why he gave up the Georgia case, raising questions about whether he was serious about the lawsuit in the first place. Peters wrote:

“As Mr. Burnett hired lawyers in Georgia to challenge jurisdiction, we won’t be fighting this and will be instead refiling in California.”
  • Without prejudice. The one-page filing by Peters' attorney, H. Michael Dever (pictured right; click to view full size), stated the dismissal was "without prejudice," meaning that the case could be filed again in the future.
  • Settlement? In an email to Dorros, Peters says he still wants to settle the case out of court and sent a copy of his proposal, which we detail below.
  • Next step: Peters threatens to file suit in California, where Burnett resides and repeats his intimidation tactics, according to emails we've obtained, assailing Burnett's finances and claiming he's willing to spend thousands for "teaching Rob a lesson."
Go Deeper »

2. Two Birds, One Stone: Peters Involves Bawden in Settlement as Tactic for Dealing with Another Lawsuit

NEW SETTLEMENT OFFER Alec Peters seeks to play off the money he owes his former PR director against his lawsuit versus former Axanar director Robert Meyer Burnett.

Second settlement attempt. After dismissing his case against Robert Burnett, Axanar producer Alec Peters seeks to resolve two lawsuits with one stroke, but it'll cost his former PR director, Mike Bawden, $18,000.
  • Added party. Unlike Peters' previous settlement offer, deeply flawed according to AxaMonitor's legal consultant and Burnett's lawyer, who called it "unconscionably one-sided," this new proposal adds Bawden as a party to deal with Bawden's Iowa lawsuit seeking repayment of a loan to Peters.
  • Unusual tactic. Burnett's attorney, Torin Dorros, tells Peters in an email obtained by AxaMonitor that it's unusual to settle a lawsuit by involving a third party not named in the legal complaint. "Candidly, it is a bit unusual to try to resolve a legal action between Party A and Party B by including an unrelated Party C in the settlement agreement," Dorros tell Peters in an email. "I understand your goal and maybe there is a way to get there but please understand the concept to a certain extent does make things more complex."
  • Mostly the same. The new settlement proposal (download by clicking image at right) is substantially similar to Peters' previous offer, and largely suffers from the same legal problems.
  • What he wants: In an email to Dorros, Peters proclaims Bawden is ready to forgive Peters' $18,000 debt in exchange for dropping the case against Burnett and getting back the digital assets Peters needs to produce the long-delayed Axanar short films.
  • Bawden balks. Essentially, Peters wants Bawden to pay him  $18,000 to drop his case against Burnett. Despite Peters' claim to Burnett's lawyer, Bawden isn't going for it, telling AxaMonitor:

“That email was the first time I had heard about me being involved in their settlement.”
  • Old offer. Bawden did make an offer six months ago to forgive Peters' debt but that was as a measure to convince Peters to back down from filing suit against Burnett. Peters refused, so Bawden withdrew the offer and asked Peters to repay his loan. Peters failed to do so, leading Bawden to file his own lawsuit against Peters in Iowa, where Bawden resides.
  • Pay up. That offer has long since been withdrawn. Bawden states, "How Alec thinks I’ll now waive what he owes me (which he now claims he’ll repay by the end of the month) in exchange for Rob agreeing to a new 'settlement' is beyond me."
  • Ticking clock. Peters tells Dorros his client has just two weeks to come to terms because Peters will otherwise pay Bawden what he owes, foreclosing any possibility of settling with Burnett under these new terms. "If Bawden doesn’t agree, or I pay him before Rob agrees to the settlement, then there will be no settlement," Peters writes.
Seeking assets: For the first time, Peters goes into detail in the new settlement proposal about the specific digital assets he wants from Burnett. Burnett claims, with an eyewitness account, he gave Peters the relevant hard drives, only for Peters to lose them.
Go Deeper »

3. Peters: 'Zero Problem' Wasting Up to $100,000 to Teach Former Axanar Director Burnett a Lesson

Revealing email. A June 12 email obtained by AxaMonitor, from producer Alec Peters to the attorney representing former Axanar director Robert Meyer Burnett reveals how Peters plans to browbeat his former friend into submission. Some highlights:
  • Willing to waste money. Peters tells attorney Torin Dorros his unflinching defense against CBS/Paramount's 2015 copyright lawsuit proves he has "zero problem wasting $50-100,000 teaching Rob a lesson about screwing the people who took care of him."
  • 'I'm a lawyer.' Peters starts his email touting his knowledge of the law. "In case you don’t know, I am an attorney by training. I went to law school (UNC ’87), passed the bar in NC and was sworn in in that state." Despite often touting his credential, Peters has never practiced law in the three decades since.
  • Pissed off lawyers. Peters addresses Dorros' complaint about his lawyer's lack of communication ("Correspondence Shows Peters’ Lawyers are Avoiding Settlement Discussions in Burnett Case") admonishing Dorros:

“Don’t waste my time with grandiose statements and attacks on our case. You pissed off both my GA and LA lawyers with your previous emails, that is why we chose not to respond and tried to settle this through Mike Bawden. I know my case is solid.”
  • 'Didn't flinch' from CBS/Paramount suit. In an effort to prove his determination, Peters informed Dorros, "If you didn’t know, CBS and Paramount sued me for 13 months and I didn’t flinch. They wound up settling." Of course one could argue that by settling after a federal judge threw out Peters' main defense, it was he who flinched.
  • Burnett's finances. Peters repeats unfounded allegations about Burnett's finances as leverage to force a settlement. "I know Rob can’t afford this lawsuit. I was told he borrowed $20,000 from his Mom to pay you and his [Georgia] attorney. I have no interest in ruining Rob’s already non-existent financial reserves and certainly don’t want him stiffing his Mom like he has so many others. Rob has a reputation as a user and deadbeat and that will all come out in court."
  • Reiterating settlement. Peters continues to praise how beneficial his settlement offer is for Burnett, and implores Torros to convince his client to relent: "I am trying to be reasonable, as I have for a year now, and trying to get my digital assets back. If you can’t get him to agree to such an amazing offer, we will see you in court."
Why this matters: That email is the first of a string of exchanges between Peters and Burnett's attorneys in the past week. In total they encapsulate Peters strategy — inside and out of court — to get Burnett to agree to a settlement. We'll detail that full exchange in a followup article on the AxaMonitor website.
Go Deeper »

4. Fact Checker: Peters' Version of Case Dismissal

Peters' version: Peters' version of the last week's happenings works to seize the narrative. Here's Peters' spin in a blog post on the Axanar Productions website. The claims:
  • Default judgment: "So Rob, after not filing a response in the time allotted, which earned us a default judgement, had his Georgia lawyers filed a challenge to jurisdiction (which can happen within two weeks of failing to respond), claiming we couldn’t sue him in Georgia, and had to do so in California.  Rather than fight this, not wanting to waste money that can be spent in California, we dismissed the case and are moving to California!" Our call:
RE-OFFENDER Peters's continues to claim he won a default judgment, an assertion already thoroughly debunked, with the court clerk's office confirming the judge in the case issued no such judgment, nor did Peters' attorney file a motion to get one.
  • Burnett's finances: "Rather than take a settlement in which he just returned our digital assets, and ZERO else, he borrowed $20,000 from his Mom to defend the lawsuit," Peters writes. "Does that make any sense?  You borrow money from your Mom at age 50, to fight a lawsuit you can easily settle at NO COST." Our call:
TWO MUDDS – Significant omissions or exaggerations.
Peters offers no evidence to back up his claims about Burnett's finances nor whether he borrowed money from his mother. The unfounded assertions are used to create an image of magnanimity unsupported by legal analysis of his settlement offer.
  • Why sue in Georgia? "I filed the lawsuit in Georgia, hoping to get him to settle, since otherwise he would have to hire a lawyer in Georgia, all the way across the country." Our call:
SPOCK'S SCIENCE INSIGNIA – Unexpected truthfulness. Peters cops to the real reason he sued Burnett, a California resident, in Georgia, when all the events cited in the legal complaint occurred in California. Peters appears to have never intended to see the case tried in Georgia; it was merely a tactic to force a settlement.
Go deeper: Learn more about AxaMonitor's fact-checking ratings named after Star Trek's notorious scoundrel, Harry Mudd.

Short Takes: Axanar branding taints ‘Interlude’ fan film

Branding issues. Axanar's self-proclaimed "biggest cheerleader," Jonathan Lane, finds himself having to distance his fan film, Interlude, from Alec Peters and his Axanar debacle. Lane has been trying hard to reassure potential donors his fan production, set in the Axanar "universe," won't ever be used to financially support Peters' efforts. Here's how Interlude's opening week shaped up:
  • Axanar Facebook page. In an uncharacteristic event, posts critical of Axanar sprouted up and weren't deleted (so far) under Lane's post promoting Interlude's crowdfunding effort. Most of the comments were critical, generally running along the lines of "How stupid do you think we are? Got conned the first time round, not planning on repeating the experience" — even though Lane protested his project's independence from Peters.
  • Fan Film Factor debates shut down. Virtually every post about Lane's film this week had to be shut down by the admins (Lane owns the group) of the Fan Film Factor group on Facebook because each discussion thread went off the rails over Axanar or Alec Peters. The group's admins enforced their "no ax-grinding" rule disallowing posts critical of Axanar or Peters, issuing multiple warnings and muting some people (including yours truly).
  • GoFundMe progress. Meanwhile, Lane effusively reported his GoFundMe campaign's progress in its opening days. By today, six days in, he'd raised $2,784, just over 14 percent of his $19,500 goal. Crowdfunding research, however, finds successful campaigns typically raise 30 percent of their goal in the first day. Lane's progress came nowhere near that.
Go Deeper »

Find Us on Super Geeks

Join AxaMonitor editor Carlos Pedraza every week on the Super Geeks podcast, and Geek of Thrones review show, both on Subspace Radio, Mondays  at 8 p.m. PST/11 p.m. EST. If you miss it live check the "rewind" section for recorded episodes. Super Geeks is hosted by George Silsby. Check out the Facebook page, The Real Super Geeks.
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