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The situation: With CBS and Viacom inching ever closer to a $30 billion re-merging, Deadline's Peter Bart wonders what last-minute maneuvering might come from the aging "master dealmaker," Sumner Redstone. His potential influence isn't clear but his secret trust documents could throw some kind of monkey wrench into the works. Star Trek fans expecting the merger to solve all of the franchise's imagined problems should stay tuned.

1. Peters’ Attorney Sends Defamation ‘Cease and Desist’ Letter to AxaMonitor

Another threat. A Las Vegas attorney, at the behest of Axanar producer Alec Peters, sends a letter formally ordering us "to immediately cease and desist all false statements concerning Alec Peters, including … unsubstantiated stories posted on"
  • False statements: Attorney Kory Kaplan states his firm has been retained by Peters to represent him in matters concerning "false statements on the internet."
  • Demands: Kaplan demands AxaMonitor quit making and remove all false statements, which he defined as statements injure reputation communicated to another person and that the speaker knew or should've known was false.
  • Deadline. The July 10 letter demands written assurance that such statements have been removed from AxaMonitor within 10 days.
No legal force. Though such letters sound legalistic and are sometimes intended as a prelude to litigation, they carry no actual legal force, and are often used to intimidate recipients into acquiescing to such demands.

Triggered. Though the letter fails to specify what false statements appear on AxaMonitor, it follows a threat made by Peters over the July 8 article, "Peters Accused of Taking $94K from Enterprise Model Sale: Peters prepares to sue many over former employee’s allegations he failed to pay widow in DS9 model sale."
  • 'Guaranteed' lawsuit. Contacted on Sunday with an opportunity to comment upon or refute the allegations in the story, Peters refused, stating:

“If you publish anything about my business at Propworx, I guarantee I will be suing you for cyberstalking and cyberbullying.”
Attorney contact. The email with Peters' threat of litigation noted that I would hear shortly from his lawyer.
  • No mention. Despite his bluster, the letter makes no mention of either cyberstalking or cyberbullying.
Pursuing remedies. Kaplan says Peters asked "this firm [to] pursue all available legal remedies on his behalf. … Your liability and exposure under such legal action could be considerable."
  • Legal venue. It's odd Peters chose a Nevada firm to pursue a potential case in a different state from which he lives (Georgia), and a different state from where the potential defendant resides (Washington). Kaplan is not licensed to practice there, only Nevada and Florida, nor are his two legal partners.
Response: AxaMonitor is consulting with counsel regarding an appropriate response to Peters' demands. We'll publish our reply shortly.
Download the cease and desist letter sent by Alec Peters' Nevada attorney, Kory Kaplan, to AxaMonitor editor Carlos Pedraza. Click on the image for the 83KB PDF.

Same attorney, different Peters case. BTW, Kaplan is also representing Peters in his ongoing lawsuit with Hero Prop co-owner Tiana Armstrong over the sale of Star Trek: First Contact's Enterprise-E shooting model.
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2. Peters Misses His Own Loan Repayment Deadline to former Axanar PR Director Mike Bawden

$18,000 WRITE-OFF If Alec Peters had had his way, his former trusted advisor, Mike Bawden, would've forgiven an $18,000 debt in exchange for a settlement offer much less favorable than the "sweetheart deal" he publicly touts.
  • Not happening. Bawden, Axanar's former PR director, tells AxaMonitor Peters failed to make the June 30 payment he publicly promised. In exchange, Peters claimed he'd give up his legal claims against former Axanar director Robert Meyer Burnett.
'Hail Mary.' Bawden believes Peters was never serious about the offer, for two reasons:
  • Legal analysis shows Peters' settlement offer "put all future legal exposure on Rob and left Alec with little to no consequences if he persisted in his bad behavior," Bawden says.
  • 'No chance.' "Alec's gambit," he adds, "appeared to be just another wild 'hail Mary' with no reasonable chance of ever succeeding."
No contact. Bawden says when Peters formulated his most recent offer, "He never emailed, texted, messaged or called me about his proposal prior to presenting it to Rob's attorney. … He likes stirring things up and creating drama where none is needed."

Make the movie. Bawden wonders why Peters is spending time this way when he should "just get to work and produce the two, 15-minute Axanar shorts. … As far as I can tell, he has all the assets he needs to do it" — something at odds with Peters' blaming lack of progress on Burnett withholding assets.

Move on. Bawden says Peters' correspondence acknowledges the debt. "If he pays me in full, I'll consider the matter closed and be glad to move on to bigger projects I'm working on."
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3. A Primer on Libel and Defamation

What's behind the accusation? Alec Peters' lawyer, Kory Kaplan, argues defamation against his client merely has to be:
  1. A statement that tends to injure reputation;
  2. Communicated to another; and
  3. The speaker/publisher knew or should've known was false.
More complicated. The exact thing that Peters would have to prove is not defamation, a more general term, but libel, which is defamation in print (including internet postings). From a journalistic perspective, the only one of those three that really counts is No. 3. Truth is an absolute defense in libel.

Parsing the posts. Peters' attorney alleges that AxaMonitor is publishing lies, errors of fact, made intentionally. In point of fact, all assertions made on are facts that have been sourced, cited and attributed to others. Where AxaMonitor publishes opinion, it is explicitly identified as such. None of the injurious statements Peters complains about are stated as absolute fact without substantiation or attribution. If Peters has a problem with that, his trouble is with those sources rather than the publication that quotes them.

Public figure. Peters' case becomes even harder to prove because he is a public figure, at least in a limited sense when it comes to his public prominence in the Star Trek, fan film and prop worlds. As a public figure he faces an even higher obstacle before he can successfully prove libel.
  • Actual malice. As a public figure, Peters has to prove more than AxaMonitor editor Carlos Pedraza knew or should've known something was false (remember, his C&D letter fails to specify exactly what was injurious to him, something required by law) but that AxaMonitor lied, on purpose, to hurt him. That's very hard for a public figure to do.
  • Opportunity to correct. It's also important to note that Peters was given advance notice of the most article's publication and offered the chance to refute and/or deny its assertions, and to provide context for his behavior as described in the article. He refused the opportunity.
He's lost before. In 2010, Peters pursued a similar defamation case against blogger Jason DeBord, who also reported on Peters' dealings in the props industry. That case was thrown out after a California judge found it was intended to stifle DeBord’s right to free speech. Peters had to pay DeBord more than $26,000 in damages and legal costs. He has refused to pay. He also declared bankruptcy that released the money he owed his own lawyer in the case.
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4. Peters Sets August Date for Online Auction of Bankrupt Canadian Trek Museum's Collection

Photo/Trekcetera Museum
HAPPIER DAYS The Trekcetera Museum's founders, Michael Mangold and Devan Daniels,
are working with Axanar's Alec Peters to open a new museum featuring more film and television props and costumes than just a Star Trek collection.

Auction. The former Trekcetera Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, must auction off its collection and other assets to pay off as much of its outstanding debt as possible.
  • August 18 online. Alec Peters won a contract with the Canadian government to conduct Trekcetera's auction, and he plans to hold that auction online on August 18.
New museum scheme. As we previously reported, Peters wants to open a new museum, offering half his profits from this auction to establish a nonprofit organization to do so.
  • Loaning collections. Peters plans to loan part of his own prop and costume collection to help establish the new facility, and he says he's found other collectors to loan theirs, as well.
New Axanar funding scheme. Peters also claims he'll use the other half of his auction earnings to help produce the two long-promised, 15-minute Axanar short films.

Reactions deleted. In a thread on Trekcetera's Facebook page announcing the auction, some people didn't react positively, particularly in view of AxaMonitor's coverage of Peters' props dealings with the widow of deceased Trek VFX artist Gary Hutzel. As he typically does when criticized on social media he controls, Peters had the offending comments deleted. Among them:
  • Banned. One commenter expressed concerns about local businesses with unpaid bills from the now-closed museum. Peters, who apparently has admin privileges on the Trekcetera Facebook page, banned the commenter, saying: "You have been banned from posting on the Trekcetera page. If you can't participate in the positive aspects of what we're doing, go somewhere else.
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Short Takes: Federal Coffee robbed! ‘Interlude’ estimates

Federal Coffee burglary. This coffeehouse in Lawrenceville, Ga., is operated by close associates of Alec Peters, while he emphatically denies any financial interest. A break-in a few months ago resulted in burglary of $1,000 cash left in the drawer of the manager's office. It was one of five establishments broken into. The Federal is currently closed as it awaits a repeatedly delayed move to another location later this year. A local news station covered the story, with surveillance footage of the suspect.

'Interlude' crowdfunding. The dedicated anonymous blogger at Monitoring the Trek Monitors has dedicated his Twitter feed to tracking the challenge Axanar surrogate Jonathan Lane's faces in his GoFundMe campaign to raise $19,500 for his "Axanar universe" fan film, "Interlude." His latest tweet outlines how long it will take to get to Lane's goal at varying average daily contributions. At the low end (daily average $25) it'll take 414 days (August 26, 2020); at the high end (daily average $100), it'll be 104 days (October 21, 2019). Trouble is, Lane says he needs to have raised his budget by the end of August. 
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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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