If Dish Network officials were wondering how much patience U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna can show to an accused Little Saigon satellite access code pirate, they got a better glimpse of the answer today: tons.
For nearly five months, Tan Nguyen--the onetime owner of a 170,000 member website called ftaforall--has seemingly ignored a majority of record production demands by Dish Network lawyers as well as Selna's orders to comply.
Today, Nguyen again told Selna that he turned over all his records, an assertion that was quickly greeted with contempt from Dish attorney Stephen M. Ferguson of Houston.
"Mr. Nguyen has not produced anything but a backup copy of his website," said Ferguson. "He has failed to comply."
The defendant returned the slam by accusing the corporate giant of abusing him in a recent 9-hour deposition and doctoring a file of his website's activity. At one point, Nguyen--who has taken pains to show he's out of his league in a courtroom as well as using English--asked Selna to help him prove the records were doctored.
"That's not the court's role," the judge replied. "I can't be your lawyer."
Later, Nguyen--who would be a perfect Vietnamese version of TV detective Columbo--interrupted proceedings to calmly ask Selna to define the word "joint."
The move clearly annoyed Ferguson, whose patience seems to have ended with his opponent. He told the judge that Nguyen's stall tactics are causing "my clients prejudice" and wants sanctions of at least $17,000.
Selna hasn't ruled out fining or even jailing Nguyen and he ordered him to give Ferguson records of his financial worth so that Dish Network can prepare a motion for sanctions.
"These are serious obligations [complying with federal court orders]," the judge told Nguyen, a resident of Westminster, single father of two young boys and an electronics repairman.
Selna then said that if he eventually determines that his orders were violated he may enter a default judgment for Dish Network, vacate the scheduled August 2013 jury trial and focus on how much the company is owed in damages.
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In March, Dish filed a civil lawsuit in the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana and alleged that Nguyen's website contained secret satellite access codes that allowed people to steal commercial broadcasts without paying.
Nguyen, a native of Saigon, has denied doing anything illegal.