Continued from part 1.
Given I had recognized the phone number as being from California, I ignored it on the off chance Ms. Johnstone had managed to find an actual lawyer. Knowing several lawyers myself, I've always been told never to respond to a lawyer in person. You need a lawyer to respond to a lawyer, and even if the case against me was ridiculous, I knew there was no point in taking any risks. The caller left a voicemail, and I listened to it as I drove home from my friend's place.
"Good evening, I'm trying to get hold of Benjamin Cohen of The Daily Banter. My name is Felipe Hemming of the Hemming Law Firm in Huntington Beach California," said the message.
"I'm trying to locate the owner of the website The Daily Banter".
Wow. This was actually happening. I hung up and called my friend.
"I'm actually being sued!" I said.
"Get a lawyer," my friend advised. "Don't take any risks".
I went home feeling slightly taken aback, but mostly amused given Johnstone's case was about as viable as climate scientist's long term job prospects in the Trump administration. I did some more research into libel law in America, contacted a couple of lawyer friends of mine, and went to bed feeling comfortable about The Daily Banter's future when they assured me the premise was completely and utterly ridiculous.
I woke up the next day to several more attempts to contact me by Mr. Hemming -- the most bizarre coming from Facebook:
And then on Twitter:
There was another equally bizarre email, apparently from his sister Krista Hemming, but signed off by Felipe, who had found contact details through Godaddy, the company we bought our domain name through:
It then became apparent that this was completely fraudulent. Real lawyers don't:
a) call people they are tying to sue late at night to have a quick chat.
b) contact them through social media
c) use a fucking gmail account when sending an official email
I then did some more digging about 'The Hemming Firm' and discovered it doesn't appear to actually exist. The website given at the bottom of the email gets redirected to this page:
A cached version of the site can still be found, but it only lists Krista Hemming as being the "sole proprietor and attorney for The Hemming Firm". The home page of the cached site states:
Facing criminal charges, traffic tickets or want your old record expunged, we can help. Are you or someone you love in need of post-conviction relief or post-conviction appeals, we can help. Have you or someone you loved suffered from false arrest, police abuse or police misconduct, we can help. Were you or someone you love the victim of a civil rights violation, we can help. Are you trying to navigate the legal system alone and are feeling a little overwhelmed, we can help.
Krista Hemming is apparently an actual lawyer, but specializes in criminal charges and traffic tickets (a far cry from libel law) and works for a completely different legal firm in Redwood California, over 400 hundred miles away from Huntington Beach. Furthermore a Google search for Felipe Hemming shows that not only is he not a lawyer (and never has been), he runs some sort of a clickbait website named "Photography Isn't a Crime" (more pithily shortened to 'PINAC'), dedicated to reporting on taking photos of crimes committed by law enforcement (be advised, if you clicking around the site, pop up ads spring up from almost every section).
I received several more emails and calls from Felipe, each being more specific about the case. The last email specifically named the article we wrote about Ms. Johnstone:
At this point, I couldn't help but laugh about the whole situation. Caitlin Johnstone's dark threats and sinister promises to sue us into bankruptcy had culminated in her crowdsourcing a fake lawyer from a fake law firm on Twitter. In truth, this is what you'd expect from an woman who believes the CIA is directing the Washington Post to spread fake news, and 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by the US government in an attempt to take over the Middle East. However, I did expect a little more from Ms. Johnstone. If you put aside the paranoia and maniacal screeching, Johnstone is capable of stringing together a decent argument. While the premise of much of what she says is insane, I did enjoy matching wits with her as she attempted to pick apart our article and poke holes in our sources. But Johnstone, as lunatic conspiracy theorists are prone to do, went off the deep end and turned the whole thing into a ridiculous comedy show that made her look even more deranged and detached from reality than she was before. Her attempt to make some quick cash and destroy the Banter was really just sad, and if anyone is at risk from legal proceedings, it is Mr. Hemming, who could be prosecuted for impersonating a lawyer.
I doubt we've heard the last from Ms. Johnstone -- she is an expert at making a victim out of herself and creating attention for her "cause". I would have published this on the main site, but frankly she doesn't deserve any more attention. This may go up at some point, but we'll have to get ready for the onslaught from her Twitter minions and expert legal team -- stress we can well do without.
It was fun while it lasted, Ms. Johnstone. Mostly for us, though.