By: Rich Bergeron
The First Epistle to Timothy in the New Testament (1 Timothy 6:10) contains the phrase, "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil."
This past Monday morning I was invited to the dimly-lit 9th floor of 3960 Howard Hughes Parkway in Las Vegas where the posh firm of Gordon Silver's law offices are located. Lined by tall, stocky palm trees, the path to this ivory tower is a masterpiece of construction in itself. Standing in the shadows of the building housing the legal powerhouse that employs my main adversary in the pending Xyience bankruptcy case, I probably should have been at least mildly intimidated. Instead, a reserved sense of calm righteousness enveloped me as I entered the elevator and said to my fellow passenger, "9, please."
Having spent almost a full month in Las Vegas when I only planned at first to stay a few days, this type of meeting didn't seem probable or even possible when my arrival flight touched down at McCarran Airport on the morning of February 9th. Yet, all of a sudden there I was sitting across from Gregory Eugene Garman, a managing partner of the firm. The meeting room was darker than the lobby, and the dozens of sleek, black leather chairs ringing the gigantic marble conference table were a stark reminder that I was in the belly of a great financial beast. A director of the firm sat next to Garman, said little, and furiously jotted down notes as we talked.
The first order of business was a bit of paperwork: an agreement Garman requested I sign confirming I knew he was not consenting to having our conversation recorded. I dutifully signed it and told both men I had no intention to record the session.
The subject of this little gathering was to hash out a compromise on an injunction proposed by Garman due to my dedicated and somewhat overzealous campaign to leave no stone unturned in a search for the truth behind the scandal that led to the downfall of Xyience, Incorporated. This is a story I've devoted more than four years of my budding journalism career to, and it's one that also kicked off my experience as a pro-se attorney. The latest in a long line of judges who had a chance to impact this case at one stage or another ruled at our last hearing that we should coordinate to create an agreeable order he would then make final edits to. Instead of compromise, Garman seemed more intent on making ultimatums and veiled threats he made a point to characterize as simple realities of the situation. It was obvious to me that my reaction to these tactics frustrated this "Super" lawyer who was likely used to getting his way with other clients who required the services of their own high-powered and high-priced attorneys at meetings just like this one.
The bulk of the time we spent across from one another featured no compromising of any sort, though. Instead, it was more like a debating contest. He toed the party line of the clients who paid him hourly wages to make them look spotless while I rattled off challenges to their credibility and character for him to explain away. Though he purported to have all the answers pointing to his clients being good citizens acting above board in all their business activities, I still managed to elicit some responses that revealed there were many aspects of his clients' operations I seemed to know more about than he did.
The most poignant moment for me, though, was when Garman confessed to being offended by the way I painted him in this blog and elsewhere. Before it was torn down by a biased judge's order in an unrelated case in Indianapolis, I started a Web-site called ScarletLawyer.Com featuring a page devoted to Garman. Garman's head-shot photo with a dark red "L" emblazoned on his forehead was a key fixture of that site. He now makes it a point at hearings to call out that effort of mine as somehow relevant to the current proceedings. The truth is, as he explained in the meeting, the site being gone now doesn't change the fact that he took the photo, the underlying description of his tactics, and many of my other methods of undermining his reputation personally.
I didn't apologize for my actions, as there was no need to. I simply smiled and pointed out how he had characterized me on the stand at the prior hearing as a "professional plaintiff" even though I've never sued anyone to initiate any case. Though part of me felt flattered to be called a professional in a field I consider myself more of an amateur in, I have never actually been a plaintiff at all. I've only ever been categorized as a "counter-plaintiff" which is rarely ever even referred to using that term. The more widely accepted label for someone who brings a cross-complaint is "counter-claimant."
Garman explained to me at one point that the Fertittas--who currently own the re-organized Xyience--are by no means his biggest clients. I took that statement to mean that he had bigger fish to fry and this case was just a nuisance to him. Still, he had a strong list of demands laid out in what he planned to put in his injunction order draft. These stipulations sought to afford his clients the "ultimate" protection he felt he could honestly argue for, even though my experience so far taught me that many of the constraints he was seeking were patently unconstitutional under the circumstances.
For one, Garman wanted all of he documents I testified to acquiring on the sly from Xyience to be returned promptly. If I wouldn't comply, he intimated his clients would press criminal charges. "You'll just have to prosecute me," I finally told him near the end of the meeting when he brought up his plan to go that route for the final time.
Another wild request he made was that I cease all contact with all past, present, and future Xyience employees. When I pointed out some shareholders I maintain regular contact with could be classified as past employees, he said he could carve the shareholders out of the equation. Still, I knew if I were going to go back to writing as he said he wanted me to do, I would have to talk to past employees who were not shareholders at some point. This was yet another demand on the list that I could not agree to.
The most heinous request of all was that I cease contact with all UFC fighters. At the first mention of that request I laughed out loud. I explained I sometimes talk to UFC fighters once a week as part of my work at unlimitedfightnews.com, and barring me from speaking to these individuals would prevent me from doing my job. He later floated the possibility of wording the injunction so that I would only be restricted from discussing Xyience with these fighters. Again, I knew speaking to certain UFC fighters would be crucial to any creative project on this story in the future, so I refused to agree to that condition as well.
Though we often drifted off point and argued the merits of our respective cases outside the injunction issues, we kept circling back to the documents more than any other topic. I think Mr. Garman expected me to be Xtremely intimidated by his insinuation that I could be prosecuted for what he classified as "theft" of that "proprietary" material. He used an analogy of giving me the key to his house and me robbing it, which would most likely still result in criminal charges. The only problem with his logic, I explained, is that it was not as if I took the only copies of these documents off the system. I also have not leaked the documents or used them in any fashion to cause any damage to the company. I simply retained them for background like off the record information obtained from a source. And, I only obtained the documents because I have sources inside the company, sources who know what I stand for and that I seek the truth behind the ongoing corruption there.
The meeting ended when it became strikingly clear that there would be no "middle ground" we could reach and no compromise on the crafting of an injunction that could be made between us. I reminded both men across the table from me at the close of our discussion that I have come this far with very little help and no comparable legal fees to what Garman was getting for his efforts. I re-iterated that he was being paid to present his clients' perspective while I was paying out of my own pocket to put mine on the table. I explained this to illustrate the fact that I had no motivation to lie or make up facts to protect me. My mission is simply grounded in uncovering the truth.
Before we parted ways, we stood in the lobby for a few awkward moments as Garman sighed and took on a look of utter frustration. I seized on that moment to explain I simply had to use the few advantages I had in this situation. Though I did confess to having a certain level of respect for the fact that my opponent was just trying to do his job, that didn't change the fact that I was still undaunted even after going through the gauntlet of all the veiled threats and harping on potential legal remedies they could seek against me if I didn't comply with Garman's demands.
It could all be chalked up as another two billable hours I paid nothing out of pocket for that his clients would likely have to pay hundreds for, which may be no sweat for billionaires, but at this point it certainly must be adding up. I left the dark tower a bit frustrated myself, especially since I'd gone to the meeting expecting the possibility of an actual compromise. Though I did manage to get a formal explanation from the other side regarding every aspect of the case I could think to ask about, I imagined a more productive outcome. Still, I could not be upset or disappointed at all in the long run. Looking back, I could only smile knowing I was never, ever expected to get this far by anyone at the outset of all this litigation. I was sued for $25 million by a corporation, and I didn't have a lick of legal experience when the case was dropped in my lap. I had no money to hire a lawyer then and little hope of winning any judgment or settlement if I fought the case myself.
To even be sitting across from those two lawyers and be treated like a real "professional" attorney was a victory in itself, and it was hard for me not to see it that way. I was every bit the fool for a client back in March of 2007, but four years of the school of legal hard knocks changed my life and the way this story is now perceived by those who take the time to read all about it. Some people put themselves through law school by waiting tables, but I did it through a total immersion experience I will never regret going through. The house that truth built started with one brick, and the cement of my resolve to see it through helped me stack new bricks on top of that foundation. One by one I built that house from nothing into something solid, something respectable, and something my opponents in their luxurious penthouse offices seemed at least for one fleeting moment to envy.
I suppose the journey I've taken is the true embodiment of the old adage "if you want something done right, do it yourself." Having come this far in actual and figurative miles, there is no possible way I can see any stumbling block as a setback. Instead, I see all difficulties now as opportunities, obstacles that will just need a little time and effort to overcome. So, come what may, I'm ready for whatever I need to face and prepared to do whatever it takes to keep up the good fight.
I hope to leave Las Vegas a little better off than the way I found it when I arrived. I hope to stem the flow of corruption by closing up a few streams off the river of scandal that runs through this town. Win or lose, these battles must be fought with all the resources I can possibly bring to bear if the war is ever to be won in any respect. And though the odds are still stacked against me, this is a war that most certainly can still be won.