After nearly three years of legal wrangling, the fight over the domain name sex.com is finally headed for trial.
In a move to bring the long and sordid legal battle to a speedier conclusion, a federal judge moved a planned trial date in the case forward several weeks to this Thursday.
Following the bench trial, Judge James Ware of the U.S. District Court in San Jose, California, could likely order Stephen Michael Cohen, the former owner of the sex.com domain to pay substantial damages to the original owner.
Ware ruled in November that Cohen had gained sex.com through illegal means -- namely a forged document to domain-name registrar Network Solutions in 1995 -- and therefore must return the site to its original owner, Gary Kremen. Lawyers for Kremen said they're expecting Ware to award millions in damages for Cohen's illegal use of the domain for five years.
But the parties waiting for the sex.com trial to begin are also wondering if the defendant will actually show up.
"I don't know if he will. I'm curious," said Kremen, who has been running the sex.com site since it was returned to him late last year after winning a lawsuit against Cohen.
One thing Kremen has learned in more than two years of legal confrontation is that Cohen is not a guy who likes to show up in court.
Kremen isn't the only one who has noticed Cohen's absences. In his most recent ruling, Ware held Cohen in contempt of court for failing to appear as requested at a February 28 hearing.
During the hearing last week, Cohen's attorney claimed his client wasn't showing up because he was under house arrest in Mexico for unspecified charges. Ware didn't buy the claim.
"Defense presented an unsubstantiated claim that defendant Cohen was under legal restraint in Mexico," he said. "Because the proof was not properly authenticated, the court disregarded it."
Instead, Ware issued a warrant for Cohen's arrest by the U.S. Marshals. He ordered that Cohen be held in custody until he complies with previous court orders.
Those previous orders, among other things, require Cohen to return all revenue generated from sex.com in the past five years and to provide all accounting records for site. Ware ordered Cohen to put a $25 million deposit with the court, or whatever smaller sum he can prove is warranted given his current financial situation.
Cohen didn't respond to e-mails seeking his comment on the pending suit and asking about his present whereabouts.
The contact information for the other sites he controls, including sister site sex.net, list an address in Tijuana, Mexico.