Nearly everything was in place Thursday for opening day in a trial to determine damages in the legal battle over the domain name sex.com.
A squadron of lawyers, most representing the plaintiff, Gary Kremen, were gathered in the fourth floor courtroom of U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif.
A line-up of expert witnesses that included a computer crime investigator, handwriting analyst and a domain name policy authority showed up for scheduled appearances.
And a rack of documents, filed in neat binders, stood behind the podium of Judge James Ware, for reference during the hours of testimony.
There were only a couple of factors to disrupt the scene.
The first was that the defendant, Stephen Michael Cohen, was nowhere to be found. Cohen, who is accused of gaining control of sex.com through a forged letter and squirreling the assets away in a network of offshore funds, was reportedly out of the country.
Cohen's attorney, Robert Dorband, told the judge on Thursday that Cohen is currently incarcerated in Mexico, and offered government documents from Mexican authorities as proof of his client's whereabouts. Judge Ware issued a warrant for his arrest last week, which he did not rescind.
The second revelation of the day pertained to the plaintiff and current owner of the sex.com website, Gary Kremen. On Thursday, Kremen's former attorney, Charles Carreon, filed charges against his old client, claiming he was being denied his share of the sex.com proceeds.
In a suit filed in the very same court where the trial was taking place, Carreon charged Kremen with breaching his contract. Carreon is seeking a court decree giving him a 15 percent stake in the profits from the operation of sex.com.
Carreon claims that Kremen agreed in July of 1999 to give him a 15 percent stake in sex.com in exchange for representing him at a reduced rate in a lawsuit seeking to get the domain returned to him. The lawsuit was successful, and in late November Kremen got the domain registered in his name.
But now Carreon is claiming that Kremen didn't follow through with his agreement to pay him 15 percent of the proceeds from the site, which rakes in more than $400,000 a month in banner advertising revenue. He claims that Kremen paid him for only two months, then stopped doing so following an argument.
Carreon said he wanted to immediately remove many of the most explicit pornographic images on the site out of legal concerns, including the fact that the site was too easily accessible by minors to make it an appropriate venue for such material. He claims that Kremen did not go along with his plan.
Kremen, for his part, has repeatedly said that he plans to turn sex.com into a more "softcore" site.
Whether the filing of a new lawsuit will affect the current courtroom action remains to be seen. Testimony in the bench trial is slated to continue Friday in San Jose.