The man who took credit for turning the domain name Sex.com into a multimillion-dollar porn empire now says he is too poor to afford toilet paper.
In a motion filed in federal court this week, Stephen Michael Cohen, the former operator of the website Sex.Com, asked a judge to set aside a ruling requiring him to pay $65 million in damages to the site's current owner.
Cohen, who lost control of the site in November 2000 after a judge ruled he stole it from its rightful owner, says the monetary judgment against him is so ludicrously high that it violates his constitutional rights and "placed this defendant in the status of slavery." "Just how is the defendant expected to live? How is the defendant expected to purchase the necessities of life, such as toilet paper, food, clothes and etc.?" Cohen wrote, in the self-authored filing. He compared the court order to a "death warrant" and said it was issued "in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights." In addition to sentencing him to death, Cohen claims that the court is also sentencing him to a life of involuntary servitude under Gary Kremen, the would-be recipient of the judgment.
"It’s saying for the rest of my life that everything I own must go to Gary Kremen," Cohen said. He claims in his filing that the judge’s ruling has turned him into a slave, in violation of the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery.
Cohen’s filing marks the latest round of legal wrangling in the drawn-out dispute over one of the most sought-after domains on the Internet. The sordid saga began in 1995 when Cohen convinced the domain name registrar Network Solutions (now VeriSign) to transfer sex.com to him and out of the hands of Kremen. Afterward, Kremen sued -- and eventually won -- on charges that Cohen illegally gained control of the valuable domain by forging letters to Network Solutions.Kremen, who is still awaiting payment from the judgment, characterized Cohen’s latest filing as a shaky legal argument, but a good read, nonetheless.
"It’s actually one of the better arguments out of him, though I don’t know about the toilet paper," he said. Claims of slavery and death sentences aside, the crux of Cohen's legal argument rests on his argument that Judge James Ware, the judge who issued the judgment against him, failed to conduct a proper evidentiary hearing to determine whether he had the money in the first place. Cohen also argued that the judge was wrong to hold him in contempt for failing to show up in court. Although he would have liked to come to court, Cohen said he wasn’t able to appear because he had been arrested in Mexico and was not allowed to go to the United States.
The filing comes as Cohen and Kremen are also pursuing the Sex.Com dispute in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the appellate court, Kremen is also pursuing charges against Network Solutions for improperly transferring the domain.