A few weeks ago, I wrote about an attorney who faced some humiliating — and completely false — allegations. Doesn’t get much worse, I thought.
Wrong. This week we have another intersection of technology and false accusation. But this time, the attorneys appear to be the bad guys.
A recent Canadian court ruling sheds a pretty messed up light on a major technology company and its attorneys, who reportedly conspired to have a former employee — who happened to be suing the company — arrested in the middle of a deposition, on what a judge later found to be bogus charges. Then the company let the man, a British citizen, languish in extradition limbo for nine months, until a judge finally benchslapped the devious corporate lawyers.
Let’s find out more about this super-friendly corporation’s unorthodox litigation strategy….
The case revolves around a British citizen named Peter Alfred-Adekeye. He was a successful engineer at Cisco in England, until the company moved him to the U.S. He quit in 2005 and started his own company in Silicon Valley. A few years later, he moved back to Europe to start another company called Multiven, which provides maintenance for Cisco products. He sued Cisco for antitrust violations, alleging the company pressured its customers into buying its own maintenance solutions.
As the case moved through the courts, Adekeye attempted to return to America to participate. He was denied entry. He tried unsuccessfully for months to get back into the US but was continually refused. He even wrote without success to President Barack Obama seeking his intervention.
When the judge handling the antitrust suit was informed of the problem, Cisco was offered the opportunity to depose Adekeye in Switzerland or Britain. But a request would first have to be made to the government in either country and the cost of such an undertaking would be considerable. Cisco balked. As a result, the court chose Vancouver — a short flight from San Jose and a city in a country that apparently didn’t have to be informed of a foreign judicial hearing occurring on its soil.
So, on May 20, 2010, lawyers from both sides, not to mention a special master appointed by the District Court for Northern California, gathered in the Wedgewood Hotel. Adekaye was literally in the middle of his deposition when Canadian law enforcement burst in and arrested him.
Ars Technica has video of the whole thing, including footage of Cisco’s attorneys refusing to go off the record while Vancouver’s finest bust up the depo party. After some intense confusion, the special master finally ordered the camera turned off.
Why was the dude arrested? Surely Cisco had nothing to do with it, right?
A week after his arrest and imprisonment, Adekeye appeared before British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Arne Silverman, a six-year veteran of the province’s highest trial bench. Adekeye was described as a “sinister” figure of uncertain citizenship on the run from 97 charges of illegal computer hacking that carried a penalty of almost half-a-millennium in prison.
Canadian prosecutors said that, according to U.S. Homeland Security, Adekeye slipped in and out of the U.S. surreptitiously — and they could match up the dates of the offenses with dates he had unlawfully entered the country over a two-year period.
They made it sound like the crime of the century; in fact, throughout the specified time, Adekeye was living in America on a valid visa. And the heinous crime was accessing Cisco’s internal systems on several occasions with a Cisco employee’s permission.
Cisco had filed the criminal complaint, informed American officials Adekeye would be in Vancouver, and told them he was a flight risk. These guys don’t mess around.
In case you weren’t paying attention, Adekeye, the guy who supposedly required an international arrest so urgently that American law enforcement didn’t fully complete their paperwork, had been unsuccessfully trying to enter the U.S. for several months.
Eventually, Cisco settled Adekeye’s lawsuit and dropped the criminal charges. But the man was somehow mired in extradition proceedings for another nine months. During that entire time, he was not allowed to leave Vancouver.
Finally, on the last day of May, British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Ronald McKinnon stayed the extradition proceedings. In doing so, he laid down a stinging benchslap of Cisco, Canadian law enforcement and American immigration officials.
Here are some highlights from McKinnon’s fiery ruling (PDF):
Cisco had the unmitigated gall to commence contempt proceedings for [Adekeye's] ‘failure’ to attend a U.S. deposition. It was, of course, unsuccessful, but it speaks volumes for Cisco’s duplicity.
Here we have a man who has no criminal record, who made every possible effort to comply with US immigration laws and procedures, but who dared to take on a multinational giant, rewarded with criminal charges that have been so grotesquely inflated as to make the average well-informed member of the public blanche at the audacity of it all.
The extradition process to bring the applicant before United States Courts… involved innuendo, half truths and complete falsehoods.
The only reasonable inference I can draw from the facts is that the criminal process was used to pressure (unsuccessfully) the applicant into abandoning his antitrust suit against Cisco…. Any well-informed person acquainted with the truth would conclude that the collective result of the mistreatment of Mr. Adekeye offended fundamental notions of justice.
In sum, unless you are a real fighter, like Peter Adekeye, next time you consider throwing down with Cisco, you might want to think twice or four times.
UPDATE: I just called Adekeye’s Canadian attorney, Marilyn Sandford. She said the attorneys representing Cisco in the room on the day of the deposition were Patrick Ryan and Krista Enns of Winston & Strawn, as well as in-house counsel Paul Ortiz. Here’s a more complete list of the attorneys involved in the case.
Christopher Danzig is a writer in Oakland, California. He previously covered legal technology for InsideCounsel magazine. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisdanzig or email him at [email protected]. You can read more of his work at chrisdanzig.com.