Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Autograph Alert's Stephen Koschal Sued for Libel and Deceptive Trade Practices

It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit against Stephen Koschal flushes out. I've reprinted the original article from autographmagazine.com below.

Autograph Alert's Stephen Koschal Sued for Libel and Deceptive Trade Practices autographmagazine.com

Autograph Alert’s Stephen Koschal Sued for Libel, Deceptive Practices
February 2, 2011 by Steve Cyrkin

Stephen Koschal, anonymous editor of the blog Autograph Alert, is being sued for libel and deceptive and unfair trade practices by three major players in the autograph industry. But months of trying to serve Koschal have so far been unsuccessful.

The plaintiffs, John Reznikoff and his firm University Archives, James Spence Authentication (JSA) and R&R Auction, filed separate lawsuits against Koschal in the 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida on November 10, 2010. All are represented by Daniel J. Brams of the West Palm Beach law firm Silver, Bass & Brams.

Brams is also Beatles autograph expert Frank Caiazzo’s co-counsel in his defamation lawsuit against Koschal associate Jerry Gladstone, president of American Royal Arts. Gladstone is the central figure in an FBI criminal investigation into the trafficking in forged autographed memorabilia that also focuses on forensic document examiner Christopher Morales and others. It is unknown if Koschal is under investigation.

The lawsuits allege that Koschal, through Autograph Alert, has regularly defamed and disparaged the plaintiffs over several years with the purpose of destroying their reputations and businesses in order to further the defendant’s business goals. Koschal’s posts on Autograph Alert have accused the plaintiffs of a wide-range of misdeeds, from knowingly selling forgeries as genuine to collusion, gross incompetence, to rejecting the authenticity of supposedly genuine autographs submitted to them that Koschal sold the submitter.

[Editor's note: Koschal, through Autograph Alert, has regularly accused Autograph editor and publisher Steven Cyrkin, the author of this article, of investigating Jerry Gladstone and American Royal Arts because he is anti-Semitic and Gladstone is Jewish. What Koschal is aware of and fails to mention is that Cyrkin is Jewish.]

The plaintiffs are requesting the Court enter judgments against Koschal declaring his actions and statements to be in violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act; as well as awards of monetary damages, attorney’s fees and costs, and injunctions restraining Koschal from continuing to post misleading and/or defamatory statements about the plaintiffs.

Autograph Alert Background
Autographalert.com, which was not named in the suit because it apparently is not a legal entity, was formed in 2005 by Koschal and Todd Mueller of Todd Mueller Autographs. With a few exceptions, Mueller has denied involvement in the site since its early years. According to Mueller, the site was launched to speak out against third-party authenticators PSA/DNA and James Spence Authentication, because he had become frustrated with how often they rejected the authenticity of his autographs; including those he claimed were from private signings.

Mueller claims that virtually all of the posts on Autograph Alert since its inception were written by Koschal. And while it appears that Mueller influences and is involved in many of the articles, few question that Koschal writes most of the posts.

Shortly after launch, Koschal started using the site to pursue personal vendettas and attack competitors, individuals and organizations that apparently stood in the way of his goals, and those of some of his associates. According to Mueller, this was when he started distancing himself from the site, famously stating, “I feel I paid crop dusters to dust my farm and instead they drove the plane into the Twin Towers.”

Largely outcast by the legitimate autograph community since the 1990s, Koschal is no stranger to legal actions against him. While famously hard to serve with legal papers, he and Michael Frost, the president of the IADA and owner of autograph authenticator PAAS,were successfully sued for defamation by UACC officer Al Wittnebert, leading to a retraction and apology published in autograph publications, including Autograph. There is a warrant for Koschal’s arrest in New Jersey for failing to pay child support that has been outstanding for decades, and reportedly other civil actions attempted but unserved.

As for Reznikoff, JSA and R&R Auction, a spokesperson for the plaintiffs said they will pursue their suits against Koschal until they have their day in court.

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