No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

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Catallarchy reports on the story of Patrick Arthur Richard, who volunteered his web hosting services to the Macomb, Michigan, sheriff's department for two years. When he decided he couldn't afford to keep doing it gratis, and the department refused to pay, he was hauled off to jail and charged with "extortion," among other felonies. (Hat tip: The Agitator)

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  1. There’s quite a hulla-ballo about his over a ye ‘ol geek haven, slashdot.org .
    This thread shows all may not be as it seems.

  2. Punk deserves it.

  3. You guys really need to read this article. Basically, web designer agreed to a quid pro quo — he’d host and design the site for free in exchange for the good will that he’d get from being able to publicize his company’s association with local police. Then he decides that isn’t working anymore, so tells police, guess what, he owns the domain name and he wants them to start paying or he’ll shut them down…and then does.

    I’ve been in the same position as the Macomb sheriff’s department…signed up for web hosting and assholes registered domain I paid them for under their name and then held it hostage.

    On the other hand, although Patrick Richard seems like a royal asshole, the extortion claim is absurd. They should have just sued him — they appear to have a solid case for ownership of the domain and they don’t appear to owe him anything.

    Frankly, my first reaction is why was he trying to fuck with his local sheriff. I mean, if you’re going to screw with someone like this, don’t pick on law enforcement as your target. Moron.

  4. Right on, Warren. I’ve been on the hosting side of that delemna, and will never, EVER do anything for “good will” again with any civic or government agency. One, I am convinced there is no concrete definition of the term, two, a one-man shop can’t afford to do that kind of thing forever, and three, if anything, these organizations ought to pay DOUBLE the going rate as they are supported by tax dollars anyway.

  5. The hell? Is there a contract? If the cops didn’t bother to get it on paper, they deserve to get screwed. And I’m sorry but registering a domain name isn’t rocket science, if they wanted to own their domain they easily could have. So this guy could very well be an asshole, but these cops appear too stupid to get my sympathy. The extortion charge, ironically, is itself extortion. Too bad no one will go to jail for that.

  6. Assuming the news I’ve read is accurate—and doesn’t omit crucial details—it sounds like the police department was pretty stupid to have a web site for three years and even paint the domain name on their police cars without making sure that they owned it. I’ve made mistakes like that too. You’d think the Sheriff’s office would have known where to find a lawyer…

    The stupidest quote was from Sheriff Hackel, who said “He built up the site so that we would rely on it so much and would pay him[…]”

    Well, yeah. That’s how a lot of web services make money. Some of them ran for years before charging. It’s a perfectly good business model. Mark Twain once got a job by working free for a month and then threatening to quit if they didn’t start paying him.

    Maybe $300,000 is an idiotically high price, but the proper response is to offer less, or to walk away, or to pretend to walk away in hope of getting a better offer, not to abuse their powers to get a better bargain.

    (I’m guessing he started so high because he wanted to seem a little nutty. This is a tricky negotiation: on the one hand, Macomb County was relying on the web site, so they need it pretty bad. On the other hand, it’s not like Richard can threaten to sell http://www.macombsheriff.com to someone else. In order to get a good price, he has to be able to make a credible threat to walk away from inadequate money even though walking means he gets no money at all. Being nutty helps his credibility here.)

  7. They should sue him for domain name, and possibly win.

    He should sue them for false arrest, and definitely win.

  8. I’d be afraid to live in a place called Macomb County. Sounds too much like Macon County.

  9. Prediction: The sherriff’s department will find more things attracting little packets than just the Sherriff’s department website.

  10. Going from “free” to “300,000” does seem like one hell of a leap. I really think there’s something to the stereotype about computer geeks utterly lacking in social skills.

  11. From free to 300 grand? They should lock up this guy for a couple weeks for being an asshole. But extortion?

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