An online merchant had a change in attitude Monday after a federal judge ordered him into custody.
After spending a few hours in federal custody, Robert Akard ended his resistance of a federal lawsuit brought by musician Jimmy Buffett. His decision brought an end to the litigation that began about a month ago.
Buffett’s attorneys, most vocally Galveston’ s Anthony Buzbee, had accused Akard of unlawfully selling bootleg and marked-up Buffett items on Akard’s Web site.
Buzbee said the plaintiff’s attorneys and Buffett himself were “extremely pleased ” with the case’s resolution Monday afternoon.
“They’re very pleased that justice was obtained here, much faster than they’re used to,” Buzbee said.
Hours earlier, U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Kent ordered Akard into custody for contempt of court after finding Akard had disregarded his Nov. 13 order.
The Nov. 13 temporary restraining order mandated that www.underonehut.com, Akard’s Web site, shut down until the case resolved. The site, on which Akard sold cocktail glasses, tropical shirts and other beach- themed items, was still up late last week.
Among the items were T-shirts and other items depicting either Buffett or one of the laid-back slogans associated with him.
On Monday, before the hearing, the site bore a message declaring it temporarily closed and offering customers a 10-percent discount on future orders for the inconvenience.
Kent’s order also required Akard to submit himself for deposition by Buffett’s attorneys and to provide a full accounting for sales of Buffett-related items on the site.
Buzbee told the court Monday that Akard had met none of the conditions.
“I asked him, very politely, if he was going to comply with the court’s order, and he said no, because I had brought the (restraining order) to the court ‘ like a thief in the night, ’” Buzbee said.
Akard, who represented himself at Monday’s hearing, stood and objected to what he called Buzbee “testifying. ”
Kent told him that his decision to represent himself did not excuse him from the rules that allowed attorneys to discuss evidence in arguing their motions.
Akard continued his objection until getting a second, louder “sit down” from the judge.
When his turn to speak came, Akard said the judge’s Nov. 13 order had been “ambiguous” as to when it took effect.
Judge Kent disagreed.
“You have no discretion to determine the merits of a U.S. District Court’s order,” Kent told Akard. “You have no discretion to disregard the order of a federal court.”
As U.S. marshals led a handcuffed Akard out of court, Akard hurled expletives at Buffett’s attorneys and asked, “Is this what you wanted?”
Hours later, he was saying something else, entirely. While Buzbee deposed him, Akard offered what Buzbee called a “mea culpa.”
“He basically said he would not buy, sell or even own anything relating to Mr. Buffett,” Buzbee said.
Akard ultimately agreed to a permanent injunction stating that he and anyone working for or with him “be prohibited in perpetuity from purchasing or possessing products” that bore Buffett’s likeness or any of his registered slogans or images. Akard must also turn over all inventory bearing such images or slogans to Buffett’s attorneys within 10 days.
The order does not require Akard to shut down www.underonehut.com, as long as all Buffett-related references are removed.
“We didn’t want to put him out of business, per se,” Buzbee said. “We just wanted him out of the Jimmy Buffett business, and now, he is.”
Although he was released from custody, calls to Akard’s cell phone went unreturned Monday afternoon.
Scott E. Williams
The Daily News
November 28, 2006