If you get into an argument on Facebook with disbarred Houston attorney Bill Satterwhite, you better not post any news stories about Bill Satterwhite, disbarred attorney, or else he'll sue your ass for libel.
A guy named Steve Akin found that out in April, when he and Satterwhite got into a heated political debate on a mutual friend's Facebook page. Akin ultimately posted links to Houston Press and Houston Chronicle articles about Satterwhite's 2010 charge of falsely holding himself out as an attorney, his third charge for the same crime after losing his license in 1995. Akin says he wrote, "Is this you?" Satterwhite told Akin to remove the posts. He did not, but according to both men, the mutual friend removed the entire thread shortly thereafter.
Twenty-four hours later, Akin found himself sued. Specifically, Satterwhite says Akin "posted false and libelous information on Facebook" — a place where, everyone knows, false and libelous information is never posted. Satterwhite demanded $100,000, and he included an affidavit in which he says the Harris County District Attorney's Office once encouraged a drug dealer to kill Satterwhite. And we're of course absolutely sure that that's not false and libelous. No way.
Here's the deal: Satterwhite's license woes began in the early 1990s after he didn't pay his yearly State Bar dues on time and represented a client while his license had been temporarily suspended. This eventually wound up with the State Bar never reinstating the license. Satterwhite was convicted in 1995 of falsely holding himself out as a lawyer and sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
The 2010 charge in Harris County was his third, and he faced life in prison. As we wrote back then:
According to court records, an investigator with the Harris County District Attorney's office recently received written statements and canceled checks from Satterwhite's "clients." A grand jury subpoena of Satterwhite's bank records revealed a few checks to Satterwhite from different people earmarked for "legal services" and "retainer" fees.
Satterwhite never demanded a clarification or retraction from any media outlets that reported his criminal history. But in his suit against Akin, he claims that the articles were false because they say Satterwhite was charged with and/or convicted of "practicing law without a license," which is technically not the name of the crime — sort of like how "killing a dude" is not the same as "murder."
Akin told the Press that his recent health problems were exacerbated by the lawsuit, and points out that he's had to lay out thousands of dollars so far to defend himself from something he believes was not unlawful. He says that Satterwhite offered to settle the matter out of court for much less than $100,000, but Akin didn't feel he should have to pay Satterwhite anything.
A Harris County Court judge felt as much with another defendant in another lawsuit Satterwhite filed in March along similar lines. That convoluted litigation stemmed from an eviction case in which Satterwhite acted as a tenant's "designated agent" — yeah, that's right, a designated agent, buddy, not a lawyer. The landlord's attorney (not designated agent, but actual bar-card-holdin' lawyer-man) filed a motion demanding that Satterwhite show why he had any standing in the matter.
That resulted in a lawsuit, Satterwhite-style. The erstwhile attorney accused the actual attorney of "tortious interference," and also accused the lawyer and landlord of libel and slander. The judge dismissed the case with prejudice and ordered Satterwhite to pay $510.80 in court costs.
Strangely, the judge in Akin's case did not summarily dismiss that suit, and we can't imagine why. But we're glad Satterwhite agreed to speak with us, because we wanted to find out more about his accusation that the DA's Office wanted him rubbed out. Satterwhite's tale was intriguing: He said that, in the 1980s, he represented an organization of Cuban drug dealers who he believed worked for Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar. Satterwhite says the criminal charges involved both federal and state courts, but we couldn't find any record of these cases — we wonder why that would be — and he also told us that he was also once charged with smuggling 600,000 pounds of marijuana. (We couldn't find any record of that either. Go figure.)
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Satterwhite says that one of the smugglers he represented decided to become a witness for the Harris County District Attorney's Office. Satterwhite says he has knowledge of a videotape showing an assistant district attorney, who we're not going to name because we don't want a hit put out on us, telling this informant that they wanted him to set Satterwhite up, and it would be okay if Satterwhite died in the process.
"If you don't get Satterwhite, we're going to bury your ass...under the courthouse," Satterwhite told us this assistant district attorney said. On videotape.
Oddly, it turns out that the Harris County DA's Office really did have a problem with Satterwhite, at least when it came to falsely holding himself out as an attorney. It appears the DA's Office dismissed the 2010 charge, but charged Satterwhite again in 2012. According to court records, DA's investigators searched Satterwhite's home and seized evidence that a judge ruled was privileged work product related to Satterwhite's defense. Judge Marc Brown then granted Satterwhite's request to recuse the Harris County District Attorney's Office, stating that the DA's prosecution "would be akin to asking a professional football coach to forget everything he saw in an opposing opponent's playbook, prior to playing that opposing team during the season."
Prosecutors dismissed all charges against Satterwhite. But it appears that, instead of just thanking his lucky stars that a bit of prosecutorial recklessness spared him a potential lifetime in the slammer, he decided to go around and try to make a few bucks filing ridiculous libel suits.