Serial litigator behind Sandusky suits revealed
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A Pennsylvania felon once dubbed the "most litigious man in America" is behind the recent flurry of bogus federal lawsuits targeting former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky -- but this time he may have gone too far.
Jonathan Lee Riches, known as "Johnny Sue-nami" and a host of other nicknames reflecting his hobby, has been ordered by a Wisconsin judge to show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court.
U.S. District Judge William Conley, who presides in Madison, said Friday that a motion for a preliminary injunction against Mr. Sandusky under the name Jonathan Bollinger is the work of Riches, author of about a dozen similar suits in recent weeks, including one in Pittsburgh.
In the Wisconsin complaint, in which "Mr. Bollinger" claimed to be the cousin of University of Pittsburgh quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger, the plaintiff said Mr. Sandusky tried to molest him at a urinal during the third quarter of a 2002 football game at the University of Wisconsin between Penn State and the Wisconsin Badgers.
Judge Conley said Riches is a "notorious, serial filer of frivolous lawsuits across the country." He ruled that the suit was both frivolous and malicious and gave Riches until July 31 to show why he should not be held in contempt and his conduct referred to his probation officer and the U.S. attorney's office.
"Even aside from the incredibly tasteless act of filing these false accusations in light of the very real victims of sexual assaults against children, the individual involved here appears to have committed a fraud on this court," the judge wrote.
It's not the first time.
Riches, 35, originally from West Chester, was part of an identity theft ring 10 years ago when he was living in Florida and served eight years in prison for wire fraud and conspiracy in Texas.
Before his April release from prison in Lexington, Ky., he had filed some 5,000 federal suits.
He targeted everyone from Martha Stewart and Britney Spears to Kim Kardashian, Tony Danza, the Philadelphia Eagles, the "Somali pirates," Three Mile Island, the Ming dynasty and Michelangelo.
One of his more prominent cases was against former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, from whom he wanted $662 trillion in damages for "dashing my hopes."
Judges in some jurisdictions barred him from filing any more complaints, but he persisted in other districts.
In 2010, at the request of federal prosecutors in Lexington, a judge ordered that the Bureau of Prisons could review and reject his mail to stop the flow of suits clogging up the system and wasting court resources.
Since he got out, though, Riches has been up to old tricks, filing one bizarre complaint after another under false names against Mr. Sandusky.
The one filed here was typical.
Using the name "Jonathan Harris" and claiming to be the nephew of former Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris, Riches claimed Mr. Sandusky molested the plaintiff at a 1999 Pittsburgh Pirates game.
Riches withdrew the filing last week, saying "I do not wish to proceed with this suit. Please leave me alone."
That might not happen, however. In tossing the complaint, U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer referred the issue to the U.S. attorney's office here.
First Published July 10, 2012 12:00 am