Chapter 2: Caged

"I never stole it. He stole it!" Cohen cries, pointing at Gary Kremen. "Let's get this real clear, I have had sex.com since 1979. It was you guys that went into court and explained that there was some cockamamie list and therefore he was the owner. The name sex.com has always been mine."

It was just plain bad luck, no doubt, that the United States District Court for Northern California, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court had all decided things were the other way around – that it was Cohen who had stolen sex.com from Kremen.

There was another clue: it was Cohen and not Kremen who was sitting in an orange jumpsuit that had stenciled on the front, in black:

SANTA CLARA CO.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION
MAIN JAIL

It was December 2005, 56 months since Cohen had been ordered to pay Kremen $65 million in damages, and he was stuck in the one place that he had been carefully avoiding ever since: a US jail. Sitting facing Gary Kremen.

Sixty-five million dollars was a lot of money, Cohen had decided five years earlier, and there was no way he was going to pay it to the man that had not only beaten him in court but who had also taken away his beloved sex.com. Kremen had the domain, but he would keep the cash. He had still won.

So Cohen fled the United States and moved outside both the court's and Gary Kremen's reach. It was the start of a chase then went on for five long years, across the United States, Mexico, Europe and Asia until, finally, fate intervened and Stephen Cohen found himself being handed over to the US marshalls at the Mexican border.

A fortnight later he was shipped to San Jose jail, and a month after that, there he was, facing the man that he had met only once before in person but with whom he had been battling for ten years: Gary Kremen. Kremen and his lawyers wanted to know where the money was. Cohen thought he would tackle the issue rather differently. "I take great offence that you're under the belief that sex.com was ever stolen," he told them. "I'm the true owner of sex.com. I lost this case by default."

They might as well have asked Cohen to cut off his arms and legs, because to a man like Stephen Cohen, it is the money – every single cent of it – that justifies the lifetime of lies, the cold deception of friends and family, and the painful process of living outside society. "In all the years you've been chasing me," Cohen told Kremen, "you have never got a single asset in my name. And you never will."