Jayme Gordon, a man who claimed that Dreamworks stole Kung Fu Panda from him and wanted a $12 million settlement, was sentenced yesterday to two years in federal prison.
A Massachusetts judge also ordered Gordon to repay Dreamworks more than $3 million in restitution, the amount that Dreamworks had to spend defending itself from Gordon’s frivolous lawsuit. It’s a relatively light sentence compared to the maximum amount of prison time he could have received.
What separated Gordon’s case from the typical intellectual property lawsuit against a Hollywood studio is that Gordon didn’t just claim that Dreamworks stole his idea, but he also created new artwork after he saw the trailer for Kung Fu Panda in 2008 and backdated it to make it appear that he had created the artwork first. (Full disclosure: I worked on the case as the art expert for Dreamworks’ legal defense team.)
Gordon’s brazen scheme imploded after Dreamworks’ lawyers discovered that the artwork Gordon claimed was from 1992 was actually traced out of a Lion King coloring book from 1996. (Subsequently at his trial, Gordon claimed that he also created the storyline for Disney’s The Lion King.)
Gordon was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of wire fraud and perjury in December 2015, and convicted of those charges by a jury in November 2016. At his most recent sentencing trial, Gordon, 51, continued to proclaim his innocence, while telling the court that he not only created the stories for Kung Fu Panda and The Lion King, but also Pixar’s A Bug’s Life.
While prosecutors sought a five-year sentence for Gordon, U.S. District Judge Patti B. Saris ultimately reduced it two years, stating that she thought Gordon might suffer from autism or other undiagnosed mental health disorders. According to a report from the Boston Globe, she has ordered Gordon to be held at a prison hospital where he can receive psychiatric care and alcohol abuse treatment.
Dreamworks, for their part, gave a victim impact statement to the court on behalf of its artists who had worked on the film. “Across the board, they felt their talent was being attacked and time was wasted defending this claim,” Dreamworks representative Christopher Miller said during the sentencing trial.