Former business partner of Subrah Iyar and Min Zhu, Michael Zeleny, is to be tried tomorrow in People v. Michael Zeleny, San Mateo County Superior Court Case No. SM382036, for lawful armed protests at headquarters of New Enterprise Associates (NEA), which bills itself as “the largest VC firm in the country”.
Between 2001 and 2011, Zeleny has litigated various matters against NEA and WebEx, including Zeleny v. Zhu and WebEx, Santa Clara Superior Court case number CV809286; WebEx v. Zeleny, Los Angeles County Superior Court case No. BC 324927; Zeleny v. WebEx, Santa Clara County Superior Court case no. 1-06-CV062767; and NEA v. Zeleny, San Mateo Superior Court Case No. CIV499465. According to the filings in these cases, Subrah Iyar and Min Zhu, co-founders of WebEx and its former CEO and CTO, and Scott Sandell, General Partner of NEA, were the subjects of long-running protests organized by Michael Zeleny, their former business partner. Citing postings by Zhu’s daughter Erin on the Usenet newsgroup alt.sexual.abuse.recovery in 1991 and 1992, her claim for childhood sexual abuse settled in 2000 and documented in Affeld v. Zhus, Santa Clara Superior Court case number CV817300, and her testimony given in a 2003 sworn deposition, that she was raped by her father at the age of fourteen, Zeleny stated that executives accused of rape by family members and their knowing enablers have no place in positions of public trust.
Zeleny has posted Erin Zhu’s deposition transcript online. Her testimony concerning childhood sexual abuse by her father is posted on YouTube.
According to Breaking News, posted on ConferencingNews.com on 3 May 2005, WebEx shut down its user conference in response to Zeleny protesting against it outside the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco the day before. A week later this report was corroborated by another conference attendee. On 13 May 2005, WebEx issued a press release announcing Min Zhu’s sudden “retirement” and his relocation to China. And on 23 September 2005, Private Equity Week announced the formation of Northern Light, a venture capital fund co-founded in China by Min Zhu, in partnership with Scott Sandell of NEA. In commenting this announcement on the same day, China Venture News reported:
What’s missing in the PrivateEquityOnline article or any NEA release is any mention of the previous controversy surrounding NEA’s venture partner, Min Zhu, who joined NEA in 2004, after his forced resignation as WebEx President and Director.
Currently Min Zhu also operates Cybernaut China Venture Capital, whose press releases bills it as “one of China’s pioneering investment fund [sic]”. Zeleny’s protests are aimed at drawing attention to NEA’s continued association with Min Zhu.
Zeleny also claims that for many years, WebEx funneled its customers’ confidential data to China, serving as a front for Chinese intelligence in the U.S. He has issued subpoenas in People v. Zeleny to former WebEx security personnel, who collaborated with Federal law enforcement agencies in their ongoing investigation of industrial espionage by WebEx.
Zeleny has also issued subpoenas to NEA’s founder Dick Kramlich and Scott Sandell, as well as Subrah Iyar and David Farrington, in their capacities of business associates of Min Zhu and principals in Moxtra, an online collaboration service founded by Iyar with his daughters, and liable to the same customer privacy violations as WebEx.
According to an article by Ron Leuty, published in San Francisco Business Timeson 29 June 2008, Kramlich moved to China,in part to collaborate with “NEA senior venture adviser Min Zhu, who cofounded software firm WebEx Communications Inc. of Santa Clara (an NEA investment) and now is a leading angel investor in China”. Commenting on Chinese business policies, Kramlich was quoted as saying: “If that’s communism, it’s about the most enlightened form of communism I’ve ever seen.” Zeleny repeatedly forwarded evidence of Min Zhu’s history as an incestuous child rapist to NEA since 2005. NEA has acknowledged its timely receipt during litigation with Zeleny.
According to the filings in NEA v. Zeleny, Zeleny has repeatedly appeared at the corporate headquarters of New Enterprise Associates in Menlo Park and Cisco WebEx in Santa Clara between 2009 and 2011, accompanied by live musicians, along with a number of other protesters bearing large portraits of Min Zhu, Subrah Iyar, and Scott Sandell. At each appearance Zeleny has carried unloaded firearms and ammunition. Local police have been present at each protest. Zeleny seeks to expose the involvement of New Enterprise Associates and their current and former partners Scott Sandell and Dick Kramlich, who are responsible for NEA’s activities in China, with Min Zhu and his enterprises. His public performances have been recorded by a professional videographer and posted on the Internet. In the course of his protests, Zeleny deploys and operates a number of video and still cameras, vowing to complete his documentary case study of Silicon Valley business ethics. Zeleny views his protests as open-ended, and says that he will continue his campaign as long as needed.
People v. Michael Zeleny, San Mateo County Superior Court Case No. SM382036, set to be tried on 2 June 2014, accuses the defendant of violating California Penal Code Section 25400 (a) (2): “A person is guilty of carrying a concealed firearm when the person does any of the following: […] Carries concealed upon the person any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.” Zeleny points out that his handgun rested in a conspicuously exposed locked belt holster whilst he conducted his public protests. California Penal Code § 25400 (b) provides: “A firearm carried openly in a belt holster is not concealed within the meaning of this section.” Additionally, Section 25510 (a) provides that Section 25400 does not apply to, or affect “[t]he possession of a firearm by an authorized participant in a motion picture, television, or video production, or an entertainment event, when the participant lawfully uses the firearm as part of that production or event, or while going directly to, or coming directly from, that production or event.” In view of these statutory exemptions, redress is available to Zeleny under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for, and limited to, a “violation of a federal right, not merely a violation of federal law,” and courts must determine whether a federal statute confers a redressable federal “right.” The individual right to keep and bear arms was affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Peruta v. San Diego. Accordingly, a 1983 claim is being prepared on Zeleny’s behalf.
Zeleny maintains a website dedicated to Min Zhu, Subrah Iyar and Scott Sandell at http://www.subrah.com/. Contact Zeleny by phone at 323-363-1860 or email at zeleny(at)post(dot)harvard(dot)edu, or his counsel David Affeld of Affeld Grivakes Zucker LLP, by phone at 310-979-8700 or email at dwa(at)agzlaw(dot)com.