MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge in Minneapolis handed down a five-year prison sentence for a former attorney John Steele, who extorted money from people who were accused of downloading video porn as part of the scam.

"The crime you committed was extremely serious," U.S. District Court Judge Joan Ericksen told Steele. "You abused the court system."

But she said she appreciated Steele's cooperation in prosecuting a co-conspirator in the fraud case and said that Steele seems to be a person who can change for the better.

Between 2011 and 2014, Steele and fellow lawyer Paul Hansmeier, obtained copyrights on pornographic movies and then uploaded them to file-sharing websites. Then the two lawyers waited for people to download the porn.

Hansmeier and Steele would subpoena internet service providers for the identity of subscribers that they suspected of transferring the porn to their computers.

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The attorneys threatened those subscribers with sham copyright infringement lawsuits, saying they would face huge financial penalties and public embarrassment unless they paid a $3,000 settlement fee.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Langner said Steele's cooperation was crucial to getting Hansmeier to plead guilty and that Steele deserved a much shorter sentence that the 14 years Hansmeier got for the fraud.