"You can hardly measure how much damage you have done to the administration of justice by abusing trust," Judge Joan Ericksen said at Friday's sentencing hearing.
Over the years, ArsTechca, the foreign media, has been following the actions of Hansmeier and his business partner John Steele. As early as 2012, ArsTechca began reporting on a law firm called Prenda Law, which is suing people who share pornographic movies online. Prenda is not the only law firm to file such lawsuits, but Prenda has come up with a novel way to do more business: upload movies themselves, including some produced by Prenda employees.
A key part of the company's strategy is to seek a settlement of thousands of dollars. Prosecutors say they earned more than $6 million from copyright agreements between 2010 and 2013. Over time, judges have become increasingly sceptical about Prenda's strategy.
As judges across the country dig up Prenda-related cases, they find more and more obvious cases of fraud. In another case, Steele and Hansmeier were accused of using Alan Cooper's identity as caretakers of a Steele estate. Cooper said he had not been consulted before being listed as chief executives of two Prenda-related shell companies.
In 2016, the two men were arrested and charged with federal fraud, perjury and money laundering.
"When judges across the country questioned this, Hansmeier accused other lawyers hired to sue on his behalf, falsely claimed to the court that he was not involved and ordered the destruction of evidence," the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Federal Attorney Benjamin Langner said: "It's outrageous that he abused the way the courts illegally obtained income. When he was caught, his behavior became worse.
Steele pleaded guilty in 2017 and cooperated with the authorities. Hansmeier initially fought the charges, but accepted a defence agreement last August.
The judge ordered Hansmeier to pay the victim $1.5 million in damages.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Hansmeier hardly defended himself during the lawsuit. "I'm looking forward to leaving it behind," he said.