By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
"Prepare for a lengthy and costly litigation that may possibly last in excess of two-years and cost each defendant approximately $50,000.00," stated one. "There is no other possible way out," read another.
To many, including darts player Bill Lynch, the press releases sounded like a shakedown. A successful musician, Lynch says he was furious that Zaffina was effectively destroying his beloved darts club. He had plenty of money to hire attorneys and go toe-to-toe with Zaffina in court, so Lynch decided to plunge neck-deep into the fray.
"How could anyone not see his lawsuit as malicious?" Lynch asks. "He's a menace to society and needed to be stopped."
Lynch and his lawyer, Michael Zuk, went so far as to file a cross-complaint against Zaffina, essentially accusing him of blackmail. A judge, however, struck it down, ruling that there was "no conclusive evidence of extortion."
At one point, Lynch says, he was willing to settle with Zaffina, but he asked for a deadline extension in order to have time to contact all of the numerous other defendants. He says Zaffina refused him the extension, so any potential deal fell apart.
"It's like dealing with a little kid who wants to play with his football and gets mad when the other kids are playing with their football," Zuk says. "It's like he wants to be the lone emperor of darts in Southern California."
Why did Zaffina do it? That seems to be the million-dollar question among the darts players.
If you ask Zaffina, he'll say he's a businessman, that he's always had some big ideas on how to run a for-profit darts league, and that snatching up the SCDA name was akin to nabbing a brand name such as Snickers or Campbell's Soup when their owners fell asleep at the wheel.
"Clearly," he stated in a court declaration, the SCDA name "is not The Coca-Cola Company, but what smart businessperson would not acquire a corporation under the name The Coca-Cola Company if that company was so foolish as to let their legal status be suspended by the state's executive branch that regulated corporations?"
Zaffina dismisses the notion that he was motivated by sour grapes, proudly explaining how he told the darts players in August 2010 that their group was not incorporated yet gallantly refrained from acquiring the name until January.
"If they're angry at me because I'm a good businessman," he says, "and because I dot all my I's and cross all my T's and I follow the law, then that's their problem. They had the opportunity for a good four months to get to a lawyer or do it themselves and renew the corporation. They should be angry at themselves, not me."
But most of the players aren't buying it, even the ones who played with Zaffina and say they liked the guy.
"Dino's managed to completely disassemble the old SCDA and ruined it for a lot of guys," says Zaffina's former teammate, Nick Turpin. "To me, it was him getting back at Harvey and these [other] guys. It's ridiculous. What a dick."
Despite his insistence that the SCDA will be a full-fledged business, Zaffina is not tipping his hand. His only disclosure appears in court papers, in which he says he plans to operate a series of steel and soft-tip darts leagues, tournaments and other darts-related ventures.
"It's going to be much bigger than anything anybody could imagine," he tells the Weekly. "That's all I'm going to say. The goal is much bigger than anything these people could have even fathomed."
There is some speculation among the darts players that Zaffina's endeavor, if it's real, will be conducted mostly online. After all, they say, what local is going to want to play in his league?
"I find it ironic," says Fischer, "because he says he wants to make money and promote a darts league, but all the people he's suing would be his clients. He's a bloody idiot."
As far as the players go, they share a collective sense of brotherhood and doom. Most of the pubs they play in have decided to avoid litigation and agreed to Zaffina's terms, which include making sure that no one throws darts there under the SCDA name. Some of the pubs, including Ye Olde King's Head in Santa Monica, have posted signs saying as much.
The darts players are not sure what will come of the lawsuit against them, but they know Zaffina has legally obtained the SCDA name and, on that front at least, they've been licked.
"Dino won," Irete says. "He stopped us from playing. He put fear in too many people's minds and hearts."
Says Pierpoint, "It's really sad. Dino has hurt everyone who played in the league, all because he was trying to screw a few people he was pissed at."
Irete and Pierpoint both say plans are in the works to create a new league for the darts players, complete with new schedules, a proper tax ID and, of course, a new name that will be legally incorporated.
At one point, the players wanted to start fresh under the title Los Angeles Darts Association. Sabata says he mentioned the idea over the summer at the group's annual meeting and then posted the suggestion on Facebook on Sept. 7.