This was declared a mistrial in late 2008 over the way the judge briefed the jury before they retired, specifically, that he stressed to the jury that the files were deliberately available for sharing whereas Thomas-Rasset insisted they were for personal use.
At the re-trial in mid 2009, a new verdict was delivered: still guilty, but the amount was raised to $80,000 per song, totalling $1.92M.
Last week, following an appeal for a new trial, Judge Michael Davis turned down that appeal, but severely reduced the amount of the fine, to $54,000, being $2,250 per song.
The Judge was quoted as saying "The need for deterrence cannot justify a $2 million verdict for stealing and illegally distributing 24 songs for the sole purpose of obtaining free music." He added that the amount of $54,000 "is significant and harsh... this Court has merely reduced that award to the maximum amount that is no longer monstrous and shocking."
Judge Davis' message to the RIAA was to either accept the new fine or to seek a new trial to set a new damages amount.
The latest reports suggest that with the bit firmly between their teeth, the RIAA has decided to challenge the ruling and will charge ahead to a new trial.
In response Thomas-Rasset's pro bono lawyers have said that even the fine of $54,000 is constitutionally excessive, being 2,250 times the likely purchase price of the songs in question.
This case has been something of an albatross around the neck of the RIAA, being the first time that a targeted offender has chosen to go to court rather than capitulate in the face of an early settlement offer. Since then, only one other person, Joel Tenenbaum of Boston, has chosen to take the case to court; the Thomas-Rasset case will have no impact on his trial.
Amusingly, this whole saga started with an out-of-court settlement offer of just $5,000. In pure emotional and stress-related terms, Thomas-Rasset must be sorely regretting not accepting it.