Dr. Les Sachs
|“. . . judicial corruption, court fraud and extortion are all normal events now, something U.S. lawyers call 'playing the game'.”
In 2000, controversial writer and blogger Leslie ("Les") Raymond Sachs became embroiled in a bitter legal dispute with the successful and politically-connected author Patricia Cornwell, whom he accused of plagiarizing his work and later faulted for leading a depraved life style, harboring anti-Semitic views, and engaging in extremist right-wing activities. Court orders designed to silence his diatribes against Cornwell led Sachs in 2004 to seek refuge in Amsterdam, Holland and later Brussels, Belgium where he could escape a judgment against him and possible imprisonment and threats to his personal safety. His self-imposed exile transformed Sachs into an outspoken critic of political developments in the U.S., with his strongest invective reserved for the legal establishment.
Sachs, who holds degrees from several major universities, including a 1984 Doctorate in Canon Law (JCD) from Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, had published a well-received book in 1987, How to Buy Your New Car at a Rock-Bottom Price, which depicted car salesmen in unflattering terms and was filled with information that many car shoppers found highly useful. The paperback was published by Signet, a division of the multinational Penguin Group of publishers.
Penguin was also Patricia Cornwell's publisher. Her accomplishments as a crime novelist are legendary. Amazon.com lists 30 Cornwell books, from Postmortem, published in 1990 to Book of the Dead, published in 2007, half of them "best sellers." She also authored A Time for Remembering, a biography of Ruth Bell Graham, the wife of evangelist Billy Graham, first published in 1983 and later reissued as Ruth, A Portrait in 1998. Her commercial success made her wealthy. She has made significant contributions to support conservative causes and has used her wealth to bolster friendships with law enforcement agents and politicians and to pursue an unconventional life style.
Wishing to try his hand as a novelist, Sachs completed a crime novel, The Virginia Ghost Murders, and submitted the manuscript in late 1997 to Penguin's editors as well as to a literary agency, International Creative Management, whose agent, Esther Newberg, also happened to be Cornwell's agent.
Sachs' novel was rejected by Penguin, and he, as did many first-time novelists unable to find a publisher, decided to publish it himself, which he did in late 1998 hoping that its unique plot would attract the attention of readers and reviewers.
The following year, Penguin issued a notice that Cornwell would be publishing a new book in 2000 entitled, The Last Precinct, and from its brief description Sachs recognized the similarity of its plot to his own.
Outraged, Sachs launched a salvo of angry protest letters at Cornwell and everyone else associated with the production of her new novel, not realizing that with his limited resources he would be no match for the heavy artillery that Cornwell would be able to roll out in defense of her reputation and enterprise. Sachs' protest included placing references to Cornwell's alleged plagiarism on copies of his own novel.
Legal proceedings ensued with the object of enjoining Sachs from defaming Cornwell. They were held in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the honorable Robert E. Payne presiding. Payne, a 1967 graduate of Washington and Lee University School of Law, had been commissioned to the federal bench in 1992 during the administration of President George H.W. Bush. Sachs, who had negligible assets at the time, was represented by a court-appointed lawyer, Thomas H. Roberts.
According to Sachs, Cornwell revised her new book during the proceedings, removing the most obvious similarities to his own and delaying its publication, although "a few remnants of Cornwell's imitation" of his book still remained. Cornwell denied seeing Sachs' book prior to the proceedings.
The terms of the injunction against Sachs included the destruction of those books that incorporated a reference to Cornwell's alleged plagiarism, either in its pages or on labels that were affixed to the books. Sachs, an unwilling party to the settlement, construed the injunction as an attack on his First Amendment rights, and he rejected the First Amendment exemption that false and misleading defamatory speech is libelous and subject to legal restraint.
At this point, his court-appointed attorney made clear the extent of Judge Paynes' authority to imprison Sachs and control the conditions of his incarceration. In graphic detail, Roberts described how prisoners can be brutalized, raped and even murdered in jail. The message was not lost to Sachs. Fearful, and driven to the edge of despair by these threats, Sachs congratulated Roberts "on a successful extortion" and signed two letters, dated July 28, 2000, in which he expressed deep contrition for his actions against Cornwell.
But the fuse of resentment had been lit, and Sachs later exploded in a fury of indignation in which he denounced Roberts, Payne, Cornwell and indeed the entire judicial establishment that seemed arbitrarily to dictate limits to his behavior and freedom of expression. The result was a series of harsh and sometimes vicious diatribes that were spread by means of the Internet and which generated new urgency on the part of Cornwell and other targets of Sachs' invective to silence him.
Motions were filed, he was dunned for the legal expenses of his defense, and in 2004 Sachs fled to Europe where he continued to attack his adversaries and write essays about the hypocrisy and failures of a country that seemed to be losing its democratic ideals.
On June 5, 2007 the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia issued an injunction (see PDF) that required Sachs to remove all material from Internet Web sites that reference Cornwell and his novel, The Virginia Ghost Murders. Almost immediately following the injunction, Google removed from its search engine one of Sachs' essays reprinted on Tulanelink and substituted a message directing viewers to http://www.chillingeffects.org, a cease-and-desist Web site.
The terms of the injunction could affect this very Web page.
Tulanelink is grateful to Dorothy Mataras for stimulating discussions of the Sachs case. For additional details and an alternative view, see http://www.victimsoflaw.net. Dr. Les Sachs can be contacted by email at Dr-Les-Sachs@laposte.net. Further information is available at his Web sites: http://cornwell-scandal.tripod.com, http:/www.patricia-cornwell-biography.net, http://www.banned-in-the-usa.net and http://www.dr-les-sachs.be, accessed 07/27/07.
Sachs' "ordeal" is described in his 2005 essays: