Judge Orders End to Cornwell Attacks
June 8, 2007

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal judge has ordered a self-published author to cease an Internet vendetta in which he has accused best-selling crime novelist Patricia Cornwell of plagiarism, bribery, anti-Semitism and even plotting to have him murdered.

Those claims are among 45 specific lies Leslie R. Sachs has spread about Cornwell, Judge Norman K. Moon said in a June 5 order (see PDF) granting Cornwell's motion for a permanent injunction.

Moon said the statements were not only false but were "calculated to expose plaintiff to public contempt or ridicule" and were published with actual malice, thus clearing the high bar the law has set for libeling a public figure.

Sachs has made no direct threats, but Cornwell has said his allegations have caused her fear, anxiety and sleeplessness. She said Sachs' campaign against her was a major reason she moved away from Richmond in 2001. She now lives in Massachusetts.

Cornwell long ignored Sachs but sued him for libel when the Internet attacks escalated.

"I'm trying to keep a cap on my anger, because anger makes you sick, and I don't let myself get hateful because that just poisons you," Cornwell told The Boston Globe. "But when a schoolyard bully punches me in the nose, I'm going to have to hit back."

Sachs did not respond to an e-mail from the Associated Press seeking comment in time for this article.

Cornwell, 50, and Sachs first clashed in 2000 when he accused her of plagiarizing from his self-published book, The Virginia Ghost Murders, in her novel, The Last Precinct.

She sued for libel, and a judge ordered Sachs to remove from his book stickers calling it "the must-read gothic mystery that preceded Patricia Cornwell's newest best seller." The judge also ordered Sachs to stop using Cornwell's name to promote his book.

The Internet campaign ensued, with Sachs calling Cornwell a "Jew-hater," a felon under federal investigation and a "neo-Nazi," prompting Cornwell to return to court to seek enforcement of the 2000 injection and an order barring further defamatory postings.

Sachs, 52, did not attend a hearing on Cornwell's motion last month and was not represented by counsel. Court papers listed his last U.S. residence as Woodbridge, Va., but he has called himself a "political refugee" who moved to Europe in 2004 to escape Cornwell's legal actions.

Copyright 2007, Associated Press

From: LAW.COM, June 8, 2007, http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1181207131355, accessed 06/08/07.  See also: First Amendment Center, http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?id=18655, accessed 07/24/07.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.
Report of the 2000 Injunction:
Federal Judge Agrees to Block Internet Accusation Against Novelist
May 17, 2000

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal judge said yesterday that he would stop the author of a gothic novel from making false statements about crime novelist Patricia Cornwell on the Internet.

Leslie Raymond Sachs, a Richmond writer, posted statements online claiming that he believes Cornwell took the plot idea for her forthcoming novel, The Last Precinct, from his book, The Virginia Ghost Murders.

Sachs contends he was exercising his First Amendment right to free speech.

Last month, Cornwell filed a $1.35 million defamation lawsuit against Sachs. Her book is due out in November.

After listening to five hours of arguments in the dispute yesterday, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne said the evidence suggested that Sachs set out to fabricate a scandal that would help him sell his book. The judge said he would issue the temporary order sought by Cornwell and would set the case for trial.

Cornwell testified that she did not use Sachs' ideas in her novel and had never seen either Sachs or his book until she came to court.

Sandra Baron, executive director of the Libel Defense Resource Center, called the ruling "highly unusual."

"There is no question that any kind of injunctive relief in a libel case is highly unusual," Baron said. "It is almost an absolute rule that plaintiffs cannot obtain injunctive relief in a libel case because it is a prior restraint. Prior restraints are limited to extraordinary circumstances."

Copyright 2000, Associated Press

From: First Amendment Center, May 17, 2000, http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?id=7156, accessed 07/24/07.  Author unknown. The Freedom Forum Online staff contributed to this report.  Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C. § 107 for a non-profit educational purpose.