Media & Communications Law

Judge: Stop Web Attack on Crime Author

In an unusual and perhaps unenforceable order, a federal judge in Virginia has told a self-published author to end a longstanding Internet vendetta against Patricia Cornwell, a best-selling crime novelist.

Formerly a resident of Richmond, Cornwell, 50, says she moved from Virginia to Massachusetts in 2001 largely because of her concerns about the ongoing verbal attacks on the Web site, and now routinely leaves her home there only with a bodyguard, reports AP. However, the vendetta by Leslie R. Sachs, 52, a graduate of Harvard University who now lives in Europe, apparently did not include physical threats against Cornwell, only “45 specific lies,” as AP put it, that Judge Norman K. Moon found Sachs had spread about Cornwell.

They include false claims that she is an anti-Semite, has plagiarized from Sachs’ work, and even sought to have him murdered. Cornwell has also sued Sachs for libel, and the judge’s ruling that his statements were published with actual malice eliminates a bar that could otherwise preclude her, as a public figure, from winning damages, AP writes. Among others that Sachs accuses of plotting with Cornwell against him are his former lawyer, notes the Boston Globe in a detailed profile today of Cornwell’s situation.

Moon issued a permanent injunction on Tuesday, ordering Sachs to stop publishing false statements about Cornwell on the Internet. Sachs said, via the Internet, that he doesn’t intend to comply, according to Computerworld. It isn’t clear how this order can be enforced, AP says, but Cornwell’s lawyers intend to ask Internet service providers and search engines to prominently link the order to any search that might turn up Sachs’ allegations.


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