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Cornwell wants online harassment to stop

Best-selling crime writer Patricia Cornwell appeared in court Tuesday to ask a federal judge to permanently bar a self-published author from posting defamatory messages about her on the Internet.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Best-selling crime writer Patricia Cornwell appeared in court Tuesday to ask a federal judge to permanently bar a self-published author from posting defamatory messages about her on the Internet.

Cornwell denied Leslie R. Sachs’ accusations that she is a “Jew-hater,” a felon under federal investigation and a “neo-Nazi,” and said the allegations have caused her anxiety, fear and sleeplessness. She said the escalation of the postings against her was the main reason she moved from Richmond to Massachusetts in 2001.

“You can accuse me of a lot of things, but hating a group of people or being a felon” is beyond the pale, said Cornwell of postings and e-mails by Sachs, whose last U.S. residence is listed in court documents as Woodbridge, Va., but who called himself a “political refugee” who moved to Europe in 2004 to escape Cornwell’s legal actions.

The hearing was part of a libel lawsuit Cornwell filed against Sachs, who did not appear in court Tuesday and did not have legal representation present. Sachs did not immediately return an e-mail from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Cornwell, who said Sachs’ rants were a “huge distraction from the creative process,” also told U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon that she has had to hire two full-time bodyguards and “massively increase” her security measures, which has prohibited her from doing in-person appearances to promote her last two novels.

“I don’t meet my fans anymore. That’s been a great source of sadness and loss,” said Cornwell, who was accompanied by three security guards posted inside and outside the courtroom. “It’s dehumanizing my career.”

‘I’m married to somebody Jewish’She also denied Sachs’ claim that she plagiarized from his self-published book “The Virginia Ghost Murders” in her 2000 novel “The Last Precinct,” and said that all of Sachs’ voluminous allegations have caused immeasurable harm to her reputation.

When asked by her lawyer, Joan A. Lukey, whether she hated Jews, Cornwell responded that she was outraged by the allegation and said that she had Jewish friends, agents and lawyers.

“I’m married to somebody Jewish,” she added.

She said that her largest concern is about possible damage to her reputation, which could harm her ability to gain access to sources that can help her do research for subsequent books. She also testified that large donations that she’s made to charitable groups have been listed as “anonymous.”

A University of South Carolina psychiatrist, Donna Marie Schwartz-Watts, testified by teleconference that Sachs’ behavior can be classified as cyberstalking.

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Schwartz-Watts reviewed Sachs’ postings and said that although she couldn’t directly gauge Sachs’ intent, he does present a potential risk to Cornwell in that his “emotionally loaded remarks could incite people who share his views.”

Cornwell wants the court to enforce an injunction issued in 2000 against Sachs and seeks a broader ban to prevent Sachs from further writing negatively about her on Web sites or allowing such statements to remain on those sites.

She also seeks unspecified financial compensation for defamatory postings since Aug. 14, 2000, when another federal judge issued the injunction against Sachs.

In an interview after the hearing, Cornwell said that even though she can’t put a price tag on the damage, Sachs should have to be held accountable for his actions.

“Someone should not be able to run away from the consequences of their despicable behavior,” Cornwell said. “How that is remedied, I don’t know, but someone should not be granted asylum in one country because they are violating injunctions and damaging people in another.”

Cornwell said that she plans to pay for her own security during a publicity tour to promote her next novel, “Book of the Dead,” scheduled to be released in the fall.