Author Protests 'Cyber-Stalker'

By Theresa Vargas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 15, 2007

There's no mystery about it. Patricia Cornwell knows whodunit, and she wants him to stop.

The best-selling crime author has filed a federal lawsuit against a lesser-known Virginia author, asking the court to force him to stop writing "defamatory and contemptuous" material about her on the Internet, including calling her racist and claiming she stole part of his novel.

An injunction was issued against author Leslie R. Sachs in 2000, after he began writing on his Web site that a Cornwell novel, "The Last Precinct," had a plot much like the one in his "The Virginia Ghost Murders," and affixed stickers to his book that read: "The book that famous PATRICIA CORNWELL threatened to destroy."

After the injunction was issued, Sachs was legally bound to stop his behavior toward her. But he didn't, and instead his blogs grew to include new libelous claims against her, hurting her reputation and causing her emotional distress, according to the most recent suit filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond on April 23.

"This has been extremely hard on her," said Cornwell attorney Joan A. Lukey. "She fears for her safety, frankly. And she is very concerned that there are people out there who believe if something appears on the Internet, it must be true."

Cornwell had never met or heard of Sachs before this incident began, Lukey said.

"Why he has this rather obsessive attitude against her we don't know," Lukey said. "This is, in essence, a form of cyber-stalking."

On one of Sachs's Web sites, he calls himself Cornwell's biographer and writes: "Here is the REAL story of Patricia Cornwell -- the criminal sleaze, the scandals, the truth, fully backed by documents that you can see for yourself."

On another, he writes, "Patricia Cornwell is a woman of many hatreds, a woman who boasted in Vanity Fair magazine that she can get away with murdering people."

Although Cornwell's attorneys say that the Internet sites have been up for a few years and that Sachs has violated the injunction in that time, the latest suit came about after he claimed Cornwell was under investigation by a U.S. special prosecutor.

Lukey said that is not true.

Sachs's claims that Cornwell is trying to harm him or that she bribed a federal judge or that she hates Jews are all false, Lukey said.

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