Source AP ©

Patricia Cornwell sues author for libel

Best-selling crime writer Patricia Cornwell has started a libel lawsuit against another author, asking a federal judge to bar him from posting defamatory messages about her on the Internet.

Cornwell wants the court to enforce an injunction issued in 2000 against Leslie R. Sachs and seeks a broader ban to prevent Sachs from further writing negatively about Cornwell 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.

In an e-mail response to Cornwell's attorneys, Sachs called the lawsuit "hilarious." Sachs, whose last known U.S. residence is listed in court documents as Woodbridge, Virginia, called himself a "political refugee" who moved to Europe in 2004 to escape Cornwell's legal actions.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for May 22 in Richmond.

The injunction in 2000 stemmed from Sachs' book, "The Virginia Ghost Murders," a mystery published in 1998 about a modern-day sleuth who becomes involved in solving a Civil War-era murder. Claiming that Cornwell was about to publish a novel ripping off the plotline from his book, Sachs placed on the cover of his book: "The MUST-READ gothic mystery that preceded PATRICIA CORNWELL'S newest best-seller!"

Cornwell's complaint, filed in late April, claims that Sachs refused several requests to remove the Cornwell reference on his book and to stop making such statements about Cornwell, a former Richmond resident who now lives in Massachusetts. Sachs also published claims on two Web sites that the plot of Cornwell's 2000 book, "The Last Precinct," mimics that of his book, and put stickers on about 350 copies of "The Virginia Ghost Murders" claiming that Cornwell threatened to destroy his book.

"The Last Precinct" involves Virginia's fictional medical examiner Kay Scarpetta being tapped to solve the violent slaying of one of America's first settlers at Jamestown in the 1600s.

Cornwell has denied all of Sachs' allegations. One of her lawyers, James W. Morris III, declined to comment when contacted by telephone Monday.

An e-mail message left for Sachs by The Associated Press on Monday wasn't immediately returned.

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