Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Laura Albert Found Guilty of Fraud In NY Court

On June 16th, I did a post here on the fraud trial of Laura Albert, who was being sued by the film production company that had optioned her novel Sarah.

The production company, Antidote International Films, had thought they were contracting with JT Leroy, who was supposedly the son of a truck-stop prostitute. When they found that the writer behind JT Leroy was actually "a mother and otherwise obscure novelist from Brooklyn Heights" (according to the New York Times), they cried foul.

Last Friday in a Federal District court in Manhattan, a jury found that Ms. Albert had defrauded the production company by signing a movie contract under false pretenses.

According to the Los Angeles Times (LAT), the jury awarded $110,000 to Antidote, which had claimed they'd spent that much on a film treatment before learning the truth. In addition, the jury awarded $6,500 in punitive damages.

"U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said he would determine later whether attorneys' fees would be awarded." (LAT)

Albert's attorneys had argued that their client used the "JT Leroy" persona to buffer her from a horrific past that included sexual abuse and childhood trauma. The New York Times described Leroy as "a sort of imaginary survival apparatus that allowed her (Albert) both to write and to breathe."

Antidote's attorneys, predictably, took a dimmer view of the JT Leroy nom de plume. They pointed to the instances where Ms. Albert had paid a friend to appear as JT Leroy in public in order to promote her book.

Ms. Albert, of course, condemned the verdict while saying she expected it.

So is this the end for the novel Sarah? Maybe not.

"Steven Shainbery, the proposed director of the film, testified that when he learned who had truly written Sarah an inspiration came to him to make a "meta-film," a triple-layered movie that would blend the novel with the lives of its real and purported authors in a project he took to calling Sarah Plus." (NYT)

Stay tuned to see whether Sarah Plus has legs.

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