Ann Rule, True-Crime Writer, Sues Seattle Newspaper for Defamation

Image: Ann Rule, True-Crime Writer, Sues Seattle Newspaper for Defamation

Wednesday, 24 Jul 2013 02:37 PM

By Newsmax Wires

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Ann Rule, the famous true-crime author known for such books as "The Stranger Beside Me" and "Everything She Ever Wanted," is suing a weekly Seattle newspaper for publishing a lengthy article in 2011 that she claims defamed her.

The piece, written by freelance writer Rick Swart, accused Rule of being a "sloppy storyteller" and omitting key facts in her book about Liysa Northon, an Oregon woman who served 12 years in prison after killing her husband in 2000, The Associated Press reported.

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Northon filed a lawsuit against Rule in King County Superior Court last week alleging Rule distorted the facts.

Northon argued she was a battered spouse and said she shot her husband, pilot Chris Northon, during a camping trip in eastern Oregon to protect herself and her children. But Rule's book "Heart Full of Lies" laid out a different theory: that Liysa Northon had long planned the killing and faked evidence of abuse to cover up her real motive, collecting insurance money and other benefits.

Liysa Northon pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was released from prison last fall. She sued Rule for defamation — a case that was dismissed by a federal judge in 2007, with Liysa Northon and her father ultimately being ordered to pay more than $60,000 for Rule's legal fees after an unsuccessful appeal.

In 2011, Seattle Weekly ran an article about the Chris Northon case by Rick Swart, a freelance writer who previously served as the editor and publisher of a small Oregon newspaper, the Wallowa County Chieftain. The article accused Rule of making numerous mistakes in her book and ignoring important facts beneficial to Liysa Northon's case.

Seattle Weekly's then-editor, Caleb Hannan, has said he didn't learn until after the article was published that Swart and Northon were engaged. The couple got married in prison later that year.

In a lengthy editor's note days after the piece ran, Hannan explained the omission and said he had uncovered several minor mistakes in Swart's reporting.

Rule argues in her lawsuit that the damage had been done because to sell her books, she relies on her reputation for accuracy and attention to detail.

"The article contained innumerable inaccuracies and untruths concerning the testimony and evidence in the trial of Liysa Northon and also included various unfounded personal attacks on Rule," her lawyer, Anne Bremner, wrote in the complaint. "At the time ... Swart and Northon were engaged, and any meaningful inquiry by Seattle Weekly or Hannan should have discovered this significant source of bias."

Hannan and Swart, who are also named as defendants, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

"The article in question was published prior to our ownership," Sound Publishing President Gloria Fletcher said in an email. "At the time, Seattle Weekly was owned by New Times Media. Sound Publishing has not been served with any complaint."

The lawsuit seeks "reasonable damages."

During her 30-plus career, the 70-year-old Rule has written dozens of books, one of the most well-known being her first, titled "The Stranger Beside Me," in which she wrote about her experience working with serial killer Ted Bundy on a crisis hotline.

Bundy, who was known the "Lady Killer," confessed to killing more than 30 young women over a four year period in the 1970s. Authorities believe Bundy's list of victims is significantly larger.

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