Trial Starting in Defamation Lawsuit Against Author Nicholas Sparks

Saul Hillel Benjamin accuses "The Notebook" author of telling Epiphany School parents, a job recruiter and others that he suffered from mental illness

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Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Getty Images, File

The trial is getting underway in a lawsuit that accuses novelist Nicholas Sparks of defaming the former headmaster of a private Christian school he founded in North Carolina.

Saul Hillel Benjamin accuses Sparks of telling Epiphany School parents, a job recruiter and others that he suffered from mental illness.

The jury in the trial beginning Wednesday in Raleigh will decide whether the private K-12 school in Spark's hometown of New Bern, the author and the foundation Sparks created to support the school should pay damages.

Benjamin's lawsuit alleges that the author of "Message in a Bottle" and "The Notebook" defamed him and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Benjamin was in the headmaster's position for less than five months and says he was forced out. He headed the college-prep K-12 school in Sparks’ hometown of 30,000 people about 120 miles (193 kilometers) east of Raleigh between July and November 2013. Benjamin's hiring came after professorial jobs in Morocco, Germany and Lebanon and working as a senior adviser in President Bill Clinton’s Education Department, according to his resume.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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