Nicholas Sparks denies lawsuit claims that he defamed educator

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Novelist Nicholas Sparks says there were plenty of grounds to fire the former headmaster at the private Christian school the author founded, but Sparks says the educator was allowed to resign with a severance of more than $150,000.

Sparks testified Wednesday at the start of a federal trial in Raleigh accusing him of defaming former headmaster Saul Hillel Benjamin, who was pushed out four months after starting the job in 2013. The author of "Message in a Bottle" and "The Notebook" says Benjamin lied repeatedly about his work experience and his performance at the school in New Bern, North Carolina.

Benjamin accuses Sparks of telling Epiphany School parents, a job recruiter and others that Benjamin suffered from mental illness. He's seeking damages from the author, Sparks' foundation and the school.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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A jury is ready to start hearing evidence in a federal lawsuit accusing novelist Nicholas Sparks of defaming the former headmaster of a private Christian school.

The author of "Message in a Bottle" and "The Notebook" is expected to be the first witness.

Saul Hillel Benjamin accuses Sparks of telling Epiphany School parents, a job recruiter and others that Benjamin suffered from mental illness. Benjamin also says he was forced out of the position he held for less than five months. He's seeking damages for defamation and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A jury of seven women and three men seated Wednesday in Raleigh will decide the case against the author, Sparks' foundation and the private school Sparks founded in his hometown of New Bern.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)