Nicholas Sparks cleared in defamation lawsuit

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A federal jury in Raleigh cleared author Nicholas Sparks in a defamation lawsuit on Wednesday.

The jury was tasked with deciding whether the former head of a private Christian school that Sparks founded in his North Carolina hometown was unjustly fired, then defamed when the author said the educator suffered from mental illness.

Sparks released the following statement after the jury released its decision:

I am grateful for the jury’s verdict in favor of myself, the Epiphany School and the Nicholas Sparks Foundation.  The verdict speaks volumes, and completely rejects the campaign waged by Mr. Benjamin and his lawyers in an attempt to discredit Epiphany and me.  As my testimony made clear, I have always been personally supportive of gay rights, gay marriage, and gay adoption. Further, Epiphany is and remains a place where students and faculty of any race, belief, religion, background, or orientation should feel welcome. My commitment to these values, as well as Epiphany’s commitment to these values, have been and remain constant. I look forward to getting back to writing full time, and I thank my family, friends, and readers for their support.

Attorneys summarized their evidence Wednesday before jurors began deliberating whether Saul Hillel Benjamin resigned or was pushed out.

Sparks and the school are based in New Bern, about 120 miles east of Raleigh.

Sparks says Benjamin lied about his experience and job performance and also caused a series of campus conflicts that justified his firing. Sparks says Benjamin accepted $150,000 to resign instead.

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