Jury to weigh ex-school head’s lawsuit against writer Sparks

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Nicholas Sparks

FILE – In this Feb. 1, 2016, file photo, novelist Nicholas Sparks attends a special screening in Los Angeles. The trial is getting underway, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in a lawsuit that accuses Sparks of defaming the former headmaster of a private Christian school he founded in North Carolina. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A jury will decide whether the former head of a private Christian school that novelist Nicholas Sparks founded in his North Carolina hometown was unjustly fired, then defamed when the author said the educator suffered from mental illness.

Attorneys are expected to summarize their evidence Wednesday before jurors begin deliberating whether Saul Hillel Benjamin resigned or was pushed out. Jurors also will decide whether Sparks, his foundation and Epiphany School of Global Studies owe Benjamin money.

Sparks and the school are based in New Bern, about 120 miles (195 kilometers) east of Raleigh, where the federal trial is being held.

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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