Jury selected in NC defamation lawsuit against author Sparks
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Jury selected in NC defamation lawsuit against author 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. — 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.

Emery P. Dalesio, The Associated Press

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