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June 22, 2007

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Richard Grayson

Well, only in a criminal trial can a defendent be found "guilty." This was a civil trial and she's been found "liable" for damages.

Richard Grayson

Lots of people have the confusion between civil and criminal charges. I can recall years ago an old friend call me up hysterical after discovering that a celebrity (okay, Cher) was planning to sue her and a magazine for defamation in a piece my friend had written. "I'm afraid of going to prison," my friend cried. I explained that this was a civil trial, that the worst that could happen is that the magazine and perhaps she might have to pay damages. (Of course the dispute was settled long before it even got to the filing stage.)

Some actions are both crimes and torts (civil wrongs) -- for example, battery. If you beat up someone, you can be arrested by the police and tried for a criminal offense and also be sued for damages by your victim.

In some instances, fraud can be a crime: for instance, we've seen recent cases of securities fraud prosecuted by the federal government. It's hard to see where Albert's masquerading as JT Leroy would fit as a crime. She certainly had every right to publish under a pseudonym and try to make the public believe that person was real.

After the pop duo Milli Vanilli was revealed to have lip-synched their songs, a class action suit was brought against the recording company on behalf of people who had bought their records. Such suits tend to enrich the attorneys more than their clients, who usually end up with some coupon of minimal worth that's good for a future purchase or something like that. It's hard to believe anyone would be interested in a class action suit on behalf of those who bought JT Leroy's books, which were, after all, marketed as fiction.

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