Trial starting in defamation lawsuit against author Nicholas Sparks

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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) — The trial is getting underway in a lawsuit that accuses novelist Nicholas Sparks of defaming the former headmaster of a private Christian school he founded in North Carolina.

Saul Hillel Benjamin accuses Sparks of telling Epiphany School parents, a job recruiter and others that Benjamin suffered from mental illness.

The jury in the trial beginning Wednesday in Raleigh will decide whether the private K-12 school in Spark’s hometown of New Bern, the author and the foundation Sparks created to support the school should pay damages.

Benjamin’s lawsuit alleges that the author of “Message in a Bottle” and “The Notebook” defamed him and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Benjamin was in the headmaster’s position for less than five months and says he was forced out.

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