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'Fatal' Settlement

December 06, 1987

Regarding Garry Abrams' article about the $325,000 settlement Green Beret doctor Jeffrey MacDonald won from his fraud/breach of contract suit against "Fatal Vision" author Joe McGinniss, I'd like to set the record straight, please (" 'Fatal' Author Claims Victory in Settlement," Nov. 25).

The contract between MacDonald and McGinniss states that McGinniss must maintain the essential integrity of MacDonald's life. Neither MacDonald nor the contract states that "Fatal Vision" should be "favorable"; only "truthful."

"Fatal Vision" clearly misrepresents the facts in MacDonald's criminal case and utilizes fiction to depict numerous incidents in MacDonald's personal life. Perhaps that's why five out of six jurors sided with MacDonald during the recent trial of this case.

I translate the fact that McGinniss agreed to settle the case for $325,000 as an admission of "liability."

Chilling to me is not the effect this case will have on "nonfiction" writers but the fact that millions of readers have been duped into believing that a book is nonfiction, when indeed, it is not.

Some people will still think of Joe McGinniss as a nonfiction writer; but others, like myself, will now remember him as simply a counterfeit journalist.


Los Angeles

Stephens is the author of "I Accuse," a book supportive of MacDonald, and named in McGinniss' countersuit as having been researched and written at a time when McGinniss claimed exclusive access to MacDonald.

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