Harper Lee, 87, author of the literary classic, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” is battling financial exploitation and elder abuse at the hands of her former literary agent, Samuel Pinkus, reports NYC Elder Abuse Center.
Pinkus is the son-in-law of one of Lee’s oldest friends, the late Eugene Winick. According to Lee’s attorney, in 2007, Pinkus tricked the author into signing over royalties from her best-selling book after suffering a dilating stroke.
“To Kill A Mockingbird” tells the story of 1960’s southern lawyer, Atticus Finch, through the eyes of his young daughter Scout, as he defends Tom Robinson, a Black man accused of raping a White woman. It remains one of the most powerful race explorations in literary history.
According to Senior Planet, “750,000 copies per year, according to Publisher’s Weekly, translating into more than $1.5 million in annual royalties.”
Read more from the lawsuit below:
The lawsuit filed in a Manhattan court this May claims that in 2007, Lee suffered a stroke and was not well enough to comprehend the papers that Pinkus gave her to sign. “Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see” and he deliberately sought to take advantage of her. The papers gave Pinkus control over “Mockingbird”’s copyright and royalties. Lee was – and still is – living in an Alabama assisted living facility. She claims to have no memory of signing away her rights.
“She’s 95 percent blind, profoundly deaf, bound to a wheelchair,” Dr. Thomas Butts told London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper two years ago. Butts is a close friend of Harper’s who lives in the same Alabama town, Monroeville, that Lee has long called home. He added that Lee’s short-term memory was poor, but that her longterm memory was in good shape.
At the time of that interview, Lee’s legal affairs were handled by her older sister, Alice, an attorney who still maintained an active law practice at age 99. But Alice did not file the suit against Pinkus. Manhattan-based intellectual property attorney Gloria Phares wrote the complaint and is representing Lee in the suit. Phares, who often represents literary clients, once engaged in a battle over the rights to the C.S. Lewis children’s fantasy, “Chronicles of Narnia.”
As previously reported by NewsOne, elder abuse and exploitation is, unfortunately, not rare.
In May of 2013, James Parham, 75, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and maintaining a nuisance after he was allegedly discovered running a prostitution ring from the Vincente K. Tibbs Senior Citizen Building in New Jersey and using some elderly residents as sex workers.
Read more on that story here.