Yoko Ono's lawsuit against her late husband John Lennon's personal assistant enters New York federal court today (Sept. 23). Ono sued Frederic Seaman in 1999, claiming he exploited the ex-Beatle's dea

Yoko Ono's lawsuit against her late husband John Lennon's personal assistant enters New York federal court today (Sept. 23). Ono sued Frederic Seaman in 1999, claiming he exploited the ex-Beatle's death by stealing priceless family photos and mementos, then selling them to collectors.

As part of an alleged scheme code-named "Project Walrus," Seaman sought to "defame Mrs. Lennon and falsely attempt to portray himself as Lennon's only true confidante during the last years of Lennon's life," the lawsuit said.

The suit is the latest chapter in a feud that has lasted since Lennon's 1980 slaying outside his Central Park West apartment building. Ono, 69, wants Seaman to surrender the rights to 374 photos he took of Lennon and turn over about $75,000 in profits from the sale of manuscripts and letters.

In one of those letters, Lennon scolded Paul McCartney, asking: "Do you really think most of today's art came about because of the Beatles? ... When you stop believing it, you might wake up."

Ono, who also seeks unspecified damages, could testify as early as tomorrow. "We're delighted that we're finally bringing this case to trial and are quite confident about the outcome," said Ono's attorney, Paul LiCalsi.

Seaman, 49, who lives in Brooklyn, declined to comment. Defense attorney Glenn Wolther said his client denies any wrongdoing, including an allegation that he violated a confidentiality agreement by talking about Lennon's personal life in print. "We have serious concerns about any attempt to restrict Mr. Seaman's right to free speech," Wolther said.

Ono says Seaman signed a confidentiality pact when he was hired in 1979 to be a "gofer" for the Lennons. His duties included caring for son Sean Lennon and taking photos at family events, the lawsuit said. Seaman has argued that he took the photos on his own time and with his own camera -- making him the rightful owner.

Ono fired Seaman in 1981 after she caught him wearing Lennon's clothes and charging restaurant and nightclub sprees to her, the lawsuit said. She claims she was unaware he also had been looting Lennon's files. In 1983, Seaman pleaded guilty to second-degree larceny for stealing Lennon's diaries. He was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to return all the property.

Ono's "belief that everything stolen by Seaman had been returned to her has been dispelled, and she fears that Seaman will continue to exploit those personal and family items," the lawsuit said.


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