| Yoko Ono on her way to a court in New York on Monday. (Reuters)
New York, Sept. 23 (Reuters): John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, went to court today in a battle with the former Beatle’s personal assistant over the ownership of photographs, letters and other memorabilia.
Japanese-born artist Ono sued the assistant, Frederic Seaman, in 1999, for allegedly stealing the personal articles, including 374 family photos, and selling them to make money after Lennon was shot dead by a deranged fan outside his Manhattan apartment on December 8, 1980. Seaman denies any wrongdoing and has blamed Ono for the disappearance of his own diaries, written during Lennon’s final days.
At the opening of the civil trial in Manhattan federal court, Ono’s attorney Paul LiCalsi said Seaman had signed a confidentiality agreement that barred him from using family belongings for personal gain during or after his employment.
“This is about the trust that John and Yoko put in Fred Seaman’s hand and how Seaman has betrayed their trust,” LiCalsi told the eight jurors as Ono sat in court with her son Sean Lennon.
The attorney argued that Seaman took the photographs of Lennon as part of his employment, which began in 1979 but ended with his dismissal by Ono four years later. Some of the photos were included in a book by Seaman,The Last Days of John Lennon, but more than 300 of them have never been published.
In 1983, Seaman pleaded guilty to grand larceny for stealing Lennon’s diaries and was put on five years’ probation.
LiCalsi also told the jurors that 11 documents, including drafts of letters by Lennon to fellow Beatle Paul McCartney and one to famed guitarist Eric Clapton, were sold by Seaman for $75,000 over the years.
Evidence in the trial, including the letters, was expected to reveal details of British-born Lennon’s final years in New York and his sometimes tense relationship with McCartney.
In one letter, Lennon attacks McCartney and his wife, Linda, for blaming his relationship with Ono for the breakup of the Beatles, widely considered the greatest band in popular music history. “I hope you realise what shit you and the rest of my kind and unselfish friends laid on Yoko & me since we have been together,” Lennon’s letter says.