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'Hit Man' publisher sued again by a victim of manual user

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  1. Libel and Privacy

    NMU         OREGON         Privacy         Sep 18, 2000    

‘Hit Man’ publisher sued again by a victim of manual user

  • The publisher of a how-to book for would-be assassins has been sued again, this time by an Oregon woman who was assaulted by men using the guide.

A woman nearly killed by men reportedly adhering to an assassination guide has sued the book publisher in federal court in Oregon.

On Sept. 1, Bobby Joe Wilson sued Paladin Press, the publisher of “Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors,” and its president, Peter Lund, in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore., for $4.7 million. This marks the second time the publisher has gone to court to defend the book.

In 1998, Wilson’s former husband, Robert Goggin, suggested to a friend, Robert Jones, that he wanted his estranged wife killed so he could collect on her life insurance proceeds.

Jones and a third person, Vincent Padgett, plotted and attempted to kill Wilson in September 1998, using techniques learned from “Hit Man.” Jones and Goggin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit aggravated murder and first degree assault in early 1999. Padgett was convicted of related offenses in August 1999.

Wilson’s complaint lists 23 similarities between Jones’s actions and instructions from the book, including wearing tennis shoes and buying a .22 caliber handgun, a mask, a pen light, and a knife. The complaint also states the perpetrators wore disguises, used walkie-talkies and surveilled the scene before entering, all allegedly per the book’s instructions.

The complaint lists three primary causes of action: assault and battery, strict product liability and negligence. The complaint alleges the defendant-publisher aided and abetted the assault, conspired in the “murder for hire business,” produced a defective and unreasonably dangerous product and negligently distributed and marketed the book.

“In publishing, marketing, and distributing Hit Man . . . [the] Defendants specifically and maliciously intended, and had actual knowledge, that they would be used by criminals, including murderers and would-be murderers,” the complaint stated.

Don Corson, Wilson’s attorney, said the First Amendment does not protect Paladin.

“There is a real difference between being in the business of training criminals and a copycat killer, someone who goes to the movies, sees a crime, then tries it,” he said.

The family of a Maryland murder victim sued Paladin in U.S. District Court in 1996 in a similar suit. A federal district court judge dismissed that case, holding that the book’s content was within the purview of the First Amendment. But the Fourth Circuit reversed in Rice v. Paladin Press, holding the book’s content was criminal aiding and abetting and not entitled to First Amendment protection.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari in April 1998. The parties settled out of court before trial.

(Bobby Joe Wilson v. Paladin Enterprises, Inc.; Media Counsel: David Harrison) DB

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