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'Hit Man' publisher settles Oregon lawsuit

By The Associated Press


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SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — The publisher of a technical manual for hit men settled a lawsuit filed by a woman who fought off a hired killer who used the book as a guide.

Bobby Joe Wilson sought at least $4.5 million in damages from Paladin Press of Boulder, Colo., in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Eugene in September 2000. The case was scheduled for trial next week.

The sides won't disclose terms as part of the settlement agreement, said Lloyd Berstein, a Portland lawyer representing Paladin.

Paladin Press publishes titles such as The Anarchist Cookbook, Be Your Own Undertaker: How to Dispose of a Dead Body and Silencers for Hand Firearms.

The lawsuit was the first to be filed after a similar lawsuit in Maryland triggered national concern that free-speech rights might erode as more people blame publishers and movie producers for crimes inspired by their work.

But Wilson's lawyer, Don Corson of Eugene, said yesterday that the lawsuit boiled down to whether the publisher conspired or aided and abetted in the crime against Wilson. The settlement reached Feb. 5 didn't require the publisher to curtail any of its book production or distribution, he said.

"This was not a case where First Amendment defenders were rising up. This kind of activity was not generally recognized as being protected by the First Amendment," Corson said.

The case began in 1998 while Wilson and her husband, Robert Leslie Goggin, 29, were getting a divorce. Goggin hired Robert Vaughn Jones, also 29, to murder his wife in exchange for $100,000 from her life insurance policy.

Goggin and Jones each were sentenced in 1999 to 17 1/2 years in prison for the attack.

In court, Jones testified that Goggin recruited him to kill Wilson. Jones said he then purchased Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors, published by Paladin Enterprises.

In her lawsuit, Wilson outlined two dozen points of advice from the book that Jones followed to the letter in planning to kill her.

The advice covered such points as disposing of evidence, creating a disguise, selecting weapons and avoiding conviction if caught, according to court records in the case.

A spokesman for Paladin Enterprises said company officials won't comment about whether Wilson's lawsuit caused them to alter their business practices.

In defending the Maryland lawsuit, Paladin lawyers had claimed Hit Man was intended for a broad audience of crime buffs and mystery writers. However, the company agreed in September 2000 to stop selling the book in a settlement of the Maryland lawsuit.


Oregon woman claims would-be killer used 'instruction' book
Bobby Jo Wilson seeks at least $4.5 million from Paladin Press in second lawsuit over 'Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors.'  09.11.00


Murder by the book: Free speech takes a hit
Ombudsman Publisher's decision to settle in murder case involving Hit Man murder manual demonstrates how vulnerable formerly unassailable speech has become.  05.24.99

Books and movies as natural born killers
Ombudsman There are no limits to the limits on free expression if publishers, broadcasters and the producers can be held responsible for crimes of those who try to avoid responsibility by saying a book, movie or music made me do it.  10.26.98

'Hit Man' publisher settles lawsuit, agrees to stop selling book
Two families had claimed that a hired assassin followed manual's instructions on how to kill their loved ones.  05.24.99

Supreme Court allows lawsuit against Hit Man publisher
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court refused today to free a publisher from a lawsuit over three killings committed by a hit man who followed a book's advice on how to commit murder for hire.  04.20.98