Yoko Ono wins ruling against former Lennon aide. With the judge ruling that Frederic Seaman was bound by a confidentiality agreement, both parties move to settle suit over disputed Lennon family photos
Yoko Ono
Credit: Yoko Ono: Chip East/Reuters/Newscom

”He’s out of the John Lennon business,” Yoko Ono’s lawyer said of lawsuit defendant Frederic Seaman. That was attorney Paul LiCalsi’s comment to the New York Daily News after Manhattan Federal Court judge Leonard Sand granted Ono a partial victory in her suit against the former aide who, she says, stole hundreds of Lennon family photos and other documents. On Thursday, the fourth day of the trial, Judge Sand ruled that Seaman remained bound by a confidentiality agreement he signed when he started working for the Lennons in 1979, meaning he won’t be able to profit from selling their images or his recollections of the family. After the ruling, both sides began discussing a settlement that would end the three-year-old lawsuit.

Over the course of the trial, Seaman has been confronted with evidence that he planned all along to profit from his access to and inside knowledge of the Lennon household. ”It occurred to me that I was an eyewitness to history, and at some point I would like to publish a book about Mr. Lennon,” he testified. According to his own diary, he told Lennon he wanted to run a nightclub, in order to throw his boss off his actual intention. ”I’m glad I managed to throw him off track and apparently convinced him I’m not too serious about writing,” the diary said. Former partner Robert Rosen testified that, the day after Lennon was shot and killed outside his apartment in 1980, Seaman was discussing with him his plans for writing a tell-all book. Within weeks, Seaman was also planning to merchandise T-shirts, records, and John and Yoko dolls, according to a contract introduced in court.

Ono fired Seaman in 1981, unaware that he had taken what Rosen said were many boxes full of Lennonabilia, including the ex-Beatle’s diaries. When Seaman dumped him as a partner, he alerted authorities to Seaman’s theft. Seaman was convicted of second-degree larceny in 1983, sentenced to probation, and ordered to return all the material to Ono.

Ono argued in court this week, however, that Seaman still held on to 374 photographs and several personal documents, from which he allegedly profited when he wrote two Lennon books in the 1990s. Ono has sought return of the photographs and the $75,000 he allegedly made from selling the documents. Seaman has argued that he took the photographs with his own camera, on his own time. The judge’s confidentiality-pact ruling, however, suggests that this argument won’t prevail. If there is no settlement, closing arguments will take place Friday, with the case possibly going to the jury on Monday.