The Latest: Jury backs writer Sparks in employment lawsuit

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Nicholas Sparks

FILE – In this Feb. 1, 2016, file photo, novelist Nicholas Sparks attends a special screening in Los Angeles. The trial is getting underway, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in a lawsuit that accuses Sparks of defaming the former headmaster of a private Christian school he founded in North Carolina. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Latest on a lawsuit by the former headmaster of the school founded by novelist Nicholas Sparks (all times local):

4:45 p.m.

A federal jury has sided with novelist Nicholas Sparks and the private Christian school he founded in his North Carolina hometown, dismissing claims by the school’s former headmaster that he was unjustly fired, then slandered by the author.

Jurors spent about three hours Wednesday before deciding that Sparks, his foundation and Epiphany School of Global Studies didn’t injure Saul Hillel Benjamin.

Benjamin sued in 2014, contending he was fired without cause, then defamed when Sparks told a job recruiter and others that Benjamin suffered mental illness.

Sparks says the jury rejected efforts by Benjamin and his lawyers to discredit him.

Sparks and the school are based in New Bern, about 120 miles (195 kilometers) east of Raleigh, where the trial was held.

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1:45 p.m.

A federal jury is deciding whether the former head of a private Christian school that novelist Nicholas Sparks founded in his North Carolina hometown was unjustly fired, then slandered when the author said the educator suffered from mental illness.

Jurors began deliberating Wednesday whether Saul Hillel Benjamin is due damages from Sparks, his foundation and Epiphany School of Global Studies. Sparks and the school are based in New Bern, about 120 miles (195 kilometers) east of Raleigh, where the federal trial is being held.

Sparks attorney Jay Silver said the writer testified for more than 8 hours over the past week and told the whole truth about what happened.

Benjamin’s lawyer said he was pushed out because some parents were unhappy about his support of diversity and gay students.

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