NYTimes – The Harper Lee ‘Go Set a Watchman’ Fraud

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera New York Times columnist Joe Nocera

AAAPG is not the only group to inquire about the apparent exploitation of Harper Lee by her attorney, acting as Trustee, in the publication of Lee’s supposed prequel to To Kill A Mockingbird.

The New York Times’ Joe Nocera has come right out and declared this publishing “sensation” by Rupert Murdoch’s HarperCollins, a “fraud.” To make it plainly clear, the article is entitled “The Harper Lee ‘Go Set a Watchman’ Fraud.”

So perhaps it’s not too late after all to point out that the publication of “Go Set a Watchman” constitutes one of the epic money grabs in the modern history of American publishing.

The Ur-fact about Harper Lee is that after publishing her beloved novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in 1960, she not only never published another book; for most of that time she insisted she never would. Until now, that is, when she’s 89, a frail, hearing- and sight-impaired stroke victim living in a nursing home. Perhaps just as important, her sister Alice, Lee’s longtime protector, passed away last November. Her new protector, Tonja Carter, who had worked in Alice Lee’s law office, is the one who brought the “new novel” to HarperCollins’s attention, claiming, conveniently, to have found it shortly before Alice died.

Just like seniors caught in the legal web of guardianship, Harper Lee had a “new protector” – her attorney Tonja Carter – an attorney who has been left in a position of trust following Ms Lee’s isolation from her family and long-time associates. Just like seniors in guardianship, Harper Lee has ended up with financial and legal dealings that she has sworn for years to never participate in, but because her attorney controls the legal levers — and there’s vast amounts of money to be made — Ms Lee’s wishes are discarded and replaced with the attorney’s.

Just like the 90%+ of seniors in guardianship who end up being financial and legally exploited by their own attorneys who hold the seniors as their Wards – physical property belonging to the attorneys to use as they see fit — so Harper Lee has ended up, too, exploited and used by her own attorney to enrich the attorney(s) and the corporations who feed off the financial exploitation of our elders.

As Richard Eisenberg described in his recent Forbes article, Beware The Con Game Of Conservatorships,

…it’s an appropriate time to sound an alert about a con game being played on some older Americans. I’m talking about crooks who are appointed as conservators (or guardians) to manage someone’s affairs and then turn their wards into financial abuse victims.

Harper Lee has just joined the ranks of elders who have been victimized by their own attorney(s) in what is the fastest growing crime — and one of the most lucrative crimes —  in America: legal and financial exploitation of elders and disabled by their own or court-appointed attorney(s) and corporations that stand to make mega-profits off the elder’s life work.*

Whether done under guardianship laws, or simply done in broad daylight, as was the case with Harper Lee, the effect is still the same: the elder is compelled to act in ways they would not have chosen and the financial and legal rewards go primarily to their exploiter, almost always an attorney, not the elder person or their family.  It’s even more lucrative for the attorneys and corporations when the elder is childless, as is Ms Lee.


* While not living when exploited, the artwork and legacy of world-renowned Navajo artist RC Gorman suffered a similar fate of exploitation when attorneys fed at the trough of his estate, claiming all of its value for themselves while leaving the heirs not one single physical object of RC’s, all of which had been sold for pennies on the dollar, ostensibly so that the attorneys could be paid. The judge approved of these attorneys, their actions, and the resultant secret property sale for a mere pittance to an apparent insider, then sealed all the records in the case.