LUTZ VS. WEBER

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The Amityville horror house story became interesting n the beginning of March 1976, Weber sent a book contract to the Lutzes, which covered a proposed company, called the Hoffman, Weber, Burton and Mars Corporation. Like Weber, Mars and Burton, Kathy and George Lutz were to receive, each, 12 percent of the shares of HWBM. Since Paul Hoffman was the writer, he would receive the largest share, 40 percent.

The Lutzes terminated their proposed venture with Weber because they felt he wanted to tie them up with an unfavorable contract. Instead, the Lutzes chose to go with author Jay Anson. The contract they eventually signed with Anson offered a more lucrative split of 50 percent. Nevertheless, this did not stop Hoffman from selling two articles about the Lutzes’ experiences.

The first article appeared in an issue of New York Sunday News on July 18, 1976, and was titled “Life in a Haunted House.” The second was titled “Our Dream House Was Haunted” and appeared in the April 1977 edition of Good Housekeeping. Both articles were nearly identical and were based on the experiences that the Lutzes, Weber, and Hoffman brainstormed in January 1976.

In May 1977, George and Kathy Lutz filed suit against Paul Hoffman, William Weber, Bernard Burton, Fredrick Mars, Good Housekeeping, New York Sunday News and the Hearst Corporation. In the suit, the Lutzes alleged invasion of privacy, misappropriation of name for trade purposes, and negligent infliction of mental distress. They sought relief in the form of $4.5 million.

In turn, Hoffman, Weber, and Burton each placed a counterclaim against the Lutzes for two million dollars, citing they had perpetrated a fraud and breached a contract.

Judge Jacob Mishler dismissed the claims against Good Housekeeping, New York Sunday News and the Hearst Corporation because there were no invasion of privacy issues and because the plaintiffs had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted to them. Judge Mishler, however, eventually handed the case over to Judge Jack B. Weinstein.

When the actual trial began, Judge Weinstein, known to be a “no‑nonsense” judge, presided over the case in his Brooklyn U.S. District Court. On September 10, 1979, Judge Weinstein dismissed the rest of the Lutzes’ suit and allowed the defendants’ counterclaim to continue. He said, “Based on what I have heard, it appears to me that to a large extent the book is a work of fiction, relying in a large part upon the suggestions of Mr. Weber.”

In the September 17, 1979 issue of People magazine, Weber reasoned, “I know this book is a hoax. We created this horror story over many bottles of wine.”

Judge Weinstein also pointed out that he saw serious ethical questions regarding Weber and Burton’s conduct. Therefore, he proposed to refer the entire matter to the New York State Bar Association. Judge Weinstein said, “There is a very serious ethical question when lawyers become literary agents.”

The next day, the counterclaim was settled, and the entire case was dismissed.

In May 2001, Geraldine DeFeo with the assistance of California attorney Roger Stacy requested Judge Weinstein to unseal the remainder of the Lutz vs. Weber files. After proving she was legitimately married to Butch DeFeo, the judge granted Geraldine’s request. What was unsealed was the simple affirmation of the Catholic priest, who testified under oath that the events described in Jay Anson’s book never transpired.(See The Catholic Church Speaks Out). Overall, the case helped corroborate William Weber’s claims that the haunting was a fictional endeavor, even though the Lutzes’ insisted it was not a hoax.

THE HAUNTING

Reference

COURT DOCUMENTS ON PRIEST

Below are court documents from the legal case the Lutzes brought against William Weber in 1977. These documents show that the Catholic Priest, Father Ralph Pecoraro, who appeared as Father Mancusco in Jay Anson's novel, did not have as much of a connection to the Amityville story and did not know the Lutz family as long as Jay Anson would have readers believe. George and Kathy Lutz cleared up the confusion with their answers to Weber's interrogatories--see paragraph nine on the second page, and question 43 and answer 43 to each of the interrogatories. The priest never even met the Lutzes prior to their marriage on July 4, 1975.

 

JUDGE'S ORDER

Judge Jack B. Weinstein unsealed the remainder of the Lutz v. Weber files on May 17, 2001. What was sealed was nothing extraordinary, as it was only Father Pecoraro's affirmation to his testimony.

LEGAL DECISION ON WEBER CASE

The following is a court decision on the Lutz v. Weber, which included other defendants, such as Good HousekeepingNew York Sunday Daily News and Hearst Corporation. Although the Lutzes' suit alleged that the Good Housekeeping article was factual, it was, at the same time, an invasion of their privacy. The presiding judge thought otherwise and dismissed the suit against the news organizations, basing his decision on the story being a news story.

LETTER FROM THE DIOCESE

The Rockville Centre, the diocese responsible for Amityville, went on the record to discuss the claims made by Jay Anson in his novel.