Artist News Legal

Yoko Ono sues former John Lennon assistant over recent interview

By | Published on Friday 2 October 2020

John Lennon

You, like me, might be getting ready to celebrate the 80th birthday of a very important person born in Merseyside exactly eight decades ago. And if that’s the case, I’ll pass on your birthday greetings to my mum this weekend. Meanwhile, it would have been John Lennon’s 80th birthday next week and some people are marking that occasion too.

That includes Frederic Seaman, a former personal assistant of Lennon, who last month gave an interview about his time working for the late Beatle. Though it’s an interview that has now resulted in legal action, because it turns out that – all the way back in 2003 – Seaman pledged to never publicly speak about the musician again. And that pledge was part of a legal settlement.

Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono filed a new lawsuit against Seaman yesterday, restarting a legal battle that goes back nearly 40 years. Seaman worked for Lennon in the run-up to his death in 1980. He was formally fired by Ono the following year after it emerged that he’d been taking items from Lennon’s home, including diaries, photographs, fan letters and unreleased recordings.

Seaman ultimately pled guilty to second-degree larceny and was ordered to return all the items he had taken. But the legal wrangling between Ono and Seaman didn’t end there. In 1991 he angered Lennon’s family by publishing a book called ‘The Last Days Of John Lennon’, and later in the 1990s Ono discovered that Seaman hadn’t in fact returned all the items he’d taken in 1981.

Ono sued in 1999 and it was as part of that legal battle that Seaman ultimately pledged to never talk about his time working with Lennon again. Admitting in a statement to the court that he said things about Lennon and Ono that were “factually inaccurate”, he added: “It is impossible to undo what has taken place. But it stops here and now”.

That 2003 statement is included in Ono’s new lawsuit, and concludes: “I will return any remaining things that I have that are yours. I will refrain from ever writing anything about you or your family or about my time in your employ. I offer no excuse for my conduct and only ask that you can find it in your heart to forgive so I can move on with my life”.

The lawsuit then states: “Despite his clear and unambiguous obligations and his oath that ‘it stop here and now’, on 10 Sep 2020, Seaman sat for an interview from his apartment, flanked by Lennon memorabilia and wilfully, wantonly and contumaciously violated the clear and ambiguous terms of the [previous agreement]”. As well as discussing Lennon in the interview, he also said that he hoped to publish a revised and expanded version of ‘The Last Days Of John Lennon’.

The lawsuit goes on: “As a direct consequence of Seaman’s actions, Mrs Lennon has suffered and will suffer irreparable harm. By this action, Mrs Lennon seeks to again try to disabuse Seaman that he is entitled to exploit the name and intellectual property of Mrs Lennon. Unless otherwise ordered by this court again and held in contempt and punished for his contumacious behaviour, it is clear that Seaman’s abuses will continue”.

Ono’s lawsuit claims fraud, breach of contract and copyright infringement, and seeks a new injunction restraining Seaman plus at least $150,000 in damages.