The full story of the lawsuit involving Peter S. Beagle, author of 'The Last Unicorn'
At the end of April, I posted a Newsbyte regarding a charity art drive to benefit “lifelong furry” and renowned fantasy author Peter S. Beagle, in order to fund his legal costs and living expenses as he litigates a suit against his former agent.
That was the first I had heard of the troubles of The Last Unicorn’s author. Upon seeing that Uncle Kage had tweeted about this situation in 2016, however, I learned this suit had been going on for longer than I realized, and I took the time to look deeply into the situation.
What I found was horrifying, and the rabbit hole seemed to go deeper the more I looked. Today I'm going to go into more detail about this shameful situation, bringing it to light in the hopes that the more people who know, the more help Beagle will receive.
Get ready, this is gonna be a long ride. If you don't want to read every single detail, I implore you to scroll down to the "How you can help" section, or at least spread this message as far as you can. Beagle needs as many friends as he can get right now.
Peter S. Beagle is suing his former agent for elder abuse, fraud, defamation, and breach of fiduciary duty, among other related allegations, which you can read in full here [PDF].
The Last Unicorn tour
In 2012, Cochran reached an agreement with investors to oversee marketing and distribution of a limited release tour of The Last Unicorn (the film version). The investors paid Cochran $300,000 and were to be paid in return $450,000 and 25% of all profits from the tour, made from the selling of tickets, merchandise, and autographs.
Instead of keeping an accounting of spending of the funds entrusted to him, Cochran did what he does best: took the money for himself.
But make no mistake: the film tour did occur in 2013, and Beagle was dragged along for the long, exhausting, money-grabbing ride. Beagle, a man in his 70s, was forced to make appearances at viewings every two to three days at least--often more frequently. At every stop, Beagle spoke one-on-one with fans, signed autographs, and hosted Q&A sessions on-stage. In addition, Beagle was near constantly on the road. At one point he was on the road for 29 consecutive days, only to get one 35 hour break. Even after events, instead of being able to relax in a hotel room, Beagle was made to stay at the private homes of local fans, never getting a chance to go into "off" mode.
Despite this busy schedule and lack of breaks, Beagle was supposed to keep a personal diary while on tour. Cochran browbeat him whenever he understandably did not have enough time to complete it.
In May of 2015, two full years after the tour began, the 76-year old Beagle had had enough. Cochran’s control was slipping and he cut the rest of the tour short. According to Beagle's lawsuit, Cochran promised the disappointed fans they would receive individual, personally-signed postcards as an apology without consulting Beagle. Threatened with harming his income and professional reputation, the 76-year-old was forced to sign 5,000 postcards by hand in just a few days. A painful ordeal for just about anyone, Beagle is elderly and suffered great physical pain in his neck, back, hands, and eyes, not to mention the psychological stress of doing such work under duress.
One wonders why, as Cochran clearly has no problem lying to fans and breaking promises, he bothered to resort to physically and mentally abusing an old man in order to keep one nobody asked for.
Just like customers not receiving their orders above, people who purchased merchandise on this tour actually paid to have such merchandise mailed to them, and those people have yet to receive anything.
And what has Cochran done with that sympathy in Beagle's name? Lie to Beagle's loyal fanbase. Cochran has paid-for goods left undelivered for over a decade now--dating back at least to 2005! One of his first publications was promoted by Neil Gaiman on May 12, 2005, who reported several hundred sales the next day; but to this day, it has never materialized. Check out the customer complaints on Better Business Bureau. Those are just the tip of the iceberg; many, many other customers claim they have fallen victim to this man's business practices: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12...
The audiobook and "Deluxe" editions of The Last Unicorn (available for sale since 2005 and 2009 respectively) are among many other goods that were “pre-sold” but never delivered.
When customers complain, Cochran gives excuse after excuse as to why the item wasn't shipped — it got lost in the mail, an employee quit, "the paperwork was massively screwed up", someone stole from the company. When offering refunds, customers get the same runabout, having to request one time and time again to no avail. As recently as 2016, Cochran is still promising refunds and products to customers that have yet to appear in 2017. This mismanagement has spanned the company's entire existence, but are always made to seem out of the agent's hands.
Poor Cochran, obviously maligned by his local Post Office, he just can't seem to get anything shipped to anybody. Meanwhile, with all those customers remaining empty handed, the clearly long-suffering publisher gained control of lucrative rights to the Last Unicorn movie, and announced expanding Conlan Press in 2011, presumably because he just wasn't squeezing enough money out of the gentle old man who writes books about unicorns and butterflies.
Defamation of Beagle's character
Understandably, Beagle began speaking to a lawyer about the possibility of suing Cochran for elder abuse - resulting in his legal complaint. Unfortunately, Beagle accidentally forwarded an email to Cochran that revealed those plans.
Upon reading this email, Cochran began to email Beagle's friends, fans, and children statements that Beagle was experiencing age-related cognitive and memory problems, despite having no medical evidence of this. His children, believing the claims, encouraged him to undergo medical testing for these alleged problems, and Beagle complied. According to Beagle's lawsuit, the medical examiner, neuropsychologist Dr. Sabine Gysens, found no evidence of such issues. In fact, his IQ was in the 91st percentile for his age group. But because Cochran needs Beagle to be senile in order to gain conservatorship of him and say the charges against him are meaningless (as he is attempting to do) he tried to influence the doctor's report. Initially sending the doctor multiple voicemails, he ultimately sent a 13-page fax full of false statements from himself and Beagle’s children (none of whom had seen their father recently) to try to convince her something was wrong.
Initially swayed by his argument, Dr. Gysens added mention of "alcohol abuse" into her report, a lie disseminated by Cochran to Gysens and on social media. She later admitted there was no evidence of these allegations, that it had come from an outside source and there was no evidence of it from her examination of Beagle. This was entered as Exhibit A in the filing.
Because of Cochran's influence on Gysens's report, Beagle sought another medical professional, Dr. Brian C. Richardson, for a second opinion. Dr. Richardson is a neurologist who has been in practice for over three decades, and he specializes in Alzheimer's, brain aneurysms, concussions, dementia, memory and aging disorders, and other conditions that affect cognitive function. Without reservations, Dr. Richardson declared Beagle to be fully competent, as the lawsuit against Cochran states.
Despite doing everything to fight the slander propagated by Cochran, Beagle was still harmed by these accusations. His lawyer says negotiations for a live-action movie and a Broadway production were stalled, perhaps indefinitely, due to the reservations of the other parties that Beagle would be unable to perform the legal work required. He was even denied health insurance coverage. Future writing endeavors will likely be affected by these allegations, as his fans will lose trust in his ability to write competently. Additionally, gaslighting — using lies, misdirection, denial, and accusations of insanity to undermine another person's identity and perception of reality — is known to have destructive effects.
Once Cochran feared his cash cow would run off, he set out to destroy his former client's reputation and career. To be clear: Cochran took it upon himself to tell Beagle's friends, family, and fans that Beagle was a crazy alcoholic not worth listening to and who couldn't write anymore. He told this to Beagle's business associates, repeatedly, behind Beagle's back. Writing is Beagle's lifelong passion as well as his livelihood. Spreading lies about this not only damages him financially, but is emotionally crushing.
Elder Abuse lawsuit
As a result of the abuse, Peter sued Cochran in November 2015. Meanwhile, Cochran colluded with Beagle’s own children to attempt to take conservatorship over his rights, based on false claims Cochran made against Beagle’s health. He also attempted to sue Peter’s lawyer to interfere with her legal service. Either effort would have served Cochran’s business by killing Peter’s fight.
Both failed. The kids’ own lawyer requested to be relieved by the court — read her messages telling them to drop it and criticizing Cochran's involvement in what was theoretically a family matter — and the court awarded nearly $25,000 to Peter’s lawyer. Peter’s fight continues in 2017.
Update 8/14/2017: Beagle's lawyer has filed an injunction to prevent Cochran from profiting from Beagle's works or image. Within the linked court documents, the lawyer discusses Beagle's likelihood of prevailing in this case.
How you can help
I first must reiterate that Cochran owns much of Beagle's creative work and operates much of 'his' social media. This includes the "Peter S. Beagle" and "The Last Unicorn" Facebook pages (where Cochran is restricting comments to prevent whistleblowers from informing other fans). That means right now the only safe way to purchase Beagle's works and make sure the money actually gets to him is through Tachyon Publications.
If you don't want to purchase his works, there are still ways you can help Mr. Beagle:
- If you are a furry artist, writer, musician, etc., Farore Nightclaw is hosting a charity auction and donation drive for Beagle.
- You can give directly to Mr. Beagle by visiting his website and clicking "Donate", or PayPal to psblegalfund [AT] gmail [DOT] com.
- You can follow and support Mr. Beagle on the twitter account he actually controls, @RealPeterBeagle
Most importantly, you can share this information and make sure Peter S. Beagle's story is told!
My hope is that we as the furry community can do what we can to help this man. He's been good to us. Let's return the favor.