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].
Background of fraud and deceit
This agent in question's name is Connor Cochran, also known as "Freff", President of publishing company Conlan Press, which he formed to promote Beagle's work. Beagle does not own this company, and Cochran has always kept the operation and revenue to himself.
This doesn't keep Cochran from abusing the connection to Beagle for his own gain, telling fans Beagle is in need of financial support to gain sympathy, only to advise they buy from Conlan Press, lining Cochran's pocket.
Cochran's record of fraud
This is not the first time Cochran's been sued for scamming.
- Author Sydney Gurewitz Clemens sued Cochran and his company after she paid $25,000 to publish her book [PDF], and Cochran failed to do so. An arbitrator awarded damages of $23,801.01 [PDF].
- Baker & Taylor, Inc., a book distributor, sued Cochran for an unpaid bill to the tune of $6,000.
- Penguin Group, a child company of Penguin Random House, sued Cochran for a $3,000+ unpaid bill, taking a $6,000 judgement in 2015.
- Investors for The Last Unicorn's tour also sued Cochran for conversion, breach of agreement, breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, and--you guessed it--fraud. See more about that in the section "The Last Unicorn tour" below.
Cochran's ex-lawyer and co-conspirator
Like wolves, scammers often hunt in packs. Cochran's packmate and personal attack dog is Charles E. Petit, a former lawyer whose license was suspended in 2007 for stealing nearly $11,000 from a client.
It is incredibly inappropriate to have such a person in a position of trust or providing legal services. Despite this, in 2011, Petit is represented by Cochran as Beagle's attorney in a File 770 interview, and in 2013, filed a DMCA complaint against a Last Unicorn fansite on behalf of one of Cochran's companies.
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.
About the authorEquivamp (Kile Onasi) — read stories — contact (login required)
a team lead (production/manufacturing) and Zebra Pegasus from Kansas, interested in paleoanthropology, spider man and star wars
I presume that if there is a part on this on their part, there will be something added about dogpatch?
I mean given the sources for this information, I doubt it's real but I did see something about in the newsbytes.
Pending litigation on third parties aren't relative to the story at hand, I would feel.
Completely fair. I'd feel the same way if certain other "furry news sites" didn't feel the need to broadcast it on their site and in your newsbytes stuff.
but I will back off after expressing my opinion on this one.
Mr. Beagle will also be attending this month's SF/F convention BayCon as a programmng guest.
Why not post BayCon 2017’s URL?
Mark Merlino did say that all furry fans should come to the BayCon. That was in 1987, before he decided that furry fans should have their own convention.
BayCon is the San Francisco Bay Area’s annual s-f convention, usually in San Jose but in San Mateo this year, annual since 1982. Full disclosure: I was BayCon’s Fan Guest of Honor in 2009.
If I've heard correctly, BayCon used to be pretty hostile to furries as the fledging "furry parties" started to grow. BayCon is where the term "skunkfucker" came from, correct?
Yarst; did it! I was there, at Baycon '87. When all of Kris Kreutzman's Furry Party flyers around the hotel were graffitted into "Skunkfuckers Party" flyers, I grabbed one for my collection of furry ephemera before the hotel tore them all down. Merlino's & O'Riley's room was the headquarters of the furry fans at BayCon '87. We heard the next day that "someone" had gone to the BayCon Committee to urge that all furry fans be expelled from the convention because the Skunkfuckers flyers proved our low moral character. The BayCon Committee, which was fully aware of what was going on, told them to go away, but later came to Merlino & Co. to ask us to please keep a lower profile; our Furry Party flyers were just asking for trouble.
I suppose my Skunkfuckers Party flyer is at the University of California at Riverside's Rivera Library today. Joe Strike says that he visited all the way from NYC to do research for his forthcoming "Furry Nation" book in my papers at the UCRiverside library.
Speaking of full disclosure, Peter Beagle’s “Gordon, the Self-Made Cat” is reprinted in my anthology “An Anthropomorphic Century”, published by FurPlanet Prouctions.
When we sought reprint permission, we were directed to Connor Cochran and Conlan Press. They granted permission readily for $50.00. Cochran/Conlan were supposed to take their percentage and pass the majority of the fee to Mr. Beagle. I don’t know whether he got it or not.
Actually I was going to say that, Fred: None of US decided we should have our own conventions, BayCon decided that. Anime fans too. BayCon's loss, I suppose.
Clearly when furries leave - or are pushed - a community goes downhill. See: Duckon, SheezyArt, y!Gallery… OK, so the parting with Duckon seems to have been amicable, but maybe they'd have done better to focus on anthropomorphic ducks. Or perhaps this'll happen to today's furry cons when a new thing comes along.
I don't know the full story with Duckon, but tensions were building, so the furry split-off to create MFF was a pragmatic decision, before it got any worse. I've been told that the head of security was particularly anti-furry, and that a lot of the furry programming had been un-subtly pushed into late-night slots in the programming spaces (like 11 pm onwards), with the SF panels and events getting priority earlier in the day.
To an extent the furries had some friends on staff - the husband of the woman who had founded the convention was their strongest asset - but when they tried to invite SF guests of honor, some of them outright turned down the invitation because of the furry reputation. (Which they probably heard about from within SF circles, because the major mass media stuff hadn't happened yet.)
You're misinformed and outright mistaken on a number of fronts. The primary reason MFF split off is simply that the percentage of furries was getting to the point where the convention wasn't going to be able to provide enough resources to handle them. Duckon was a sci-fi convention with a furry track, not the other way round and that wasn't going to change.
The head of security for Duckon (and Windycon for several years) also became the head of security for MFF for many years so the idea he is anti-furry is kind of silly.
Adult oriented programming did in fact happen later in the evening, but there was furry programming throughout the convention. The problem was there was only so much programming space and a lot of different programming tracks. They did the best they could with what was available and the last few years, the furry track had far more space devoted to it than any other track if you count the stage area and furry artist alley.
In any case, whomever told you all this had no clue what they were talking about.
In regards to Duckon, the split was indeed amicable, necessary, and, as it turns out in hindsight, fortuitous. Duckon's decline involved some nasty internal politics and some less than steller financial management. While they certainly saw a decline in attendance with the launch of MFF, they had more than enough to maintain a healthy convention had the other issues not occured.
You make a very good point there. Meanwhile, dA, say what you want about it, but it's certainly not wanting for users, submissions, revenue, etc. Hell I bet even the forums are still very active when normally I call that a "dying medium". If other sites hadn't been so openly hostile and complicit in their users' hostility towards furries, FA certainly wouldn't have happened, Weasyl and InkBunny probably wouldn't have happened and, sad to say, the fandom might be better off for it with all the failures and issues that arose from having one rickety giant with no real competition and all the other furry sites looking just downright sad for no other real reason than FA still existing.
I don't know if furry will ever go away but I could see it being reabsorbed back into the broader sphere of Geekdom influence. Furries have lost a lot of the fanaticism that came out of those early rejections and ostracisms, the ones who still have it are moving further and further to the fringes, the mere existence of an "alt right" furry "movement" actually hurts the alt-right more than helps it and makes the rest of us look fairly sane and normal in comparison. And I think the world would largely be moving on from looking at the car wreck they used to see furries as even without those things just because of everything else the world has been witness to in the last few years alone.
We got Muslamic Infidels starting a small empire eerily reminiscent of Fallout's Caesar's Legion, right down to the ridiculously warped interpretation of (and blatant disregard for) ancient culture and beliefs, slavery and public crucifixions. We got a president who bragged, on tape, about committing sexual assault, who remains in power as practically every other living man in the country with any power is being outed and disgraced for similar behavior. And again, the alt-right, without which "alt-furry" couldn't exist in the first place.
It's getting much, much harder to take "at least I'm not a furry" seriously as an excuse [i]or[/i] and insult with so much [i]real[/i] atrocity porn in your face every waking hour.
Part of me is screaming inside how the hell did the man's Dr, offspring, and the man himself get (nearly) taken by this sketchy piece of shit? And then I want to say he must be a psychopath, and the breed of psychopath that's especially skilled at manipulating people. But I've been had by similar people, in my own right, and am all too familiar with gaslighting. And you know what the sad part is? Many of these people aren't psychopaths as much as people who truly could not get by in life or even interact with others in any other way. They don't do it just because they can and because they're good at it, but because they couldn't not and because it's the only thing they're good at. They simply never learned any other way and at a certain point in life, it's probably too late for them, to change or ever be legit employees or businessmen, or good or even honest people.
Am I saying pity the guy and show mercy? No. I think I'm making a case for quite the opposite...
As I recall, the BayCon Committee didn't flat-out ban furry fans from attending future BayCons, but they did make it clear that furry fans were not welcome to hold an unofficial furry con within the BayCon. We would be welcome to attend as just s-f fans, like everyone else. Aside from that, we were aware that a sizable portion of the other attendees were actively hostile to furry fans. Those were the conditions under which you & Mark decided to organize the ConFurence.
Maybe you can verify this, Fred; aside from the flyer vandalism, I've heard there was also a nasty note left on Steve Gallacci's table in the dealer's room? And that there was a less-than-complimentary filk song - performed in private - but word got around anyways?
I travel extensively in filk circles (no pun intended) and I have no recollection of a nasty filk song. A few funny ones, but that happens when you're up late and full of Tully Dew.
Perhaps you're thinking of "The Furry Hunting Song"? (The thread goes on for several pages.)
Although it might be over a decade too late, since this was BayCon 1987, not 2001.
Amusingly Inkbunny's content policy is based on the same logic used by the hunter to evade prosecution.
I also found "Little Fuzzy Animals", but I don't think it's furry-inspired - although it'd be amusing to think they were making veiled references to MUCKs and MUDs in the second verse.
I don't know anything about Gallacci getting a private note, or about an anti-furry filk song. But some of the 100% s-f purists were so blatant that I wouldn't've been surprised, especially considering their Skunkfuckers Party flyer and their asking the Con Committee to expel us on false grounds. As for a filk song, the last half of the 20th century was a period when everyone was writing filk songs, some very dirty. It was almost a mark of honor to have an uncomplimentary filk song written about you.
Actually the "no con within a con" axe fell much more heavily on the anime fans, who HAD started to become a very large presence. For the furry fans it was more just BayCon indicating they were not all that interested in having furry-themed programming. And it really didn't have all that much influence on us deciding to start up ConFurence. A furry con was just something we decided it was high time to give a try.
I see a LiveJournal post from back in 2013 about how this kinda-sorta-repeated with steampunk, if only in the sense that the steampunkers had contacts (and I'm guessing shared more of an age-range) with the Fanime crowd, not the BayCon crowd, and so they were naturally the ones they clubbed up with.
I can see several other potential issues: steampunk isn't about the future - it's historical fiction! And engineering, not science. Besides, it's mostly just a costume-con, isn't it? Certainly not serious sci-fi…
Not sure if it's anything to do with it, but FC is $60 while BayCon is $80. It's a small difference, but one which nudges it a little further out of dropping-by range. At the same time, I'm sure they're comparing themselves to Worldcon's
$160$190 (though Worldcon very smartly has a $90 young adult option for 15-21).
Perhaps it's best to specialize rather than try to have it all under one roof. I tried ConClave (now Continuum) for a couple of years, but it felt too unfocused to grip my interest. I did like the chocolate ceremony, though. Oh, and someone left a free basket of condoms outside the dance, which frankly wouldn't be all that bad of an idea for furries to adopt.
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