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Before San Francisco lawyer John O’Connor exposed W. Mark Felt as Deep Throat in the July 2005 issue of Vanity Fair, few people knew as much about the one-time assistant director of the FBI as Ralph de Toledano, who helped ghostwrite Felt’s 1979 biography, The FBI Pyramid from the Inside. Now, de Toledano contends in a suit filed July 3 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that he was duped — not simply about Felt’s secret but by O’Connor, Felt, and Felt’s son over the rights to the 1979 book. According to the complaint filed by attorney Theodore Allison of Karr & Allison, Felt’s son, William Mark Felt Jr., approached de Toledano in early 2003 hoping to negotiate a deal to re-release the book with some “additional background material.” The initial offer — which came in a letter from O’Connor, according to the complaint — gave de Toledano a royalty of 33 percent for substantial use of the original book and 10 percent of any other story about Felt, which could be subject to arbitration. De Toledano says in the complaint that he was confused by the proposal. But by September the two parties had agreed on a contract to pay de Toledano $10,000 — half up front and half, as the complaint says O’Connor put it, to buy de Toledano’s rights for a re-release. The complaint alleges that O’Connor knew this assertion was “misleading, because in truth there was little or no doubt that the story of �Washington’s most celebrated secret source’ would have considerable commercial value.” De Toledano says in his complaint that after waiting three months for his paycheck he wrote O’Connor to cancel the original deal. It wasn’t until February 2005 that O’Connor sent him the first payment of $5,000. De Toledano alleges that O’Connor then used the purchased rights to solicit his own book deal, which led to A G-Man’s Life by O’Connor and Felt, which was published earlier this year. In May 2006, O’Connor sent de Toledano two checks totaling $5,000. Now, de Toledano is suing for copyright infringement and fraud and is seeking a 50 percent stake in the copyright of the earlier book. Reached by phone at his new solo practice, O’Connor said he had not yet seen the suit but was “generally familiar with the claims.” He added, “We don’t believe there is a whiff of merit to them.”
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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