- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2006

The former top FBI official known as “Deep Throat” is too ill to travel from California to the District to defend himself against a federal lawsuit filed by the co-author of his 1979 memoir, court records show.

W. Mark Felt Sr., 93, is being sued by D.C. author Ralph de Toledano, who says Mr. Felt, his son and their attorney duped him into signing away his rights to the famous Watergate source’s life story.

The lawsuit claims W. Mark Felt Jr. approached Mr. de Toledano in 2003 about buying the author’s interest in a memoir he co-wrote with the elder Mr. Felt in 1979, citing plans to reissue the book with only some additional background information.

The lawsuit says Mr. de Toledano, unaware that the elder Mr. Felt was the famous Watergate source, agreed to the deal for $10,000, but never would have done so if he had known that the Felts and their attorney were planning to disclose Mr. Felt’s identity as Deep Throat.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in July, states there could have been “little or no doubt that the story of Washington’s most celebrated secret source would have considerable commercial value.”

In court papers filed late Thursday, the elder Mr. Felt and his attorney, John O’Connor, say the lawsuit should be moved to Northern California. Mr. O’Connor also is the co-author of Mr. Felt’s latest memoir, “A G-Man’s Life: The FBI, Being ‘Deep Throat,’ and the Struggle for Honor in Washington.”

The elder Mr. Felt lives in Santa Rosa, Calif., with his daughter Joan.

“His ill health does not permit him to drive a car, fly on a plane or travel for any significance,” Mr. O’Connor wrote in court pleadings about Mr. Felt’s condition. “Most of his days are spent simply resting at his daughter’s home. It would be impossible for him to travel to Washington, D.C.”

In addition, a declaration by Mr. O’Connor included in the legal filings says the Felts have refused all press and broadcast requests to travel because of concerns about the elder Mr. Felt’s health.

“He has experienced several life-endangering episodes in the last four years that appeared to have begun with a mild fever and fatigue and/or trauma stemming from a minor fall,” Mr. O’Connor stated.

Mr. O’Connor ended the 30-year mystery over the confidential source to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during Watergate in a July 2005 story Mr. O’Connor wrote for Vanity Fair magazine, which got substantial advance publicity.

In addition, Mr. O’Connor cites the demands of his law practice in San Francisco in his response to the lawsuit, saying, “It would be very difficult for me to be gone from my office for any extended period of time.”

District-based lawyer Kerrie L. Hook, who represents the elder Mr. Felt and Mr. O’Connor, also stated in last week’s legal pleading that the contract at issue contains a provision that any disputes should be handled by a San Francisco-based arbitrator.

“In the long run, the arbitration process is most likely to result in a net reduction in total litigation costs and result in a much quicker resolution,” she stated.

Last week, W. Mark Felt Jr., who lives in Florida, filed a separate response to the lawsuit, stating that he never had an obligation to tell the author that his father was Deep Throat. The response disputed Mr. de Toledano’s claims.

Mr. de Toledano co-wrote and held a 50 percent interest in Mr. Felt’s memoir “The FBI Pyramid: From the Inside,” a 351-page account of Mr. Felt’s career from a first-year agent in 1942 to associate director in 1971. He also held royalty rights for any additional commercial works on Mr. Felt’s life story, court records show.

Mr. de Toledano’s lawsuit does not specify monetary damages.

In court documents, Mr. O’Connor said he and the Felts are working on a movie deal with Universal Studios about Mr. Felt’s life.

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