In court, authors relate tales of broken promises, lost money
Campbell-Copp, 63, pleaded no contest Monday to 16 felonies and three misdemeanors, mostly stemming from allegations from dozens of authors who began going to police in 2011 saying they had given Campbell-Copp from $6,000 to $10,000 for him to put together, publish, and market their books. Many never saw their money repaid nor the work they paid for completed. Campbell-Copp's three-week trial was set to begin on Tuesday but after he pleaded no contest and waived his right to a pre-sentencing investigation, a three-day sentencing hearing was scheduled, however attorneys on the case say it might wrap up today.
Nine people took the witness stand on Wednesday, among them Barbara Malloy, of Newport, president of the Memphremagog Historical Society of Newport and author of a number of books, one being about sightings of "Memphre" a supposed lake monster that makes its home in Lake Memphremagog and is similar to "Champ" of Lake Champlain.
"I love history and I've always loved history," Malloy said. She met Campbell-Copp in 2005 at the Vermont History Expo and as she had been working on her Arthur book since 1996, she had her eye out for a possible publisher once it was complete. "I was very impressed with his table. He had all these books that he claimed to have published."
Malloy said she had also seen Campbell-Copp featured on "Across the Fence," a long-running show about Vermont life and farming. She eventually came to an arrangement with Campbell-Copp and gave him $5,000 to edit and publish her book. Later he contacted her saying he needed $2,000 more to finish the project,and when all was said and done she had gaven him $7,700 but received no book in return.
She said it was August 2010 when she began to think something was wrong and started to hear from others who had similar issues with Campbell-Copp. She contacted Essex County State's Attorney Vincent Illuzzi, who referred her to the Manchester Police Department, which had also received complaints about Campbell-Copp, as had police in Hinesburg.
"I just feel he misrepresented himself and his abilities to be called a publisher," she said, adding that the money for the book came out of her savings and checking accounts. "I would like my money back and also I'd like to see him get as much jail time as the law will allow. And keep him off the streets so he can not do other people like this."
Sarah "Sally" Treat and her husband Dr. Robert Treat told Judge Cortland Corsones about having first met Campbell-Copp in 2008 when he asked them to join the Manchester Historical Society. Robert Treat once owned Green Mountain Veterinary Hospital but now works there part time for his son, Dr. Robert Treat Jr. The practice was founded by the older Treat's father, Dr. Edwin Treat in 1936.
The thought of publishing a book about the practice had not occurred to the Treats until it was suggested to them by Campbell-Copp. The Treats gave Campbell-Copp $8,500 and their contract included having a book researched, edited, and published as well as language suggesting the filming of a documentary.
"We didn't get the help we needed in putting it together and so there was never any book to publish," said Sarah Treat. The Treats said after a while they felt there would simply be nothing in return for their money and called off relations with Campbell-Copp via email, never requesting their money back.
"I feel really strongly that this should never happen to anyone again," said Sarah Treat. "There are a lot of people here who have been hurt."
Robert Treat said he never expected to see much money from the book but felt the history it would preserve would be worth the expense even if only a bit of the money was made back. He said money was paid to Historical Pages in two $2,000 payments then in monthly increments of $460 until the $8,500 was gone. In spring 2011 he began to think the book was not going to happen as Campbell-Copp, when asked about progress, would shift the focus of the conversation toward a film. He also began to hear from others that his book was not likely to come together.
"I don't think Peter is going to hurt somebody. I don't think that's involved. If he's incarcerated it's going to be that much more of my tax money so I don't know that that's going to be the answer," Treat said. "The only reason really I'm here is I don't expect to get my money back, it would be nice, I just don't want to see anybody else get hurt, and some people have been hurt very badly. I just figured, well, if we can stop it and make sure he never does it again, whatever it takes to do that would be the reason I'm here."
Cheryl Young was unique among victims as she worked for Campbell-Copp directly as an investigator and researcher. She said she helped Campbell-Copp on projects, including the Treat book, and was paid on an hourly basis at the rate of $20, $30, or $40 depending on the depth of work being done. She said Campbell-Copp has paid her in the past but owes her about $1,450.
She said she helped film a pot luck dinner attended by the Treats and their clients with the intent being the stories they would tell would be filmed and used in a documentary or the book itself. Young said it became a struggle to get her pay from Campbell-Copp and she said she was given reasons such as he was waiting for overseas investors to pay him before he could pay her.
Young cut ties with Campbell-Copp but continued to press for the Treat project's completion.
Under cross examination by Campbell-Copp's attorney James Dingley, Young said she expressed in an email to Campbell-Copp that she wished for more involvement from the Treats, who said in their own testimony they were not writers and did not feel up to the task of organizing a book on their own and had been relying on Campbell-Copp for that aspect of the project.
Deputy State's Attorney Christina Rainville said some of those who testified Wednesday said they used an equity loan to pay Campbell-Copp, others paid from a retirement fund. She said one victim requested Campbell-Copp be hung up by his thumbs. She said she expects to have five people testify Thursday.
Dingley said he, too, intends to have people speak but is not sure if he can schedule them before Friday, so it is not known if the hearing will end before then.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.
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