$10,000 reward for St. Anne’s letter writer
Katharine Almy, the local woman who sued John Grisham and his St. Anne's-Belfield colleagues for emotional distress, announced today that she is now offering a $10,000 reward for evidence leading to the identity of the letter writer whose missives stirred up millions of dollars in legal fees and years of litigation. Almy, once accused of penning the letters, has set up a website, TheInnocentWoman.com, "My story of injustice in my hometown."
And she's ready to head back to court seeking $1 million plus $350,000 in punitive damages in a case filed seven years ago.
The website includes the first published samples of the anonymous letters that started in 1996 to Donna Swanson, wife of St. Anne's development director Alan Swanson, and seemed designed to break up the Swanson marriage.
Copies of nine envelopes addressed to Swanson are posted showing almost as many different styles of handwriting. One letter calls the Swansons the "Cleavers" of their neighborhood, "the perfect family." A card mentions "Dazed and Confused," the 1993 Richard Linklater stoner flick about high school students.
Almy attorney Mike Lieberman doesn't rule out the possibility the letters were a student prank. "Dazed and Confused– it's a movie that older people like me wouldn't know about," he says.
Almy makes a personal plea to the anonymous author, and despite an Grisham-aided investigation that once pointed at her, once again declares her innocence.
"You cannot imagine how frightening it has been to live with the trauma of being falsely accused of writing these horrible letters," Almy writes on her website, "especially when I didn’t even know Mrs. Swanson– and to come under attack by a man as famous and powerful as John Grisham."
Her case started as an $11 million lawsuit and has been in and out of court since 2000. It was tossed out of Albemarle Circuit Court in July 2005, but the Supreme Court of Virginia overturned that decision in January, breathing new life into the long-running case.
The Supreme Court ruling caught the attention of 178 newspapers, and galvanized the decision to offer compensation, says Lieberman.
"We'd always had in the back of our mind to offer a reward," he says. "Maybe people over the past few years have let their guard down and are more casual talking about it."
Almy has hired two former FBI agents. "We're hopeful," says Lieberman. "I think the landscape changed after the Supreme Court decision."
Tipsters have until September 15 to try to collect the reward.