"I never considered myself a writer," Frederic Seaman testified at a Manhattan trial.
Yoko Ono, Lennon's widow, sued Seaman in 1999, alleging he violated a confidentiality agreement by publishing family photos of the Lennons in a memoir entitled "The Last Days of John Lennon: A Personal Memoir." She also claims he profited by stealing mementos and selling them to collectors — charges Seaman denies.
On Wednesday, Seaman admitted signing a confidentiality agreement but denied violating it — even when confronted with entries from his own journals suggesting he deceived Lennon all along. One recounted a 1980 conversation in which he told Lennon he wanted a career in the music industry.
"I'm glad I managed to throw him off track, and apparently convinced him I have no interest in writing," the entry read.
Seaman confirmed the journals were his, but claimed his motives were pure.
"It occurred to me that I was an eyewitness to history, and at some point I would like to publish a book about Mr. Lennon," he said.
Ono's lawyer, Paul LiCalsi, also showed jurors a copy of a contract Seaman crafted with a college classmate only five weeks after Lennon was murdered by a deranged fan. Seaman acknowledged signing the deal to split profits from a book about Lennon and spin-off merchandise like records, T-shirts and "John and Yoko dolls."
The lawsuit demands that Seaman surrender the rights to 374 photos he took of Lennon, turn over about $75,000 from the sale of the rock legend's papers and pay unspecified damages.
Ono dismissed Seaman in 1981, unaware he looted files following Lennon's shooting outside their Central Park West apartment building, her suit said.
In 1983, Seaman pleaded guilty to second-degree larceny for stealing Lennon's diaries; he was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to return the property. Seaman said he has returned all the items; Ono said he returned only some of them.
Seaman testified Wednesday that he took the 374 photos on his own time and with his own camera — making him the rightful owner.
Under his arrangement with Lennon, "I would make him prints of those photos of mine that he wanted to put in his photo album," he said.