Continuing Saga of Deep Throat

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By on August 20, 2007 in Current Events with 0 Comments

One of the enduring mysteries of late 20th century U.S. history was the identity of “Deep Throat”—the shadowy background source used by Washington Post reporters Woodward and Bernstein to reveal involvement of the Nixon White House in the Watergate scandal. That is, until it was revealed out of the blue in 2005 that Mark Felt, Sr., a career FBI agent who had previously denied it, was indeed the source named “Deep Throat.”

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has just issued a decision in a case dealing with the continuing saga of “Deep Throat” in a lawsuit brought by the co-author of a 1980 biography of Felt, Sr. In Toledano v. O’Connor, D.D.C. Civil Action No. 06-1214(JDB), 8/17/07, the court ruled that the parties are required to take their dispute to arbitration.

Ralph deToledano, the “ghost” co-author of Felt, Sr.’ biography, The FBI Pyramid from the Inside, had an agreement with the former FBI agent that split royalties from the book 50/50. deToledano did not know that Felt was the mysterious “Deep Throat” until it was disclosed publicly in 2005 in an article in Vanity Fair.

In the several months prior to the public “outing” of Felt, Sr., his son, Mark Felt, Jr. (“Felt, Jr.”) and the author of the Vanity Fair article, John O’Connor, negotiated with deToledano to secure his release of his 50% interest in the Felt, Sr. biography, without revealing what they both apparently knew at that point—that Felt, Sr. was, indeed, “Deep Throat,” and his story was about to become a lot more valuable to those with a financial interest in it.

There was considerable back-and-forth in the form of letters and discussions and a promise to pay deToledano a cash amount once he executed the agreement releasing his interest in the Felt, Sr. biography. This agreement also contained a clause that any disputes were required to be arbitrated. deToledano maintained that there was never a valid contract, and the Felts and O’Connor claim that there was.

As to when and if the agreement was valid is the subject of this dispute. But, the initial skirmish centers on whether it can be litigated in the district court or requires referral to arbitration. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The big news that Felt Sr. was “Deep Throat” became public and there was talk of multi-million dollar movie and book rights. At that point any understandings between the parties broke down, and deToledano filed suit claiming that the agreement to relinquish his rights was not valid since he was not paid as promised. (After the suit was filed, deToledano died and his sons stepped in on behalf of his estate to pursue the claim.)

The Defendants Felt Sr. and O’Connor moved to have the case stayed in favor of arbitration, citing the Federal Arbitration Act, deToledano’s sons opposed that motion, demanding instead that the lawsuit be moved along.

The District Court has now granted the Defendants’ motion, concluding that the dispute must be arbitrated. (Opinion p. 2)

Will deToledano’s heirs be able to profit—along with former FBI agent Felt, Sr.—from the blockbuster story of “Deep Throat?” Only time and an arbitrator’s decision will tell. Stay tuned.

© 2017 Susan McGuire Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Susan McGuire Smith.

About the Author

Susan McGuire Smith spent most of her federal legal career with NASA, serving as Chief Counsel at Marshall Space Flight Center for 14 years. Her expertise is in government contracts, ethics, and personnel law.

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