Staffer who stole manuscripts awaits sentencing
One of publishing’s strangest stories is nearing conclusion. Filippo Bernadini, the former rights co-ordinator at Simon & Schuster UK who was arrested by the FBI at JFK Airport in January last year and accused of stealing manuscripts, will be sentenced in New York in April.
Bernadini, who is 30, has admitted to impersonating agents and editors in order to fraudulently obtain more than 1000 unpublished manuscripts.
In court papers released in New York, he said he stole the manuscripts because he ‘wanted to read books before they hit stores’. He apologised for his crime and said: “I never leaked these manuscripts. I wanted to keep them closely to my chest and be one of the fewest to cherish them before anyone else, before they ended up in bookshops,” he wrote.
“There were times where I read the manuscripts and I felt a special and unique connection with the author, almost like I was the editor of that book. While employed, I saw manuscripts being shared between editors, agents and literary scouts or even with individuals outside the industry. So, I wondered: why can I not also get to read these manuscripts?
“One day, I created a spoof email address for someone I knew of in the publishing industry, and I sent an email to someone else that I knew of asking for a pre-publication manuscript. I wrote in the style and using the language that my former colleagues had used. When that request was successful, from that moment on, this behaviour became an obsession, a compulsive behaviour. Writing this now, I feel my fingers shaking as I type this at the thought of how egregious, stupid and wrong my actions were. I had a burning desire to feel like I was still one of these publishing professionals and read these new books. A part of me wanted to believe that I was still one of them and I started cosplaying what people in publishing were doing as editors or literary agents.”
Bernardini’s lawyer Jennifer Brown noted that Bernardini grew up as a lonely, bullied, gay child in a conservative part of Italy who found comfort by burying himself in books.
“Why did he do it?”, she wrote. “Why would someone go to such lengths to obtain so many unpublished manuscripts and then do nothing with them? Not sell them. Not share them. Not seek to enrich himself financially in any way with them?”
She said that Bernardini had already “suffered professional and reputational ruin” and was “effectively banned from the publishing industry”. He will sentenced in Manhattan federal court on 5 April.