Last week, I shared with you the the background on Rachel Ann Nunes and her fight against plagiarism.
As mentioned in that article, Rachel’s court filings mention at least one other incident of plagiarism by the defendant, Tiffanie Rushton, a Utah elementary school teacher. Sharp-eyed readers went hunting for those violations, and what they found is so much more heinous than anything I expected.
In addition to the book she copied from Rachel, Tiffanie Rushton claims to be the author of Hold You Again and Hasty Resolution (both under the pen name Sam Taylor Mullens). The main character in Hasty Resolution is a U.S. Marine suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
When Rushton sought to publish her book about a character with PTSD, she decided to take a shortcut… by plagiarizing the words and ideas of a combat veteran.
Sgt. Chase Weston is a veteran of the war in Iraq, and like many who served his country, he bears the scars of those conflicts inside and out. Chase survived an IED attack in 2005 which left him with a broken back, a traumatic brain injury, and devastating PTSD. In 2009, he wrote an intense first-hand account of his experiences, “Terror in a Cloud of Dust”, for the Veterans Workshop.
It’s a compelling read filled with the raw truth of Chase’s experience.
When Tiffanie Rushton stole his words and experiences for the prologue of Hasty Resolution, she didn’t just commit a despicable act of plagiarism. She cheapened this man’s deeply personal story to make a quick buck, and in the process, dishonored a courageous veteran’s service and sacrifice.
Below are samples of the original work compared to Rushton’s:
“Terror in a Cloud of Dust,” Sgt. Chase Weston
Hasty Resolution, Sam Taylor Mullens
Leaving FOB McKenzie, we stop at the firing pit to squeeze off a few rounds and check our weapons to make sure the .50-cal guns on the trucks are set right.
The other men stop at a firing pit to squeeze off a few rounds before they make sure the .50-cal guns on the truck are set right.
Coming to the middle of town I see two elderly men sitting in front of a small sandal shop.
Two elderly men sit in front of a sandal shop, smoking cigarettes.
We roll through the town and continue north. The turnoff to the shortcut is next to an old poultry farm that looks like a chicken’s Auschwitz.
Our convoy rolls through the rest of the town and veers to the north past a foul-smelling chicken farm. We cannot pass the stench quick enough.
The dust starts billowing; it looks like the worst sand storm I have ever seen. I tie my bandana on to cover my nose and mouth. It doesn’t help much, but it gives me the feeling that I’m not eating dust. The sand cakes everything a light shade of tan, and it’s as sticky as the Georgia mud. It’s as if you’d just got a new paint job on everything.
The desert dust starts billowing from a sandstorm. I cover my nose and my mouth with my bandana so I do not inhale and choke on dust. Sand cakes the convoy trucks and paints them a light shade of tan from the sand.
We drive off-road for an hour or so before we come to the road that leads us to FOB Wilson.
We drive off-road for an hour before we arrive at a police checkpoint.
The commander leads the way around the T-barrier, and the convoy begins to follow.
I lead the way around the T-barrier and the convoy follows my lead.
Suddenly, there is a blast. I can taste it, smell it, and feel it.
Suddenly, there is a blast from a car bomb. I can taste it and I can smell it.
He is hesitant, on guard.
I am hesitant and on guard as I stay vigilant for any sign of blonde hair.
The first sergeant talks the rattled men out of the truck and onto safe ground, and then walks them to our truck so they can calm down.
I talk the rattled men down off their vehicles to the safety of the ground.
It’s the driver of the truck that just got hit. He’s sitting as still as a man lying in a casket. All but his hands. They are shaking so violently that he cannot even remove the cap from a water bottle.
The driver of the truck is sitting, unmovable in his seat. His hands shake violently, so much that he cannot remove the cap to his water bottle.
When he looks up he cannot speak. He just nods yes, and appears to look right through me. I want to tell him to snap out of it, to put his weapon to his shoulder and pull some security.
When he looks out the window, he cannot speak. He just looks right through me. “Snap out of it!” I shout. “Get your weapon and go pull security!” I bark furiously.
The EOD team is putting away their robot and taking off their bomb suits while a ten-ton wrecker backs into position to hook up the bombed truck. EOD starts walking over to check out the vehicle and snap some photos for records.
When we exit the building, the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team is putting away their robot and taking off their bomb suits while a ten-ton wrecker backs into position to hook up the bomb truck. EOD men walk over to inspect the vehicle. One snaps photos for records.
His knees buckle, and he tries to keep his balance.
My legs shake. My knees buckle. I am confused temporarily as I regain my balance.
“Two KIA, two KIA! Fucking EOD just stepped on the secondary!” I shout.
“Two killed in action! Two KIA! The EOD personnel stepped on the secondary IED!”
Before I can completely finish, I see one of the EOD guys crawling under a black cloud of dust to the T-barrier. I still have my mic on.
Before the soldier completely finishes his sentence, one of the EOD men crawls on his hands and knees under a black cloud of dust from the T-barrier cursing with rage.
Words cannot explain what is going through my head. Two men who I thought were dead and in pieces are alive and, barely, still moving.
I cannot explain the chaos going through my mind […] Two men, who everyone thought were blown to pieces, are now alive, but barely moving.
My mic still on, I cry over the net at the top of my lungs, “They are both alive! Two WIA — I repeat, two WIA! Medic! We need to get a medic in there to assist those men!”
“They are both alive!” a man cries over the net at the top his lungs. “Two wounded in action! We need to get a medic in here to assist these men!” the soldier yells.
At the Bradley fighting vehicle to my north, two infantry soldiers about to go in after the wounded give each other a bone-chilling glance.
At the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, two infantry soldiers go in for the wounded.
The soldiers grab the EOD men by the handles on the backs of their bulletproof vests and drag them out of the danger zone to the Bradley.
The soldiers grab the wounded men by the handles on the back of their bulletproof vests and drag them out of the danger zone to the Bradley.
I feel it’s important to dispel any question of whether Rushton’s plagiarism might have been coincidence or accident. This was not a dimly remembered story that she unconsciously repeated. Line after line, phrase after phrase has been methodically stolen from Sgt. Weston’s article and used to line Tiffanie Rushton’s pockets.
This can only be a deliberate act of stomach-turning callousness, and the courts need to apply swift and severe punishment to deter this serial offender from victimizing others. I sincerely hope that Sgt. Weston takes legal action against Tiffanie Rushton for her theft.
Now, pause for a moment. Deep breath.
I want to be extremely clear that this post is not a call for vigilante action. Rushton’s actions are infuriating; I get that. But I will firmly reiterate my previous plea for restraint. The lawsuit is in the hands of the Federal judge who will hear the case, and it is inappropriate for anyone to confront Rushton directly. Doing so only provides her with misplaced sympathy. Please let the attorneys handle this.
However, you can take a direct part in bringing Tiffanie Rushton to justice in three ways:
- Share Rachel’s story.
- Donate to and share Rachel’s fundraiser.
- Purchase the Unseen: United! speculative fiction box set.
The proceeds from the fundraiser and the sale of the box set will be used towards Rachel’s substantial legal bills. By supporting Rachel’s lawsuit, we help ensure that plagiarists will think twice before stealing from authors and veterans.
Thank you for your calm and compassion.
Q: Where do you get your book plot ideas from? What/Who is your inspiration?
A: Real-life experiences.
Interview with Tiffanie Rushton, writing as Sam Taylor Mullens
Permission is granted to reprint this article in part or whole, with attribution to the author, John Doppler.
UPDATE 9/12/2014: Lilah Weston, the wife of Sgt. Chase Weston, has written an open letter to Tiffanie Rushton describing the impact of her heartless actions.
On the same day, a parent at the school where Rushton works has pointed out that many of the aliases used in the plagiarism and sockpuppet scandal were actually the names of Rushton’s 8-year old students.
Prose and Cons: A Plagiarist Faces the Judge
Open Letter to Tiffanie Rushton