Judge Quashes Defamation Suit Against Jeff Bezos
Last week, a Los Angeles state court judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit against Amazon.com Inc. founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos. The suit was filed by Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos’ girlfriend, Laura Sanchez, at the California Superior Court, Los Angeles County.
Sanchez, a Hollywood talent agent, brought the suit following Bezos’ nude photos being leaked to the National Enquirer.
On Thursday, Judge John P. Doyle issued a provisional ruling granting Bezos’ motion to throw out the case filed against him and Gavin de Becker — his security consultant — by Sanchez.
In his February suit, Sanchez claimed that Bezos had hired Becker to make false statements to journalists and spread misinformation to implicate him in his nude photo scandal.
“Once the FBI and Amazon’s own investigators cleared me of ever possessing the pictures used to blackmail Jeff, I thought I’d get a private apology, at a minimum. But Jeff and Lauren haven’t looked back,” Sanchez stated. “I’ve been thrown under the bus.”
The National Enquirer’s publisher, American Media Inc., issued a public statement at that time, affirming Sanchez’s involvement in disclosing the affair to the tabloid. The report also confirmed that he “provided all the materials” required for the investigation.
Multiple news stories also attested to Sanchez’s complicity in leaking the photos. The reports claimed that he received $200,000 to clandestinely remove photos from his sister’s phone.
Bezos countered Sanchez’s suit with an anti-SLAPP motion, describing the lawsuit as a threat to speech under the First Amendment, and a case of extortion.
The judge granted the motion to Bezos and issued the plaintiff’s claim due to “hearsay.”
Judge Doyle wrote, “Here, there is no admissible evidence that defendants published the subject statements. Plaintiff’s declaration merely discusses what he was told by reporters, which is inadmissible hearsay.”
Doyle further wrote that “because they are not being used to prove the truth of the matter asserted,” the plaintiff, in his statement, “could not distinguish between the use of hearsay to demonstrate that words were uttered, and the use of hearsay to identify the publisher. The former does not relate to the truth of the statements while the latter does.”
“My clients are pleased the judge has thrown out the baseless case filed by Michael Sanchez. When it comes to frivolous lawsuits seeking money or attention, the law is clear — and the law worked. Journalists will surely take the court’s ruling into account when considering Michael Sanchez as a source,” said William Isaacson, Bezos’ attorney from Boies Schiller Flexner, in a public statement.
Tom Warren, Sanchez’s attorney, respectfully disagreed with the ruling, stating that they “look forward to vindicating Mr. Sanchez’s claims on appeal.”