DEA Agents Try 'American Gangster' Defamation Claim Again

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DEA Agents Try 'American Gangster' Defamation Claim Again

Wed Oct 29, 2008 @ 01:04AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Americangangsterposter1Drug Enforcement Administration agents are still peeved at their portrayal in Universal's "American Gangster." Now they are going after former drug kingpin Frank Lucas and New York magazine in a new defamation lawsuit filed in New York Supreme Court.

Last year, DEA agents filed a a $55 million class action case against NBC Universal for defaming the DEA's entire New York bureau in the film. That lawsuit was rejected when US District Judge Colleen McMahon said the movie failed to "show a single person who is identifiable as a DEA agent," and therefore failed to meet defamation law standards.

The plaintiffs now believe that they'll have better luck against the source of allegations that DEA agents were corrupt and seized more assets than they accounted for. According to the complaint, Lucas' interview with New York Magazine writer Mark Jacobson, published as "The Return of Superfly" in the Aug. 7, 2000 issue, became the source of the film. Lucas, Jacobson, New York magazine, and Grove/Atlantic (which published a book on the episode) are all named defendants in this new $55 million lawsuit.

The new complaint doesn't resolve the identifiability issue that got the first case rejected. Instead, the plaintiffs represented by lawyers at Carey Associates hope to have better luck with a different judge.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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