- Lawyers for Jeff Bezos hit back at a defamation lawsuit from Michael Sanchez, seeking money for what he claims are slights on his reputation by Bezos and his staff.
- The most striking part of the document is the insistence with which it repeats a single point: that Sanchez betrayed his sister by making her relationship with Bezos public knowledge.
- The familial dynamic is irrelevant to the legal substance of the complaint — but seems to be part of a deeper attack on Sanchez’s moral character.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Lawyers for Jeff Bezos on Monday filed a response to an accusation that he and his staff defamed Michael Sanchez by claiming he sent nude photos to The National Enquirer tabloid.
The response was blunt: It said Sanchez’s suit should be thrown out, on the grounds that Bezos never made that claim, and that, even if he did, it was pretty much true.
However, aside from the legal argument, the document is remarkable for the ferocity with which it attacks Sanchez’s character, accusing him eight times of a “betrayal” his sister Lauren, now Bezos’s girlfriend.
The attack came in a 24-page motion to dismiss Sanchez’s suit, filed February 3 and reviewed by Business Insider. It was written by Bezos’s attorney William Isaacson.
Here are some excerpts of the document, which pointedly repeat variants of the phrase “betrayed his sister” over and over (emphasis ours):
The first two are in a section on the background to the case:
“Mr. Sanchez claims he is [suing Bezos] because he is now unhappy about news coverage concerning the media maelstrom that he helped cause after receiving the $200,000 and betraying his sister.
“Following the Enquirer publication, Mr. Sanchez sought to and became a central actor in kicking off worldwide public discussion about the sister he betrayed and Mr. Bezos — and in particular, the leaks to the Enquirer.”
The third argues that the fact that Sanchez leaked to the Enquirer became public thanks to reporting protected by the First Amendment:
“In the year since the Enquirer story, dozens of news organization shave reported on who disclosed Mr. Bezos’ texts to the Enquirer—reporting at the heart of the First Amendment.
“This reporting has exposed the appalling truth that Michael Sanchez betrayed his sister by selling her out to the Enquirer by providing it with personal information and text messages after he was paid $200,000.”
The fourth argues that Sanchez is wrong to allege defamation because he cannot prove that Bezos or his staff said what he accuses them of (again, emphasis ours):
“Mr. Sanchez believes it is important that he did not, according to him, specifically disclose nude photos, a distinction of no consequence under the First Amendment or to the media articles discussing his leaking of private information and betrayal of his sister. Further, neither Defendant has ever accused Mr. Sanchez of leaking nude photos specifically — and not once does the Complaint allege an instance where either Defendant made this accusation.”
The fifth and sixth are included as “factual background,” and the seventh is a quotation from a Fox News article about Sanchez (emphasis ours):
“Michael Sanchez’s betrayal of his sister soon became the subject of widespread reporting.
“On February 10, 2019, the Daily Beast reported that ‘multiple sources inside AMI’ confirmed that Mr. Sanchez had betrayed his sister and “supplied the couple’s racy texts” to the Enquirer. Mr. Sanchez initially lied to the media and denied leaking information and personal texts to the Enquirer.
“The Wall Street Journal followed on March 18, 2019, reporting that Mr. Sanchez ‘sold the billionaire’s secrets for $200,000 to the Enquirer’s publisher.’ Michael Sanchez eventually admitted he helped the Enquirer break its story — ‘He also admitted that what he did could be seen as a betrayal of his sister and of Bezos.'”
The eighth says the Lauren Sanchez stopped talking to Sanchez.
“After Michael Sanchez’s ‘deal with the devil’ became known, Lauren Sanchez stopped all communications with her brother due to the betrayal.”
The repetition is clearly intentional and a departure from the often-dry language of legal complaints.
Although the familial nature of the response is irrelevant to Bezos’s formal argument (which is about the definition of defamation, and whether it has been met), the legal filing takes every opportunity to emphasise the moral element: that Sanchez did not upset just anybody, but his sister.
The filing refers to Lauren Sanchez as “his sister” 19 times, almost three times as often as it uses her name.
It seems partly designed to attack a motive hinted at in Sanchez’s suit, cited by Bezos’s lawyers, which argued that Sanchez himself was motivated to protect his family, rather than harm it.
Bezos’s team says it saw a draft version of Sanchez’s response, which reads:
“Mr. Sanchez opted to get ahead of the story to limit the backlash against Mr. Bezos and Ms. Sanchez, and to protect Ms. Sanchez’s parents and children, exactly as he has done many times in the past.”
The court will now decide whether to dismiss Sanchez’s suit, which you can read more details of here, or to allow it to continue towards a full trial.
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