Less than a week after a state appellate court ruled that Jeff Bezos’ girlfriend cannot be deposed as part of her brother’s defamation lawsuit against the Amazon founder and his security consultant, the trial judge in the case said in a tentative ruling Wednesday that he is inclined to dismiss the case.
Michael Sanchez, a Hollywood talent manager and the brother of Lauren Sanchez, alleges in his lawsuit filed Jan. 31 in Los Angeles Superior Court that Bezos and Gavin de Becker, the consultant, falsely told journalists that the plaintiff had leaked nude photographs of the 56-year-old billionaire to the National Enquirer.
On Sept. 14, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John P. Doyle denied Michael Sanchez’s motion to lift a discovery stay on the case so that Lauren Sanchez could be questioned by her brother’s attorneys regarding her knowledge about how the tabloid obtained the photos.
Doyle said that what Michael Sanchez alleges he was told by reporters is hearsay because the statements “relate to out-of-court statements by other individuals.” In addition, the plaintiff has not provided any exception to the hearsay rule, the judge found.
A three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal on Oct. 29 denied Michael Sanchez’s petition for a reversal of Doyle’s ruling.
A discovery stay automatically went into effect when Bezos’ lawyers filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint on free-speech grounds on Feb. 3. His lawyers wanted to depose their client’s sister as part of their effort to defeat the dismissal motion, which will be heard Thursday.
In a tentative ruling issued Wednesday, Doyle said he is leaning toward granting Bezos’ dismissal motion. The judge said there is evidence the statements cited as defamatory by Sanchez “relate to an issue of public interest as there was widespread media coverage relating to Jeffrey Bezos’ extramarital affair and the source which leaked the affair to the media.”
But Doyle also said there is no admissible evidence that Bezos and de Becker published the subject statements and that a sworn declaration submitted by Sanchez’s in opposition to the dismissal motion “merely discusses what he was told by reporters, which is inadmissible hearsay.”
In sum, Doyle wrote, Sanchez “has not shown admissible evidence of publication by the defendants, which is an element of a prima facie case of defamation.”