Former DEA Agent James Kuykendall Sues Amazon Studios for Defamation

Dec 21, 2020

Kuykendall was the direct supervisor of DEA agent, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, whose 1985 murder is the focus of the Amazon Prime series “The Last Narc”

NEW YORK– Retired DEA Agent James “Jaime” Kuykendall today sued Amazon Studios for defamation in connection with its release earlier this year of the series The Last Narc. Additional defendants in the suit are the show’s co-producers, Tiller Russell, John Massaria, Good Pixel Productions, and the Intellectual Property Corporation, along with Hector Berrellez, a former DEA agent featured in the series who was instrumental to the production of the false and harmful narrative.

The Last Narc focuses on events surrounding the brutal 1985 murder of DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena by a Mexican drug cartel operating in Guadalajara. According to Mr. Kuykendall’s attorney, F. Franklin Amanat of DiCello Levitt Gutzler, and as alleged in the Complaint, “the series masquerades as a factual documentary, marketed as telling the ‘true story’ behind the incident, but in reality, it aims to capitalize on Camarena’s tragic murder by scandalizing it for profit and for entertainment value.”

According to Amanat, “the series falsely accuses Mr. Kuykendall of complicity in the murder of his close friend and fellow agent. It falsely claims that Mr. Kuykendall received bribes from the cartel, that he was present at meetings where Camarena’s kidnapping was planned, that he then aided and abetted the execution of that plan, and that he deliberately sabotaged the trial of one of Camarena’s murderers by lying for the cartel.”

As the complaint filed today explains: “These are patent lies. Plaintiff Kuykendall – a decent and hard-working public servant and private citizen who spent decades putting his own life in harm’s way to keep the nation safe from violent criminals like the Guadalajara drug lords – had nothing to do with his friend’s tragic death and disdains the very notion of aiding or abetting the Cartel. Defendants’ claims to the contrary have utterly no basis in fact.”

The Show is little more than a shill for the Mexican drug cartels – an irresponsible and dishonest fiction that attempts to deflect responsibility for Camarena’s heinous murder from the drug lords who perpetrated it to dedicated American law enforcement agents like Plaintiff Kuykendall.

Complaint filed in Kuykendall v. Amazon Studios LLC

“Mr. Kuykendall has dedicated his life to protecting the American people and has, at all times, been unequivocally loyal to his country and to his fellow agents,” says Greg G. Gutzler of DiCello Levitt Gutzler, another attorney for Mr. Kuykendall. “Amazon and the other defendants have besmirched Mr. Kuykendall’s character and reputation, and they have denigrated his record of service to our country. The lawsuit seeks to hold them fully accountable for these defamatory actions.”

“Throughout the series, Amazon and the other defendants actively mislead viewers into believing that the portrayal of Mr. Kuykendall is accurate,” says Amanat. “They intersperse interviews of corrupt cartel operatives and discredited former DEA agents with archival news footage and scenes of whirring microfilm projectors, along with staged reenactments of events surrounding the murder, to make it seem like a factual news exposé. In reality, the Show presents a web of fictions and deceptions, falsely depicting Mr. Kuykendall as a criminal and a traitor, while willfully omitting and obfuscating the truth, solely to ‘entertain’ viewers and to line the pockets of Amazon and the other defendants.”

Mr. Kuykendall, who retired from the DEA in 1989 and is the father of another former DEA agent also named James Kuykendall, who retired last year, previously issued a formal statement about the series, which DiCello Levitt Gutzler released on November 16. In connection with the filing of the lawsuit, Mr. Kuykendall said: “The series falsely accuses me and the entire Guadalajara DEA office of corruption. It also belittles the work of the hundreds of people who contributed to the investigation. It is time to hold Amazon and the other participants in this series fully accountable for their despicable and utterly false portrayal of me and for the damage that portrayal has caused to me and my reputation. It is also time to force Amazon to take off the air this piece of fiction disguised as fact.” 

The suit, entitled Kuykendall v. Amazon Studios et al., is civil action no. 5:20-cv-00219, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Laredo Division. In addition to defamation, the suit also seeks damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of the right of publicity. DiCello Levitt Gutzler is pleased to collaborate with W. Mark Lanier and Alex J. Brown of the Lanier Law Firm in Houston in prosecuting this litigation. A copy of the complaint can be found here.

Mr. Kuykendall’s lawyers, Frank Amanat and Greg Gutzler, are available for comment upon request.

About DiCello Levitt Gutzler

DiCello Levitt combines excellence in commercial litigation, class action litigation, mass tort litigation, catastrophic injury litigation, medical malpractice litigation, and civil rights litigation. Practicing nationwide—and internationally—from offices in Chicago, Cleveland, New York, St. Louis, and Washington, DC, we are an aggressive, attentive, and creative complex litigation firm whose work speaks for itself—billions of dollars in recoveries in some of the highest-profile matters in U.S. history. Revered by clients and respected by defense counsel, our team gets results.

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