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Jeff Bezos survives bid to revive defamation suit by girlfriend’s brother

The appellate panel agreed Michael Sanchez's own declaration about what reporters had told him wasn't enough to prop up his defamation suit against the Amazon founder.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Jeff Bezos again prevailed over Michael Sanchez, his girlfriend's estranged brother who sued him for defamation, claiming the Amazon founder was the source of purportedly false stories that Sanchez had provided nude pictures of Bezos to the National Enquirer.

The California Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a judge's ruling that Sanchez's defamation claim was based on inadmissible hearsay. The court agreed that under California's anti-SLAPP law, which allows for quick dismissal of defamation cases, Sanchez couldn't rely on his own declaration of what others had told him rather than providing sworn declarations of the reporters he claimed to have spoken with.

"Had plaintiff himself witnessed defendants make defamatory comments, he could testify to those comments without running afoul of the hearsay rule," Second Appellate District Associate Justice Helen Bendix said in the unanimous decision. "Here, however, plaintiff’s declaration recounted not what he himself had witnessed, but what reporters told him they had witnessed. The reporters’ statements were offered for the truth of the matter asserted, namely that the reporters heard defendants make defamatory comments about plaintiff. The reporters’ statements therefore are hearsay."

Sanchez's attorneys didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

Bezos went public in 2019 with allegations that he was the target of a blackmail scheme over his affair with news reporter Lauren Sanchez.

In a blog post, Bezos claimed National Enquirer publisher American Media attempted to extort him before publication of a story detailing the affair and included personal text messages from Lauren Sanchez’s phone.

Bezos said he and his head of security, Gavin De Becker, were told by American Media they shouldn’t try and figure how the tabloid received the leaked information. But multiple news stories later reported Michael Sanchez was the source of the leak and had received $200,000 for taking the information from his younger sister’s phone.

But Michael Sanchez later claimed Bezos and De Becker had been the source of baseless claims to journalists about nude photos that were obtained by the National Enquirer.

While the tabloid never published the nude images, Michael Sanchez sued Bezos on claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He accused Bezos of saying he leaked nude photos of Bezos and his sister and shopped around a story about an affair that Bezos’ brother Mark was having.

In his complaint, Michael Sanchez said Bezos painted the leak as part of a conservative conspiracy with high-profile political operatives like Carter Page, Roger Stone and the Saudi Arabian government.

Bezos countered with an anti-SLAPP motion, calling Michael Sanchez’s lawsuit a form of extortion and a threat to speech protected under the First Amendment.

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