Former Drug Enforcement Administration agent James Kuykendall is suing Amazon Studios, along with those associated with its docuseries “The Last Narc,” for defamation as a result of his characterization on the show.
The four-part series, released in July, tells the true story of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a special agent with the DEA, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1985. The investigation following Camarena’s death resulted in numerous convictions of drug lords associated with the Guadalajara Cartel behind Camarena’s death.
According to the lawsuit — who names the defendants as star and former DEA supervisor and special agent Hector Berrellez, assistant producer John Massaria, executive producer Tiller Russel, Good Pixel Productions and the Intellectual Property Corporation — “the Show masquerades as a factual documentary, but in reality, it aims to capitalize on Camarena’s tragic murder by scandalizing it for profit and for entertainment value.”
The lawsuit states that the series hinges on a “lurid conspiracy narrative” that purports Central Intelligence Agency agents and other U.S. officials secretly conspired with the cartel to traffic drugs into the United States so that the proceeds could be used to fund the Contras then fighting the Communist regime in Nicaragua. As a result, Camarena was murdered because he had discovered, and was about to expose, the conspiracy.
“As part of this far-fetched narrative, the Show falsely and despicably accuses Plaintiff Kuykendall … of complicity in the murder of his close friend and fellow agent,” the lawsuit read. “Specifically, the Show falsely claims that Plaintiff received bribes from the Cartel, that he was present at Cartel 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.”
Kuykendall asserts that the show bolsters its false narratives by relying on unreliable, discredited and unnamed sources. The suit states its cause of action as defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of the plaintiff’s right of publicity.
The lawsuit claims that the defendants acted with actual malice when producing and distributing the show, citing that they knew the series’ portrayal of Kuykendall to be false. The suit alleges that Russell and Amazon representatives spoke with Kuykendall while the show was in development and despite Kuykendall demanding the show not be published due to its falsity, proceeded regardless.