''American Gangster'' Hit With $55 Mil Lawsuit, Ex-DEA Agents Claim Slander
According to New York's Daily News, the former agents say they were slandered by the quote appearing at the end of the film, which stated that Lucas' "collaboration led to the convictions of three-quarters of New York City's Drug Enforcement agency."
Their lawsuit says the film inaccurately asserts that Lucas cooperated with New Jersey police officer and prosecutor Richie Roberts in order to help convict corrupt law enforcement officers.
"Millions of people were induced to pay for viewing this film who would not have paid had they known the truth," the suit says. "The movie is riddled with falsity. ... The whole premise of American Gangster would have been eviscerated if the truth were revealed and the defendant would not have made the money it did make if the libel was not made."
Dominic Amorosa, the lawyer handling the libel suit, also led the prosecution team who convicted Lucas and 18 others in their 1975 federal trial. He said with certainty that Lucas' testimony did not lead to the conviction of a single officer of the law.
"He [Lucas] cooperated very substantially, no question about it, but not against officers of the law," Amorosa told the Daily News. "He cooperated against his competitors."
"It's really egregious," Former DEA agent Jack Toal, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said of the film. "It doesn't make any sense, and maybe they should answer why they did it."
The suit follows on the heels of numerous previous complaints about inaccuracies by former DEA agents who were involved in the case, as well as the real Richie Roberts, portrayed in the film by Russell Crowe. In November, retired New York DEA agent Gregory Korniloff sent a cease and desist letter to NBC Universal and demanded a retraction of statements made in the film.
Michael Moses, a spokesman for Universal Pictures, said the suit is "entirely without merit ... American Gangster does not defame these or any federal agents."
A DEA spokesman said no agents were ever charged with wrongdoing in the case.
The plaintiffs are asking for part of the $130 million box-office gross, a statement from producer NBC Universal telling "the truth" about the agency's role in the Lucas case and a "class-action" certification that could allow hundreds of DEA agents to share in any award.
American Gangster comes to DVD on February 19.