October 23, 2008 -- Nine former Drug Enforcement Administration agents and three former New York City detectives have filed suit against convicted dope lord 'American Gangster' Frank Lucas and New York Magazine charging they were libeled by Lucas' assertions that the narcotics officers stole "9 to 10 million dollars" during a search of his posh home in 1975.
This is the second attempt the agents have made to sue over Lucas related allegations. An earlier suit against NBC Universal was dismissed by the federal court in New York. It charged the agents were defamed in the closing credits of the movie "American Gangster" which asserted that the narcotics cops involved in the Lucas case were corrupt. The suit is currently on appeal.
As the final credits rolled on the flick starring Denzel Washington as the Harlem drug thug Lucas, a screen appears that states that three-quarters of the drug enforcement agents assigned to New York were convicted as a result of Lucas' cooperation with "outcast cop" Richie Roberts, portrayed by Russell Crowe in the movie. There were no such convictions, Drug Enforcement Administration officials told ABCNews.com.
The latest suit has been brought in New York State Supreme Court and asserts that by printing Lucas' remarks, New York magazine's current and past publishers (New York Media and PRIMEDIA respectively), Lucas, and journalist Mark Jacobson libeled the agents and detectives who had entered as evidence in the case against Lucas $585,000 they said was seized in the search of his home. The search was a key element in the prosecution that resulted in Lucas' subsequent conviction of dealing narcotics and related crimes and sentence of 40 years in prison.
"They said we stole a lot of money, that is utterly ridiculous," said retired NYPD Det. James Haefner. "We were very straight guys. Look, you know as well as I do that in every bunch there are some bad apples. But we were all good apples and it is a shame that we are getting kicked around by a guy who is a dope dealer. He is not a nice man."
"The Return of Superfly"
In an article headlined "The Return of Superfly", originally published by New York magazine on August 7, 2000, Jacobson wrote, "For years, he (Lucas) has contended that the cops took a lot more than $585,000 from him. 'Five hundred eighty-five thousand, what's that? Sh-t. In Vegas, I'd lose 500 G's playing baccarat with a green-headed whore in half an hour.' According to Lucas, agents took something on the order of '9 or 10 million dollars' from him that fateful evening.'" This alleged libel, which the suit alleges was republished "in one form or another" by NBC Universal, Inc, New York Media, Grove/Atlantic, Jacobson, Lucas and others, is at the heart of the suit.
"Lucas has been lying about the search of his house for years," said Dominic Amorosa, the attorney for the narcotics officers. "No one really cared because of who he is. However, when New York magazine re-published Lucas' lies it gave them a degree of credibility they did not deserve."
"A reasonable investigation prior to publication would have determined that Lucas' statements were false. Jacobson and PRIMEDIA each ignored that it would have required the complicity of every single law enforcement officer at the scene of the search to commit the alleged theft," the suit states. No law enforcement officer has ever been arrested or convicted on any allegations arising from the search of Lucas house, federal officials said.
New York Magazine's Executive Director of Business Development and Corporate Communications, Serena Torrey, said that the magazine had no comment on the allegations at this time.
"We can't comment on a suit we haven't seen," Torrey told ABCNews.com.
Rights to the article were purchased by NBC Universal and according to the suit "American Gangster purports to represent the true story of Lucas; narcotics activities… (but)… American Gangster depicted a false and libelous version of the search."
The article was also republished in a collection of articles by Jacobson published by Grove/Atlantic in November 2007 and titled "American Gangster and Other Tales of New York." Grove/Atlantic publicity director Scott Manning said that publisher had no comment on the allegations.
"We haven't been served so we have no comment at this time," Manning told ABCNews.com.