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United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
September 2, 2020, Decided
[*1306] O'SCANNLAIN, Circuit Judge:
We must decide whether the son of the former Prime Minister of Albania, who alleges that he was defamed in a book that accused him of being involved in an elaborate arms-dealing scandal in the early 2000s, may succeed in his defamation action against the book's author and its publisher.
This case arises out of brief references to Shkelzen Berisha—the son of the former Prime Minister of Albania, Sali Berisha—in Guy Lawson's 2015 book Arms and the Dudes: How Three Stoners from Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History. The book tells the supposedly true story of Efraim Diveroli, David Packouz, and Alex Podrizki, three young Miami, Florida, men who became international arms dealers during the early 2000s.
We recount the tale as it is presented in Lawson's book. According to the book, in the early 2000s, Diveroli, a teenager in Miami, came up with a plan to open a business specializing in arms trading in order to fulfill defense contracts with the United States government. At that time, private companies were permitted to bid on large military contracts through a website operated by the federal government, FedBizOpps.com. [**3] Diveroli was originally inspired to enter the trade after working for his uncle's arms company while living with him for a few years in Los Angeles. After a falling out with his uncle, Diveroli returned to Miami and convinced his father to sell him an unused shell company to build his own arms-trading enterprise: AEY, Inc. Diveroli had significant early success bidding on small contracts unlikely to attract the attention of major arms dealers, and he quickly grew both his business's capital and his own connections with arms vendors. Eager to see his operation expand, Diveroli later brought on his childhood friend David Packouz to help him run the business.
Much of the book, and Berisha's alleged involvement in the operation, revolves around AEY's biggest procurement deal: a roughly $ 300 million contract that AEY won in the summer of 2006 to equip Afghan security forces fighting the Taliban. The contract required AEY to ship 100-million [*1307] rounds of AK-47 ammunition to Afghanistan. At the time, AEY had a deal with a Swiss middleman, Heinrich Thomet, who had access to surplus ammunition in Albania that AEY could purchase at low prices. Thomet had purchased the ammunition through the Military [**4] Export Import Company ("MEICO"), an Albanian state-owned arms-dealing company. Packouz hired another childhood friend, Alex Podrizki, to travel to Albania, to collect the ammunition, and to load it onto planes to Afghanistan.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
973 F.3d 1304 *; 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 27940 **; 28 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 1786; 2020 WL 5228847
SHKELZEN BERISHA, Plaintiff - Appellant, versus GUY LAWSON, ALEXANDER PODRIZKI, SIMON & SCHUSTER, INC., RECORDED BOOKS, INC., Defendants - Appellees.
Subsequent History: US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Berisha v. Lawson, 2021 U.S. LEXIS 3588 (U.S., July 2, 2021)
Prior History: [**1] On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
Berisha v. Lawson, 378 F. Supp. 3d 1145, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 225649, 2018 WL 8222768 (S.D. Fla., Dec. 21, 2018)
public figure, district court, ammunition, prime minister, involvement, discovery, argues, actual malice, defamation, interview, purposes, attorney-client, communications, publisher, arms, mafia, independent contractor, conversation, accusations, credibility, depiction, quotation, supposed, marks, serious doubt, employee-equivalent, pre-publication, nonemployees, allegations, repackaging
Constitutional Law, Freedom of Speech, Defamation, Public Figures, Torts, Public Figures, Actual Malice, Defenses, Privileges, Constitutional Privileges, Public Questions, Limited Purpose Public Figure, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Clear & Convincing Proof, Clear & Convincing Evidence, Intentional Torts, Procedural Matters, Civil Procedure, Federal & State Interrelationships, Choice of Law, Forum & Place, Procedural Matters, Conflict of Law, Significant Relationships, Discovery, Privileged Communications, Attorney-Client Privilege, Attorney-Client Privilege, Scope