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Judge Judy sues National Enquirer, InTouch for defamation

FILE - 'Judge Judy' Sheindlin has filed a defamation lawsuit against the media company behind InTouch Weekly and the National Enquirer over articles that claimed she was working to obtain a new trial for the Menendez brothers. Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File

TV personality “Judge Judy” Sheindlin has filed a defamation lawsuit against the owner of the National Enquirer and InTouch Weekly over articles she said falsely report she was attempting to secure a retrial for the Menendez brothers.

Though Sheindlin is no stranger to the courtroom, she’s stepping out from behind the bench to battle it out with Accelerate360 Media, the company that owns both tabloids.

According to the complaint filed in a Florida circuit court, Sheindlin was “floored” by the reports about her and the Menendez brothers, who were convicted in 1996 for murdering their parents. Both brothers, Lyle and Erik Menendez, are serving lifetime prison sentences in Los Angeles.

The first article was published by the InTouch Weekly under the headline: “Inside Judge Judy’s Quest to Save the Menendez Brothers Nearly 35 Years After Their Parents’ Murder.”

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Shortly after, the National Enquirer published a similar story, both in print and online.

The InTouch Weekly and National Enquirer articles quoted Sheindlin as saying the Menendez murder trial was “rigged.” Sheindlin’s lawyers maintain that this is “entirely misquoted.”

Sheindlin said any claims that she is looking to assist the Menendez brothers in obtaining a new trial are “unequivocally false.”

Accelerate360 Media has not commented on the lawsuit.

Sheindlin said in her complaint the false reporting has negatively impacted her reputation and public image.

“In one fell swoop, Judge Sheindlin’s lifetime-cultivated reputation has taken a body blow in the form of an account replete with ‘facts’ diminishing her to a rube, a fool — or worse,” the complaint reads.

She claimed the “unconscionable” articles about the Menendez brothers led to online “reproach and humiliation.” As a result, Sheindlin said the lawsuit will be “expensive” for Accelerate360 Media.

“When you fabricate stories about me in order to make money for yourselves with no regard for the truth or the reputation I’ve spent a lifetime cultivating, it’s going to cost you,” the complaint reads. “It has to be expensive so that you will stop.”

Sheindlin is seeking unspecified damages.

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The lawsuit speculated the two publications used statements from a Fox Nation docuseries that featured comments from one Judi Zamos, a woman identified as an alternate juror in the first Menendez trial, then misattributed them to Sheindlin.

The National Enquirer and InTouch Weekly are sister publications.

In 2017, the National Enquirer apologized to Sheindlin and retracted an article that said the TV judge had Alzheimer’s and depression, was cheating on her husband and that her daughter could be jailed for skipping jury duty.

Who are the Menendez brothers?

The murder trial of Lyle and Erik Menendez is one that drew intense media and tabloid attention — and continues to captivate true crime fans today, decades later.

The brothers went to trial in 1993, four years after the murder of their parents, José and Mary Louise (who went by the name Kitty). The parents were brutally murdered inside their Beverly Hills Mansion with a crime scene so egregious that early reports speculated the incident was a mob hit.

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Erik and Lyle, 18 and 21 years old at the time, told police they discovered their parents’ bodies at the crime scene. They said gone out to see a movie on the night of the murders.

After months of lavishly spending their father’s money, Erik confessed to his therapist that he killed their parents. Lyle later also confessed.

The brothers were arrested and charged with murder. Their highly anticipated criminal trial was televised and saw the lawyers for Erik and Lyle claim José had sexually molested his sons for years. The defence argued the brothers killed their parents out of fear.

While in court, the brothers had separate juries to decide their fate. After three separate trials, Lyle and Erik were both convicted of first-degree murder and were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Their requests for appeals and a new trial have been denied.

In 2023, former Menudo singer Roy Rosselló claimed in the docuseries Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed that he was sexually abused by José. He said José, who was an executive at RCA Records at the time, sexually assaulted him when he was a young member of the popular 1980s boy band.

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