Full transcript: dictator Manuel Noriega’s failed claim against Call of Duty makers for basing character on him

Avatar photo

By Judge John Hack on

Panama’s former military hard-man sees case thrown out of court


Gamers around the world will be raising a glass to former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, after the lawyer batted away a court challenge that could have wiped a massively popular title off the shelves.

Giuliani employed his renowned zero tolerance approach on behalf of client Activision, makers of the Black Ops II instalment of the Call of Duty series, which has sold 24.2 million copies worldwide.

Activision had been sued by one of the last century’s top dictators, Panama’s Manuel Noriega. Now 80 and languishing in jail, Noriega has convictions for murder, drugs dealing and money laundering in the US, France and Panama dating from his six-year iron-fist rule of the Central American country in the 1980s.

The alleged offence perpetrated by the game-makers — who include Hollywood screenwriter David Goyer — was to have incorporated a Noriega character in Black Ops II, which the former dictator only became aware of when his gaming grandchildren alerted him.


Noriega claimed the unauthorised use of his image entitled him to damages, but his legal team — led by Bill Gibbs of Chicago law firm Corboy & Demetrio — failed to specify how much.


In the end, however, the level of alleged damages was irrelevant as a judge in sitting in Los Angeles for the California Superior Court ruled to strike out the claim.

Activision instructed New York-based law firm Bracewell & Giuliani, with the former resident of Gracie Mansion leading the charge.

“Rudy” successfully argued that free speech provisions in the US constitution protected Activision and its depiction of Noriega as a gun-toting former CIA contact gone bad, which let’s face it, is pretty close to the truth.

Evidence submitted in the striking out hearing provided a fascinating insight into the former Panamanian general.

When US forces invaded in 1989, they raided two of Noriega’s houses, where they unearthed pictures of Adolf Hitler (presumably a role model), a large cache of pornography (what girlfriend is going to argue the toss over a collection with a ruthless dictator?) and about $8 million in cash (which in those days went a lot farther than 8 million bucks does these days).


According Rudy in a video analysis of the case, the judgment sends a message to dictators past and present that you can’t mess with corporate America’s video gaming industry.

Indeed, Call of Duty has already incorporated a Fidel Castro character in a past incarnation of the franchise, as well as John F Kennedy. Although it should be pointed out there is no suggestion that JFK or any member of the Camelot clan were or are dictators.


Noriega v. Activision by Legal Cheek