Chuck Philips Again Attempts to Discredit Witness Who Accused Him of Corruption — Without Disclosing the Allegations the Witness Made
Chuck Philips writes today of the LAPD’s new cold-case investigation into the Biggie Smalls murder. Philips says:
But [Biggie Smalls's] family has suffered numerous setbacks as it pursues the city in court.
Shortly before its first trial began last summer, the family dropped Mack and Muhammad as defendants. A paid informant who figured prominently in both LAPD and FBI investigations into Wallace’s murder admitted that his identification of Muhammad as the gunmen [sic] was fraudulent.
Sure sounds like Philips is trying to discredit this “paid informant,” huh? For some reason, Chuck Philips wants to portray the witness as simply having lied.
I wonder why.
Oh: in unrelated news, it turns out that the same witness also previously accused Chuck Philips of corruption. He recanted that allegation at trial, too.
So when the witness is portrayed by Philips as being untruthful at trial — rather than simply recanting allegations due to possible fear of gang retaliation — that portrayal actually protects Philips’s reputation.
Not that today’s article mentions that.
In a previous post, I explained the controversy regarding the witness’s allegations against Philips:
I have said before that I found strange and puzzling Philips’s insistence on portraying as credible the recantation of witness Kevin Hackie in the Notorious B.I.G. trial. After all, Hackie stated repeatedly that he feared for his life, and people who cross Suge Knight historically have good reason to fear for their lives. Why did Philips write the story as if Hackie’s recantation was clearly credible, and his earlier statements clearly untrue, when that conclusion is by no means obvious?
With the publication of the article I linked to, we have an answer that makes sense: because one of the things Hackie recanted was a pretrial accusation that Philips was on Suge Knight’s payroll. If someone makes an accusation that serious about you, it stands to reason that you are going to want to see that witness discredited. If he recants his statement, you want his recantation to be believed. Under these circumstances, you can no longer be an objective reporter covering this story. You have a stake in how this witness comes across — because it affects you personally.
Once it became clear that Hackie had made these accusations about Philips, Philips had no business covering that trial anymore — in my opinion. He simply had too much of a vested interest in portraying a crucial plaintiff’s witness’s pretrial statements as incredible, and portraying that witness’s recantation at trial as credible.
Critically, the conflict of interest is there regardless of the truth of the allegation. It is the fact that the allegation was made that creates the conflict. Of course it would be worse if the accusation turned out to be true. But even assuming that the allegation is untrue — which I do, for the sake of this post — the fact that it was made to begin with creates a conflict of interest.
Who bears the fault for the fact that Philips continued to cover the trial, despite this conflict of interest? I don’t know, because I don’t know if Philips disclosed the conflict to his editors. I don’t remember reading about the accusation in the L.A. Times — but I’ll admit that I don’t know for sure whether it ever appeared in the paper’s pages or not.
There sure isn’t anything about it in today’s story.
More on the allegations against Philips here.
I’ll say something I have said before: I am reliably told by people I trust that Philips is a good guy. I have no reason to believe that the allegations of corruption by him are true.
But there is a conflict of interest in his covering this story while the key witness against him is accusing him of corruption — especially if Philips and his editors aren’t going to clue readers in.
I remain disturbed by that.
UPDATE 3-27-08: After re-reading the old articles on this topic, I have concluded that in the particular story above, Philips was probably trying to discredit a different informant than Hackie: a “Psycho Mike,” as described in this article. Philips had indeed tried to discredit Hackie on another occasion, and I remain concerned about the conflict of interest issue caused by that. But this particular informant seems to be a different one from Hackie.
Incidentally, Philips’s actions regarding “Psycho Mike” as described in the article linked in this update also concern me — particularly his decision to reveal the informant’s identity, despite the fact that he was an FBI informant. According to the article, that action by Philips endangered the informant and led to his being beaten by Bloods associated with Suge Knight.