Patterico's Pontifications

3/26/2008

BREAKING: L.A. Times Admits Documents in Tupac/Sean Combs Story Were Fabricated

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 10:42 pm

The story is here.

A Los Angeles Times story about a brutal 1994 attack on rap superstar Tupac Shakur was partially based on documents that appear to have been fabricated, the reporter and editor responsible for the story said Wednesday.

Reporter Chuck Philips and his supervisor, Deputy Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin, issued statements of apology Wednesday afternoon. The statements came after The Times took withering criticism for the Shakur article, which appeared on latimes.com last week and two days later in the paper’s Calendar section.

I think the paper needs to take a broader look at Philips’s work. I’ve had concerns in the past about his failure to disclose conflicts in stories he has written — for example, see here. But a quick apology may have the effect of sweeping any such investigation under the rug.

UPDATE: Here’s a little more detail on why the L.A. Times should dig deeper into Chuck Philips. This story should not be viewed in isolation. Let’s take a look at the bigger picture.

Russell Poole, the LAPD homicide detective (now retired) who investigated Biggie Smalls’s murder, believes that Suge Knight is responsible for both Smalls’s and Tupac Shakur’s murders. Poole believes that Knight planned Smalls’s murder with LAPD officer and Bloods gang member David Mack, who is now incarcerated in federal prison for bank robbery. Poole says that LAPD blocked his investigation whenever it led to possible corruption or criminal involvement by LAPD officers. For years, Biggie Smalls’s family has pursued a civil case against the LAPD on Poole’s theory. Randall Sullivan reported the details of Poole’s theory in a Rolling Stone article and in a book called LAbyrinth.

Chuck Philips has had a long association with Suge Knight:

Chuck Philips, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his music business reporting in 1999, has covered Death Row Records since the early ‘90’s. He has long been known for obtaining scoops and exclusive interviews for The Times due to his unmatched access to Suge Knight. Some critics have characterized him as Suge’s apologist and as a reporter corrupted by access. Others speculate there may be more to it than that. One key witness at the Biggie civil trial, Death Row insider Kevin Hackie, who identified David Mack as attending Death Row functions, also stated in a pre-trial deposition that “Chuck Philips was frequently at Death Row functions and received payments from Death Row Records.” Hackie backed off of this statement at trial, but he also tried to back away from everything he had told investigators, stating, convincingly, that “I’m in fear for my life.” Asked what he feared, Hackie stated: “Retribution by the Bloods, the Los Angeles Police Department and associates of Death Row Records.”

Now, I’m willing to give Philips the benefit of the doubt and assume that the allegations that he took money from Knight are not true. But I distinctly remember reading Philips covering Hackie’s trial testimony, and portraying his recantation at trial as discrediting his previous testimony — as if there was no possibility that Hackie’s pretrial testimony could possibly be true. I wrote about this here and here.

When Philips covered Hackie’s testimony, I believe Philips was caught in a clear conflict of interest. To my recollection (I can’t find the original story), Philips did not tell readers that he had a personal reason to credit Hackie’s trial testimony and discredit his pretrial testimony. In investigating this latest story, the L.A. Times ought to revisit this issue.

There is a broader theme relating to Philips’s repeated coverage of issues involving Knight: for whatever reason, Philips tends to write stories supporting Knight.

Philips has written numerous articles such as this one, mocking the civil case brought by Biggie Smalls’s family. In his Rolling Stone article, Randall Sullivan reported that Philips had disclosed the identity of an informant who was working with the FBI to investigate evidence that could tie Mack and his friend Amir Muhammad — and by extension Knight — to Smalls’s murder:

Almost immediately after this encounter, Psycho Mike said, someone had leaked word of the FBI investigation to Chuck Philips, who promptly produced a story for the Times that “penned me out as the source of going down to San Diego with a wire.”

Revealing the informant’s identity got the informant beaten by Bloods gang members, driving him underground. This had the effect of removing a witness who would have testified to evidence tying Knight to the killing of Smalls.

And of course, Philips famously penned a blockbuster story that tied Notorious B.I.G. to the Tupac murder — a theory that, if true, would discredit Poole’s theory and take the heat off Suge Knight. The sourcing for that story was puzzlingly anonymous for a story with such a breathtaking claim — that such a famous and distinctive looking rapper as Biggie Smalls had been in Las Vegas that night and nobody had known it until Chuck Philips reported it.

Now that Philips’s most recent story has been shown to be based in part on admittedly forged documents, all of this bears re-examination. The question is whether the L.A. Times will do it.

UPDATE x2: There’s another aspect to this story that I find disturbing, but I haven’t felt comfortable writing about it, even though I have alluded to it. Perhaps WLS will discuss it in coming days. Hint: an enterprising person might look at the earlier article referred to in the later article, and see whether the connection to Suge Knight/Biggie Smalls was mentioned. And if it wasn’t . . . then why not? And that’s all I’ll say.

UPDATE x3: Thanks to Instapundit and Michelle Malkin for the links. My original post on this is here. It includes a link to the amusing Smoking Gun story that started this yesterday morning.

UPDATE x4: The paper was warned before publication.

UPDATE x5: My guest blogger WLS has much more here.

29 Responses to “BREAKING: L.A. Times Admits Documents in Tupac/Sean Combs Story Were Fabricated”

  1. He just seems like a normal “current crop” or professional journos!

    Inept idiot writers might be a better job title for the Professional side of the profession.

    Chuck Philips can now just be called Mr. Rumor, and using MR. is giving him too much, (I think)! Or how about “AP” Phillips?

    I am so very happy to have the many bloggers around the nation/world that actually care about what they write, like Patt here. Only now and again will they get the air hose stuck and inflate a balloon, but 99.9% will just as quickly deflate it if needed.

    TC (1cf350)

  2. I noticed that on one of the old related posts, a “Kevin Hackie” actually left a comment that seemed to be authentic, but was never acknowledged or responded to, and the thread died. Do you think it was him? Also, is it your opinion that Chuck Philips was merely doing the Eason Jordan/Saddam routine (“Oil for Food” meets “Propaganda for Access”), or, short of actually being on the payroll, was he getting “enhanced” access. Sure seems like he found a reason to go above and beyond merely spouting one side’s contentions uncritically.

    rhodeymark (6797b5)

  3. After reading all the recent posts, what I don’t get is why Sean Combs isn’t looking for a big payout from the LAT, Phillips, and possibly the LAPD (maybe the latter has some sort of immunity?). If I’d been the victim of such a lame frame, I’d make every effort to punish the perpetrators.

    brobin (c07c20)

  4. I noticed that on one of the old related posts, a “Kevin Hackie” actually left a comment that seemed to be authentic, but was never acknowledged or responded to, and the thread died.

    It was him. I verified it. I almost interviewed him but decided not to, because the Smalls murder investigation had been reopened, and I didn’t want to get in the middle of that.

    Also, is it your opinion that Chuck Philips was merely doing the Eason Jordan/Saddam routine (”Oil for Food” meets “Propaganda for Access”), or, short of actually being on the payroll, was he getting “enhanced” access.

    I don’t know enough to say. Someone whose opinion I trust says Philips is a good guy. I’m willing to give him every benefit of the doubt — but I do think the paper needs to give closer scrutiny to the conflict of interest issues.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  5. Michelle Malkin points out:

    “But you know, the LATimes employs professionals backed up by layers and layers and layers of editorial fact-checking. As opposed to blogs, which are, in the words of an LA Times columnist, hokum-spreading “crab grass.””

    In this comment, Malkin gives credit to Patterico for a thread last December:

    http://patterico.com/2007/12/27/la-times-columnist-blogs-are-like-crab-grass-sprouting-everywhere/

    Alta Bob (aada0c)

  6. Trying to follow your cryptic update…but which articles are you referring to as the “earlier” and “later” articles exactly? There are so many links in the post that I’m confused and can’t follow your hints.

    RMK (b39472)

  7. I’m sorry; it’s deliberately cryptic for reasons I can’t explain right now.

    If you follow the link in that update, there is a post of mine. It links an LAT article. That is the “later” article; the “earlier” article is the earlier article by Philips mentioned in that later article. A link to that earlier article is here.

    What the enterprising person would want to do is to read the article I link in this comment and see if there is a mention of the Biggie Smalls/Suge Knight connection in that article. Then read the later article and wonder what’s going on.

    Perhaps WLS will clear all this up for us.

    Patterico (4bda0b)

  8. Talk about cryptic…all of your directions and links lead to the Sept 2007 article by Landsberg! :) I think I see where you are going…but the LAT wants $3.95 to retrieve the “earlier” article on Waymond Anderson by Philips…which I refuse to pay to those clowns.

    RMK (b39472)

  9. I realize that everyone wants to give Philips the benefit of the doubt and assume, for the moment, that he was duped. But in this latest article he says that he confirmed the identity of the FBI informant and talked to this person. Of course, there was no FBI informant since the 302′s were written by Sabatino. So, WhoTF did Philips talk to as the informant? Either Sabatino has a 3rd party on the outside who was willing to play the part for him or Philips flat out lied about confirming the identity and speaking to the informant (or perhaps Sabatino said HE himself was the anonymous informant quoted in his own 302′s…that would be some circular “confirmation”!)

    RMK (b39472)

  10. Patterico

    Kudos.

    I am so proud of you and the guys in the blogosphere for the work you do. Smoking Gun too on this one.

    I spent a number of years unraveling fraud cases for some pretty deep pocket clients… and this one has those tiny hairs on the back of my neck standing straight up.

    Alas, I don’t have nearly enough technical skill (nor perhaps writing skill) to be a blogger and I don’t have access to the documents necessary to unravel these things any longer, but it is high time somebody takes the MetaStasisMedia down for their constant corruption and fraud.

    Their sweeping corruption and intentional defrauding the public is only matched by their arrogant, sweeping lives in denial.

    I would do it in a heartbeat, if only I knew how to get my hands on the materials. Somebody has to do it, and I shouldn’t ask anyone to do something I’m not willing to do myself.

    Again, I can’t thank you enough…you have again earned a contribution. I wish I could do more.

    cfbleachers (4040c7)

  11. Someone here mentioned “Interracialloves.com” My friend joined the service a few weeks ago, it is an absolutely service for rich men to looking sexy women for …

    shine (fcde2c)

  12. Misssing headline of the year… :)
    “Pudgy Poser Punks Philips from Pen”

    rhodeymark (1aaf2a)

  13. cfbleachers,

    This one is ALL the Smoking Gun. I’m just reporting their good work and suggesting other areas of investigation.

    RMK:

    I thought I provided the right link in the comment above, but I can’t check from my Treo. Sorry if there’s no way to pull up the earlier article. I can try to look at this tonight; I could almost swear I saw the article again last night without paying.

    If WLS doesn’t end up writing about this today, I may tonight. If I do, I’ll explain why I’ve been so cryptic. Basically, a pure coincidence has taken from me the ability to write about that aspect of the story comfortably.

    Patterico (227132)

  14. I don’t know if the Behind the Music episode on B.I.G. is available anywhere, but it did a large section on Russell Poole’s evidence.

    Joe Marier (d47254)

  15. cfbleachers wrote: Alas, I don’t have nearly enough technical skill (nor perhaps writing skill) to be a blogger

    Technical skill, maybe not? Writing skill? You’ve got more than enough, IMHO.

    L.N. Smithee (e1f2bf)

  16. Arrrrgh…there should be a period after “maybe not,” not a question mark.

    L.N. Smithee (e1f2bf)

  17. I’m not sure Det. Poole mentioned it, but two weeks BEFORE the Rampart Scandal broke, ALL LAPD sergent IIs and above attended a meeting at the Gene Autry Museum where management explained how LA’s Personnel Department (liberal elitist civilians) forced the LAPD to train and accept KNOWN GANG-BANGERS like Perez and Mack to achieve racial quotas. After being disqualified from one candidate list as unsuitable, the same unqualified candidates always reappeared on the next list. After a while, there were no more blacks left on the list to disqualify.

    During one entry-level interview, Personnel Department civilians stopped a sergeant from asking questions about a black applicant’s former work as a DETROIT PROSTITUTE!

    If you can imagine the performances from an orchestra or baseball team that hires candidates based on race, you will begin to grasp how LA’s liberal politicians have crippled YOUR police department. And now those same politicians have asked the US Attorney General for help to control the crime and corruption that 8000 pre-1980 cops once kept at bay.

    Today’s LAPD illustrates what happens when corrupt liberals control a police department.

    PATHETIC!

    Clark Baker #22634
    LAPD Retired (1980-2000)

    Clark Baker (43cfe8)

  18. I have a feeling that Diddy or Piddy or whatever the hell is name is now does not want to open this Pandora’s box any further. He’s Mr. Mainstream now…isn’t he?

    Patricia (f56a97)

  19. I wish I knew how to link…(I’ve tried and I’m doing something wrong)…but Ace of Spades has a recap that is pretty funny, trying to explain this all to folks who don’t know rap/hip hop culture very well.

    John Mayer, Todd Rundgren, Meat Loaf…I thought it was pretty funny.

    cfbleachers (4040c7)

  20. OK. Let’s give ‘em a gold star for doing what TNR, CBS and Dan Rather were unable to do .. admit their mistake.

    Neo (cba5df)

  21. Clark, we all know this and wish we could do something. All I could was move away. My brother-in-law retired from Chicago PD as a patrolman in spite of a BS and MS in public administration because the sergeant’s exam was dominated by affirmative action. To some extent it was his fault because he finally refused to keep applying for the exam.

    Mike K (b9ce3e)

  22. I’m going to take a stab at the project as Patterico mentioned. He and I have communicated about what he thinks is the issue, and I understand why he’s limited in what he can say.

    It looked at it about 6 months ago, but let it drop it under the press of business. Give me a couple hours and I’ll go back through what I had before.

    WLS (68fd1f)

  23. The LA Times deserves credit for so quickly admitting that they were duped — rather than dodging and going with the “fake but accurate” nonsense of CBS News. I’m surprised they fessed up so quickly. So, good on them for that.

    Yet that good will is largely destroyed by the refusal of Philips or the LA Times to reveal their sources — both the source of the phony FBI reports and the “corroborators” in the poke.

    I’ve been a newspaper reporter for 16 years. I’ve used the occassional anonymous source. Sometimes it’s the only way a reporter can get the truth out to the public. But an anonymous source, in my book, forfeits his cover when he lies. It is amazing that the LA Times is still protecting these anonymous sources.

    Perhaps Philips and the paper won’t out these frauds because public exposure could put them in physical danger (though that didn’t seem to stop Philips before). More likely, I think, is that Philips has fudged to his editors about exactly how many sources he had. My bet? Philips’ source is singular: The Phraudulent Phat Boy Jimmy Sabatino.

    Let’s also not let pass the extraordinary journalistic event that has transpired here. It is a very rare thing for a newspaper to retract a story. The Times went beyond that. It issued an apology — and on the front page. No doubt, that is an attempt to undermine the “malicious intent” threshhold for the enormous libel suit that Sean Combs’ lawyers promised in the story.

    This whole thing stinks to high heaven. And I kept waiting for the line in the story that noted how Philips was put on “administrative leave” until the investigation is completed. Apparently, his Pulitzer is shielding him from the dire professional consequences he deserves. For now, at least.

    Jim Lakely (d7811e)

  24. Oh. I forgot to mention this little tidbit from The New York Times’ coverage of this story. The West Coast Times would not let their homies talk to the East Coast Times (grudges die hard). But Philips did grant an interview last week to MTV News about his story before it blew up in his face. The Pulitzer winner said:

    I’m not going to write it just because someone says it,” he said. “I have to, in my mind, have double- or triple-sourcing on something and people who hadn’t spoken to each other and I can assure myself that they haven’t spoken to each other.”

    Ummm, he certainly didn’t do that “double- or triple-sourcing” when it came to the FBI documents. By the LA Times’ own account:

    Philips said he sought to check the authenticity of the documents with the U.S. attorney’s office in New York, which had handled the investigation of the attack on Shakur, and with a retired FBI agent, but did not directly ask the FBI about them. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment, while the former FBI agent said the documents appeared legitimate, Philips said.

    So, Philips doesn’t bother to call the FBI, gets no comment from the U.S. attorney’s office, and a single retired FBI guy says the documents “appeared legitimate.” And that was enough to pin an entire story on? Wow. Just … wow.

    Jim Lakely (d7811e)

  25. That is the same quality of reporting as CBS and TNR – that is to say, the same low “quality”.

    Time for Phillips and his editor to be fired.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  26. Slight off topic, I just read the January Los Angeles Magazine, which had an article about the LAT Homicide Blog. The editor’s note was very critical of the Slimes’ selective, Hollywood-oriented murder reporting. Are fellow liberals turning on them too?

    Patricia (f56a97)

  27. i get it that you work in the da’s office but do you actually live in the ciyt of los angeles?

    biff (3d8cac)

  28. i get it that you work in the da’s office but do you actually live in the city of los angeles?

    biff (3d8cac)

  29. Chuck Phillips also worked on the Rampart LAPD scandal. The cops talked to him and gave him tips, invited him to cop meetings whiIe I, who freelanced for TV stations and Vibe Magazine, was tracking down and reading all the case files. Kevin Gaines, Michael Harris, Rampart! I feel like I’ve been working on one giant story or 12 years, never ending.

    L.Hackett (42c38c)


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