Patterico's Pontifications

3/27/2008

A Tale of Two Recanters and their Friend, L.A. Times “Investigative” Reporter Chuck Philips: Part One [By Guest Blogger WLS]

Filed under: General — WLS @ 7:25 pm

[Posted by WLS]

[This post is by guest blogger WLS, and not by Patterico. It concerns a topic which Patterico has alluded to previously but has expressed a reluctance to post about himself, for reasons mentioned below.]

Here is the basic background as a setup here. In the mid-1990s there erupted a juvenile “feud” between East Coast and West Coast “Rappers,” with the two primary antagonists being Bad Boy Records (headed by Sean “Puffy” Combs), and Death Row Records (headed by Suge Knight). In November 1994, popular unaffiliated rapper Tupac Shakur was beaten and shot outside a recording studio in New York, supposedly because he was not showing sufficient respect to the East Coast group. This incident was the subject of a now discredited story published by L.A. Times reporter Chuck Philips on March 17, 2008, which seems to have been taken off the website.

What is true, however, is that a war of words in print and song lyrics erupted between Shakur and members of Bad Boy records following this episode, and Shakur thereafter signed on with Death Row Records, which was run by Suge Knight, a notorious L.A. Blood gang member. Shakur’s first album for Death Row was full of taunts and threats against various persons connected to Bad Boy Records. Rappers for Bad Boy responded in kind. Several shootings involving members of one or both groups took place over a span of time at various parties and events.

Shakur was one of Death Row’s biggest-selling rappers. Around the same time Christopher “Biggie” Smalls, aka Notorious BIG, was Bad Boy Records’s biggest-selling rapper. On September 13, 1996, Shakur died from gunshot wounds he had suffered six days earlier in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, a crime that remains unsolved. Six months later, on March 9, 1997, Biggie Smalls was killed in a drive-by shooting outside a party in Los Angeles. That murder also remains unsolved.

Various theories have developed over the years concerning the killings. One is that Shakur was killed by associates of Bad Boy Records, and Smalls was killed by associates of Death Row in retaliation. Another theory is that both killings were gang-related, as it has been suggested that various affiliates of the L.A. Bloods and Crips street gangs working for both groups, but also making money distributing cocaine on each coast, committed each murder in retaliation for drug deals gone bad. Yet another theory is that Suge Knight of Death Row records was responsible for both murders — Shakur for being too independent and wanting to work outside the confines of Death Row records in pursuing an acting career (with his death allowing Death Row to cash in commercially on his martyrdom), and Smalls simply to antagonize Bad Boy and to make it look like his murder was committed in retaliation for supposed involvement by Bad Boy in the murder of Shakur — in other words, a creative way to frame Bad Boy for the murder of Shakur that Knight had ordered himself. This was the theory developed by LAPD Police Detective Russell Poole, as explained more fully below.

Who is Chuck Philips? He is a self-described “investigative” reporter for the L.A. Times who has long covered the L.A. music industry, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on corruption in the industry in 1999. I put “investigative” in quotes based on his performance in the article that has renewed this controversy, since it appears that he did little if any “investigating” prior to printing a bunch of claims based on fabricated documents. Philips has written several pieces over the years on the subjects of the murders of Shakur and Smalls. His reporting was taken to task in dramatic fashion in this 14,000-word piece in Rolling Stone in 2005.

Philips’s most well-known reporting on the subject was this September 6-7, 2002, two-part piece entitled “Who Killed Tupac.” In it he laid blame for the shooting at the feet of a member of the L.A. Southside Crips street gang. According to Philips, while in Vegas to see a boxing match, Shakur, Knight, and an entourage comprising Piru Blood bodyguards and Death Row employees, attacked a Southside Crip gang member named Orlando Anderson, whom they coincidentally encountered at the MGM Grand Hotel. Philips’s article claimed that Anderson and several other Southside Crips in Vegas later that night went looking for Shakur and the Piru Blood entourage to exact revenge. But, in a twist that has been reported only by Philips in this article, but which is based completely on anonymous sourcing, it is claimed that before doing so, those same Crips sought out a meeting with Biggie Smalls, who was supposedly staying in a penthouse suite at the MGM under an assumed name. The Crips went there to take Smalls up on an offer he had supposedly made in the past to pay the Southside Crips $1 million if they were to murder Shakur. According to Philips’s article, Smalls agreed at the meeting to pay the money on one condition. He drew a .40 caliber Glock from his holster and laid it on the table, telling the Crips that he wanted the satisfaction of knowing that Shakur would be shot with Smalls’s own gun. Shakur was shot later that night, and Smalls was killed 6 months later in Los Angeles. No witnesses have ever come forward on the record and placed Smalls in Vegas on the night of the Shakur shooting, and that is curious because Smalls was a huge rap star at the time — both figuratively and literally, given that he was not only very famous, but also tipped the scales at well over 350 pounds.

What has been noteworthy about Philips’s reporting on the subject for the L.A. Times over the years is that he has continually discredited the theory advanced by former LAPD Detective Russell Poole that Suge Knight was responsible for the murder of Biggie Smalls, and likely responsible for the murder of Shakur as well. Poole and his partner were the first detectives from the elite Robbery-Homicide Division to be assigned to the Smalls murder. Poole quickly put together a working theory that a member of the LAPD, David Mack, was involved in the murder of Smalls at the direction of Knight. Mack was later convicted of bank robbery and is currently in federal prison. Mack was the owner of a black Chevy Impala SS, which was the make and model of the car driven by the shooter in the Smalls murder. Mack was also linked directly to Knight by various informant information, and after Mack’s conviction and firing from the LAPD, he admitted being a member of the Piru Blood gang while growing up in Compton close to where Knight grew up.

A book written by Randall Sullivan titled “LAbyrinth” detailed Poole’s theory about the involvement of Mack in the killing of Smalls specifically, and his association with Knight and Death Row Records more generally — as well as Poole’s claim that his investigation was continually hampered by his superiors at LAPD. Poole resigned from LAPD over the way he felt his investigation had been blocked from pursuing leads that he would have been encouraged to pursue in any other case. His claim is that LAPD did not want to pursue any leads that might lead to more stories of LAPD corruption, especially if that corruption involved African-American officers in a department then headed by an embattled African-American Chief, Bernard Parks.

Where Philips and the L.A. Times fit into this saga is that there seems to have been a long-standing effort by Philips to throw cold water on any angle that was consistent with Poole’s theory (and that might thereby cast suspicion on Knight and Death Row with respect to either murder). Over the last several years, the family of Smalls has pursued a civil action in federal court in Los Angeles against the LAPD, alleging both Mack’s involvement in the murder, and the coverup of Mack’s involvement by the LAPD brass.

On January 16, 2007, while the Smalls’ civil case was in pretrial proceedings, Philips penned a lengthy article entitled “Chorus of Protests Seek To Free Singer Locked Up For 1993 Killing.” The subject was Waymond Anderson, a one-time small success in the music industry, having recorded a hit remake of the Motown classic “My Girl” for Capitol Records in 1988. But Anderson also had another life beyond music, one in which he admittedly sold drugs and carried guns, according to Philips.

In the article, Philips made the case on behalf of Waymond Anderson’s innocence of the 1993 murder for which he was convicted. The article claims Anderson was convicted based upon faulty testimony given by drug-addict witnesses under pressure from the police, and that his innocence is clearly established by travel receipts and witness statements swearing that Anderson was in Mississippi visiting relatives at the time of the killing in Los Angeles. By all appearances, Philips’s article on Anderson is a straightforward piece of reporting about a fallen music industry star who might have been wrongly convicted of a murder he didn’t commit.

Returning now to the civil case filed by the family of Biggie Smalls, Philips covered many of the developments in that case as well. That case was, at one time, buttressed by information from three prison inmates who told police investigators that David Mack had told them that he had been behind the murder of Smalls, and that he had done so at the direction of Knight. One of those inmates — Waymond Anderson — was the same guy whom Philips had sought to exonerate in his earlier lengthy article. But in that article, Philips had made no mention whatsoever of the fact that Anderson had given a statement to police investigators linking Mack and Knight to the murder of Biggie Smalls. This omission was curious, given that Philips had written extensively about the murders and the East-West feud that supposedly was behind them, and had covered the pretrial proceedings in the Smalls family’s case.

But even more curious is what happened next. Just before the Smalls family’s civil case was to proceed to trial last year (and only 8 months after the sympathetic article Philips had written about Anderson), Waymond Anderson RECANTED his prior statements in full — denying that he had ever known David Mack, or that he had ever spoken with David Mack about Mack’s supposed role in the murder of Biggie Smalls. Anderson claimed that his statements to that effect had been part of a scam by himself and two other inmates to help the Smalls family extract a bigger settlement from the LAPD. Anderson now claimed that he had been offered a percentage of whatever the Smalls family received in their suit. Anderson said in a deposition that he had been approached by the other two inmates, and shortly thereafter he had received a call from the Smalls family attorney, laying out the terms of the deal in exchange for his testimony.

When the L.A. Times reported this story on Anderson’s recantation, a writer other than Philips had to do the reporting — because the attorney for Smalls’ family, Perry Sanders, pointed a finger of suspicion at Philips, claiming that Anderson’s reversal was really intended to please Philips for having written the glowing article about Anderson’s claim of innocence. Anderson’s recantation fit the well-established narrative of Philips’s reporting — it was critical of Det. Poole’s claim that Mack was involved in the Smalls murder, and had done so at Knight’s behest.

But the story on Anderson’s recantation, through not written by Philips, nevertheless has Philips’s reportorial fingerprints on it, as it also throws cold water on the Poole theory being pressed by the Smalls family in their lawsuit. One example from the article:

Wallace was one of the two biggest stars in rap music when he was killed in an apparent drive-by shooting. The other, Tupac Shakur, was shot to death in Las Vegas the year before.

Various theories have linked the two homicides, neither of which has been solved. Some believe the two men were killed as part of a rivalry between East Coast and West Coast rappers, or between their two music labels, Marion “Suge” Knight’s Death Row Records, based in Los Angeles, and New York-based Bad Boy Entertainment.

What about the other “theories”? What do “others” believe? You won’t find any of that in this article either. The author offers nothing — nothing except the theory that has always been advanced by Philips in his reporting, which until yesterday included the most recent entry saying the entire affair began with Bad Boy representatives beating and shooting Shakur at a New York recording studio in 1994.

It’s also important to understand that Anderson is the second witness who has recanted statements previously given that supported the Poole theory of Mack/Knight’s involvement in the murders. Patterico has discussed the other recanting witness before, but I want to discuss it and how it relates to the Anderson recantation. The second episode, however, will have to await another post, as I’m out of time on this one.

For a fuller background on this subject, go here, here, here, here, and here.

P.S. The expressed reason(s) for Patterico’s reluctance to post on this particular subject have been somewhat cryptically stated by him. In order to explain the numerous efforts here to insure that it is understood that I am the author of this post, as well as to explain Patterico’s prior reluctance to post on this topic himself, he has agreed to allow me to disclose that one of the subjects of this post, Waymond Anderson, was prosecuted and convicted for a 1993 murder by a member of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office where Patterico works, and that particular prosecutor is among the supervisors in Patterico’s section. Patterico had no connection to that case, he has not discussed it with that supervisor, and this post contains no information gleaned in any way from the files of the L.A. District Attorney’s Office. I’m reporting on this subject based solely on information found on the Internet, especially the articles published by L.A. Times reporter Chuck Philips.

– Posted by WLS

11 Responses to “A Tale of Two Recanters and their Friend, L.A. Times “Investigative” Reporter Chuck Philips: Part One [By Guest Blogger WLS]”

  1. Excellent, WLS. Is there any truth to to the reports that Mr. Phillips was on theaccepted payments (juice) from Death Row?

    Miss Havisham (970c40)

  2. Miss H. — there is another article published around the time of the long Rolling Stone article that goes over allegations that Philips has been the beneficiary of various forms of inducement from Knight and others at Death Row Records. There is not doubt that Philips has broken an extraordinary number of stories based on sources within the music industry, yet he continues to treat Death Row with a tender touch. You can put two and two together, but as of now there is no hard evidence that he has been compromised financially by Knight or Death Row.

    wls (e9f058)

  3. Re your question on Chuck Philips taking payoffs, that’s just so off base it isn’t even funny. This was a case of a serious person who was victimized by a con man because he had a theory of the case he was reluctant to let go of and an institutional situation in which the checks and balances that had been there before had been decimated in the name of making a budget. Philips has always been an aggressive reporter — he just used to have layers of editors over him to force him to question his premises. Funny, but this is the sort of situation that seems to happen to overzealous prosecutors — with far more damaging consequences — all the time…

    gchibi (3725a3)

  4. While we can all debate the merits of the feud, I don’t think “juvenile” is an appropriate word choice. As evidenced by the end result (two murders), the feud was hardly “juvenile”. The beef between Biggie and 2Pac began after 2Pac claimed he slept with Biggie’s wife. It escalated from there based on back-and-forth battle raps and an over-eager hip-hop media. Not exactly Montague/Capulet stuff, I realize. But neither was the Alexander Hamilton/Aaron Burr feud.

    Chris (36e9f0)

  5. I remind readers of how CNN was compromised by Saddam, just by his allowing them access. Having access to insider information might be enough.

    LarryD (feb78b)

  6. Chris — Its juvenile when it all begins as school-yard taunts and bullying. They all act like a bunch of 12 year olds afraid to be looked at as “weak” if they don’t respond to what they deem to be someone else disrespecting them. That fact that it ends up in gun play doesn’t mean it was any less juvenile in the way it got started.

    WLS (68fd1f)

  7. gchibi — re the question of Philips being on the take, I’ll simply refer you to this

    http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=CE42C9D5-7CF9-42A7-A9DA-30CA7B75D314

    by Jan Golab in FrontPageMagazine from December 2005. Here’s one quote from that story:

    “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.”

    WLS (68fd1f)

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