Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times Editors Actively Disbelieve Numerous Philips Sources Besides Sabatino

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:03 am

Help me puzzle through this, will you? It seems to me that the editors of the L.A. Times have affirmatively said, not just that Chuck Philips got duped by some phony documents, but that they don’t believe several sources that Chuck Philips said were reliable.

Here’s how it plays out. Chuck Philips writes an article claiming that James Sabatino and two other people planned an attack on Tupac Shakur in 1994. (The article is now retracted and scrubbed from the paper’s website, but still available here.)

Before The Smoking Gun showed that Philips had relied on forged FBI documents, Philips had boasted in more than one forum that the purported FBI documents merely supported what multiple witnesses had already told him. For instance, in this interview Philips said:

The main thing I’m trying to say is I didn’t base my story on that informant [mentioned in the FBI documents]. I based this story on my own reporting. We came up on those documents later after I was pretty much sure of what happened. . . . So I mean, legally something like that is very good to have. And it confirms a lot of the stuff that’s in my story, that document. But I had reported my own story based on the people I believe were in involved.

And in a chat transcript that the paper has scrubbed from the site, Philips said:

as to the informant, i have verified that he was at the quad that night. his infomation corroborted what i had already learned from other source i know to be reliable

He also said:

the story says james sabatino told mr. combs in advance. my sources had direct knowledge of that. they were not passing on hearsay.

That’s sources — plural. Presumably, Sabatino is not one of those sources, unless Philips lied in his article when he said: “Sabatino declined to comment.”

But now look at what the retraction says:

The Times now believes that Sabatino fabricated the FBI reports and concocted his role in the assault as well as his supposed relationships with Combs, Rosemond and Agnant. . . . The Times also reported that Sabatino told Combs in advance that Shakur was going to be attacked. The Times now believes that Sabatino had no involvement in the attack and that he never spoke to Combs about it.

The editors are not just saying they can no longer prove Sabatino wasn’t involved. They are saying that they positively believe he had no involvement.

The editors say this, despite Philips’s claims that his proof went beyond the documents, and included interviews with multiple sources whom he believed were reliable.

Do you understand what I’m saying? The paper thinks his other proof is no proof at all — and that Philips’s multiple sources a) lied or b) didn’t exist.

If I’m wrong, please explain to me where I’m wrong.

I continue to believe we deserve an explanation. I’d leave a comment at the Readers’ Rep blog, except it wouldn’t get published. I’d write her, except I can’t imagine I’d be told anything meaningful.

I think they’re trying to sweep this under the rug, folks.

But, even under the rug, we can still smell it.

9 Responses to “L.A. Times Editors Actively Disbelieve Numerous Philips Sources Besides Sabatino”

  1. In the 1960s or 80s, maybe they could have swept it under the rug — though in the 1960s, they wouldn’t have tried.

    But today, the major dailies all have their own independent gadflies, and you just happen to be the Official Gadfly of the Los Angeles Times. It’s difficult to sweep things under the rug, when there are people like you who note that there’s a lump of something keeping the carpet from laying flat.

    Dana R Pico (3e4784)

  2. “… even under the rug, we can still smell it.” Good one, I’ll be alert for an occasion to use it.

    dchamil (793092)

  3. as to the informant, i have verified that he was at the quad that night.

    Philips is suggesting, as his alibi for writing this story as he did…that he had verified a fact that is false.

    This can mean only one of three things: a)He never verified the fact which couldn’t have been verified in the first place, because it didn’t exist…in an English to English translation…he made it up;

    b)His “verifying” source, was part of the Sabatino fraud, somehow acting in concert with Sabatino to assist in Sabatino’s pathetic attempt at self-aggrandizement;

    c)The “source” was part of a conspiracy by a group of folks who wanted to misdirect the investigation and would have agreed to “source” information that Santa Claus was involved, in order to deflect attention from “a certain individual” with whom Philips had a personal relationship

    his infomation corroborted what i had already learned from other source i know to be reliable

    The problem with “corroboration” of a false fact, is that now you have TWO sources who are not reliable, so there is no way to “know” that either are reliable, nor to continue to believe so.

    Again, either the two informants are co-conspirators…or…the story is based on wafer thin proof…or…the writer of the story is intentionally relying on knowingly false information for reasons of his own.

    Without knowing the “other source” who “confirms” a false fact about Sabatino’s involvement, we are left to guess. If the LATimes continues to impeded the investigation into how and why a “false fact” became “verified”, especially in light of the continuing allegations that their writer had a potential motive for deliberately shading the story to protect a person with whom he had a personal relationship, then they are actively engaged in a conspiracy after the fact to cover up a crime and to falsely accuse an innocent party. The LATimes…in an English to English translation…are unindicted co-conspirators in a cover up of a crime in that instance.

    Worse, they are actively seeking to have an innocent party wrongfully accused and maliciously prosecuted for a crime they know or should have known he did not commit.

    cfbleachers (4040c7)

  4. It is becoming very appearant that Chuck Phillips’ middle name is “Walter”.
    How else to explain the protection to his reputation that has gone on after all of the discrediting of his work product (with more to come – go, wls).

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  5. Your continuing attacks on the LAT’s latest Pulitzer winner just shows how off the farm YOU are. Repeat after me: Pulitzer means truth, justice and the wonderfulness of every word in print. I think this story and continuing rationalizations is a black eye to the Pulitzer as much as anything.

    Howard Veit (cc8b85)

  6. #3 cfbleachers,

    I’d like to add option d) which is a variation on your option a):

    d) Philips went looking for sources to verify facts that fit his narrative. Thus, he chose sources that could be easily manipulated or shared his agenda.

    DRJ (a431ca)

  7. “I think this story and continuing rationalizations is another black eye to the Pulitzer …”

    Fixed that sentence for you, Howard.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  8. “…another black eye …”
    Until they admit their mistake, and take corrective action, about Walter Duranty, any award for jounal writing from them must be considered suspect.

    Another Drew (f9dd2c)

  9. I’d like to add option d) which is a variation on your option a):

    d) Philips went looking for sources to verify facts that fit his narrative. Thus, he chose sources that could be easily manipulated or shared his agenda.


    Excellent point. But this would suggest that Philips was not “duped” by Sabatino as much as he was caught using “staged evidence”.

    The question becomes then, how could Philips believe in evidence he knew was “staged”? And what was the level of complicity in “staging” it.

    We would have to know who the retired FBI “advisor” was, to so clearly miss the obvious earmarks of a fraudulent document. I suspect this guy won’t come forward, he would have to be a buffoon, on many levels.

    I also suspect that we won’t hear from Sabatino about his interactions with Philips…or it will be denied that any existed. But that would mean that the “vetting” of Sabatino was non-existent…regarding a document that directly implicates key actors and elements of a major crime…is that remotely possible? For an INVESTIGATIVE reporter? Who won a Pulitzer Prize? At a major newspaper? With numerous levels of editorial oversight?

    I don’t think so, DRJ. Do you?

    The prior narrative angle works, ONLY if the LA Times, Philips and his editors…know or should have known that the document was a likely fraud, and used it anyway, believing they would not get caught on it. Or Philips was complicit in its creation and usage and gave a phony corroborating source and a phony FBI advisor to his editors.

    In any event, the “we were duped, this was simply a mistake to use it”…simply doesn’t fly.

    I’ve investigated so many fraud cases, I can just sense when the story doesn’t line up straight. This one doesn’t.

    cfbleachers (4040c7)

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