Patterico's Pontifications

5/16/2008

Jim Newton: My Paperweight Is Just a Paperweight

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 6:54 am

L.A. Times editorial page editor Jim Newton writes to respond to my post last night about Anita Busch and Anthony Pellicano. You should read that post before reading this one.

Newton confirms that he received a paperweight from Anthony Pellicano, but decries my post about the paper’s allegedly cozy relationship with Pellicano as a “nonsense tissue of innuendo”:

Dear Mr. Frey,

I’m not sure what I’m being accused of here. Did I, like dozens of people, receive a $5 clay paperweight from Pellicano some years ago? Yes. It was amusing and almost entirely without value. I lost it when I moved desks and haven’t seen it since.

I never had anything to do with the coverage of Anita’s case — did not attend a single meeting about it, did not work on any stories relating to it. Nothing. By then I was covering City Hall, and there was no reason for me to be involved in it.

My use of Pellicano as a source dates back to the Michael Jackson years when I was responsible for our coverage of the LAPD, and yes, I interviewed him, along with other sources — reputable and otherwise — many times throughout those years (well before I was married to Karlene, incidentally). Neither I nor anyone else ever suggested hiring him or “bringing him on board.” I interviewed him, checked the information he gave me, used it when it checked out, discarded it when it didn’t. I once interviewed him at his office — the only time I ever met him in person — but I never “toured” it other than to look around before and after talking with him. I treated him very warily, in part because I was warned against trusting him by other sources, notably Johnnie Cochran and the lawyers in his firm.

I have never “protected” my wife from anything at the paper or otherwise. She doesn’t need it.

If Anita or you or anyone has a challenge to anything I’ve written or done at the paper, I’m happy to address it. But this is a nonsense tissue of innuendo based on a paperweight.

Best,

Jim Newton

I didn’t accuse Mr. Newton of anything in my post, of course. I simply reported Ms. Busch’s observations of a curious fact: Mr. Newton’s wife suggested investigating the threat against Ms. Busch in part by consulting Pellicano, the very person who was later indicted for the threat. And the very person who gave Mr. Newton the paperweight that he displayed on his desk for a period of time.

It could be nothing more than a horrible coincidence that Newton’s wife had, in effect, suggested consulting the fox to see who had raided the chicken coop. But if you had a rose and a dead fish placed on your windshield, you’d probably start noticing coincidences.

Here’s the thing that the paper should not be brushing off: the attempt to contact Pellicano was made through Chuck Philips, who: attended Pellicano’s wedding without taking notes and saluted Pellicano; attended Pellicano’s verdict with no pen, no notebook, and no official reportial role; and who had an unmonitored conversation with Pellicano while Pellicano was incarcerated at the federal detention center downtown –something that could have happened only with the cooperation of Pellicano’s attorney. At the same time, Philips was touting Pellicano’s defense theories that the FBI had lied to courts to obtain permission to search Pellicano’s office.

This same Chuck Philips has built a career in large part on articles that cite off the record sources, concerning people with whom he has had cozy relationships. And he recently got slammed for one of those stories, when it emerged that he had been hoodwinked by a con man — on a story that he had repeatedly boasted he had locked down as tight as a drum.

Some of us out here are wondering how that happened. It certainly hasn’t been explained in any way that makes sense.

And we’re wondering whether the paper is looking into his past stories. And whether the paper is looking at how his apparently conflicts of interest — with Suge Knight, Anthony Pellicano, and others — may have affected his reporting.

For now, the paper seems protective of Philips and his longstanding reporting on people with whom he seems to have cozy relationships — often without disclosing how those relationships could be affecting his reporting. Yes, the paper retracted his story on the shooting of Tupac at Quad Studios. But it was treated as an anomaly. And there is no hint that the paper is looking at the bigger picture: if this story based on anonymous sources was bogus, what about the other ones?

Given this seemingly protective attitude, we look at coincidences. We look at relationships.

If the paper were to give some sign of really looking into Philips’s past reporting, maybe these coincidences and relationships wouldn’t be worth discussing. But when it seems like the wagons are being circled, I think they are.

In any event, I thank Mr. Newton for his response. I think we can safely say I won’t be placing anything on the L.A. Times opinion pages any time soon . . .

UPDATE: More on why this matters in another post — including details on when Newton was displaying the paperweight (after Pellicano’s alleged connection to the threats was revealed) and what the paperweight said (you may be surprised). Click here for details.

17 Comments

  1. I knew there had to be another reason I don’t read the Times besides their left wing bias.

    Comment by MIke K (86bddb) — 5/16/2008 @ 7:08 am

  2. Sounds like Hussein O guilt complex is spreading. Just mention a fact and they go nuts defending something that really wasn’t said. Connecting a paper weight reaction to a terrorist lovers reaction to a remark by the president. Democrats must love to whine, is that how they got momma’s attention.

    Comment by Scrapiron (d671ab) — 5/16/2008 @ 8:42 am

  3. Why was Newton’s wife, the lawyer, so dumb as to suggest that the paper use a PI, rather than call the police? Was she writing a screenplay or does she normally refer people to a shady guy like Pellicano?

    Comment by KateCoe (1bf12c) — 5/16/2008 @ 8:58 am

  4. I’ve dealt with a lot of feedback from readers over the years, and Jim Newton’s response to your post is as even-handed as I have seen. He convinces me that he had zero to do with anything the LA Times may have been doing with Pellicano, and you do him a great disservice by throwing the Chuck Phillips innuendo into your response to his response. These are two separate issues that you continue to work overtime to link here. And in case you are wondering, I have never met, phoned, e-mailed, or had any contact with Jim Newton, ever. I just feel you continue to do him wrong here …

    Comment by JohnHollon (862c7c) — 5/16/2008 @ 9:07 am

  5. Excuse me, John, but wasn’t it Ms. Busch that brought Mr. Newton into this? Wasn’t it her search of the archives that revealed Mr. Newton’s involvement, if even tangently?
    It is when you ask a question, and get a response not unlike a “stuck pig”, instead of a simple “I didn’t have anything to do with that”, that futher questions come to mind.
    Plus, the appearance of a conflict with his wife being the house lawyer who suggested bringing Pellicano into a situation that was ultimately discovered to be of Pellicano’s making.
    This couldn’t smell worse if the newsroom was located in Vernon.

    Comment by Another Drew (a28ef4) — 5/16/2008 @ 9:34 am

  6. Given Pellicano’s tendencies, I would have had the paperweight checked for a bug.

    Comment by Neo (cba5df) — 5/16/2008 @ 10:35 am

  7. This is another example of how the Times’ isn’t merely biased, it fails to grasp basic journalistic competence and ethics.

    Comment by Bradley J. Fikes (15abb9) — 5/16/2008 @ 11:41 am

  8. John, everyone who works in any executive capacity at the LA Times must share the responsibility for the obvious dishonest of its reporting. It’s gone on damn long enough. I don’t really give a damn that his proxy reporter used the LA Times to smear a slimeball’s enemies and he didn’t. The evidence was pretty damn clear, and any responsible paper would be running a series on how it aided a man who was threatening to kill people.

    I’m sure we’ll see more attacks on Patterico from the likes of you for merely pointing out the links here in a fair manner. Hell, if I were Patterico, I’d be worried about my safety. But that’s probably par for the course for a person in his field.
    And how in the world does his denial convince you? It’s just a plain jane denial. How could anyone at that paper be as oblivious as he’s claiming.

    I don’t know that he knew what was going on, but it was obvious something was going on and he should have worked that angle.

    Comment by Jem (4cdfb7) — 5/16/2008 @ 12:52 pm

  9. Hell, if I were Patterico, I’d be worried about my safety.

    Then lemme just put this out there: Anything untoward happens – if he so much as gets a hang-nail or a splinter – then those who did it should worry about THEIR safety.

    I’m just sayin’ that I just might take it… Personally…

    Comment by Scott Jacobs (fa5e57) — 5/16/2008 @ 1:44 pm

  10. John,

    He convinces me that he had zero to do with anything the LA Times may have been doing with Pellicano, and you do him a great disservice by throwing the Chuck Phillips innuendo into your response to his response.

    Do you think that the relationship between LA Times and Pellicano has been sufficiently explored, and that its readers should be satisfied of that?

    Comment by Pablo (99243e) — 5/16/2008 @ 5:42 pm

  11. At the root of it, the reason why the Times never cared about any of the victims, which included one of their own, is because Los Angeles is a city of winners and losers. And winners run with winners.

    And if you are down so low that some elite powerhouse is having you stomped on, then the perception to those on the climb is that you are a loser beyond repair and deserve to be treated with revulsion.

    Watch a nature channel when a diseased lion tries to hobble back to the pride and the healthy lions swat at it and growl wanting it to crawl off and die. They want that loser stink, that death stink away from them and not on them.

    So it is in LA where many reporters conditioned to years of bootlicking, could only despise the victims and go back to the worshipful bootlicking of those who wanted it gone.

    Comment by RT (66e019) — 5/16/2008 @ 5:44 pm

  12. KateCo, a lawyer will often tout a PI. At least half of the PIs (around here) are retired LEOs. They retire in their forties or early fities after the get their twenty or thirty years in and still need to do something. The pensions aren’t exactly huge.
    The client of a PI will usually have something the person working with a city’s police department doesn’t get, time. A police department detective will have a huge caseload. If crooks weren’t mostly dumber than a bag of used horseshoes we’d never catch anybody.

    Comment by Peter (d671ab) — 5/16/2008 @ 7:42 pm

  13. Many of the PIs in Los Angeles are active duty LAPD officers. There are many Private Investigator Companies within the LAPD. Defense law firms hire these companies so they have access to databases and information only known to law enforcement.

    The Police Commission reached the conclusion that being a cop and a PI, at the same time, was a gross conflict of interest. The head of the Commission ordered the practice stopped. At that point, THE LATIMES ceased covering the PI/COP controversy, and the Commissioner dropped the whole thing. Why? Nothing was done. Nothing was stopped.

    And why won’t the LAPD provide the names of all the California registered Private Investigators within the LAPD? If we had that information about licensed PIs within the LAPD, we could all hire one when we needed inside LAPD access? (Kind of like PELLICANO’S use of LAPD officer MARK ARNESON to access 2300 person’s Law Enforcement Only files).

    The list of COP/PIs should be easily accessed public information. If they are doing nothing wrong, working both sides of the fence (often while in uniform and driving LAPD vehicles, and on the LAPD’s clock), why isn’t this information provided for the public’s scrutiny and use?

    You cannot work for both the Prosecution (The People) and a Defense Law Firm (The Defense) without being in a conflict of interests.

    Comment by Edward Woody (4eb008) — 5/16/2008 @ 8:44 pm

  14. JohnHollon,

    I’m working on a new post that will hopefully make the significance more clear.

    Bottom line here is this: according to Busch, a staffer told her that Newton was displaying this thing on his desk at a time when it was known that the FBI suspected Pellicano of having threatened Busch.

    Comment by Patterico (4bda0b) — 5/16/2008 @ 9:06 pm

  15. Edward Woody, you are more right that maybe you know.

    In most major cities police are 100% banned from working as PI’s on the side and that goes for off duty security work, as often they get hired to investigate (intimidate) and it is called “security” as if they worked a shift at some kiosk or something.

    Anyway it is banned in most cities the thought being that you cannot serve two masters and to try always leads to corruption. If you think an off-duty cop has been hired to get dirt on you it is INCREDIBLY intimidating. Even the appearance of that kind of impropriety is insidious and corrosive to society and so it is banned.

    Banned most everywhere. Not so in LA.

    Comment by Joe (66e019) — 5/16/2008 @ 10:06 pm

  16. Peter, #12…
    I find your assertion that cop pensions in CA “…aren’t exactly huge…” laughable, when I look at the 3/30 provisions now in place: 3%/year of service after 30-years, with no caps in some jurisdictions so that someone can retire on more than his/her base salary at age 51 – and this for a job that with a little overtime (and there is always a little overtime available) pays rank-and-file cops/firemen $100K+.

    The fact that the Police Commission tolerates the practice of active cops working on-the-side as PI’s just illustrates how the pols have sold their souls (and our pocketbooks) to the public-employee unions.

    Comment by Another Drew (8018ee) — 5/17/2008 @ 7:57 am

  17. Dear Jim,

    Having read your letter to Mr. Frey, I’m not quite sure why you would think he was, in fact, accusing you of anything specifically, simply by presenting a number of rather curious and/or troubling facts to your attention. Let’s be honest with one another here Jim, shall we? One would think a man with Mr. Frey’s extensive legal background would come right out with a specific accusation when he was good and ready to, don’t you think? I trust so, and in truth, I can’t believe you’d not think so too. Was your response a rushed one with little time to finesse it? Your initial response of “I’m not quite sure what I’m being accused of here,” sounds just a bit too defensive given your, (and your wife’s,) history/working relationship and possible friendship over the years with Anthony Pellicano. Far more interesting however, is that given both your unique perspective and job, and given all the facts and convictions; in speaking to a broader purpose, why you would raise nary a question nor comment about the Times’ troubling coverage over the years surrounding Mr. Pellicano. You just don’t get the big picture, do you Jim? Let me spell it out then. You and I both know that Mr. Frey is doing exactly what any diligent, hardworking, researching/investigative journalist does, full stop. He’s asking questions, presenting facts, odd coincidences, and following trails. It’s frankly astonishing Jim, that as an L.A. Times editorial page editor, you of all people, should have trouble with that. Is it really that threatening, to your personal sensibilities, for someone to question you about the facts and circumstances of the case, the Times’ coverage, and you and your wife’s connections to Pellicano given the jury’s resounding verdict? Surely, you can’t honestly be suggesting that there aren’t far more questions to be asked and delved into with regard to you and your wife’s relationship with Anthony Pellicano, not to mention the L.A. Times’ overall coverage of him. You simply can’t be so blinded to others’ perspectives and perceptions that you wouldn’t think an independent investigation into the Times’ coverage would be anything but advantageous, certainly if only with regard to you and your wife’s involvement, can you? Wouldn’t you agree that it is indeed self evident, that if there were nothing whatsoever to hide, you’d want nothing more than to help flip wide those welcoming doors to an independent team? Most importantly, it would help get at the truth. Given the tone of your indignation with Mr. Frey, I can’t imagine that both you and your wife would not wholeheartedly and enthusiastically welcome that opportunity. Truth. It’s a lofty pursuit Jim, no? If the intent of your letter was to convince others of your complete innocence and lack of wrong doing, I can say from this journalist’s perspective, you did little to support your agenda. Your letter made me hungry for that independent investigation. Why your own bio on the L.A. Times, speaks of your book “Justice For All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made,” and your own paper therein claims the book to be, “an act of considerable courage.” I submit to you that there are those of us out there, working journalists and non journalists alike, who would more than welcome a bit of that said courage of yours on display now, by seeing you spearhead an internal push at the L.A.Times for that independent investigation. What about it Jim?

    There is one point we all, no doubt, can agree upon. Of that, I’m confident. The L.A. Times has a lot to answer for these days surrounding its reporting of all things Pellicano. One need only follow its own reporting trail. There can be no denying now that its coverage was profoundly flawed. I respectfully submit to you Jim, and your wife, that is something for not only the two of you to reflect upon and explore, but the for entire L.A. Times’ staff to be both offended by and ashamed of. The public deserves better.

    Regards,

    Donna

    Comment by Donna (eabf10) — 5/20/2008 @ 5:25 pm

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