Did former L.A. Times reporter Chuck Philips get duped by a con artist who improbably placed himself at the center of major acts of violence in the rap world? Did Philips become overly cozy with a prison inmate who sought to advance his agenda with tall tales and forged documents?
I’m not talking about James Sabatino.
The L.A. Times has published two major articles that relied on the credibility of a state prison inmate named Waymond Anderson. (Full disclosure: the Deputy D.A. who prosecuted Anderson is currently one of my supervisors.) But the paper failed to tell readers facts that would have revealed Anderson to be an obvious con artist spinning tall tales.
In January 2007, Philips wrote a front-page L.A. Times article asserting Anderson’s innocence in a 1993 arson/murder. The article took a strong position on Anderson’s innocence, and indeed, Philips has told an interviewer that he believes Anderson is innocent.
But Chuck Philips and the L.A. Times never bothered to tell you who Anderson claims really committed the murder. In this post, I will disclose this for the first time.
Hold onto your hats. Because it’s one of the goofiest tall tales you ever heard.
Namely, Anderson claims he was framed for murder by the same guy who killed Tupac Shakur.
Oh — and he says the same guy also killed Biggie Smalls.
How does Anderson claim to know all this? Because the murderer, Keith Davis, told him — in phone calls made to Anderson while Anderson was in jail, facing murder charges for the murder Davis had committed.
You see, according to Anderson, he remained very close to Davis, the man who had framed Anderson for murder. Anderson claims that Davis regularly spoke with Anderson in phone conversations that Anderson supposedly conducted while he was in jail for the murder that Davis committed.
In those jailhouse phone conversations, Anderson claims:
- Anderson served as a middleman for negotiations between Christopher Wallace and Davis regarding a record production deal that Wallace was setting up for Davis and others as partial payment for the murder of Tupac Shakur;
- Anderson listened as Christopher Wallace paid for the murder of Tupac Shakur — a transaction that he claims took place in a Las Vegas hotel room that Davis had booked under Anderson’s stage name;
- Davis confessed the Shakur murder to Anderson; and
- Davis reported to Anderson, step-by-step, his plans to kill Wallace, and gave Anderson a detailed confession of his involvement in the Wallace after the fact.
Again, all of these conversations supposedly took place while Anderson was incarcerated, facing murder charges for the murder Davis had committed.
Anderson made these improbable claims in a 2007 deposition in a civil case.
But did the L.A. Times know about Anderson’s rather singular claims?
Yes. They most certainly did. Because they reported on the deposition — only they left out the parts I just told you about.
Anderson’s deposition was given in August 2007, in a lawsuit brought against the City of Los Angeles and LAPD by the estate of Christopher Wallace, also known as Biggie Smalls or Notorious BIG. In September 2007, the newspaper reported on certain aspects of Anderson’s deposition. But strangely, the paper didn’t say one word about Anderson’s improbable claims of involvement in the biggest rap murders in history.
Instead, the newspaper touted claims made by Anderson that he and other witnesses had been bribed to implicate Suge Knight (and by extension the LAPD) in the murder of Biggie Smalls. The newspaper described Anderson’s testimony as “explosive” and claimed that it posed an “unexpected reversal” for the plaintiffs.
By trumpeting Anderson’s claims of bribery, the newspaper’s coverage favored Suge Knight, by undercutting the plaintiff’s theory that Suge Knight (and by extension LAPD) was behind the murder of Biggie Smalls. Which is interesting, Chuck Philips had long been seen as strangely close to Suge Knight — and had even been accused of receiving money from Suge Knight.
Regardless of the truth of these accusations, it is beyond doubt that Philips wrote a series of articles that disparaged the plaintiffs’ theory that Suge Knight (and LAPD) was involved in the murder of Biggie Smalls. Philips’s articles were unscrupulous and agenda-driven; he even went so far as to “out” a valuable law enforcement informant who was the key to the investigation. The informant received beatings as a result. (The outing of this informant will be the subject of a future post.)
Given this history, it was fascinating how well Waymond Anderson’s deposition appealed to Chuck Philips, the man who had written an article touting Anderson’s innocence.
Philips was interested in who had committed the murder of Biggie Smalls. Anderson claimed to know who that was.
Philips was interested in discrediting the plaintiffs’ theory that Suge Knight was involved in Biggie Smalls’s murder. Anderson not only recanted his previous testimony supporting the plaintiffs’ theory, he also provided information to discredit four other plaintiffs’ witnesses (Michael Robinson, Kenneth Boagni, Mario Hammonds, and Russell Poole), as well as the plaintiffs’ attorney Perry Sanders, whom Anderson improbably accused of bribery.
Philips must have been in hog heaven.
Some people even suspected that Chuck Philips had fed the bribery story to Waymond Anderson on Suge Knight’s behalf. Perry Sanders, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told the L.A. Times that he believed Anderson was “acting at the behest” of Philips — a claim that Philips and his editor James O’Shea roundly denounced.
The next step in the drama occurred in August of this year, when Anderson said the same thing that Perry Sanders had said.
In sworn testimony given at a court hearing, Anderson accused Philips of conspiring with Suge Knight to suborn perjury and threaten him with messages from Knight that Philips allegedly smuggled into prison and delivered to Anderson. Anderson said that Philips had brought in documents relating to the litigation, so that Anderson could learn what people were saying, and tailor a false story to the facts in those documents.
After Anderson’s explosive testimony, Philips declared himself “flabbergasted” by Anderson’s claims, telling the L.A. Times: “This is the ultimate betrayal.”
But it appeared that someone was taking Anderson’s claims seriously: the FBI.
Anderson’s attorney said that the FBI had questioned Anderson about his interaction with Philips. And sources tell me that representatives from the FBI were present at the court hearing where Anderson made these claims.
The L.A. Times now faces something of a Catch-22 as regards the credibility of Anderson, because Anderson has now accused Chuck Philips of some pretty serious wrongdoing — wrongdoing that, if proven, could result in criminal charges. Wrongdoing that is apparently being investigated by the FBI.
Either Anderson is telling the truth, or the paper fell hard for the claims of a prison inmate who turned out to be a liar.
But the editors of the L.A. Times should have known long ago that Waymond Anderson’s credibility was questionable. All they had to do was read the entire deposition transcript — the one whose contents they selectively reported in September 2007.
OK, so we know that the newspaper knew about the deposition. But how do I know what Anderson said in his deposition?
I know because I have it. You can read it here — and revel in Anderson’s far-fetched claims of having been at the center of the two biggest murders in hip-hop history.
By the way, this is hardly the only evidence of Anderson’s guilt that the paper failed to report. A document filed by the District Attorney’s office states: “In 1994, Petitioner provided multiple, audio-taped interviews and an eleven-page detailed statement in which he stated that he was in a Los Angeles record store the night before the fire” — when Philips claimed that Anderson was in Mississippi. That same document says that, in the recordings, Anderson “additionally admitted obtaining the gun and car used in the murder.” Philips never reported these facts, even though he reported on the filing of that document, and reported other (weaker) claims made in the filing.
In the extended entry, I flesh out more of the relevant background, and summarize the key details of the deposition, for those of you who don’t have the time to read the entire deposition, but want to immerse yourselves in more of the details of this fascinating saga.
There is much more to come, by the way.