Patterico's Pontifications

5/16/2008

Anita Busch Calls for Investigation of Chuck Philips’s Pellicano Reporting

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:11 am

Anita Busch, a former L.A. Times reporter who was allegedly threatened by Anthony Pellicano — has released the following statement regarding Pellicano’s conviction:

I’d like to thank the judge and jury for their patience and wisdom on this case as well as the honest people in law enforcement who stopped others from being relentlessly attacked and terrorized. For that, I am eternally grateful.

The full story of Pellicano’s reach has yet to be told. To Pellicano and his wealthy clients, ‘winning’ meant completely obliterating someone’s life and livelihood. They saw the media as just another weapon in their arsenal and used and abused it to go after anyone in their crosshairs. For example, they used their PR connection to plant items in the New York Post’s Page Six to slam victims like Bo Zenga and Garry Shandling. And when their targets became FBI agent Stan Ornellas and U.S. attorney Dan Saunders, they tried to smear and discredit these decent men in the pages of the L.A. Times. The Pellicano case coverage in the L.A. Times as reported by Chuck Philips (who told the NY Times that Pellicano was his longtime news source) should be examined. It’s a case study of how Pellicano worked his media relationships to try to destroy his adversaries.

I called Ms. Busch this evening and she elaborated on the Chuck Philips angle. She told me that when she received a dead fish, a rose, and a note that said “Stop” on her windshield — a threat for which Pellicano was later indicted — a lawyer at the L.A. Times suggested that the paper investigate the matter internally, with the help of . . . Anthony Pellicano. It turned out that the lawyer is married to an L.A. Times editor who, in June 2003, had a Christmas gift from Pellicano on his desk — according to an L.A. Times reporter who told Busch about it.

What’s more, she said, Chuck Philips, who has written articles attacking the government’s case against Pellicano (and who attended Pellicano’s wedding in an apparently friendly capacity) was present for the verdict today . . . seemingly without a pen or notebook.

Part of this story has been reported previously in the New York Times:

A day after [Busch] found the package, records show, a man with a criminal record called her out of the blue with information about the threat. A private investigator had hired someone else to blow up her car, he told her. As Ms. Busch and her colleagues met with F.B.I. and police officials to consider their next moves, the newspaper’s lawyer, Karlene Goller, spoke up with a suggestion.

Maybe Anthony Pellicano would know something about this, Ms. Goller said, according to two Times employees.

Ms. Busch insists that Ms. Goller talked of “bringing aboard” Mr. Pellicano.

Ms. Goller declined to comment, citing lawyer-client confidentiality. But Paul Lieberman, a reporter who heard the suggestion, said he saw nothing untoward in it. “He was someone that knew” the criminal element,” Mr. Lieberman said.

A reporter who had long experience with Mr. Pellicano as a news source, Chuck Philips, said he had tried to reach him at Ms. Goller’s urging and did not get through. But, he added, it was “preposterous” to think Ms. Goller would have proposed hiring him.

At this time, Mr. Pellicano was not suspected in the threat against Ms. Busch. But wrongly or rightly, the discussions left her convinced that the paper was too cozy with him.

Busch told me that when Goller made the suggestion to bring Pellicano aboard, Busch flinched. She was disturbed by the idea that the paper was considering “bringing aboard” a private investigator to help investigate the threat, when Busch had been told that a private investigator had hired someone to blow up Busch’s car. According to Busch, Goller said, in an apparent attempt to reassure Busch, “He [Pellicano] has worked with us in the past and he’s done really well by us.” Busch said then-editor John Carroll decided that the paper was not going to call in a private investigator and instructed Goller to call the LAPD and FBI. “He made the right decision,” said Busch.

When evidence later emerged connecting Pellicano to the threat, Busch told me, she became convinced that Pellicano had relationships inside the newspaper that were at odds with her position. “I came to realize that there was something amiss inside the L.A. Times with Anthony Pellicano, and it became prudent for me to find out what the hell was going on inside my newspaper.” So Busch decided to search L.A. Times archives to see who had written about Pellicano before, to learn who had the prior relationship with Pellicano. She noticed two names: Jim Newton and Chuck Philips. (Take a look at a similar search I did here.)

L.A. Times editor Jim Newton is married to Karlene Goller, the lawyer who had initially suggested bringing Pellicano on board to investigate the threat against Busch. Busch added a fascinating detail. In June 2003, Busch said, a metro reporter who is still working at the paper came to her and said that he thought there was a conflict in the room regarding Jim Newton and Pellicano stories. (Busch told me who the reporter is, but asked me not to name him because he still works at The Times.) Jim Newton had toured Pellicano’s office years ago, the reporter told Busch. “It’s getting really strange around here,” he told Busch. “There’s a feeling that [Newton] will do anything to protect his wife. Go look at [Newton’s] desk. There’s an old Christmas gift from Pellicano on his desk.” When Busch asked what kind of gift, the metro reporter told her it was a baseball from Pellicano. (A New Yorker story from July 2006 reported that Pellicano had once sent out baseball paperweights as Christmas gifts.)

“What’s happening?” Busch remembers thinking when the evidence emerged of Pellicano’s alleged ties to the threat against her. She recounted her distress at the feeling that “the man who threatened [me] has relationships at this newspaper.” She said that if anybody goes back and looks at the L.A. Times reporting on Pellicano’s case, they will notice a pro-Pellicano theme cropping up in story after story. “No other newspaper in the country questioned the veracity of the FBI or the U.S. Attorney’s Office in this case,” she said, but the L.A. Times did in several articles, often by Chuck Philips.

Regular readers of this blog will remember that Chuck Philips apparently has had a personal relationship of sorts with Anthony Pellicano. In June 2007 I wrote a post about a Chuck Philips article touting claims by the Pellicano defense team that “an FBI agent concealed information and then lied about it to convince a judge to let him search the Hollywood private eye’s office.” I cited to a Nikki Finke post from March of that year which noted that Philips had attended Pellicano’s wedding and was (according to Finke) “the ONLY journalist there not taking notes.” Finke also said: “Pellicano said hello only to two journalists there, Frank Swertlow and Chuck Phillips. In fact, Phillips and Pellicano saluted and smiled to each other.” Yet here was Philips, who seemed to have a personal relationship with Pellicano, reporting on his case and his arguments that the FBI had lied to the court. (Shades of Philips’s articles about Suge Knight.)

Busch told me an interesting fact that reminded me of the wedding story. Today, she said, Chuck Philips was present for Pellicano’s verdict. “I didn’t see him with a notebook or a pen,” Busch told me. She noted that Carla Hall was there to cover the verdict for the newspaper, and indeed, the story on the L.A. Times site right now about the verdicts is by Carla Hall and Tami Abdollah.

“The newspaper needs to look at every story that Chuck Philips has written about the Pellicano case,” Busch told me. “FBI agent Stan Ornellas, who had investigated Pellicano, was targeted in the pages of the L.A. Times, courtesy of Chuck Philips. And [Philips] also wrote a story directly questioning the ethics of [Assistant] U.S. Attorney Dan Saunders, who was responsible for prosecuting Pellicano.

“The L.A. Times needs to agree to an independent investigation of the newspaper’s coverage of any story involving Pellicano, and they should begin with the Pellicano case coverage. For the sake of journalism, I would openly cooperate with any independent investigation. I really hope they do the right thing.”

So do I.

UPDATE: I have forwarded the post to Jim Newton and Chuck Philips and invited them to respond. I think fairness dictates that they should have the chance to do so. I will gladly publish any response I receive (within reason).

UPDATE x2: Newton responds here.

UPDATE x3 12-15-08: Pellicano was sentenced today to 15 years in prison. Busch’s sentencing statement is set forth in its entirety here.

10/23/2009

Pellicano Pleads Guilty; Anita Busch Blasts “Unethical Idiots” at the L.A. Times

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:52 pm

Anthony Pellicano and Alexander Proctor pled guilty today to threatening former L.A. Times reporter Anita Busch. The sentence was three years, to be served concurrently with his 15-year federal sentence for wiretapping.

I asked Anita Busch tonight if she had a statement and she sent me this:

I’m very relieved all the criminal trials are over. If this had gone forward, I would have had to testify in two more criminal trials. It was seven years since my life was threatened, computer hacked into and my phones illegally wiretapped. What they did to me was an act of domestic terrorism, and they are both in prison where they belong. Everything I said has now come to pass. I can hold my head high because I told the truth the entire time. What I learned through this experience was that most people are afraid of the truth … and that includes certain unethical idiots at the Los Angeles Times. Not only did they lie about my employment status, but also called Anthony Pellicano for help on my case and then hid that from their own staff, from me and from law enforcement.

Believe it or not, that’s the toned-down version.

If you don’t know what she’s talking about, here’s some reading for you:

I have previously documented Busch’s allegations regarding the attempts by an L.A. Times lawyer to “bring aboard” Pellicano for help concerning the threats to Busch. This was remarkably bad judgment at a minimum, given Pellicano’s shady reputation and the fact that an informant had told Busch that a private detective was behind the threats on Busch’s life. I have also documented the incredibly shabby treatment Busch received at the hands of that lawyer and others at the paper. I also published Busch’s eye-opening sentencing statement after Pellicano’s wiretapping trial, as well as the L.A. Times‘s response, which I showed to be lacking.

UPDATE: Technically, he pled “no contest” and not “guilty.” But it’s legally the same, at least as far as the criminal court is concerned.

12/16/2008

L.A. Times Responds to Busch’s Sentencing Statement

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 7:28 pm

After publishing Anita Busch’s eye-opening statement at Anthony Pellicano’s sentencing yesterday, I wrote L.A. Times editor Russ Stanton last night to ask for a reaction — and why the paper had not mentioned Busch’s references to the L.A. Times. Stanton is out of the office, but I received a reply this evening from L.A. Times California Editor David Lauter:

Good afternoon Mr. Frey,

Russ is out of the office, but since I usually try to respond when people have questions about Metro stories, I thought I’d get back to you on this one.

As the Times has stated before, we take very seriously any threat made to our employees in the course of doing their jobs, and that certainly included the threats to Ms. Busch. The Times cooperated with law enforcement investigations in her case and provided monetary and personal support — and protection — to Ms. Busch.

The paper has also made clear previously that neither the paper nor its lawyers have ever hired Anthony Pellicano. Ms. Busch’s repeated suggestions that our lawyer said Pellicano had done work for The Times is untrue. It’s a matter of public record that Pellicano has been an occasional source for journalists at the paper over the years, both on the record and off. Journalists have many kinds of sources when reporting their stories.

Ms. Busch went through a terrible experience as a result of Pellicano’s illegal activities, and her former Times colleagues sympathize deeply with what she’s suffered. We didn’t include her statements about The Times in this morning’s story because they were neither true nor new.

All of us at The Times hope that the conclusion of the trial will bring Ms. Busch peace of mind.

David Lauter
California Editor
Los Angeles Times

Mr. Lauter’s statement deserves a response.


Above: Anthony Pellicano

“Maybe Anthony Pellicano would know something about this . . .”

After she received a fish, a rose, and a note saying “Stop” on her windshield, Busch got a call from a man warning her that a private detective had hired someone to blow up her car. She told this to her employer, the L.A. Times. According to the New York Times, the paper’s lawyer, Karlene Goller, suggested getting in touch with a private detective . . . Anthony Pellicano:

Maybe Anthony Pellicano would know something about this, Ms. Goller said, according to two Times employees. . . . A reporter who had long experience with Mr. Pellicano as a news source, Chuck Philips, said he had tried to reach him at Ms. Goller’s urging and did not get through.

So it is a matter of public record that the Times‘s lawyer actively sought information about the threat to Busch from the very man now accused of ordering the threat: Anthony Pellicano. Goller sought Pellicano’s input even though she knew that a private detective was allegedly behind the threat. Busch discussed this in detail in her sentencing statement, and Mr. Lauter does not deny the allegation; instead, he responds only by quibbling over the word “hired.” But the embarrassment for The Times does not turn on whether they intended to pay Pellicano for his counsel.


Above: Anita Busch

Treated as the “Tawana Brawley of the newsroom.”

Mr. Lauter portrays The Times as a sympathetic employer that stood by Busch in her time of crisis. But as I have previously reported (see here and here), The Times was anything but. The New York Times article quoted above said:

According to a 2002 article in The Washington Post, people at The Los Angeles Times called [Busch] the “Tawana Brawley of the newsroom.”

“I was telling the truth, and no one was believing me,” she said. “People started questioning whether I had somehow lost my mind. It’s hard to take, when you’re telling the truth and people are looking at you sideways and laughing in your face.”

I reported in May that Chuck Philips had even rolled his eyes at Busch:

Busch told me that she once ran into Chuck Philips in a hallway at the L.A. Times. She had not met Philips before, but recognized him. She said: “You’re Chuck Philips.” And Philips responded: “Oh, you’re the woman who got threatened?” When she said she was, Philips rolled his eyes and walked away without another word.


Above: Chuck Philips

Goller, the lawyer who had sought Pellicano’s involvement in investigating the threat, was particularly unsupportive, according to Busch — even after two men tried to run Busch down on the street. According to the New York Times, “an F.B.I. informant recorded a suspect saying that the threat on [Busch] had not done any good — she was ‘back at it.'” Three days later, “two men in a Mercedes tried to run her down outside her apartment.” Busch told me that Goller later dismissed the incident:

Busch tells me that, after she was almost run over, Newton’s wife Karlene Goller “looked me in the eye and basically told me that she didn’t believe me.” According to Busch, Goller told her: “Maybe those guys in the car [who tried to run her down] were just looking for a parking spot.”

The Times Distances Busch

The people at the paper who derided Busch did not know that law enforcement was surreptitiously recording conversations that corroborated what she was telling everyone. But common decency should have caused The Times to stand by Busch in her time of crisis. Busch told me in May that the opposite had occurred:

Busch says that Goller’s lack of support went further. When the paper drafted a letter of support for Busch, it was sent to Goller for her review. Goller removed the line: “We stand firmly by Anita and value her contributions to The Times.”

The Times continues to distance itself from Busch to this day. Strikingly, in their latest story, The Times refers to Busch — but doesn’t even say that she was working as an L.A. Times reporter when the threats to her life occurred.

Busch Reacts

I asked Busch tonight for her reaction to the statement from Times editor Lauter. She did not want to get into a tit for tat regarding each one of his points. However, she told me that she stands by what she told me in May, and added this:

I’ve told the truth, and my accounts of these events have been borne out by the arrest and conviction of these individuals. Pellicano, in addition to compromising the legal system and judicial system, had relationships with people inside the Los Angeles Times, including a journalist whose work has been discredited. It’s time for the Times to submit to an independent investigation of their relationship to Anthony Pellicano and coverage of the case.

Nobody’s holding their breath waiting for that to happen.

Unapologetic

In addition to an investigation, there’s one other thing that I’d like to see. The Los Angeles Times should say “I’m sorry” to Anita Busch. The paper treated Busch shabbily, and ought to apologize.

But apparently the paper is once again taking its cue from Anthony Pellicano, who today declared that he will not apologize to his victims for what he put them through.

It appears that The Times shares Pellicano’s unapologetic attitude.

UPDATE: Kevin Roderick links and defends Goller’s decision to contact Pellicano. However, Roderick doesn’t address the most salient point: Goller was seeking the assistance of a private investigator, after an informant had warned Busch that the plan to blow up her car had been ordered by a private investigator — a fact that Goller had been told. I think her decision to call on Pellicano was “questionable,” not in any corrupt sense, but rather in the sense that it showed poor judgment — and became a source of embarrassment for Goller and the newspaper after it turned out that Pellicano was believed to be behind the threats.

Perhaps that’s why John Carroll vetoed the idea; Busch has told me (and has also previously told Diane Dimond) that Goller continued to pursue the idea even after Carroll had explicitly said not to. Carroll had said that the investigation of this crime should be left up to LAPD and the FBI, an approach that seems wise and sound.

UPDATE x2: In addition, Matt Lait and Scott Glover have written that, even before Pellicano was charged with crimes, “[e]ven cursory research would have turned up media accounts in which he boasted about or was accused of thuggish or illegal behavior.”

12/15/2008

Pellicano Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison; Read Anita Busch’s Sentencing Statement, Including Her Commentary on the Los Angeles Times

Filed under: Blogging Matters,Crime,Dog Trainer,General,Humor — Patterico @ 6:06 pm

Anthony Pellicano was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison today — just one year less than the government had asked for.

Anita Busch read a statement to Pellicano during the sentencing. Although portions of her statement have been quoted in a couple of stories, some of the quotations have been inaccurate, and none of them has been complete. Below is Busch’s complete statement, which she has confirmed to me is exactly how she said it in court.

I was touched by how harrowing the experience was for her, and how little support she received from people at the L.A. Times, many of whom treated her very real nightmare as a joke. The most moving moment to me was reading Busch describe how agonizing it was just to start her car . . . after receiving credible threats that her car would be blown up: “[A]fter a night of nightmares, I would close my eyes and just scream really loud as I turned the key to the ignition. And when I didn’t blow up, I’d wipe my eyes and go onto work at the L.A. Times and face the snickers from the disbelievers.”

Busch also told Pellicano: “The day you were arrested, that’s when the cover-up began at my newspaper.” At that point, Pellicano started talking with his lawyers, ignoring her. Busch paused and waited until they stopped talking.

Until Pellicano paid attention.

Hearing that story, my reaction was: he wasn’t in control. She was.

That’s a great story.

Ms. Busch’s statement follows:

I want to thank Judge Fischer for her patience and wisdom during this trial and thank you to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Mr. Pellicano, after you and your employers relentlessly attacked all of us and got caught after years of doing this to others, you and your lawyers just kept attacking. You attacked the FBI, the search warrant, a potential witness, the veracity of your victims, launched personal attacks on the lead FBI agent on the case and U.S. Attorney, went after the jury and then the verdict itself.

And you did most all of it through the Los Angeles Times where I unfortunately found out while working there that you had a trusted relationship with the lawyer advising me and one of the reporters that they had covering this criminal case.

In the sentencing memorandum you talk about how your life is ruined. Yes, well, YOU made that choice. None of your victims had a choice. You could have helped put these sociopaths with money behind bars, but to this day, you show contempt for this court and the law.

You have yet to take responsibility for your actions.

It was revealed only two weeks ago that an FBI agent named Mark Rossini pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining documents that were then used by your lawyer.

So every day you prove that you ran a criminal conspiracy and a criminal enterprise.

Your co-conspirator Mr. Kachikian aided and abetted you so that my computer was hacked into and 18 years of my musical compositions – which I considered my life’s work – were destroyed.

When Mr. Turner and other co-conspirators at the phone company helped you tap my phones, you not only violated my privacy and that of my family and friends, but you violated the privacy of a journalist AND her sources, undermining the very fundamentals of my profession. This attack was also on journalism and a newspaper’s ability to gather the news.

By carrying out these crimes, you not only hurt me, you hurt my elderly parents, my brothers and sisters and my friends.

After these threats, I was afraid to come and go from my house. I was afraid to sit in my car for even a moment out in the street for fear that a car would speed up on me again, block me in and this time I WOULD be killed. And that was a Catch-22 because I was ALSO petrified to turn over the engine of my car for fear that it would blow up.

So, I would sit there and cry and pray and beg, “Please God, I want to live.”

Or some days, after a night of nightmares, I would close my eyes and just scream really loud as I turned the key to the ignition. And when I didn’t blow up, I’d wipe my eyes and go onto work at the L.A. Times and face the snickers from the disbelievers.

You and your employers not only used fear and intimidation, but you made sure people – your targets – were smeared in the press. And you and your clients used any means at your disposal to destroy people’s employment. And you guys did it many times over many years. When it was my turn how very convenient it was for you that you already had long established relationships inside my employer.

The day after the first threat, the lawyer at the L.A. Times, Karlene Goller, wanted YOU on board to help because as she said, “He’s done work for us in the past and he’s done well by us.” The editor told her no, but she did it anyway. Without my knowledge or the knowledge of law enforcement, she had reporter Chuck Philips call you about my case. Philips had a longtime relationship with you as a news source and had worked for years alongside Karlene’s husband.

I was new to the paper, but you weren’t. And you USED the relationships you had there against me. You made sure my newspaper didn’t believe me so behind the scenes you could ruin my employment just like you and your clients did to other victims.

The day you were arrested, that’s when the cover-up began at my newspaper. To this day their own reporters, editors and readers don’t know the truth. And while you and your lawyers cried crocodile tears about media leaks, Philips – a reporter you helped for years – wrote story after story against the government’s case. Information FED to him by your defense team. And because the men whose job it was to put an end to your criminal activity were now your targets – Dan Saunders and Stan Ornellas – your pal Philips wrote stories smearing their integrity.

And, of course, those stories were then approved by the same newspaper lawyer who looked to you for help. And this is just one example of how you and your clients used the media as a weapon.

Your convicted co-conspirator, Mr. Kachikian, even worked for the L.A. Times.

You reached inside the phone company, the LAPD, the Beverly Hills Police Department, the FBI … AND this city’s largest newspaper.

So, I was on my own. And I was scared. I thought it was just a matter of time before I was going to be killed. I was scared to have any family or friends around me because I was afraid that they themselves might get hurt. And I struggled. I struggled hard to work as a journalist while battling constant fear … Journalism was something I loved and what I lived for. But it became impossible for me to continue on as a journalist. My sources were afraid to talk to me on the phone. It wasn’t long before everything was gone.

I no longer had my career. I no longer had my peace of mind. My income was dwindling. My life savings was disappearing. My health went downhill. I didn’t even have my music. And I no longer had passion or faith in anything.

It was death by a thousand cuts … and the cuts were deep and hard. I didn’t deserve it.

I remember sitting alone one night, trying to think of something – anything – good that had come out of this. I realized that the only hope I had left was in a dogged, and thank God ethical, FBI agent named Stan Ornellas who I knew was out there every day working to try to put an end to this kind of domestic terrorism. Which is what it was.

I am thankful beyond words to these men and women who worked this case because they kept what happened to me from happening to anyone else.

Now, Mr. Pellicano, you have always spoken about a sense of honor. I understand. You know I know many of your former clients. Most of the ones I knew were never your friends and they were certainly never your family.

These people don’t care about the kind of healthcare you get on the inside, the lousy razors that nick your face, the sandpaper for toilet paper, the mystery meat and candy bars from the vending machine.

They don’t care that you won’t be there to hold your own mother’s hand when she gets sick or when she passes away.

Where is the honor in that?

You won’t be there because of Michael Ovitz.

Your sense of honor is not wrong, Mr. Pellicano. It is misplaced.

To you and your wealthy clients, this was about winning – destroying our lives – at any cost. Well, look at the cost … here in the courtroom today … look into the faces of the ones you love.

You threw away your role as son to your mother and father to your children.

For money.

Sometimes money costs too much.

For what you have done to all of us and to your own flesh and blood, all I can say is that I fear for your soul when I think that God is just.

Thank you, your honor.

For more background on the way Busch was treated by the people at the L.A Times, read my previous posts here and here.

P.S. The initial L.A. Times story on the sentencing doesn’t report any of Busch’s attacks on the newspaper. It will be interesting to see whether the paper ever mentions it.

It is, after all, news.

UPDATE: The story has now been rewritten, in classic L.A. Times style: at the same Web address, wiping out the old version entirely, without any notification to the reader. (I have saved the previous version.) Here’s what the latest version of the story says about Busch’s sentencing statement:

Pellicano’s troubles began in 2002, when a reporter who wrote negative articles about former Hollywood super agent Michael Ovitz went to authorities after she found a dead fish, a rose and a note saying “Stop” inside the smashed windshield of her car.

The reporter, Anita Busch, told the judge Monday that Pellicano’s intimidation and wiretapping were like “death by a thousand cuts.”

Yes, and Busch believes the L.A. Times shared some culpability for at least part of the misery she endured. The L.A. Times doesn’t tell you that.

To learn that, you had to come here.

UPDATE x2: The L.A. Times responds to Busch here.

11/25/2008

The Chuck Philips Interview, Part One: Philips’s Letters to Proctor

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 11:48 pm

On Monday night I spoke with Chuck Philips for about an hour and a half. As far as I am aware, this was Philips’s first detailed interview since he was laid off from the Los Angeles Times back in July.

We discussed James Sabatino, the man who according to The Smoking Gun provided forged documents to Philips (although Sabatino has written me to deny the allegation). We discussed Waymond Anderson, the convicted murderer whose innocence Philips championed, only to see Anderson turn on him and accuse Philips of helping Suge Knight threaten Anderson. We talked about Philips’s relationships with Anthony Pellicano and Suge Knight. We discussed what Philips is doing nowadays.

All of this will be revealed in future posts.

Because the interview was long, I will split it up into several parts, starting in this post with Philips’s reaction to my post from Sunday night. In that post, I published letters that Philips had written to Alexander Proctor, the man Anthony Pellicano allegedly hired to terrorize Anita Busch and blow up her car. I wrote on Sunday that those letters appeared to reveal an agenda on Philips’s part.

Philips confirmed that he wrote all of the letters that I mentioned in my Sunday night post, including the letters to Alexander Proctor, James Sabatino, Roland Campbell, and Spencer Bowens.

Philips defended the language he used in the letters, including the letter he wrote in which he said to Proctor, a potential witness in the Pellicano case:

They deceived Pellicano and his lawyers for six months, knowing it was a violation of his constitutional rights. Not only did they illegally spy on the guy they are prosecuting for spying, they failed to file required federal 302s describing what they learned.

I asked him whether he regretted taking such a firm position on the propriety of the government’s conduct in the Pellicano case, given that he was writing news stories about the topic that were supposed to be objective. Philips said he did not regret it, because he believed what he had written to Proctor. “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything in a letter that I’m ashamed of,” he said.

Philips brought up Nikki Finke’s claim that Philips’s coverage was one-sided. He said there was nothing wrong with writing stories that question the government. He said that a reporter’s job is not to take copy from the government, or to believe defendants, but to seek the truth.

I asked Philips again about his statement to Proctor that the government had done illegal things, such as illegally spying on Pellicano. Weren’t you definitively taking sides on a disputed issue? I asked. Philips declared that the federal government had sent in a person, Sandra Carradine, to get information from Pellicano while he had a lawyer. “The government isn’t allowed to do that,” Philips said. “That person becomes a government agent.”

But didn’t federal law enforcement officials dispute whether they had done that? I asked. Philips acknowledged that they had. “The government said she was doing it on her own.” So, I said, it was a disputed issue, but you’re saying it’s true. Philips argued that the court had ruled that the defense was entitled to a hearing regarding that issue. But did the court make a factual finding to resolve the dispute? I asked. No, Philips said; because Pellicano represented himself, the hearing never happened.

I repeatedly asked Philips whether he saw a problem in taking sides on a disputed point that he was covering for the paper, and he repeatedly asserted that what he had said in the letter was true, citing the judge’s ruling that there should be a hearing regarding the issue.

Philips said that the whole premise of the search warrant on Pellicano’s office was that Steven Seagal had hired Anthony Pellicano to get back at Anita Busch — yet, Philips asserted, Seagal had nothing to do with the fish and the rose left on Busch’s windshield. John Rottger wasn’t involved either, he said. If you look at the basis of why they went into Pellicano’s office, Philips said, it wasn’t true.

“I believe they monitored the phone calls of Proctor and Pellicano but not Seagal,” Philips said to me. “I think they wanted to get into Pellicano’s office for other reasons.” I asked him what reasons, and he said he didn’t know, but he knew that the reason they were going in there was not because of Steven Seagal. “They used him to get through that door,” Philips told me — meaning they used Seagal to get through the door of Pellicano’s office.

Philips claimed that the FBI had told him off the record that they didn’t believe Seagal was involved in the threat on Busch. I asked whether the FBI agents might have initially thought Seagal might be involved (based on taped conversations between Proctor and a government informant), but later changed their mind. Philips said he believed that the federal government knew from the beginning that Seagal was not involved — otherwise, he asked, why didn’t they get a search warrant for Seagal’s premises, like they did for Pellicano’s? Instead, Philips said, they held Seagal in a conference room while the warrant on Pellicano’s office was being executed, and they didn’t say a word about the search to Seagal.

I asked Philips if he had ever asked anyone at the FBI why they didn’t raid Seagal as well. He said they wouldn’t talk to him. I asked whether that was standard operating procedure for the FBI, and he said something that he repeated throughout the conversation, across the range of topics we discussed: that his job as a reporter is to find the truth and not just report what the government says.

I asked Philips why, in his letters to Proctor, he repeatedly presented Proctor with a specific factual scenario that would benefit Pellicano if Proctor agreed to it. And why repeatedly mention that Proctor’s initial conversations with Patterson, the government informant, had not been recorded?

Philips said: “This is a private conversation. I’m trying to have a conversation with this guy through a letter in jail. I think it’s perfectly legitimate to mention that there is no recording of the initial conversations.”

Philips said he wanted to know if Patterson, the government informant, had a reason to do what he was doing. “‘Are you being set up?’ was my idea,” he said, referring to the possibility that Proctor was being set up by Patterson. Philips said he thought this was a “worthy” idea, and he wanted to explore that possibility with Proctor. But, he said, he wasn’t trying to tamper with a witness or feed a specific story to Proctor.

I pressed him on why he hadn’t simply asked open-ended questions of Proctor. Philips started talking about how the whole idea that he was trying to feed Proctor answers was wrong. But why was it necessary to tell him that the conversations hadn’t been recorded? I again asked.

Philips said he thought it was odd that the initial conversations between Patterson and Proctor had not been recorded. He repeated that he wasn’t trying to feed a story to Proctor.

Philips repeatedly and strongly took issue with the idea that he wrote stories benefiting Anthony Pellicano because he was friendly with him.

He sounded especially peeved at Nikki Finke, saying he didn’t understand what Nikki Finke had against him, as he had never done anything to Nikki Finke. Philips denied Finke’s allegation that Philips and Pellicano had smiled at one another, and saluted each other, at Pellicano’s wedding. Philips asserted that his presence at Pellicano’s wedding was not unusual; there were probably eight reporters there, he said. He said that Pellicano was happy, which was unusual because Pellicano had had a rocky relationship with his bride. Pellicano was probably waving at everybody, Philips said.

Philips also addressed Anita Busch’s allegation, reported on this blog back in May, that Philips showed up at the reading of Pellicano’s verdict, seemingly without a pad of paper or a pen. He conceded that he was there, not because he was reporting the story, but because he wanted to find out what would happen. Philips said he had his notebook, but it was in his back pocket. He also had a pen, but didn’t have it out. When he started seeing that everything was going the government’s way, he said, he got up and left.

Philips volunteered that the idea that he has done stories about Suge Knight or Anthony Pellicano because he’s on the take is “just so simplistic.” “Where’s the money?” he asked. If he took money, where is it?

I asked if he had ever socialized with Pellicano. He said he had used Pellicano as a source on many stories, and that Pellicano had fought him on a lot of stories in the past. He thinks Pellicano admired him because he stood up to Pellicano. When it comes to guys like Pellicano, Philips said, “I just have a fascination with them.”

Philips said that the U.S. Attorney had tried to portray the Pellicano deal as a wide-ranging operation. “I found that to be completely bogus.” It was just a handful of people, he said. It wasn’t what the government claimed it was.

I asked Philips what he was doing nowadays. Had he sought any other newspaper job? He said he hadn’t. Was he working on a book? Not currently, he said. He said he was kicking around a couple of story ideas. But mainly, he said, “I am at the beach enjoying myself.”

As I mentioned earlier, we also spent a lot of time talking about James Sabatino and Waymond Anderson and Suge Knight and others. But all of that is a story for another day.

11/23/2008

Chuck Philips’s Letters to a Witness: Merely Suggestive? Or Witness Tampering?

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 10:23 pm

Letters written by a former L.A. Times reporter to a potential witness in the Anthony Pellicano case appear to confirm critics’ charges that the reporter pursued a pro-defense agenda in his coverage of the criminal case against the “private detective to the stars.”

The reporter, Chuck Philips, won the Pulitzer prize in 1999, but was laid off from the paper in 2008 shortly after it was found that a story he wrote was based on forged documents.

Patterico.com has obtained several letters in which Philips attempted to get the witness to agree with a specific scenario that would be favorable to Pellicano. In the letters, Philips stated his opinion that the government had engaged in illegal and dishonest activity — even as Philips was writing purportedly objective news stories examining Pellicano’s arguments that the government had acted illegally.

Philips penned the letters in late 2007. During this time, Philips published a series of stories publicizing Pellicano’s defense theories. Philips covered Pellicano’s criminal case despite the fact that he had used Pellicano as a source since the 1990s, and appeared friendly with Pellicano. The letters, which are revealed for the first time in this blog post, are suggestive and non-objective, if not tantamount to witness tampering.

In the letters, written to prison inmate and potential witness Alexander Proctor, Philips told Proctor that he believed Proctor’s recollections of certain conversations with a government informant “could sink this case” against Pellicano. Philips proposed a specific theory of what might have occurred in those conversations — a scenario that would benefit Pellicano — even as Philips repeatedly reminded Proctor that the conversations in question were not recorded.

The players

The Pellicano saga began in 2002, after former L.A. Times reporter Anita Busch received a dead fish and a rose on her windshield, along with a note saying: “Stop.”


Above: Anita Busch

An FBI informant, later identified by The Smoking Gun as Dan Patterson, called Busch to warn her. Patterson subsequently wore a wire for the FBI, and recorded conversations with a drug runner named Alexander Proctor, who claimed that he had been hired by Anthony Pellicano to blow up Busch’s car. The FBI used those conversations as a key basis of a search warrant for Pellicano’s office. Inside, federal agents found explosives and illegally obtained recordings, leading to federal criminal filings against Pellicano for possession of explosives and wiretapping.



Above: Dan Patterson, the FBI’s informant

Pellicano was a “private investigator to the stars,” and his criminal trial involved a cast of characters including Hollywood’s elite. People like Michael Ovitz and Paramount Pictures chairman Brad Grey were key witnesses.

Close to Anthony Pellicano

Chuck Philips has been criticized over the years for covering the Pellicano criminal proceedings, despite his past association with Pellicano. The New York Times reported this year that Philips “had long experience with Mr. Pellicano as a news source” before Pellicano was prosecuted.

There is evidence that the relationship between Philips and Pellicano ran deeper. Philips attended Pellicano’s wedding, at which he and Pellicano smiled and saluted one another. He also attended Pellicano’s guilty verdict without a pad of paper or pen. In neither case did he file a news story.


Above: Chuck Philips

Above: Anthony Pellicano

News legend Pete Noyes said in June that Philips should have recused himself from reporting on Pellicano’s criminal case. According to Noyes, a reporter should always recuse himself from covering criminal proceedings against a former source.

Coverage favored Pellicano

Not only did Philips fail to recuse himself from reporting on Pellicano’s criminal proceedings, he repeatedly wrote stories supporting Pellicano’s defense theories, and questioning the honesty of federal law enforcement agents. In June 2007, Nikki Finke complained that Philips repeatedly “carrie[d] water for Pellicano’s defense attorneys,” and argued that the paper should have reassigned coverage of the Pellicano case to a different reporter. Finke has written that “in the Pellicano scandal, no journalist has been discrediting the government’s case more than Philips.” In return, Philips got extraordinary access to Pellicano, including an exclusive jailhouse interview.

For the sake of brevity, I have compiled the extensive history of Philips’s slanted coverage of the Pellicano case in a separate page, which you can access here.

In essence, throughout 2007, Philips wrote numerous stories touting claims by Pellicano’s defense team that the federal government had lied in order to obtain a search warrant for Pellicano’s office. Pellicano argued that the FBI had manufactured probable cause to search his office, because he allegedly had evidence damaging to the FBI. If the search warrant were ruled invalid, the case against Pellicano would collapse.


Above: The federal courthouse on Spring St. in downtown Los Angeles

Philips wrote numerous stories laying out a comprehensive set of defense attacks on the search warrant. The articles touted defense arguments attacking the credibility of FBI Agent Stanley Ornellas, who obtained the search warrant, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Saunders, who prosecuted the Pellicano case. Still, Philips’s articles were purportedly “objective.”

Philips’s letters to Proctor

Even as Philips was writing purportedly “balanced” articles about Special Agent Ornellas and his search warrant in the Los Angeles Times, Philips was disparaging Ornellas and Assistant U.S. Attorney Saunders in letters to a prison inmate. In the letters that Philips wrote to potential witness Proctor, Philips asked Proctor for an interview — but also suggested a factual scenario that would damage the government’s case against Pellicano . . . if Proctor agreed it was true.

In one letter, Philips sets forth his opinion that the government deceived Pellicano, violated his rights, and illegally spied on Pellicano:

Philips added: “It is obvious to me that the government is not being candid about what happened at Anita Busch’s house or why it happened.” Read Philips’s handwritten letter: Page 1 here and Page 2 here.

In several of the letters, Philips presented a particular factual scenario to Proctor — one that would benefit Pellicano’s defense team if Proctor supported it. Namely, Philips suggested that the first person to bring up Pellicano’s name was not Proctor, as the FBI had stated in its search warrant affidavit — but rather Patterson, the FBI informant, acting at the behest of the FBI.

If this suggested scenario were true, it would allow Pellicano to argue that the FBI first brought up Pellicano’s name as part of an attempt to manufacture probable cause to get into Pellicano’s office. This revelation would be devastating to the government’s case. Indeed, in suggesting this scenario to Proctor on page 2 of the same letter quoted above, Philips said that he believed Proctor’s recollection of the details of the conversations could “sink this case.” Philips said: “There are so many questions I have about what happened in the summer and autumn of 2002.” He followed up with this:

This scenario was presented to Proctor in a letter that reminded Proctor that Saunders and Ornellas are “the same officials who charged and prosecuted your [Proctor’s] case.” This effectively reminded Proctor that, if he were to say anything disparaging about Saunders and/or Ornellas, it might help his own case.

In the letters, Philips repeatedly emphasized that the initial exchanges with Patterson, the government snitch, were not recorded. It’s hard to see why this fact was important, if Philips were seeking the truth. But if Philips sought to have Proctor manufacture a false scenario regarding the conversations, it would be helpful to tell Proctor that Proctor could say what he liked . . . without fear of being contradicted by a recording.

In several other letters to Proctor, Philips presented the same specific factual scenario: that the FBI’s snitch was the first person to bring up Pellicano’s name. In these letters, Philips consistently reminded Proctor that the conversation was not recorded. For example, in a letter dated October 24, 2007, Philips said:

(Bottom of page 1)

(Top of page 2)

Read the letter: Page 1 and Page 2.

In another letter, dated November 15, 2007, Philips asked the same question again:

Again, Philips repeatedly reminded Proctor that the conversations were not recorded. In this last letter, Philips also told Proctor that Assistant U.S. Attorney Saunders had called Proctor’s girlfriend a liar. Read the entire letter here.

Here are the other letters obtained by this blog: Philips’s initial handwritten letter to Proctor is here, and a November 24, 2007 letter in which he responds to Proctor’s complaints about his reporting is here.

The letters’ authenticity

This blog cannot reveal the source that provided me with the letters that Philips wrote to Proctor. However, there is evidence to corroborate their authenticity.

I have compiled that evidence in a separate page, which you can read here. In a nutshell, I have obtained letters from several different sources, that Philips wrote to several different prison inmates. In addition to the letters to Proctor, I have obtained letters that Philips wrote to two prison inmates (Roland Campbell and Spencer Bowens) whom he suspected of being involved in a 1994 non-fatal shooting of Tupac Shakur. (See here, here, and here.) Those letters were posted by an anonymous blogger who claimed they originated from the lawyer for Jimmy Rosemond, one of two people that Philips accused of having masterminded the 1994 shooting. The other alleged mastermind was James Sabatino, who also sent me a letter he said was sent to him by Philips. I will publish that letter in a future post.

So I have nine separate letters to four different people, originating from three different sources. The signatures and handwriting are similar; here are some examples:


Signature from letter to Bowens

Signature from second handwritten letter to Proctor

Signature from initial handwritten letter to Proctor

Apparently, when he typed his letters, Philips’s signature was messier:


Signature from letter to Sabatino

Signature from October 24, 2007 letter to Proctor

There are more signatures at the linked page, which also contains examples of handwriting from the letters:


Handwriting on letter to Campbell

Handwriting on initial letter to Proctor

Handwriting on envelope sent to Sabatino

Again, all these letters came from different sources.

The letter Sabatino claimed to have received from Philips had a photocopy of a business card from Philips, along with a cell phone number.

I called that cell phone number and reached Philips on Sunday morning. I introduced myself and said that I wanted to ask him questions about some letters that he had written to various prison inmates. He asked who the inmates were, and I told him. He said: “You’re the guy who’s always ragging on me, right?” I replied that I was simply trying to tell the truth. He said: “Well, I don’t think you’re doing a very good job, but send them to me and I’ll take a look at them.”

I sent Philips copies of all the letters above by e-mail, and left him my phone number. As of the date and time of this post, he has not returned my phone call or responded to my e-mail. He is welcome to contact me at any time to provide his point of view.

Ethical questions

Philips’s letters raise several ethical questions.

Why did Philips repeatedly emphasize to Proctor that Proctor’s initial conversations with Patterson, the government snitch, had not been recorded? Did that advance a search for the truth? Why didn’t Philips simply ask Proctor what had happened in the conversations with Patterson, and let Proctor talk — rather than repeatedly suggesting a specific scenario (and only that scenario) and asking Proctor if it was true?

Did Philips handle this in a proper fashion? When a reporter is proposing to interview a man who might be a witness in a criminal trial, and is pursuing the possibility of government misconduct in the case, is it ethical for the reporter to lay out a specific factual scenario of government misconduct, and then ask if it’s true? Did this approach aid a search for the truth?

Reporters seeking interviews obviously try to gain the confidence of the person they want to interview. But is it proper or ethical for a reporter to express opinions in such a clear and unmistakable way, as Philips did in these letters? Is it ethical for a reporter to tell a source that he has taken sides in a controversy, while writing purportedly objective articles about that controversy?

I sent all the letters Philips wrote to Proctor to Kelly McBride, the head of ethics at the Poynter Institute, and asked her the questions I have raised in this post. Ms. McBride replied that she did not feel comfortable addressing this issue without doing substantial independent reporting — and, she said, she did not have the time to do that reporting. I also tried asking Jay Rosen at NYU, who suggested that I simply publish the post and let readers make their own judgment.

So there you have it. The ball is now in your court, members of the reading public. Does Chuck Philips’s approach to his sources, as revealed in the above letters, comport with your idea of journalistic integrity? Did his editors at the Los Angeles Times, including Marc Duvoisin, know this is how he approached his stories? Did they care? Will anyone ask Duvoisin, who still works at the newspaper?

Only time will tell.

UPDATE: Since the publication of this post, Philips has acknowledged to me that he wrote all the letters discussed in this post. He also defended their content. More details will be coming in the next few days.

UPDATE x2: Philips reacts here.

6/2/2008

News Legend Pete Noyes Serves Up Rebuke to Chuck Philips

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 12:02 am

Anita Busch appeared on the “Midday Sunday” program on Fox 11 News with Tony Valdez yesterday. Also appearing was retired journalist Pete Noyes, whom Kevin Roderick has called a “news legend.” According to Roderick, “high standards were [Noyes’s] hallmark.”

Noyes had something to say about what journalists should do when their sources become accused of crimes: don’t cover their criminal case.

His view has relevance to Chuck Philips’s coverage of the Anthony Pellicano case.

From the program:

Busch: I think there’s a real ethical question here as a journalist . . . and that is, when a long-time source is arrested for a terrible crime, what do you do? Do you cover that? Or do you recuse yourself and not cover the story? What is the ethical thing to do?

Noyes: The ethical thing is, you don’t cover the story. . . . You drop it, right then. That’s the only thing you can do as a journalist.

Well, it isn’t what Chuck Philips did.

According to the New York Times, reporter Chuck Philips “had long experience with Mr. Pellicano as a news source” before 2002, when Busch was first threatened.

After Pellicano was indicted, the paper allowed Philips to cover Pellicano’s criminal trial, despite the fact that Pellicano had been Philips’s long-time source. Indeed, Philips authored several stories that were highly favorable to Pellicano, and hostile to the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office.

But then, Philips has always appeared immune to the usual rules about conflicts of interest. His coverage of Anthony Pellicano is just one example.

P.S. There is much more coming on the Anita Busch story. Stay tuned over the next few days.

5/17/2008

New Statement from Anita Busch on the Need for an Investigation of the L.A. Times’s Reporting on Pellicano

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 4:30 pm

Anita Busch has issued another statement regarding her call for an investigation of Chuck Philips’s reporting:

Everyone:

I wanted to thank you all sincerely for standing by and understanding my constraints in not being able to talk freely during the past six years as the Pellicano case was being investigated and then prosecuted. Following the guilty verdicts which were handed up this week, I have called for an independent investigation into the L.A. Times’ relationship to Anthony Pellicano and, more specifically, into Chuck Philips’ reporting of the Pellicano case.

I was a victim of crime, but I was also a longtime journalist. And there are basic journalistic questions that need to be examined:

1) What is the ethical question for any newspaper when a longtime news source turns out to be a criminal?

2) What is the best course of action when a source who is found to be a criminal has relationships with key people at the newspaper?

3) Specifically, why wouldn’t the L.A. Times lawyer Karlene Goller — who wanted Mr. Pellicano aboard to help investigate the threat against me — not immediately recuse herself or likewise be removed by the paper from anything having to do with Mr. Pellicano once he was arrested?

Chuck Philips said that this same lawyer urged him to call Pellicano after I was threatened. About a year later, she was directly involved with legal issues prior to my grand jury appearance — a grand jury investigating the very man she sought help from, Anthony Pellicano.

4) Why was reporter Chuck Philips — who had spoken openly about how friendly he was with Pellicano and admitted that Pellicano was his longtime news source — allowed to report story after story on the Pellicano case? In nearly every instance, his stories went against the FBI and the U.S. Attorney trying to prosecute his longtime news source.

5) What did Mr. Pellicano specifically do for the newspaper in the past?

These are just a few of the questions that should be answered about the paper’s relationship to Mr. Pellicano, and it appears the only way to proceed objectively would be for the Times to agree to an independent investigation. Pellicano had relationships inside the L.A. Times long before I got there in 2002; the relationships also pre-dated editor John Carroll’s and Dean Baquet’s time there.

In the same way that the L.A. Times needed to clear the air after the Staples Center controversy, I suggest that the paper hire a panel of outside ethicists, journalists and experts to investigate.

Pellicano and his clients used and abused the media to destroy their targets. Other victims know well of what I speak. Other journalists know, too. And journalists are the ones who must shine a light on this.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent on things that matter.”

I was a journalist. And I know that journalism — and how it was used and abused by a bunch of criminals — very much matters.

Anita

As I said, there will be more to come on this site on this issue. Stay tuned.

And the paper doesn’t need to hire anyone to investigate. Some of us are willing to do it for free!

UPDATE: Thanks to Instapundit for the link. I have several other posts on this issue. Start here for more.

Is a Paperweight Really Just a Paperweight? More on the L.A. Times’s Treatment of Anita Busch After She Was Threatened

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 1:22 pm

Kevin Roderick says that Anita Busch and I are making too much of Jim Newton’s having a paperweight on his desk from Anthony Pellicano in June 2003:

Busch and Frey also try to make something of then-reporter Jim Newton having a paperweight from Pellicano on his desk and being married to Goller, but it seems to me like overreaching. Are we really judged by whose unsolicited junk we keep for awhile and whose we throw away?

I don’t want to make a big deal out of a paperweight, but in light of Roderick’s comment, I feel obligated to explain why I mentioned the gift in the post. The gift from Pellicano was on Newton’s desk months after it was reported that authorities suspected Pellicano to be behind the threat against Busch. The paperweight’s inscription is interesting in light of Pellicano’s history of thuggery generally, and his alleged threats to Busch specifically. And this all has to do with how various people inside the paper, including Newton’s wife, treated the threats against Busch.

A small paperweight as a Christmas gift is, of course, not a huge thing. But it is an indication that Newton had some sort of connection to Pellicano that was close enough to prompt Pellicano to give Newton a small Christmas gift. Why is that interesting? Because Busch says Newton’s wife Karlene Goller initially suggested “bringing aboard” Pellicano to help investigate the threat against Busch. Busch’s claim seems well supported by the reporting of the New York Times, which spoke to other people who heard the suggestion, and reported that Chuck Philips “tried to reach [Pellicano] at Ms. Goller’s urging and did not get through.” (This may be the first time Chuck Philips ever failed to get through to anyone, by the way.)

Even if Newton’s relationship with Pellicano was purely professional — and let’s assume that it was — it provides some hint as to why his wife would have wanted Pellicano’s input on the threat.

Roderick and Newton both dismiss the paperweight as a piece of unsolicited junk that Newton happened to keep. But according to the story Busch told me, this gift from Pellicano was on Newton’s desk after it had been reported that the FBI believed Pellicano had threatened the life of Busch, who was then Newton’s colleague. On November 23, 2002, Scott Glover and Matt Lait reported that Pellicano was suspected in the threat against Busch:

Though the warrant is sealed, Agent [Stanley E. Ornellas] stated in his affidavit that the application submitted to the judge who issued it “details evidence establishing probable cause to believe that Pellicano hired and paid Alexander Proctor to burn the car of a Los Angeles Times reporter who was writing a negative newspaper article about one of Pellicano’s celebrity clients.”

In a secretly recorded conversation described in a request for another warrant, Proctor allegedly told an FBI informant that he was paid by Pellicano to carry out the threat on behalf of [Steven Seagal], who wanted to dissuade [Anita Busch] from her reporting on Seagal’s relationship with a reputed Mafia associate.

Busch, who was taking contemporaneous notes about her experiences, tells me that she was told about the baseball on June 3, 2003. A staff writer told her that the ball was on Newton’s desk at that time. (Newton took a leave of absence to write a book in 2003; his leave was reported by Kevin Roderick on June 30, 2003.) If that’s right, then Newton had this gift on his desk months after it was publicly known that the FBI had evidence connecting Pellicano to threats against Newton’s colleague Busch.

If a colleague of mine had her life threatened, and I had a Christmas gift from the man suspected of having threatened her, you know what I’d do?

I’d take that gift off my desk.

Especially in light of what the paperweight said.

See, I forgot to tell you about the inscription on the paperweight — which Newton described in his e-mail to me as “amusing.” According to the New Yorker article cited in my earlier post:

One Christmas, Pellicano sent out baseball paperweights with the inscription “Sometimes … you just have to play hardball.”

Amusing? Coming from a guy suspected of threatening your colleague’s life, maybe not so much.

Perhaps Newton simply forgot about the item on his desk. But if he was treating the threats against Busch as a joke, he would not have been alone at his newspaper. According to Busch, a number of people at the L.A. Times — including Chuck Philips and Newton’s wife Karlene Goller — were openly skeptical of Busch’s claims of having been threatened. The New York Times article linked above states:

According to a 2002 article in The Washington Post, people at The Los Angeles Times called [Busch] the “Tawana Brawley of the newsroom.”

“I was telling the truth, and no one was believing me,” she said. “People started questioning whether I had somehow lost my mind. It’s hard to take, when you’re telling the truth and people are looking at you sideways and laughing in your face.”

Given subsequent developments, it seems clear that Busch’s claims of being in danger were well-founded. But that didn’t keep her from being treated like a paranoiac inside the newspaper.

Busch told me that she once ran into Chuck Philips in a hallway at the L.A. Times. She had not met Philips before, but recognized him. She said: “You’re Chuck Philips.” And Philips responded: “Oh, you’re the woman who got threatened?” When she said she was, Philips rolled his eyes and walked away without another word.

Why was Philips so openly dismissive of Busch? Did it have anything to do with his relationship with Pellicano, whose wedding and verdicts he later attended, both in an apparent personal capacity?

In addition to the fish and the rose, there was another incident where two men tried to run over Busch. As the New York Times article cited above explains:

On Aug. 13, unknown to Ms. Busch, an F.B.I. informant recorded a suspect saying that the threat on her had not done any good — she was “back at it.” On Aug. 16, she said, two men in a Mercedes tried to run her down outside her apartment.

Busch tells me that, after she was almost run over, Newton’s wife Karlene Goller “looked me in the eye and basically told me that she didn’t believe me.” According to Busch, Goller told her: “Maybe those guys in the car [who tried to run her down] were just looking for a parking spot.”

Busch says that Goller’s lack of support went further. When the paper drafted a letter of support for Busch, it was sent to Goller for her review. Goller removed the line: “We stand firmly by Anita and value her contributions to The Times.”

“Why would they do that? Who was telling them not to believe me? Who was whispering in their ear?” Busch asked me. Did it have anything to do with the relationships some staffers appeared to have with Pellicano?

We’ve already discussed Chuck Philips’s relationship with Pellicano. Did other reporters have regular contact with him? I don’t know. I do know that in a front-page article about Pellicano from February 1, 2004, Scott Glover and Matt Lait reported:

Even the FBI envied his lab, he told clients. Pellicano gave reporters tours of the facility. On one occasion in the early 1990s, he demonstrated to a Times reporter how an innocent conversation could be altered to appear incriminating or embarrassing.

In Newton’s e-mail to me, he said that he had not toured Pellicano’s offices. So Lait and Glover must have been referring to someone else. I won’t speculate about who it was, and Matt Lait wouldn’t tell me, saying: “It would not be proper for me to disclose unpublished information.”

Lait and Glover’s story was critical of prosecutors for using Pellicano despite his shady background:

Even cursory research would have turned up media accounts in which he boasted about or was accused of thuggish or illegal behavior.

For instance, in a January 1992 profile in GQ magazine titled “The Big Sleazy,” Pellicano bragged that he had used a baseball bat to beat up one of his client’s adversaries and had blackmailed others.

“I’m an expert with a knife,” he was quoted as saying. “I can shred your face with a knife.”

One assumes that reporters are at least as competent as prosecutors at doing cursory research. If it was wrong for prosecutors to be cozy with Pellicano — and Lait and Glover made a good case that it was — one wonders the same about reporters. One wonders why Chuck Philips “saluted and smiled to” Pellicano, this man who “can shred your face with a knife,” at Pellicano’s wedding — a wedding at which he was reportedly the only reporter not taking notes.

One wonders whether it was really a good idea for Jim Newton to display a gift from someone like that, bearing an inscription that is itself suggestive of thuggery. Newton might dispute the extent to which it was displayed, I suppose — but if Busch is telling the truth, it was prominent enough to get the attention of the staff writer who told her about it.

Ultimately, I have no idea whether Newton’s “Sometimes … you just have to play hardball” paperweight was a forgotten and meaningless trinket, or represented something more. All I know is that a top editor received this purportedly “amusing” gift from Pellicano — and his wife was the in-house lawyer who allegedly wanted Pellicano “aboard” to help investigate the threat against Busch. What does all of this mean? I leave it for the reader to decide.

To me, the interesting issue is not the paperweight itself, but the way in which many people at this newspaper treated Busch and her claims. Busch was keeping notes at the time about the way the paper reacted when the news broke about Pellicano’s possible connection to the threats — and when she was called to testify in front of the grand jury. And she has agreed to share the story with me.

So stay tuned for future posts.

UPDATE: Anita Busch has more in a new statement.

2/17/2013

Patterico.com Turns Ten Years Old Today

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 2:30 am

This blog began ten years ago today, on February 17, 2003, with this rather uninspiring post:

WELCOME MESSAGE: Welcome to Patterico’s Pontifications. This is destined to be the hottest blog since that one put out by that guy. You know who I mean.

Since then, I have had a run of luck beyond my wildest dreams. This blog has broken national stories, which have been cited in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, among other Big Media rags. Stories published here have been featured on national TV news networks and discussed by late-night comedians. I have published op-eds in the Los Angeles Times. The blog has broken a story that contributed to the downfall of a Congressman, published another national story that got a Big Media journalist reassigned, defended a federal judge against misleading accusations, and appeared on radio programs all across the country.

Most of these stories, I hasten to add, were based on tips from readers. Meaning it wasn’t really me who was responsible. It was you guys.

I’ve gotten to meet wonderful people through the blog — including guest bloggers, readers and commenters, other bloggers, and writers and other personalities I never thought I would be lucky enough to meet. Thanks to the blog, I met and became acquainted with Andrew Breitbart and many of his friends. I have gotten to hang out with people who have written or starred in some of my favorite movies; learned the identity of (and hung out with) talented undercover cop writers; met fearless journalists and talented novelists; and just had a fabulous time.

Over the years, I have amassed 723,852 comments, made on 16,566 posts, and 33,267,955 page views.

I’ve also experienced harassment of my wife and children; publication of my home address and pictures of my home; threats of violence and death; State Bar complaints; Google bombing of my name and job title coupled with scurrilous accusations; numerous lawsuit threats; one lawsuit filing, numerous workplace complaints . . . and I have been SWATted — all for expressing my views.

Hey, nobody said life was all peaches and cream. (Which is fine, because I don’t particularly care for peaches and cream.)

But on this 10th anniversary of the blog, I wanted to highlight some favorite posts of mine from the last ten years. I’m hoping that many of these posts are going to be new to recent readers. My favorite posts tend to give the reader something unique, whether it’s original journalism breaking national stories, exposing of tendentious media bias, or just some personal observations about my family and life in general.

This post can’t possibly be comprehensive, or it would be too long. This is just a collection of a few of my favorite posts from the last ten years.

I hope you enjoy them.

THE DOG TRAINER YEAR IN REVIEW

I probably became best known for my scathing year-end reviews of the Los Angeles Times, which I used to call the “Los Angeles Dog Trainer” — a term stolen from Harry Shearer. I stopped doing this review after 2009, in part because the paper seemed less relevant, and in part because in 2009 I was transferred to a new and very demanding unit in my office, and I soon found that I could no longer muster the time and energy to do a Year in Review.

Nevertheless, I have toyed with the idea of doing a 2010-2013 roundup, and possibly a round-up of the top stories from ten years of L.A. Times bashing.

Here are the links to past Years in Review:

(By the way, if you have trouble getting links in older posts to work, go here for tips on how to deal with that problem.)

THE GINSBURG CONTROVERSY (MARCH 2004)

I believe the first national story I broke on this blog was about Justice Ginsburg giving a speech to the National Organization for Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, days after ruling on a case in which that organization had filed an amicus brief. Justice Scalia had come under fire for supposedly speaking to a group that had a case pending before the Supreme Court, and I believed that the news media should give equal time to a liberal Justice doing the same thing.

I broke the story in this March 7, 2004 post, telling readers that I had informed the L.A. Times about it. They ran this front-page story on March 11, 2004. I registered my shock in this post. The episode ended up being discussed in a book by Dan Gillmor,

MICHAEL HILTZIK SOCK PUPPETRY (APRIL 2006)

In 2006 I learned that an L.A. Times business columnist was sock puppeting on my blog and on his blog at the L.A. Times. I revealed the evidence in a post titled Three in One: Michael Hiltzik, Mikekoshi, and Nofanofcablecos. Hiltzik confessed, his blog was suspended — and the story went national.

GLENN GREENWALD’S SOCK PUPPETRY (JULY 2006)

In some ways arguably the most epic post I have ever written, my post exposing Glenn Greenwald’s sock puppetry relied heavily on the Wuzzadem sock puppets to carry the narrative. It is still cited constantly and I’m often told it is among my readers’ favorite posts.

MY INTERVIEW WITH STASHIU (OCTOBER 2006)

One of my favorite sets of blog posts was an interview I did with Stashiu, a Gitmo psych nurse who regularly spoke with some of the worst terrorists in the world. Stashiu talked to me for hours about Guantanamo, and the piece has held up over the years — and Stashiu has been a reliable friend of the blog ever since. My interview with Stashiu was published in five parts:

Part One: Introduction. Stashiu tells us about a terrorist who threatened to a) have Zarqawi (who was then still alive) cut off the heads of Stashiu’s family while he watched — and then b) cut off Stashiu’s head.

Part Two: Stashiu arrives at GTMO, and tells us what the terrorists are like.

Part Three: Hunger strikes, suicides and suicide attempts, and mental illness. Stashiu opines that the suicides were a political act.

Part Four: Treatment of the detainees, and the detainees’ treatment of guards. Also, desecration of the Koran — but by whom?

Part Five: Stashiu reacts to Big Media pieces about GTMO.

THE KOZINSKI MATERIALS (JUNE 2008)

In June 2008 the L.A. Times revealed that Judge Alex Kozinski had placed bawdy material on a web server accessible by the public. I obtained the material and published it in multiple posts. I revealed that it was generally humorous material, and that one of the most inflammatory accusations, that he had a video of “bestiality,” was nothing of the sort. I also published a letter from his wife which was cited in the Associated Press and other publications, and was widely credited for helping reverse the tide of opinion against him.

An admission that Cyrus Sanai made to me that his complaint against Kozinski was part of a “litigation strategy” was cited by the Ninth Circuit — with a citation to the URL of my post and everything! (Incidentally, that decision represented the second time that this blog affected the contents of a Ninth Circuit opinion. The first occurred in May 2004, and was described here.)

FAKE DOCTOR ROXANA MAYER (AUGUST 2009)

Thanks to a tip from a reader, this blog uncovered evidence that there was a phony pro-Obama operative at a 2009 town hall meeting on health care reform. A “Dr. Roxana Mayer” in a white physician’s coat claimed to be a pediatrician, and spoke up in favor of health care reform — but this blog revealed evidence that she was a fake. I wrote her and confronted her with the evidence and she admitted it.

As a result of this story, which received over 100,000 page views in a single day, this blog was mentioned on Hannity. Unfortunately, the clip appears to be lost to posterity.

SOCK PUPPET ELLIE LIGHT (JANUARY 2010)

In 2010, a campaign of blatant Astroturfing appeared in publications around the country, with the same pro-Obama letters appearing in countless publications under different names. I added to the evidence here, here, here, and here.

Michelle Malkin, one of my favorite people in the world whom I have never met, mentioned this blog on Hannity (fast forward to 4:25):

WEINERGATE (JUNE 2011)

I blogged quite a bit on Weinergate, but the posts of mine that advanced the ball the most were posts about his communications with a real-life underage girl, here, here, and here. I later learned that these posts played a key role in his decision to resign.

SWATTING AND BRETT KIMBERLIN CONTROVERSY (MAY 2012)

One of the oddest things that has happened to me is undergoing a pattern of harassment from a set of crazed trolls surrounding Brett Kimberlin. As I was experiencing this harassment, I was SWATted — something I can’t prove is connected, but which seemed to be. Enjoy the short version of the story — and then bookmark the long version, which is very dense and truly repays repeated readings.

MISCELLANEOUS POSTS

I am proud of work I did on the Roman Polanski extradition, the U.S. Attorney firings, exposing government overreaching in the prosecution of James O’Keefe, my posts on Chuck Philips (especially the ones dealing with Anita Busch), my Deport the Criminals First series, the SWIFT terrorist financing program, and my campaign against Proposition 66, the initiative to weaken the Three Strikes law.

BIG MEDIA CITATIONS AND APPEARANCES

In February 2005, less than two years after I started the blog, I published an op-ed in the L.A. Times that savaged the L.A. Times for the way they bury corrections of significant errors. The piece was called The Correct Way to Fix Mistakes. I wrote another op-ed in August 2005, about the way the paper had lionized Cindy Sheehan while papering over her omissions, contradictions, and disturbing radicalism.

In 2007 I was invited to participate in an online debate with liberal Marc Cooper about the future of the paper, at the L.A. Times web site. The feature was called a “Dust-Up” and the five entries are collected here.

This blog has been cited in the pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other outlets. (I don’t think it has been read by Russ Feingold on the floor of the Senate, so sock-puppetin’ Glenn Greenwald still has that on me. Good day, sir!)

I have been on the radio more than I deserve.

My radio appearances started with Clint Taylor, who was doing a show at a student-run station out of Stanford.

Once, in February 2008, my father-in-law was driving to work in Kentucky, and was taken aback to hear me on NPR, talking about how I was likely to vote for John McCain even though I thought he was a horrible candidate. (When you listen to that clip and hear that I was pulling for Romney, please remember that he was running against McCain, whom I have always, always hated.)

I talked SWATting on local station KABC with my pal John Phillips in November 2012. I was on KFI during drive time in June 2006, talking about the SWIFT terror financing program, on a day when Michelle Malkin filled in for John and Ken.

I appeared on the local public radio show “Which Way, L.A.?” with Warren Olney twice. The second time was in July 2008, to discuss my L.A. Times “Dust-Ups” with Marc Cooper. The first was in June 2008, when Eugene Volokh and I tore L.A. Times reporter Scott Glover to shreds for his misleading coverage of the contents of Judge Alex Kozinski’s web server.

I had the honor of appearing on the Stage Right Show with Larry O’Connor, including this March 2010 show where I mocked Brett Kimberlin’s business partner Brad Friedman, and got to talk to my commenter and pal daleyrocks. Larry O’Connor pretended to be Friedman on that show, which was a riot. I was on the Stage Right Show a month earlier, in February 2010, also on the same show as Friedman. That one was great because Andrew Breitbart called in to help me yell at Brad.

I have made several appearances on Pundit Review Radio, which was broadcast on WRKO in Boston. In a July 2006 appearance I discussed the SWIFT program targeting terrorist financing. In a November 2006 appearance I discussed a story where I proved that the L.A. Times had misreported details about an alleged airstrike in Ramadi. And in an October 2005 appearance I discussed my opposition to the Harriet Miers nomination, in which I played a fairly active role.

I appeared on CQ Radio with Captain Ed Morrissey on several occasions, including a March 2007 appearance discussing the U.S. Attorney firings, an April 2007 appearance discussing Alberto Gonzales, a November 2007 appearance discussing election politics and Tim Rutten, and a December 2007 appearance discussing my year-end review of the L.A. Times.

In March 2009 I was on the Northern Alliance Radio Network with Captain Ed and Mitch Berg.

I even went on a show called “Hoist the Black Flag” with Ace and Jeff Goldstein — in April 2006 and July 2006, to discuss the Hiltzik story.

I have also had radio personalities read my stuff on the air. Before he got into an insane feud with me for calling him out on some misstatements he had made, Mark Levin read my stuff. Rush Limbaugh read from my Cindy Sheehan L.A. Times op-ed in October 2005, and from a DRJ post on Obama’s tax plan in October 2008.

ENDORSEMENTS

I have some favorite quotes about me from people over the years, but the one I will never forget is from Tony Snow, who once commented:

Thanks for the wonderful write-up. It’s always fun visiting the belly of the beast. Meanwhile, keep up the great work. Love the blog.

“Love the blog.” Tony Snow said he loved the blog! Awesome. Of course, the post about his appearance on Bill Maher is probably the only entry he ever read, but still. Pretty cool. (He actually left a second comment about an hour later, responding to a Bill Maher sock puppet. But the Tony Snow comments were for real.)

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

My dad died in 2005. He used to read my blog every day. I remembered him here. After he left, I dreamed about him, and this post about one particularly vivid dream remains one of my favorites. I have wished him a happy birthday every March 17 since the blog started. It’s hard to imagine that he was reading the blog for fewer than three of the last ten years.

But possibly my favorite post from this blog is one about not taking things for granted. It’s a post I wrote as the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death was coming up, and I guess it made me reflect. Anyway, that post is the only one I’ll quote at length here.

In the post, I talked about a night that we took our infant daughter to an acoustic concert, hoping she would sleep through it. If she cried, the plan was for me to take her to the car, where I would watch her for half the concert, and then call my wife out to sit for the second half. I never called her, but spent the whole concert in the car watching my daughter sleep. I wrote:

The night it happened, I didn’t mind being in the car with my daughter. But if I could go back now, there’s no question that I would want to be there.

Not only would I stay in the car with her — I would make the most of the experience, realizing that I had a precious chance to see her at that age again. I would try to commit every moment to memory.

And then I realized: some day, years in the future, I might be asking the same question about my life today — this very minute. If you could have this moment back to live over again, what would you do?

The rest of that evening, I pictured myself as having been sent into my body from the future, to relive the moments I was experiencing. And I saw everything differently. I sat on the couch and watched television with my arm around my wife — all the while imagining myself as an old man, transported back in time to relive that moment. And all of a sudden, what otherwise might have seemed like a mundane moment seemed like a privilege. I felt like the luckiest guy in the world, just sitting there with my wife.

I’ve tried the trick all weekend, and it really changes your outlook. Just sitting around with a sleepy child in your arms is great any way you look at it. But if you picture yourself as someone whose child has grown up — if you imagine yourself as an older man, who would give the world to be back in that chair with that child in his arms — it makes you realize how important the moment is. And you appreciate it more.

Even when times are tough — or seem tough — keeping this perspective in mind can help change the way you look at your life.

Thanks for spending part of the last ten years with me. I hope you keep reading.

UPDATE: A special thanks to all the guest bloggers who have helped me during the years, including DRJ, Karl, Jack Dunphy, JD, Aaron Walker, Morgen Richmond, WLS, Justin Levine, Dafydd ab Hugh, See Dubya, The Angry Clam, Xrlq, Teflon Don, Charlie (Colorado), and several others. You kept things going when I couldn’t, and contributed many worthwhile posts.

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