Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times Sat on Evidence Relating to Clinton Pardon

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 8:53 am

Does the name Carlos Vignali ring a bell? He is the drug trafficker who was pardoned by Bill Clinton, after his rich father contributed hundreds of thousands to local politicians who lobbied Clinton on the son’s behalf. The politicians included Gloria Molina, Antonio Villaraigosa, Bob Hertzberg, Xavier Becerra, Richard Polanco, Richard Alatorre, Esteban E. Torres, Mike Hernandez, and others. It didn’t hurt that the elder Vignali “hired” Hillary Clinton’s brother Hugh Rodham to “lobby” the White House for the modest fee of $200,000. (After negative publicity threatened to harm Hillary Clinton’s continuing political ambitions, Rodham later returned the money.)

In March 2002, it came to light that the DEA had long suspected that the father, Horacio Vignali, was himself involved in drug trafficking. Here’s the interesting part: the L.A. Times had this information in February 2001, and didn’t publish it.

An article by Jeffrey Anderson in this week’s L.A. Weekly sets out the saga of the Vignali pardon in great detail. It’s too long to summarize adequately; just read it. I am most interested in what the article says about the L.A. Times‘s reporting:

Equally a mystery to officials in Minneapolis is how the Times covered Pardongate in 2001 — particularly in light of a DEA document containing statements made by Dana Gold that implicated the elder Vignali and [his business partner George] Torres in an alleged drug conspiracy. The document was recovered in a 1999 search of Torres’ Glendale home, and later obtained by Times reporter Richard Serrano. [Minneapolis narcotics officers Tony] Adams and [Gerry] Wehr marvel that Torres was in possession of such a highly classified document, which the DEA wouldn’t even give to them. [Assistant U.S. Attorney Andy ] Dunne recalls Serrano visiting him in Minneapolis in February 2001, a copy of the document in hand. “I thought, ‘This is going to be a big deal.’ But it wasn’t. Why is that?”

Given Clinton’s recent pardon of Carlos Vignali, the fact that the DEA suspected Horacio Vignali of drug trafficking was big news. So was the fact that Horacio Vignali’s business partner possessed the document. U.S. District Judge David Doty figured the document’s existence would be reported immediately:

Doty recalls Serrano visiting him in early 2001. “I thought he was on to something,” Doty says. “Then all of a sudden the stories stopped. I see the Times losing circulation. And they wonder why. People are losing confidence in the media.”

So what’s going on here? The author of the article contacted Serrano:

Reached at the Times’ Washington bureau, Serrano confirms he had obtained the DEA document and took it with him to Minneapolis. He says he was pulled off the Vignali story to do 9/11 coverage. “There’s more I would have liked to do. I can’t comment on what I didn’t write.”

The author of the article lets Serrano and The Times off the hook at this point.

Serrano was pulled off the Vignali story to do 9/11 coverage? To state the obvious, 9/11 coverage wasn’t necessary until September 11, 2001. The Minneapolis witnesses say Serrano had these documents in February 2001, which is the month that Serrano co-wrote five front-page stories about Clinton’s pardons (February 11, 2001, February 12, 2001, February 24, 2001, February 25, 2001, and February 28, 2001). Each of these articles mentioned the Vignali pardon. Not one mentioned the DEA’s suspicions about the elder Vignali, although Serrano had documentation of this in February 2001.

Serrano co-wrote a lengthy follow-up on the Vignali story on April 29, 2001. Yet that story also failed to mention the DEA document. The Times did not breathe a word about the DEA’s suspicions until they were made public in March 2002 by a Congressional committee addressing government reform. The committee revealed that there existed numerous documents dating back to 1976, containing a great deal of detailed information concerning the DEA’s investigation of the elder Vignali.

Richard Serrano has a reputation as a dogged investigative reporter, and he seems to come up with a lot of scoops. I sincerely doubt he hid the existence of this document. But the L.A. Weekly story raises a lot of questions about why The Times sat on the information about Horacio Vignali for months, until it was otherwise made public by Congress.

I have sent Serrano a link to this post and asked him if he can shed any more light on this.

UPDATE 5-30-05: Thanks to Captain Ed for the link, and welcome to his readers. Please take a second to bookmark the main page, and please do come back and visit in the days to come.

As of today, still no word from Serrano.

9 Responses to “L.A. Times Sat on Evidence Relating to Clinton Pardon”

  1. Just a side note: Did Baby Hughey actually return the money? I remember he made a big show out of promising to return it, but I don’t remember if there was any proof that he did.

    Rick (04f1e7)

  2. You know, this is just frickin’ huge. The only problem is that there’s so much stuff—the land deals, the politics, the business stuff-that it’s hard to keep it all straight.

    See Dubya (6574c2)

  3. This is a big story. But as long as it is an LA Times bias story, it is irrelevant. Everyone already knows that, even if they won’t admit it. What makes this a big story is the Clinton angle. A drug dealer not only funded her Senate seat in exchange for the pardon, but also had access to highly sensitive documentation about his own case that could only have come from the feds. They did more than sell a pardon. They deliberately left a drug kingpin on the loose to continue the scourge of drugs. This is closer to selling nuclear secrets to China than it is to selling Marc Rich’s pardon. The fact that the Clinton loving media sat on the story is tangential to the story itself.

    Blanknoone (812304)

  4. It’s curious that anyone can shake hands with Slick Willie without having to wipe off the slime they must receive in the exchange!

    DagneyT (3e174c)

  5. I’m not surprised the Times sat on the story. They’ve long been known for covering up for Democratic officials. Journalist Jill Stewart has several times written about the LA Times’ cover-up of former Governor Davis’ violent temper, and how they ignored his repeated pattern of violent verbal and physical abuse of his staff. The Times is thoroughly biased.

    Anthony (Los Angeles) (b2ceec)

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  8. Serrano may be a dogged reporter, but he misses a lot. Think of him as an O’Reilly with a pen. His quest to find “the story” distorts the truth.

    Joe Coleman (af9893)

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