In yet another instance of fraudulent (and/or negligent) journalism, LA Times reporter Chuck Philips and Deputy Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin have been forced to recant claims made in an article on March 17 that implicated associates of Sean “Diddy” Combs’ in the 1994 shooting death of Tupac Shakur. Philips claimed the newspaper had obtained FBI records stating as much:
Now, newly discovered information, including interviews with people who were at the studio that night, lends credence to Shakur’s insistence that associates of rap impresario Sean “Diddy” Combs were behind the assault. Their alleged motives: to punish Shakur for disrespecting them and rejecting their business overtures and, not incidentally, to curry favor with Combs.
The information focuses on two New York hip-hop figures — talent manager James “Jimmy Henchman” Rosemond and promoter James Sabatino, who is now in prison for unrelated crimes.
FBI records obtained recently by The Times say that a confidential informant told authorities in 2002 that Rosemond and Sabatino “set up the rapper Tupac Shakur to get shot at Quad Studios.” The informant said Sabatino had told him that Shakur “had to be dealt with.”
The records — summaries of FBI interviews with the informant conducted in July and December 2002 — provide details of how Shakur was lured to the studio and ambushed. Others with knowledge of the incident corroborated the informant’s account in interviews with The Times and gave additional details.
Meanwhile, The Smoking Gun hollered not so fast in an article published yesterday:
The Times appears to have been hoaxed by an imprisoned con man and accomplished document forger, an audacious swindler who has created a fantasy world in which he managed hip-hop luminaries, conducted business with Combs, Shakur, Busta Rhymes, and The Notorious B.I.G., and even served as Combs’s trusted emissary to Death Row Records boss Marion “Suge” Knight during the outset of hostilities in the bloody East Coast-West Coast rap feud.
The con man, James Sabatino, 31, has long sought to insinuate himself, after the fact, in a series of important hip-hop events, from Shakur’s shooting to the murder of The Notorious B.I.G.. In fact, however, Sabatino was little more than a rap devotee, a wildly impulsive, overweight white kid from Florida whose own father once described him in a letter to a federal judge as “a disturbed young man who needed attention like a drug.”
Nice. Way to research, LA Times!
Apparently, Combs was similarly impressed with the paper’s crack investigation skills, as he released a statement Monday that included the following: “The story is a lie. “It is beyond ridiculous and completely false. Neither Biggie nor I had any knowledge of any attack before, during or after it happened. … I am shocked that the Los Angeles Times would be so irresponsible as to publish such a baseless and completely untrue story.”
In light of all the hubbub, LA Times Editor Rich Stanton vowed yesterday to launch an investigation into the authenticity of the FBI documents.
This morning, both Philips and Duvoisin released apologies:
“In relying on documents that I now believe were fake, I failed to do my job,” Philips said in a statement Wednesday. “I’m sorry.”
In his statement, Duvoisin added: “We should not have let ourselves be fooled. That we were is as much my fault as Chuck’s. I deeply regret that we let our readers down.”
Stanton went on to state, “The bottom line is that the documents we relied on should not have been used. We apologize both to our readers and to those referenced in the documents and, as a result, in the story. We are continuing to investigate this matter and will fulfill our journalistic responsibility for critical self-examination.”