About a week ago we brought you the story of LA Times journo Chuck Philips and his dogged pursuit of the truth in the Tupac Shakur – Biggie Smalls murders (as well as a first look at the new Biggie Smalls biopic).
At the time, his story seemed not really far fetched, but certainly lacking the necessary sources and accuracy. Also, the sources he was relying on seemed like the type of sources with their own agendas to further and now that sobering fact has apparantly become true.
The Smoking Gun has blown the lid off the recent LA Times article, claiming the FBI reports used in Philips’s story were completely fabricated.
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.” Sabatino is pictured in the above mug shot.
The Times story, which was first posted online March 17 and then appeared in the newspaper itself last Wednesday, relied on “FBI records recently obtained by The Times” and interviews with several unnamed sources in its reexamination of the November 30, 1994 shooting of Shakur at Quad Studios near Times Square. Included in the paper’s online package was a PDF of two key FBI interview reports cited in the 2800-word story, which was six months in the making and written by veteran reporter Chuck Philips, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for his coverage of corruption in the entertainment industry.
Sadly, here’s the LA Times apology for the matter.
Reporter Chuck Philips and his supervisor, Deputy Managing Editor Marc Duvoisin, issued statements of apology Wednesday afternoon. The statements came after The Times took withering criticism for the Shakur article, which appeared on latimes.com last week and two days later in the paper’s Calendar section.
“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.”
Times Editor Russ Stanton announced that the newspaper would launch an internal review of the documents and the reporting surrounding the story. Stanton said he took the criticisms of the March 17 report “very seriously.”
“We published this story with the sincere belief that the documents were genuine, but our good intentions are beside the point,” Stanton said in a statement.
“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.”
Unfortunate, but not at all surprising.