FRIDAY, AUGUST 01, 2008
Inmate Whose Innocence Was Touted by Chuck Philips Accuses Philips of Conspiring with Suge Knight to Threaten Him and Suborn Perjury
In sworn testimony this week, a prison inmate has accused former L.A. Times reporter Chuck Philips of conspiring with Suge Knight to suborn perjury and threaten him. In this post, I have the transcript and excerpts of the testimony in which the inmate makes the accusation.
Philips’s accuser, Waymond Anderson, isn’t just any prison inmate. His past claims have commanded extraordinary attention from the Los Angeles Times, and from Philips in particular. In 2007, Philips wrote a front-page article setting forth evidence suggesting that Anderson is not guilty of murder. Philips has publicly proclaimed his belief in Anderson’s innocence.
And when Anderson accused a plaintiff’s lawyer of bribing him to make up testimony in a civil case against the City of Los Angeles, the newspaper wrote an article worded to suggest that Anderson’s claims might be credible.
Now Anderson is claiming that the bribery story was concocted by the City Attorney and Chuck Philips — the same Chuck Philips who recently was laid off in the wake of a scandal over a retracted story based on phony documents provided by a prison inmate. And, Anderson claims, Philips smuggled threatening messages from Suge Knight into prison to deliver to Anderson.
I wonder if the L.A. Times will continue to tout Waymond Anderson’s credibility, now that he is accusing their former Pulitzer-prize winning reporter of suborning perjury and aiding and abetting threats.
The fascinating details are in the extended entry.
In January 2007, Chuck Philips wrote a Page One article that strongly suggested Waymond Anderson is not guilty of murder. (Full disclosure: my boss prosecuted Anderson. I have not discussed the case with her.)
Philips’s lede was clearly sympathetic to Anderson:
He was an R&B singer who had scored a nationwide hit with “My Girl.” He performed around the country, drove luxury sedans and owned a palatial home in Calabasas.
Then, suddenly, Waymond Anderson was an accused murderer. Police in bulletproof vests surrounded his black Mustang on Jan. 29, 1994, and handcuffed him as his wife and 6-year-old son watched.
Months later, Philips reported that the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has strongly disputed the evidence that Anderson is innocent — and alleged that the documents supporting Anderson’s bid were phony.
Nevertheless, Philips continued to maintain his belief in Anderson’s innocence. In a March 17, 2008 interview with hiphopdx.com, Philips said:
I’ve got a guy that I’m working a story on that’s been in prison for 13 years for something he didn’t do, but if you were to read the reports you would believe he did everything.
Above: Chuck Philips believed in Waymond Anderson’s innocence
In addition to publishing an article setting forth evidence of Anderson’s alleged innocence, the Los Angeles Times also devoted an entire article to reporting on a deposition in which Anderson accused a lawyer of bribing him.
Interestingly, Chuck Philips’s January 2007 story advocating Anderson’s innocence never mentioned Anderson’s role as a witness in the lawsuit brought by the estate of Christopher Wallace against the LAPD and the City of Los Angeles. This was an odd omission. For years, Philips had been reporting on the Wallace family lawsuit, in articles that generally reflected hostility to the family’s theory: that corrupt LAPD officers had conspired with rap mogul Suge Knight to kill Wallace.
Indeed, Philips had long maintained a close relationship with Knight that some claimed was more than cozy. One former Death Row bodyguard had testified in a pretrial deposition: “Chuck Philips was frequently at Death Row functions and received payments from Death Row Records.” That witness also implicated Suge Knight and the LAPD in the Wallace murder. Philips later trumpeted the witness’s recantation of that accusation without telling readers that 1) the same witness had accused Philips of receiving payments from Knight; or 2) that the witness had testified that he feared Suge Knight would kill him.
In 2002, Philips famously wrote a widely ridiculed story based on anonymous sources, claiming that Biggie Smalls and Southside Crips were responsible for the murder of Tupac Shakur. The credibility of the story rested largely on the dubious assumption that one of the world’s most famous rappers, an instantly recognizable 300+ pound man named Christopher Wallace, had managed to travel to Las Vegas and deliver the murder weapon to the killers without being recognized by a single living soul — other than anonymous sources who had allegedly spoken with Philips. Philips’s story diverted attention from theories, including one discussed in the book “LAbyrinth” by Randall Sullivan, discussing plausible links between Knight and the Tupac murder.
Philips has a clear history of hostility to the Wallace family’s lawsuit (brought by attorney Perry Sanders), claiming that LAPD officers David Mack and Rafael Perez conspired with Suge Knight to kill Biggie Smalls. For example, Philips once reported that one of the main plaintiffs’ witnesses was an FBI informant. Philips gave the man’s street name and other identifying information. The man was later being beaten by gang members and driven underground.
Also, Philips wrote a story claiming that Amir Muhammad was not a suspect in the murder of Biggie Smalls. This story, which took issue with the theme of an earlier story by reporters Matt Lait and Scott Glover, diverted attention from a possible link (one of many) between Knight and the Biggie Smalls murder.
Before Chuck Philips wrote his story about Anderson’s alibi, Waymond Anderson was on record as supporting the plaintiffs’ theory, having told police that Suge Knight and corrupt LAPD officers Mack and Perez had conspired to kill Christopher Wallace.
After Philips published his article about Anderson’s alibi, that all changed.
In a deposition given in August 2007, Anderson recanted his testimony. He now said that he had lied when he had implicated Suge Knight in Wallace’s murder. He also claimed to have been bribed by lawyers for the Wallace estate.
The L.A. Times played up Waymond Anderson’s new allegations. The paper called Anderson’s recantation a “surprising twist” that created an “unexpected reversal” for the plaintiffs. The paper deemed Anderson’s allegations that the plaintiffs’ lawyer had bribed him to be “some of [Anderson’s] most explosive testimony.” The paper further bolstered the credibility of Anderson’s allegation by pointing to a similar accusation by David Mack as “an accusation that has echoes in Anderson’s claim.”
But a federal judge who was fully familiar with the contents of Anderson’s deposition was less impressed by Anderson’s accusations. In an extraordinary order filed on November 13, 2007, Federal District Judge Florence Marie-Cooper wrote that the plaintiffs “provide substantial evidence to prove that Mr. Anderson is a liar.”
The L.A. Times has not mentioned this order to its readers.
Above: Federal Judge Florence-Marie Cooper
A review of the allegations Anderson made in his deposition reveals the judge’s skepticism about Anderson’s credibility to be a massive understatement. (A full discussion of that deposition will be the subject of a future post.)
Some might say that Anderson’s sudden turnabout was very convenient for the City of Los Angeles — and for Suge Knight. One person who thought so was Perry Sanders, who was quoted in the L.A. Times article about Anderson’s deposition. Sanders accused Anderson of changing his testimony to suit Chuck Philips:
Sanders, a Louisiana lawyer who also has offices in Colorado Springs, Colo., said Anderson’s allegations were “100%, demonstrably false.”
“This is wholesale, made-up-out-of-whole-cloth perjury,” he said in an interview.
Sanders added that Anderson appeared to have been acting at the behest of a Times reporter, Chuck Philips, who has written extensively about Wallace’s death, including articles that raised questions about the theory that LAPD officers were involved.
The Times published an article by Philips earlier this year that cast doubt on Anderson’s conviction in a 1993 arson-murder. Anderson has since filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking his release.
Sanders said Anderson “clearly would like to please Mr. Philips, because he’s singing his song, first, second and third verse and certainly the chorus.”
The article interviewed both Philips and then-editor James O’Shea, who ridiculed the idea that Waymond Anderson might be changing his testimony to suit Philips:
“This guy clearly doesn’t understand what an investigative reporter does for a living,” [Philips] said. “I don’t make up stories, I report them.”
Times Editor James O’Shea said Sanders’ accusations against Philips were “utterly groundless.”
That may be — but now Anderson himself is making the same claim.
This past week, Anderson’s habeas claim has been the subject of a hearing in Department 130 of the Criminal Courts Building downtown. You can read Anderson’s testimony from Wednesday here. The transcript is a matter of public record. I did not receive it from anyone in (or connected with) my office.
I’m not going to be like the L.A. Times and call Anderson’s testimony “explosive” — because, unlike the continually suckered saps at that paper, I tend to be skeptical of inmates’ uncorroborated testimony.
But you’ll see why I find the testimony . . . amusing.
On Wednesday, Anderson himself testified that his claim that he was bribed by Sanders was part of a scheme cooked up by the City Attorney, in cahoots with the Los Angeles Times (specifically Chuck Philips).
THE WITNESS: Recently, I was asked by the — what I was told by the City of Los Angeles if I kept saying that David Mack and Raphael Perez –
THE COURT: You were asked by the City of L.A.?
THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: And what did they ask you to do about David Mack and Rafael Perez?
THE WITNESS: That if I kept saying that David Mack and Rafael Perez was responsible for the murder of Biggie Smalls, I would never get out of jail and –
Anderson goes on to name Don Vincent, a Deputy City Attorney who was not present at his deposition — but who has admitted speaking to Anderson — as the source of these threats. Anderson continues:
THE COURT: Did he tell you on the record during the deposition?
THE WITNESS: No, sir. It was meetings that took place between himself and the Los Angeles Times.
Anderson claims that he spoke with Vincent over the phone from Corcoran State Prison 3-4 months before his deposition.
THE COURT: And he told you that, if you didn’t stop saying that David Mack and Rafael Perez were responsible for the murder of Biggie Smalls, whose correct name is Christopher Wallace –
THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: — that you would never get out of prison?
THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.
These extraordinary claims might not grab one’s attention, but for the tremendous weight that the L.A. Times has previously placed on Waymond Anderson’s credibility — thanks to Chuck Philips’s unswerving faith in Anderson. (Philips does like to trust prison inmates — a fact that was ultimately his downfall.)
Anderson goes on to say that Chuck Philips (mistakenly referred to as “John” at one point) brought documents to Anderson at the prison on behalf of the City Attorney, so that Anderson could familiarize himself with the facts of the case in furtherance of a scheme to falsely claim that Perry Sanders had bribed him:
THE COURT: . . . Basically, they gave you all the deposition transcripts they had?
THE WITNESS: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Why did the Times give them to you?
THE WITNESS: They were trying to disqualify Perry Sanders. . . . They were trying to disqualify Perry Sanders from the Christopher Wallace case. . . . it was all a lie, sir.
Anderson also accused Chuck Philips of smuggling messages into prison from Suge Knight, that contain threats to Anderson.
Q. And was this Chuck Phillips, was he an L.A. Times reporter?
A. Yes, sir. He’s been fired.
Q. But he came to visit you in advance of the deposition?
A. Several times. I received threatening letters.
THE COURT: Who did?
THE WITNESS: I did.
Q. (By Mr. Bernstein) From who?
Q. Suge Knight?
Q. Was Suge Knight in prison with you?
Q. How did you get these threatening letters?
A. They were brought in by Chuck Phillips [sic].
Q. Chuck Phillips gave you threatening letters that he said were from Suge Knight?
A. They were kites. They call them kites.
Q. Kites. Can you describe that for me.
THE COURT: Was Chuck Phillips in prison?
THE WITNESS: No, sir.
THE COURT: Kites are normally written transactions between prisoners, right?
THE WITNESS: Right, but this kite — what Suge sent me was rolled up in paper like a prisoner would do it, and it was smuggled into the Corcoran visiting room. I turned over all the kites to the F.B.I.
Anderson’s testimony is ongoing. And so is this story.
Again, I wouldn’t believe the word of this inmate without hard corroboration — and even then, I’d question the corroboration. The point of this post is not to persuade the reader that Anderson’s claims are credible.
Quite the contrary. The reader should be thinking: why would the L.A. Times ever have listened to this person — and puffed up his claims time and time again — when there was so much evidence to discredit him?
The reason is clear: Chuck Philips.
There is much, much more to come, folks.
What you see here is the tip of the iceberg.
UPDATE: Here is the L.A. Times story, which includes a denial from Philips. I will note that this is the first time that the paper has ever told readers that a judge had previously considered Anderson’s alibi and said that Anderson and those supporting him had tried to “perpetrate an elaborate fraud upon the court.” Philips never told us that!
Will the paper finally begin looking into this reporter’s past? I doubt it.
But I promise you, this is not the last shoe to drop.