L.A. Times apologizes for Shakur article

The Baltimore Sun

A Los Angeles Times article about a brutal 1994 attack on rap superstar Tupac Shakur was partially based on documents that appear to have been fabricated, the reporter and editor responsible for the article said Wednesday.

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 newspaper. The Times and The Sun are both owned by Tribune Co.

The criticism came first from The Smoking Gun's Web site, which said the newspaper had been the victim of a hoax, and then from subjects of the story, who said they had been defamed.

"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."

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."

The article described a Nov. 30, 1994, ambush at Quad Recording Studios in New York, where the rap singer was pistol-whipped and shot several times. No one has been charged, but before his death two years later, Shakur said repeatedly that he suspected allies of rap impresario Sean "Diddy" Combs.

The Times article said the newspaper had obtained "FBI records" in which a confidential informant accused two men of helping to set up the 1994 attack on Shakur - James Rosemond, a prominent rap talent manager, and James Sabatino, identified in the article as a promoter. The article said the two allegedly wanted to curry favor with Combs. The purported FBI records are the documents Philips and Duvoisin now believe were faked.

Although the Times has not identified the source of the purported FBI reports, The Smoking Gun asserted that the documents were forged by Sabatino. The Web site identified him as a convicted con man with a history of elaborate fantasies designed to exaggerate his place in the rap music firmament. He is currently in federal prison on fraud charges.

James Rainey writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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