Clarification to This Article
This article about the Los Angeles Times' retraction of a story on the 1994 shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur may have left the impression that the Times story had been published on the front page. The story was published first on the Times' Web site and then on the front of the newspaper's Calendar section.
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Tupac Papers Were Phony, L.A. Times Says in Apology

The Smoking Gun reported that James Sabatino, top, forged an FBI document purportedly showing that associates of Sean
The Smoking Gun reported that James Sabatino, top, forged an FBI document purportedly showing that associates of Sean "Diddy" Combs, lower right, were behind the 1994 shooting of Tupac Shakur, lower left. ((Top) Smoking Gun, (Bottom) Associated Press)

In a letter to the Times publisher, Weitzman said he believes the "sole source" for the article was Sabatino, the imprisoned con man, and that the paper published the allegations either knowing that the allegations "were false or in 'reckless disregard' for the truth" -- the legal definition of "actual malice," a condition to establish libel. He said Combs may sue the Times.

Jeffrey Lichtman, a lawyer for rap-industry manager James "Jimmy Henchman" Rosemond, said the Times acted with "actual malice" and that his client is considering a lawsuit. The story said Rosemond and Sabatino set up Shakur in the attack.

In a letter to the Times late last year, Lichtman recalled, "I told them, publish it and you're going to get sued." He said the story "has done lasting damage, put Rosemond's life in danger," and called the Times "an arrogant, ridiculous, garbage, yellow-journalism newspaper."

Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan said the paper is investigating its mistakes in the matter but that yesterday's apology amounts to a retraction.

Bastone, by consulting former law-enforcement officials, quickly determined that the purported documents were typewritten; the FBI switched to computers three decades ago. He also found the papers filled with acronyms not generally used by the FBI and misspellings that matched errors in a lawsuit against Combs that Sabatino filed from prison.

A major unanswered question, Bastone said, is the identity of the confidential source who provided the documents to Philips. "Did that person actually exist," he asked, "or was it some kind of straw person that Jimmy Sabatino enlisted in this con he pulled off?"

Philips told the Times that he believed the purported summaries of FBI interviews were authentic because he had heard many of the same details in his reporting. Philips said in his statement that he "approached this article the same way I've approached every article I've ever written: in pursuit of the truth. I now believe the truth here is that I got duped."


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