By: Joe Strupp
The fake FBI documents cited by the Los Angeles Times in its recent story wrongly linking Sean “Puffy” Combs to the shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur were previously cited by the Associated Press in a 2007 story about a lawsuit against Combs, AP revealed.
The previous AP story stated that the documents are referenced in the lawsuit by former promoter James Sabatino. The suit contends that the documents include allegations from an unnamed informant that Combs was allegedly linked to Shakur’s shooting.
That story, published Nov. 14, begins: “A former associate of Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs filed a motion Wednesday to prohibit the hip-hop mogul from circulating FBI interrogation records in which an informant appears to link the associate to a shooting of the late rapper Tupac Shakur.”
The same AP story later states: “Two FBI investigation records are included in the filing. In one, the informant is described as someone who met Shakur through Sabatino. In the other, the informant is described as someone who met Combs through Sabatino.”
Last Friday, two days after the Times revealed the FBI documents it cited were fake, the AP issued a corrective to all members that said, “In a Nov. 14 story about a federal court motion filed against music mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, The Associated Press quoted from documents erroneously described as FBI interrogation records related to an investigation of the 1994 shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur. FBI spokesman Stephen Kodak told the AP Friday that the documents can’t be found in the agency’s records and don’t appear to be legitimate.
“The documents were filed as part of the suit by James Sabatino, who is serving a federal prison sentence for fraud,” the corrective added. “The papers purported to be an FBI agent’s report of interviews conducted in 2002 of confidential informants linking Sabatino and associates of Combs to the attack on Shakur in New York City.”
The AP then notes that the documents were revealed as false last week after the Times’ March 17 story about Shakur’s shooting cited the documents. When the Web site, thesmokinggun.com, questioned the documents on Wednesday, the Times conducted an internal investigation and, later that day, admitted that it could not verify the documents as real.
“It reminded everybody that we had mentioned them ourselves,” AP senior managing editor Mike Silverman said about the Times use of the documents. “There are some lessons leaned here that our Miami staff is taking to heart. Anyone can file something with a lawsuit, but that doesn’t make it true.”
Silverman stressed that the AP’s reference to the documents was related to their use in a lawsuit. But he said that does not excuse the assumption that they were real. “There are some things, if we had to do over, we would do,” he said about potential further investigation of Sabatino.
AP makes clear in its corrective that the false documents were cited in its previous stories only because they were part of the Sabatino lawsuit.
“In a $19 million federal lawsuit filed last October in Miami, Sabatino asserted that Combs failed to pay him for a recording and video session he arranged with the late rapper Notorious B.I.G.,” the corrective added.
AP spokesman Paul Colford stated that prior to the Nov. 14 story and a previous Oct. 6 story about the lawsuit, the AP sought to get comment from Combs, but was unsuccessful.
The entire Nov. 14 story is posted below:
MIAMI (AP) _ A former associate of Sean “Diddy” Combs filed a motion Wednesday to prohibit the hip-hop mogul from circulating FBI interrogation records in which an informant appears to link the associate to a shooting of the late rapper Tupac Shakur.
James Sabatino, once a consultant for Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment Inc., claims his former colleague is distributing the FBI reports as part of a smear campaign. Sabatino, 31, is imprisoned in Pennsylvania on fraud charges and sued Combs last month, claiming he is owed $19 million for music by the late Notorious B.I.G., another former client.
The motion filed in federal court here Wednesday includes the very papers Sabatino is seeking to keep secret _ part of an investigation into a shooting that fueled the East Coast-West Coast rivalry that culminated in the still-unsolved deaths of B.I.G. and Shakur, two of the biggest rappers of all time and still revered by fans.
Attorneys for Sabatino and Combs did not immediately return after-hours phone calls Wednesday seeking comment. Renee Morrison, a spokeswoman for Sabatino’s Florida-based company, Sound Storm Entertainment, said Sabatino has always maintained his innocence.
“He had nothing to do with either of the shootings _ Tupac Shakur or Christopher Wallace, who he considered a dear friend,” Morrison said. Wallace is the real name of Notorious B.I.G.
Shakur was shot several times Nov. 30, 1994, outside a New York recording studio near Times Square. He survived but was killed two years later in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.
In an FBI interview conducted more than six years after Shakur’s death, an unidentified source who was acquainted with both the rapper and Sabatino claimed he was present at Quad Studios, where the shooting took place, on the night of the 1994 incident.
The informant told investigators Sabatino appeared unconcerned when shots were heard and yelled “Get that piece of (expletive) out of here!” when a bloodied Shakur appeared. A verdict was due to be read in a sexual assault case against Shakur the following day and the informant claimed Sabatino said the rapper needed to be “dealt with” before he went to jail.
Two FBI investigation records are included in the filing. In one, the informant is described as someone who met Shakur through Sabatino. In the other, the informant is described as someone who met Combs through Sabatino.
In either case, was Sabatino not witnessed as being involved in any violence, according to the testimony. Sabatino has never been charged with any wrongdoing in Shakur’s shooting.