Police Investigate Threats Against Reporters

By: Sandra Marquez, Associated Press Writer

(AP) Police are investigating reports of threats against two journalists who wrote about alleged Mafia attempts to extort money from actor Steven Seagal.

Ned Zeman, who wrote his story for the October issue of Vanity Fair, told police that a motorist pulled up alongside his car on Aug. 26, pointed a gun at him and said, “Stop.” Zeman filed the report that day, and detectives are still compiling a composite of the man, police said.

In June, Anita Busch, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, told police someone had smashed her windshield and placed a dead fish and rose under a roasting pan on her car’s hood. A note with the word “Stop” was left on the driver’s side window, police said.

The LAPD’s organized crime division is investigating that report, Sgt. John Pasquariello said. Before being hired at the Times, Busch was editor of The Hollywood Reporter. She resigned that position in April 2001.

Pasquariello said despite the similarities between the threats, detectives have yet to link them and the investigations are separate. He said police advised Busch to take security precautions but did not know whether Zeman had been given similar advice.

Officials at both publications said they were taking steps to protect their reporters. “After discussions with law enforcement, we took the measures recommended to ensure the safety of our reporter,” said David Garcia, a Los Angeles Times spokesman.

Vanity Fair spokeswoman Beth Kseniak said, “We are taking the threat seriously and we’re taking security precautions.”

Both journalists reported on a federal grand jury indictment involving Julius Nasso, a filmmaker who was Seagal’s former business partner. Nasso was arrested in June and charged with conspiring with the Mafia to extort money from Seagal. Federal prosecutors in New York said they had taped Nasso and a Gambino crime family member plotting the shakedown. Nasso has pleaded innocent to extortion.

The case has been reported by a variety of news organizations.

In New York, Seagal’s attorney, Martin R. Pollner, said his client continues to work in Los Angeles on the Sony Pictures film “Half Past Dead,” in which crooks storm newly reopened Alcatraz prison to force an inmate to reveal the location of a gold fortune. The film, scheduled for release in November, stars Seagal as an undercover FBI agent.

Pollner said he was in touch with law enforcement officials to determine whether the incidents involving the two journalists posed any threat to his client. Either way, he said Seagal, 51, wasn’t taking any chances. “He does not travel alone, let’s put it that way,” Pollner said.

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