Nearly four years after publishing a story about a brutal attack on Tupac Shakur, which brought to light several sources pointing to the guilt of one James Rosemond, aka Jimmy Henchman, before getting him fired for the same story, journalist Chuck Philips has written a personal reflection for the Village Voice.
The piece, entitled "Tupac Shakur, the Los Angeles Times, and Why I'm Still Unemployed: A Personal History by Chuck Philips," explores the background of his investigation, its retraction, and his subsequent blacklisting.
Philips' story is sometimes bitter, often harrowing, and leads to many questions:
"I spent the last ten years of my professional life at the Los Angeles Times investigating the murders of the world's most important rap artists: Tupac Shakur, and his nemesis, Biggie Smalls. My reporting kept bringing me back to a brutal 1994 ambush at Manhattan's Quad Recording Studios -- a pivotal moment in hip-hop history, a portent of violence to come: a bloody, bicoastal battle that would culminate in the killings of both Pac and Biggie."
The reason for the investigation's dismissal by the Times, re-confirmed by a statement to the Village Voice piece, was a result of falsified FBI documents, given to Philips, which he quoted in the article, though he maintains he based his reporting on eyewitness accounts. Even this, he explains, seemed suspect:
"Colleagues suspected I had been set up. I'm no conspiracy theorist, but something that Henchman's attorney said to MTV that week made me wonder: 'Any first-year lawyer could see that the FBI 302 reports which formed the basis of the Times' story were fabricated.' First off, the alleged FBI documents did not form the basis of my article. My sources did. Secondly, Jeffrey Lichtman, the lawyer attacking the authenticity of the documents, had nearly three weeks to inspect the allegedly fake 302s before my story ran. I had faxed the 302s to him prior to publication seeking a response from Henchman or him to quote in the story. If it was so obvious that the documents were fabricated, did he not have a legal obligation to notify his client, and me, before the story came out?"
Henchman is now facing a federal criminal trial in which Phillips, unexpectedly, has been named a witness.
You can read the full story, accompanied by the statement from the LA Times on the Village Voice's page.