LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A lawyer for Sean “Diddy” Combs lashed out at the Los Angeles Times on Thursday over the “defamatory nature” of a story the paper published that sought to link the rap music mogul to an assault on Tupac Shakur.
The story, which first appeared on March 17, was later said to be based on forged FBI documents. Late Wednesday, the paper and Times reporter Chuck Philips apologized for the story, and Philips said he now believes the papers are fake.
The “apology is, at best, a first step, but it doesn’t undo the false and defamatory nature of the story, or the suspicion and innuendo that Mr. Combs has had to endure due to these untruthful allegations and the irresponsible conduct of this particular reporter,” Combs’ attorney Howard Weitzman said in a statement.
The Times story cited previously undisclosed FBI documents, an unnamed informant interviewed for those documents, and Philips’ own sources as saying Combs knew of plans to assault Shakur at the Quad Recording Studios in New York City in 1994.
The attack left rising rap star Shakur with five gunshot wounds and ignited a widely reported feud between East Coast and West Coast rappers.
In 1996, Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. Six months later, one of Combs’ recording artists on his Bad Boy Records label, the Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace), was gunned down in Los Angeles.
Neither the two murders nor the 1994 assault were solved, and there has been much speculation about who was responsible.
On Wednesday, The Smoking Gun Web site published an extensive story on its Web site, thesmokinggun.com, that said it believed the documents used by the Times were forgeries made by a man who is now in prison for wire fraud and racketeering.
The Smoking Gun, which specializes in uncovering news from court documents and legal records, cited inconsistencies in the documents and said they could not be found on FBI computers.
“In relying on documents that I now believe were fake, I failed to do my job,” Philips said in a statement. “I‘m sorry.”
Times’ editor Russ Stanton said the paper has launched an internal investigation into the matter.
Jimmy Rosemond, chief executive officer of Czar Entertainment, also was linked to the attack by the Times. His attorney issued a statement on Thursday saying they were gratified the LA Times acknowledged its error but added, “their apology does not go far enough.”
“(Philips’) actions were done with reckless disregard for the truth and for that the LA Times will be held responsible,” attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said.