Hoaxes happen. First, it was Riverhead Books, which published a gang memoir earlier this month that turned out to be entirely false. Now, the Los Angeles Times is under fire for writing an article based on fraudulent documents that tied Sean “Diddy” Combs to the 1994 shooting of Tupac Shakur.
The Smoking Gun reports that James Sabatino (pictured), a 31-year-old prison inmate it describes as “a wildly impulsive, overweight white kid from Florida” gave the L.A. Times fabricated FBI reports that linked associates of Combs to the non-fatal shooting of Shakur outside of a recording studio near Times Square. Two years later, the rapper would die after being targeted in yet another ambush.
The article tying Combs to the shooting appeared on the L.A. Times’ Web site March 17 and in print on March 19. The Smoking Gun found that the fabricated documents contained numerous misspellings, such as “makeing” and “durring” and phrases and acronyms that the FBI doesn’t use.
Sabatino—a convicted felon doing time in a Pennsylvania penitentiary said to have posed as a corporate executive, written bad checks and conned companies out of money, merchandise and gifts—presented himself to the Times as a hip-hop manager who did business with Combs, Shakur, Busta Rhymes and Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G., and had ties to Death Row Records mogul Marion “Suge” Knight, according to the Smoking Gun. Sabatino has also claimed that he was the son of a mafisoso. Turns out, he was just a rap fan with an insatiable need for attention.
Russ Stanton, the new editor at the L.A. Times, is now investigating the paper’s disputed article, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chuck Philips. Philips has admitted to never having heard of Sabatino during his years of reporting on the murders of both Shakur and Wallace, according to the New York Times. The reporter also claimed that he was motivated to write the story because of his own research and not because of the informant.
A lawyer for Combs has demanded that the L.A. Times print a retraction, and Combs himself called the claims that he was involved in the shooting lies.