L.A. ‘Times’ Duped on Tupac-Diddy Story

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Caption Photo: Photo courtesy of The Smoking Gun

For all of you I Love the 90s fans who are heartsick for a little East Coast–West Coast rivalry, last week was a big one: The Los Angeles Times reported that the 1994 shooting of Tupac Shakur in the lobby of the Quad Recording Studios in midtown was carried out by associates of none other than Sean "Diddy" Combs, who knew about the whole thing beforehand. Sinister, Diddy! (Or were you Puff Daddy back then?) But today the boy geniuses over at the Smoking Gun report a major twist: The L.A. Times story was based on fabricated FBI reports, and the paper was victim of a hoax by an imprisoned con man. An imprisoned con man? You mean journalists weren't even duped by a published memoirist this time?!

The con man is rap fan James Sabatino, who TSG describes as an "accomplished document forger" — yeah, that sounds about right, considering he forged the FBI documents on which poor Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter Chuck Phillips based his story. Sabatino's a real gem, of course:

[He] created a fantasy world in which he managed hip-hop luminaries, conducted business with Combs, Shakur, Busta Rhymes, and The Notorious B.I.G., and even served as Combs's trusted emissary to Death Row Records boss Marion "Suge" Knight during the outset of hostilities in the bloody East Coast-West Coast rap feud. [He] has long sought to insinuate himself, after the fact, in a series of important hip-hop events, from Shakur's shooting to the murder of The Notorious B.I.G.. In fact, however, Sabatino was little more than a rap devotee, a wildly impulsive, overweight white kid from Florida whose own father once described him in a letter to a federal judge as "a disturbed young man who needed attention like a drug."


The lengthy explanation of how Sabatino actually created the false FBI documents and then got them into the hands of the Times such that the whole thing was believable is pretty complicated, enough so to make our heads spin. But that's nothing compared to how lightheaded Phillips is probably feeling right now. —Jessica Coen

Big Phat Liar [Smoking Gun]