Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chuck Philips has come forward to clear his name in the ongoing saga of music mogul James “Jimmy Henchman” Rosemond, who was recently convicted of heading up a Continuous Criminal Enterprise, the first such conviction in the history of the Hip-Hop business. I’ve known Chuck since around 2007, after a variety of investigative pieces were published, regarding Tupac’s shooting at the Quad, as well as his subsequent death in 1996, along with the murder of The Notorious B.I.G. in 1997.
When Chuck and I started communicating, I was a bit uneasy. He had a pretty bad reputation in our community, because of the numerous articles he had written on both of these touchy subjects. After awhile, I had received a few aggressive emails from Chuck regarding Diddy that I didn’t particulary appreciate, so I stopped replying to him. Things got even thornier after he published a controversial article in the Los Angeles Times, regarding Tupac’s shooting at the Quad in 1994.
The Los Angeles Times contacted me the weekend prior to their article being published to give me a heads up about the article, so I went ahead and published a story, on their story. Well that did not go over well with Sean “Diddy” Combs or James “Jimmy Henchman,” who both contacted me immediately (on my birthday, to top it all off), to debunk the story and claim that the allegations contained in the article were false. So everyone in this industry was shocked, when TheSmokingGun.com dropped a bombshell – The L.A. Times’ article contained phony “302” documents that helped sink the story – along with Chuck Philip’s career. He was laid off by the L.A. Times and no publication would touch his writings.
A few summers ago, I started meeting Chuck in Los Angeles, just to check him out. A mutual friend that’s not in the industry co-signed him, and by coincidence, we had the same friend, who also co-signed me. So, when we met in person, there was no ice. I have to admit, I like Chuck. He’s a very cool, authentic guy, with lots of crazy stories to tell. Below is just one of them, written by the man himself, exclusively for AllHipHop.com. Chuck does not mince his words in this piece. Since most people accused him of being unscrupulous as a journalist, it was only fitting that we publish his unedited work, just as we did for Jimmy Henchman, Dexter Issac or any of the other players in the Tupac Shakur shooting saga.
My name is Chuck Philips. I’m the white devil Jimmy Henchman loves to hate. The Pulitizer Prize winning cracker he claims fabricates fairy tales for the government. He calls me: snitch; fraud; stool pigeon.
He should know. He’s an expert. Frames friends, and foes. Got away with it for decades. Ask Tut. Ask Panama. Ask Jack. Better yet, ask Tupac – or maybe his hologram.
This time, it’s my fault. To hear Jimmy tell it, I am the root of all evil, the cause of his demise: his drug indictment in the Eastern District; his murder indictment in the Southern District. His entire rap sheet: Crack distribution. Money Laundering. Obstruction Of Justice.
According to Jimmy, I’ve been plotting against him since March 17, 2008 – the day The LA Times published an expose I wrote blaming him for Tupac’s 1994 ambush, a story he said ruined his reputation, and set the stage for his current predicament.
The article, titled “An Attack on Tupac Shakur Launched a Hip-Hop War,” was based on interviews with the guys who assaulted Tupac 18 years ago at the Quad. Pac blamed Jimmy, who had invited him to the studio that night to record a song with an artist he represented. Pac’s assailants blamed Jimmy too. They said he hired them to rough up Pac and make it look like a robbery.
My report was accompanied by FBI-302s I got from a case file in a Florida court months after finishing my investigation, official documentation that supported some of what my interviewed sources had said. Eight days after publication, the FBI-302s were exposed as fakes by thesmokinggun.com.
If you believe Jimmy, I’m the reason he was on trial. The gist of his defense is that my “defamatory” article, and follow-up reporting, inspired his co-defendants to frame him as part of a government conspiracy to bring a brutha down.
“Chuck Philips – who was fired by The LA Times after it was revealed that he falsified documents for a libelous story he fabricated about me back in 2008 – started writing dozens of letters to inmates serving considerable time in federal prison, begging them to cooperate in a grand jury convening on cooked up allegations against me,” Jimmy said in a statement released last year while he was on run. “The authorities employed Chuck Philips to spread baseless stories claiming that I was a rat. Their hope was to dupe susceptible people into cooperating with their bogus investigation.”
First off, the alleged FBI fakes did not form the basis of my article. My sources did: the very individuals he hired to attack Pac.
Secondly, I have never fabricated any document, or article, in my career. Nor have I ever begged any inmate to cooperate for a grand jury. Jimmy has a penchant for exaggeration, to put it mildly.
He twisted smokingun.com’s indictment of the fake 302s into an exoneration of his role in the Quad ambush.
Then he and his attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, distorted smokinggun’s conclusions into a vile smear campaign against me online, attacking my credibility, demanding I be fired.
They got their wish. Jimmy and Jeffrey fleeced the newspaper for a quarter million bucks, snookered them into printing a false retraction, plus walked away with my head on a platter.
Lichtman has since been disqualified as Jimmy’s lawyer. The court ruled he had a conflict of interest. In the past, Lichtman represented a number of Jimmy’s co-defendants, and, according to Jimmy’s sworn statements, also accepted thousands of dollars in dirty cash as payment for legal bills.
Jimmy’s new lawyer, Gerald Shargel, spent 15 minutes of his opening argument in trial railing about me, by name.
I couldn’t believe my ears. I was sitting in the courtroom (I flew in to cover the trial) listening as he launched into a litany of anti-Chuck Philips accusations: Chuck Philips this. Chuck Philips that. Chuck Philips – the anti-Christ of 21st Century Journalism – published false articles with fabricated documents to purposely defame his poor defenseless little client: a hard-working, God-fearing, self-made African-American entrepreneur. Chuck Philips solicited prison inmates for the government, inciting them to snitch on an innocent, family loving, freedom-fighting humanitarian. It was surreal.
As I was about to leave the courtroom on the first day of trial, one of Jimmy’s henchmen served me with a subpoena – a summons to appear as a defense witness, to testify on his behalf.
The subpoena was not issued to ensure I would show up in court. To the contrary, it was a ploy to keep me out of court, to stop me from covering the trial. In fact, the very next morning, his attorney asked that I be ejected from the building, arguing that it would be unfair to let me witness the proceedings before I testified, because it might influence my upcoming testimony.
You might ask yourself how a white guy like me came to be such a thorn in Jimmy’s side? Who anointed me the expert on the East Coast/West Coast rap war of the 1990s – that unprecedented era in American history, which left a trail of body bags from New York to Los Angeles, and culminated in the murders of Pac and Biggie?
What qualifies me to write about rap in the first place?
Ever been to Detroit? That’s where I’m from. Race and ethnicity mean nothing to me, but if they do to you: My father was Armenian and my mother was Canadian, with descendants from England and Ireland. I was born in the Motor City nearly six decades ago.
The hospital where I took my first breath is barely a stone’s throw from Hitsville, USA – the tiny West Grand Blvd. house where Berry Gordy launched Motown Records, just around the corner from the once-famous, now-defunct New Bethel Baptist Church, founded by Aretha Franklin’s dad, the mighty American orator, Rev. C.L. Franklin.
Jimmy once texted me a quasi-racist taunt: “You’re not from our world, so you will always fall into traps, where you will be tricked and laughed about like a fool,” he said, impersonating the wife of a Brooklyn MDC inmate to whom I had written. “You talk real tough but [that’s to be] expected from a cracker who wants to be black and write about rap.”
Black. White. Yellow. Brown. Psalm 100 teaches us all to make a joyful noise. Music is a healing power, the purest art form on earth. I grew up on Grace and Mercy. I got something the cops cannot arrest. I got something the robbers cannot steal. I may not be from your world, Jimmy, but one kind favor I will ask of you. Hold my mule.
I came up loving all kinds of songs, from all types of music genres: Rock, Country, R&B, Pop. But if I had to pick, I’d say black American music is my personal favorite. Hands down. Black music, to me, is pure genius, the mother of it all: Soul, Blues, Jazz, Gospel, R&B, Funk, Rock and Rap.
Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, James Brown, Louis Jordan, John Lee Hooker, Curtis Mayfield, Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, John Coltrane, Bobby Womack, Shirley Caesar, Al Green, Max Roach, James Cleveland, Gregory Porter, Jimmy Smith, NWA, Cube, Snoop and Dre dominate my CD collection, and make up the soundtrack of my life. These artists make me proud I’m American.
Prior to becoming a reporter, I worked a series of menial jobs: factory worker, phone solicitor, print maker, maintenance man. In my early 20s, I spent more time hitchhiking than working, skipping back and forth across the U.S., and Canada, up and down the West Coast.
My love of music led me to Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Bogota, Barcelona, Paris, Cusco and all over Japan. I arrived in California 40 years ago at Venice Beach, lived here and there, settled in Santa Monica.
I came to journalism late in life. LA Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn helped forge my first beat, suggesting I cover the music industry as a business. I lucked into a lot of explosive scoops: 2 Live Crew, Milli Vanilli, Ticketmaster vs. Pearl Jam, corruption at the Grammys, unfair artist contracts, unscrupulous rehab programs, censorship, racism, sexual harassment and other unethical and illegal practices in the global corporate music business.
All of a sudden, rappers started having run-ins with the law. Snoop arrested for murder. Dre busted for punching a cop. Tupac detained for attacking a director. Death Row was always in trouble: Suge was either dangling somebody from a high-rise hotel balcony, threatening an executive with a lead pipe, or trying to bribe a prosecutor with a recording contract. By the time the riots erupted in LA, I was pumping out twice as many crime scoops as business articles.
I cut my teeth on street crime as the rap war commenced. Big Jake. Buck and L. Yafeu Fula. Stretch. Preme. Wolf. Big Meech. But I missed a lot of stories back then, including the Quad ambush, which, at the time, I mistakenly saw as a publicity stunt.
Still, Pac impressed me, so I wrote a lot about him: (1) a suit filed by the widow of a Texas trooper who was shot to death by a car thief who claimed Pac’s lyrics inspired him to pull the trigger. (2) the LA limo assault, (3) the crooked cop shooting, (4) the Parker Meridian catastrophe. The way I saw it, Pac had all the makings of a true American anti-hero – an insanely talented and severely flawed artist.
I interviewed him in 1992 by phone for Rolling Stone. In September 1995, he offered me his first post-prison interview for The LA Times. We met at a studio in Encino where I watched him laying down tracks for “All Eyez On Me.” (These were the sessions that yielded “Hit Em Up!”) I was so unaware I suspected absolutely nothing when I saw a sultry Faith Evans emerge that afternoon from the back of the studio. I didn’t ask a single question about the Quad. Not because I was afraid of the subject, but because I was too dense to comprehend the gravity of the situation. Didn’t ask anything about Puff, or Biggie, either.
At that point, I was oblivious to the rap war, engrossed in conversation, grateful to witness Pac’s mind in action. I remember feeling elated when suddenly, out of nowhere, he launched into a dissertation about Shakespeare, comparing the Crips and Bloods to the Capulets and Montagues.
Back then, I knew nothing about Jimmy. Heard his name once or twice, but he meant nothing to me. Before I started my 2007 investigation into the Quad ambush, I had no suspicions. Even after I found out who he was, and had determined his place in history, I never imagined he would come after me with such a vengeance.
What was I thinking? This was the guy who set up Pac. Why not me?
It never dawned on me, until last February, when Jimmy started distributing copies of a purported court affidavit to hip-hop sites. The affidavit detailed statements by an old friend of Jimmy’s (incarcerated at Ray Brook Federal Penitentiary) who swore under oath that he helped fabricate the fake Quad 302s and filed them in court, at a time when the inmate said he was corresponding with Jimmy.
It made me wonder whether Jimmy had participated in creating the content of the fake 302s (a cheap Rovian disinformation tactic used to discredit true stories), before I stumbled onto them in a Florida court file.
As Jimmy’s campaign against me began to take shape, I realized the fake 302s were not the reason he wanted me fired. Looking back on it now I’m guessing that he was less concerned about what I had already uncovered than about what I was certain to find out, should I be allowed to keep digging.
He had reason to be nervous. Jimmy knew I was communicating directly with his ex-partners in crime – old friends privy to his most damning secrets. I had crossed bridges he burned long ago. (I was already onto the drug ring).
His ex-pals not only knew that the high priest of rap’s anti-snitch underground was, in fact, a snitch. They told me that Jimmy and a powerful friend or two in the music business had bigger skeletons hiding in their closets.
The uproar surrounding the fake 302s was phonier than the paperwork itself. I did not fabricate the documents. I did not know they were fakes when I obtained them from a federal court file. It wasn’t even my idea to publish them. That decision was made by the LA Times.
Retracing the chronology of events, it is obvious that Jimmy and his attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, knew the 302s were fakes long before my March 17, 2008 article came out.
“Any first-year lawyer could see that the FBI 302 reports which formed the basis of the Times’ story were fabricated,” Lichtman told MTV immediately after thesmokinggun.com report came out trashing my article.
What Lichtman failed to reveal, however, was that he personally had nearly three full weeks to inspect the 302s before my story ever saw the light of day. (I had faxed him the FBI documents 20 days in advance, seeking a response to include in my published piece).
Assuming Lichtman is competent enough to discern what any first-year lawyer might, why would he permit The LA Times to publish a defamatory article about his client that could irreparably damage his reputation?
If it was so obvious that the documents were fabricated, did he not have a legal obligation to notify Jimmy, and me, before my story came out?
You might ask yourself why an esteemed member of the 135-year-old New York State Bar Association would intentionally allow his own client to be defamed, particularly, when he had the power to prevent it from happening in the first place?