2008's Biggest Stories #4: Diddy Accused Then Exonerated in 94 Tupac Shooting
14 years ago a shooting happened that forever altered
the course of Hip-Hop history and the lives of two of its greatest artists.
On November 30, 1994Tupac Shakur was shot five times,
pistol whipped, and robbed in the lobby of the Quad Recordings Studios in
Manhattan. His friends the Notorious B.I.G., Sean Combs, and Lil Cease were
present in the studio at the time of the robbery.
Over the last two years of life, Shakur publicly
accused Combs, Biggie, Jimmy Henchman, and several other New York rap figures
with masterminding the crime. The accusations culminated most famously with
Against All Odds, Shakurs final track off the posthumous Makaveli album.
The details of the incident remained confined to
hearsay and innuendo until this past March, when Los Angeles Times writer Chuck
Phillips published an explosive piece claiming that Combs knew in advance that
Shakur would be shot at the Quad.
The allegation was based on FBI documents detailing
statements from James Sabatino, an informant and alleged son of captain in the
Colombo crime family.
Sabatino claimed he told Combs personally that Shakur
would be assaulted at the studio, and that he later did business with the mogul
during the 1997 No Way Out Tour. He also alleged to have planned the attack
with current Czar Entertainment CEO Jimmy Henchmen Rosemond.
Despite Sabatino currently serving a 12 year sentence
in federal prison for racketeering and wire fraud, writer Chuck Phillips
insisted he was a reliable source and the incident is what sparked the
East-West Hip-Hop feud.
Tupac was mostly right about what he wrote about [in his songs], Chuck Phillips told AllHipHop.com in March. Tupacs shooting at
the Quad was really a catalyst for everything that happened afterwards
including his own death and including the death of Biggie. It started the whole
thing off and if you lay it out in a timeline which I do, you can see; its
obvious and kind of sad for two guys to be this talented. I ended up with a
much larger story than imagined.
Combs immediately refuted the claims, calling them irresponsible
on the part of the Los Angeles Times and Phillips, who years before wrote a
story claiming Biggie had ventured to Las Vegas to personally ordered Tupacs
1996 murder. That story that was later discredited by eyewitness accounts.
The story is beyond ridiculous and completely false,
Combs stated to AllHipHop.om. Neither Biggie nor I had any knowledge of any
attack before, during or after it happened. It is a complete lie to suggest
that there was any involvement by Biggie or myself.
Jimmy Henchmen Rosemond, long accused by some of
being involved in the shooting and named as a conspirator on Tupacs Against
All Odds, pointed out that the story had no merit when one analyzed the
In the past 14 years, I have not even been questioned
by law enforcement with regard to the assault of Tupac Shakur, let alone
brought up on charges, Rosemond explained. Chuck Phillips, the writer who in
the past has falsely claimed that the Notorious Biggie Smalls was in Las Vegas
when Tupac was murdered and that Biggie supplied the gun that killed Tupaconly
to be proven wrong as Biggie was in New Jersey recuperating from a car
accident, has reached a new low by employing fourth-hand information from
desperate jailhouse informants along with ancient FBI reports to create this
Combs and Rosemonds claims proved true, when the
Smoking Gun website exposed that Phillips article was based on forged FBI
documents from Sabatino. Furthermore, the LA Times admitted that James
Sabatinos alleged role as a confidant of Combs and Rosemond were also lies
created to add authenticity to his story.
Although the story was a retracted and a lengthy,
public apology was given to all involved; the LA Times was highly embarrassed.
The incident marked the second time a high-profile story involving Tupac Shakur
and the Notorious B.I.G. was proven wrong based on unreliable sources from
writer Chuck Phillips.
In the ensuing fallout, the LA Times laid off Chuck
Phillips from his longtime staff position, citing budgetary constraints.
Combs and Rosemond were and likely still are
contemplating legal action against the Times for what can be considered
libelous accusations made against them.
To date, there has been no investigation into whether
similar disinformation was supplied to Shakur while he was incarcerated after
his 1994 conviction.