Tag Archives: Paul Pringle

Ted Rall v. Los Angeles Times: What You Need To Know

My lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times is a long, complicated story. The following is an attempt to bring you up to speed in digestible form.

I became the staff cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times in 2009. Unbeknownst to me, in 2014 the LAPD Pension Fund became the biggest shareholder of Tribune Publishing, parent company of the Times. No one at the Times told me to lay off cartoons about the cops, probably because my editors too were unaware of the secret deal. In 2015 the Times fired me at the request of the LAPD.

The LA Times’ Nutty Audio
I was walking from a Bill Maher show taping to dinner in West Hollywood in October 2001 when an LAPD motorcycle officer confronted me, handcuffed me and roughed me up, drawing a crowd of passersby. He wrote me a ticket for jaywalking. I had not been jaywalking. I filed an Internal Affairs complaint about the false arrest but nothing came of it.
Image result for charlie beckIn July 2015 a LA Times reporter informed me that the officer had secretly audiotaped my arrest, that the LAPD (actually, it was Police Chief Charlie Beck, see below) had given the Times (actually, to publisher Austin Beutner, see below) the tape and that the tape showed I had lied about being handcuffed and mistreated by the cop in a 2015 blog that was posted with a cartoon that I did for the Times about an LAPD jaywalking crackdown.
The sound quality is atrocious. It’s 6-1/2 minutes of static, wind and traffic noise. There is evidence that it was spliced or otherwise tampered with. The LAPD audio neither confirms nor denies my account, which was truthful. Nevertheless, the Times decided to terminate me AND to publish a libelous “Editor’s Note” to readers intended to destroy my reputation as a journalist so that I would never work again.
I had the audio “enhanced”—cleaned up so that voices and other sounds could be heard. The enhancement confirmed my version of the encounter, including a woman shouting “Take off his handcuffs!” at the officer. I sent the vindicating evidence to my editors at the Times. They ignored me.

The Times Doubles Down
Three weeks passed. During this time, pressure built on the Times to reverse their decision. Journalistic organizations, Times subscribers commenting on their website, letter writers and social media from left to right urged the Times to reinstate me. They refused questions from reporters at other press outlets, censored the letters and shut down online comments at latimes.com. Thanks to the enhanced audio, the Times knew it had libeled me in the Editor’s Note. Rather than issue a retraction and offer me back my job, the Times issued a second article, this one by the Times’ ombudsman, that doubled down on the allegations from the first article, which they knew to be false.

My Lawsuit
I waited seven months for the Times to do the right thing. Finally, in 2016, I sued the Times, its parent company Tribune, and four individuals for defamation and wrongful termination. I am determined to defend my reputation against these scurrilous smears.

Here are the individual defendants:

Austin Beutner
Image result for Austin BeutnerTimes publisher at the time, hedge-fund multi-billionaire Austin Beutner was subsequently fired by Tribune for trying to orchestrate an inside-the-boardroom coup. Beutner secretly met with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who subsequently resigned in disgrace. At this meeting Beck handed Beutner the audio recording from 2001. Beck demanded that I be fired for criticizing the police in my cartoons; Beutner, Beck’s political ally and a man who’d like to run for mayor or governor, complied. (The Times still hasn’t told readers where the audio came from.) Beutner is currently the superintendent of the Los Angeles public school district, the largest in the country. His refusal to give teachers a raise prompted an acrimonious walkout by educators.

Nicholas Goldberg
Image result for nick goldberg la timesTimes editorial page editor Nicholas Goldberg, a middle manager, appears not to have been trusted with inside knowledge of the high-level conspiracy between Beutner and Beck. It’s hard to know anything for sure before the courts grant discovery, but Goldberg’s role was likely limited to that of hatchet man: his by-line is on the Editor’s Note.

Paul Pringle
Image result for paul pringle la timesBypassing Goldberg, Beutner probably assigned Times investigative reporter Paul Pringle to look into my story. Pringle informed me that the LAPD was accusing me of lying and questioned me at length about what happened the evening of the jaywalking arrest. Pringle, who worked the “cop shop” beat for years and thus spent a lot of time with police, made clear that he believed the cops, not me. Among other silliness, he asked why the low-quality audio didn’t contain the sound of my driver’s license (made of paper) hitting the ground after the officer tossed it or the click of the handcuffs going on. He also wondered why there was no sound of me arguing with the officer; I repeatedly explained that I was compliant, that I don’t argue with cops. In order to determine the authenticity of the LAPD audio, he told me, he asked the LAPD if it was legitimate. Pringle won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Journalism.

Deirdre Goebel Edgar
Image result for deirdre edgarUntil 2018 Deirdre Goebel Edgar was the “Reader’s Representative” of the Times. The reader’s representative is the ombudsman of a newspaper; though paid by the paper her duty is akin to Internal Affairs at a police agency: to make sure the paper is upholding journalism’s highest ethical standards in service to readers. Indeed, in 2014 she authored the Times’ Ethical Guidelines. Among other things, the guidelines require that the subject of a critical story be interviewed at length, in person, to give their side. Edgar wrote the second “doubling down” article in 2015 smearing me as a liar. She did not contact me.

The Times Hits Me With an Anti-SLAPP Motion
Image result for kelli sagerCalifornia’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) law was designed to stop individuals and whistleblowers from being slammed by big corporations like real estate developers out to crush community activists by tying them up in court with frivolous defamation claims. After I sued the Times, Kelli Sager—a high-powered $715/hour attorney employed by such reputable enterprises as the National Enquirer to fend off legitimate libel lawsuits—hit me, a fired $300/week cartoonist, with an anti-SLAPP motion alleging that I was using my power and influence to deprive the Times of its First Amendment free speech rights. The Times is currently owned by Dr. Pat Soon-Shiong, who is reportedly worth $7 billion. Soon-Shiong gets a lot of good press that he doesn’t deserve; he has continued to employ Sager.
Before the case begins, the anti-SLAPP motion must be resolved. First up: the trial court.

Superior Court
At trial court in Los Angeles, the Times filed a motion for summary judgement against me, arguing my claim to be frivolous. The judge at the time, who retired a few months later, denied the Times’ motion.
Switching tacks, Sager filed a motion demanding that I post $300,000 cash bond to guarantee the Times’ legal fees in the event that it won anti-SLAPP and won a judgement that required me to pay the Times’ attorneys’ fees, because I live in New York and not California. The judge knocked it down to $75,000. Hundreds of people contributed to my GoFundMe. I posted bond. Every year I pay the bond company $1250 to hold the money.
After a blizzard of stalling tactics by Sager, Judge Joseph Kalin heard the anti-SLAPP motion in 2017. Just days before the second and third of three anti-SLAPP arguments, attorney Carney Shegarian abruptly fired me as his client. I do not know why. I quickly found a new attorney but Judge Kalin ruled that I had to represent myself against Sager in oral arguments.
Anti-SLAPP requires judges not to assess the evidence, but to assume that all the claims are true to see if the complaint has any merit. Kalin assessed the evidence, agreed that the audio enhancement showed I was innocent, and nonetheless ruled against me. He ordered me to pay the Times $330,000 for Sager’s fees.
I appealed.

Court of Appeal
Earlier in 2019 the Court of Appeal, also in Los Angeles, heard my appeal. Like Kalin, the Court of Appeal ignored the anti-SLAPP rule about assessing evidence. During oral argument Justice Elizabeth Grimes, seemed shocked when my attorney Jeff Lewis brought it up. Grimes ruled for the Times.
I appealed. The California Supreme Court accepts fewer than 5% of petitions for review so I was pleasantly surprised when they agreed to hear my appeal. Seven major First Amendment organizations issued amicus letters supporting my appeal to the state Supreme Court.
My petition was a “grant and hold,” which means it’s tied to the outcome of a related case, in this situation Stanley Wilson v. CNN. Wilson claims he was wrongly terminated and defamed by CNN as a ruse, with the real reason being race discrimination.

California Supreme Court
The high court ruled in favor of Wilson in a ruling that urges lower courts to grant discovery in anti-SLAPP cases, something that was denied us. That bodes well. We’re waiting to hear if the court remands us back to the Court of Appeal with instructions to rehear us in light of Wilson, or schedules oral arguments before them directly.
A favorable ruling by the Supreme Court would mean that the $330,000 judgement would be erased, we can begin discovery and, four-plus years after the fact, the actual case would commence.

A Bad Day in Court

I got a taste yesterday of how Gary Webb, another victim of the LA Times’ corrupt relationships with sleazy government entities, may have felt. Here’s an update on my defamation and wrongful termination case against the LA Times:

Perhaps in order to run up her legal fees, LA Times attorney Kelli Sager split the defendants’ anti-SLAPP motions against me into three tranches of defendants, each with its own set of documents and hearing dates.

Yesterday LA Superior Court ruled in favor of the Times’ anti-SLAPP motion regarding the four individuals: fired former publisher and billionaire Austin Beutner, a political ally of the LAPD union who received a patrolman’s personal LAPD files in a secret meeting with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck that the Times refused to disclose to readers; editorial page editor Nick Goldberg, who authored a piece announcing my firing and calling me a liar, and then ignored evidence that he was mistaken; readers’ representative ombudsman Deirdre Edgar, who authored a second piece calling me a liar that itself contained multiple lies about said evidence; and reporter Paul Pringle, who failed a reporters’ basic responsibility to fully investigate the matter despite being assigned to do so.

This decision can be appealed to the Court of Appeals.

Next week, at 9 am on July 28th at LA Superior Court, the same court will consider the Times’ second tranche of anti-SLAPP motions, these for the corporate entities the LA Times and its parent company Tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing).

Anti-SLAPP was designed by the California state legislature to protect individuals expressing their free speech rights from being silenced by deep-pocketed corporations using frivolous lawsuits to intimidate them and others. Ironically, the Times — owned by Tronc, a $420 million corporation — is abusing the statute to try to destroy me, their former $300/week cartoonist.

Until anti-SLAPP is resolved, discovery is not allowed. I have to prove, without discovery, that I am likely to prevail before a jury. If the Times ultimately prevails on anti-SLAPP, I would be ordered to pay the Times’ legal fees, which the Times said last year would amount to at least $300,000.

The fight continues.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Got $75,000? The LA Times Is Trying to Bankrupt Me

SmithDepo

Got $75,000?

That’s how much The Los Angeles Times is demanding that I pay them.

After they fired me for phony reasons.

After they published lies about me.

They set out to destroy me, but the truth came out and ruined their plan. So now they’re determined to bankrupt me — by abusing the court system.

One year ago, The Los Angeles Times fired me in what became known as The Ted Rall Scandal. I’ve been their cartoonist since 2009. Never had a problem. Was never late. Never did anything wrong. My bosses never had a complaint — to the contrary, I received nothing but praise.

What I didn’t know, and my editors didn’t know to tell me, was that the political cartoonist of The Los Angeles Times isn’t allowed to criticize the police. I wish I’d been informed. I have principles, but I also have to eat. If they’d told me the cops were off-limits, I wouldn’t have criticized the LAPD, police brutality, corruption or incompetence. If I’d known that LAPD chief Charlie Beck enjoyed special most favored nation status on the LA Times editorial page, I would have left him alone.

But no one told me. So I did what cartoonists are supposed to do: I criticized and ridiculed and made fun of the cops.

Unbeknownst to me, dark forces were aligned against me.

In 2014, Tribune Publishing, the Chicago-based $499 million conglomerate that was the parent company of the LA Times, brought on a brutal, cynical billionaire named Austin Beutner as its new publisher. Beutner had made his money in the 1990s, raping the ruins of post-Soviet Russia. He had big political ambitions: mayor of Los Angeles, perhaps even governor of California.

Beutner had no experience in newspapers. Probably never even delivered one as a boy. But Beutner had what Tribune wanted: a contact list full of potential investors. As for Beutner, he figured he’d use the paper to make up for his lack of name recognition among voters. It was a match made in hell.

Beutner made good on his promise to bring cash into the troubled Tribune organization by midwifing a deal between his only political ally, the LAPD’s police union (the Los Angeles Police Protective League) and Oaktree Capital, a Beverly Hills based investment firm. The LAPPL moved its $16 billion pension fund to Oaktree. At the same time, Oaktree became the number one shareholder in Tribune. The local police owned the local paper.

The LAPPL made no secret of its appreciation. Weeks after being named publisher, Beutner was given the LAPPL’s 2014 Badge and Eagle Award for
“support[ing] the LAPD in all that they do.”

In July 2015, the fuzz called in their chit with Beutner.

As has only recently been revealed by my lawsuit against the LA Times for defamation and wrongful termination, the plot against me began with a conspiracy at the highest levels of city government and the corporate media elite.

Chief Beck secretly met with Beutner. He handed him documents, as well as a CD-ROM containing an audio recording, that he convinced Beutner would be adequate proof that I was a liar and a fabulist, and therefore sufficient legal cause for firing me. And not just for firing me. They wanted to make an example out of me. They were out to destroy me. So they published not one, but two articles — something they’d never done before, ever — calling me a liar.

I was freelance. Why not just tell me I was no longer needed? Because Beck and Beutner thought I’d be a pushover. And because they wanted to send a message to every journalist in Southern California. Don’t criticize law enforcement. If you do, your career will be over.

Times readers have never been told the source of these documents. I would never have found them if I hadn’t filed my lawsuit. In brazen violation of the newspaper’s own rules governing the ethical conduct of journalism (ironically written by the author of the second smear piece, Deirdre Edgar), Beutner and his minion who wrote the first smear piece, editorial page editor Nick Goldberg, protected Beck as an anonymous source.

The key evidence used against me, both to fire me and to use as the focus of two unusual articles published by the Times in their campaign to destroy my journalistic career, was the audio file. It contained about 20 seconds of audible speech and over six minutes of road noise.

That recording, secretly made by a police officer who arrested me for jaywalking in 2001, supposedly proved that I had been treated politely by the cop, not rudely handcuffed as I had written in the Times. Cheap and/or careless, the Times didn’t have the “evidence” authenticated or analyzed. Big mistake.

Things fell apart for the Times after my firing.

I paid to have the tape professionally enhanced. Turned out, there was a woman shouting “take off his handcuffs!” buried under all that static. I was vindicated. Independent journalists and other media outlets agreed.

Driving the point home, the LAPD public information office said that the audio never came out via official means. In other words, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck ginned up the evidence from somewhere else: probably a self-made, crappy dub made by the police officer himself 14 years before. It wasn’t official evidence. It wouldn’t have been admitted in court and it shouldn’t have been used to fire anyone — something a real journalist, not a billionaire financier, would have known.

I eventually obtained a copy of the official audio file from the police department itself via a public records act request. What a difference! It was clean. It looked different. And it was different. Without any enhancement at all, you could hear an angry crowd of people yelling at the officer about my mistreatment.

By this time, the Times’ ridiculous assault on free expression had blown up in their faces. Social media and the Internet had gone crazy. Journalists of all political stripes had come to my defense. Tribune, knowing that they had screwed up, fired Beutner so unceremoniously that he wasn’t allowed to use his own email account to say goodbye, and was escorted by security guards out of the building.

All I wanted was my job back and a retraction. An apology would be nice too. I don’t know why, even after all this, the Times is fighting this lawsuit. The way they’re acting, you would think that I was the one who had hurt them.

Their latest legal maneuver is beyond belief. Although discovery hasn’t begun yet, things haven’t been going well for them during initial hearings in court. That’s how it goes when you don’t have a legitimate defense for your indefensible actions. So their lawyer is resorting to scorched earth tactics. The last thing they want is for 12 Angelenos to listen to my case, consider both sides, and render justice.

The sleazy move their lawyer cooked up is to file an “anti-SLAPP” motion against me. California legislature passed the anti-SLAPP law to stop the following scenario: “A deep-pocketed corporation, developer or government official files a lawsuit whose real purpose is to silence a critic, punish a whistleblower or win a commercial dispute.” (Those words are by the LA Times’ editorial board, written two weeks after they smeared me!)

I’m not a deep pocketed corporation. I’m not a developer. And I’m not a government official. I’m a critic. So I’m the one this law was designed to protect.

Incredibly, the Times’ lawyer is arguing that I, an individual freelance cartoonist with a five-figure income, is quashing the Times’ free-speech rights! If they convince the judge that they are right, my case gets thrown out and – get this – I’m going to have to pay their attorneys’ fees!

Even more incredibly, they asked the judge to force me to post a $300,000 bond now, in advance, to guarantee their attorneys’ fees if they win their anti-SLAPP motion. She knocked it down to $75,000. But it’s not like the 10% bail that you hear about on TV. I owe the entire $75,000 on or before Thursday, August 18. My lawyers and I prepared a brief to fight it, but because the Los Angeles court system is so backed up, we can’t get a hearing until next summer. So another words, I either cough up $75,000 by next Thursday, or the Times gets away with what they did to me.

If you like to read more about the case and/or contribute to my fundraiser – I am not going down without a fight – please click here or go directly to http://gofundme.com/tedrall.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His new book, the graphic biography “Trump: A Graphic Biography,” is now available.)

PRESS RELEASE: Cartoonist Ted Rall Claims LA Times “Adds Insult to Injury” with “Bullying Financial Demands” Following Alleged Defamation, Blacklisting and Wrongful Termination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Cartoonist Ted Rall Claims LA Times Adds Insult to Injury with Bullying Financial Demands Following Alleged Defamation, Blacklisting and Wrongful Termination

LOS ANGELES—August 9, 2016 — Shegerian & Associates, Inc., a Santa Monica-based litigation law firm specializing in employee rights, has announced that the Los Angeles Times attempted to demand $300,000 in “legal fees” from its client, the cartoonist and author Ted Rall. Rall is currently suing the Times for defamation, blacklisting, wrongful termination and breach of contract.

Shegerian & Associates founder Carney Shegerian described the Times’ request for Rall to post $300,000 to guarantee the Times’ attorney fees in the event they should win their anti-SLAPP motion as a “bully move against a freelance cartoonist by a corporation that is egregiously inverting the very anti-SLAPP statute designed to protect employees from big corporations.”

The court has since ordered the Times to lower its request to $75,000.

“It feels almost like they are forcing me to ‘pay to play’ if I am to see my day in court,” said Rall. “You’d think after what happened, they would be issuing an apology and offering me my job back, not trying to bankrupt me after wrongfully firing me.”

Rall was originally hired by the Times as an editorial cartoonist in 2009 and published approximately 300 of his cartoons and more than 60 of his blog posts in the paper between 2009 and 2015. At no time during his employment was Rall disciplined or written-up and he was consistently praised for his work.

In May of 2015, Rall created, and the Times reviewed, approved and published, a cartoon titled, “LAPD’s Crosswalk Crackdown; Don’t Police Have Something Better to Do?” In the accompanying blog post criticizing the LAPD’s crackdown against jaywalking as reported by the Times, Rall referenced his own previous experience of being falsely arrested, unduly rough-housed and handcuffed by an LAPD officer allegedly for “jaywalking.”

In July of 2015, after the LAPD contacted The Times to question the accuracy of this cartoon and blog post, the Times decided to terminate Rall within 24 hours.

In his filed complaint, Rall explained that at no point did the Times allow him to speak to his regular supervisor, or to the editorial board to discuss his case — a violation of the Times’ Ethical Guidelines. Shortly after the termination, The Times published a rare “Note to Readers,” indicating that the paper had doubts about the veracity of Rall’s blog post due to an audio recording they obtained of Rall’s original jaywalking incident. The note also stated that the Times would no longer be publishing Rall’s work.

The Times failed to follow the standard of procedure for authenticating evidence and thus did not have grounds to publicly accuse Rall of falsifying information on his blog entry. After the Times’ note was published, Rall took it upon himself to have the audio examined by experts. The enhanced version of the audio supported Rall’s version of the encounter, and he presented this to the Times. Despite this exonerating evidence, the Times published yet another article further defaming Rall.

“The Times’ suspicions about the veracity of Mr. Rall’s blog post were unfounded in that they failed to properly investigate the accusations and refused to acknowledge proof that Mr. Rall’s blog post was, in fact, accurate,” said Shegerian. “The public defamation and subsequent blacklisting of our client following blatantly wrongful termination should be enough of a slap in Mr. Rall’s face, but the demand now for this freelance cartoonist to pay the Times’ legal fees in advance of a trial demonstrates that not only does the LA Times not play by its own rules employment-wise, as we will demonstrate in court, it behaves in a vindictive and unfair manner as well.”

(Case no. BC613703)

###

Located in Santa Monica, Shegerian & Associates is a law firm specializing in protecting the rights of employees who have been wronged by their employers. Richly experienced in labor and employment law and possessing an unparalleled success record as litigators (Carney Shegerian, Trial Lawyer of the Year Award winner for 2013, has won 73 jury trials in his career, including 31 seven figure verdicts), Shegerian & Associates is passionately dedicated to serving the needs of its clients. For more information about the firm, visit www.ShegerianLaw.com

Media Contact: To arrange interviews about this case with Carney Shegerian or Ted Rall, please contact Paul Williams, 310/569-0023, paulwilliams@shegerianlaw.com.

Tale of the Tape

After the LA Times fired me as a favor to the LAPD, I spent weeks trying to trace the provenance of the dodgy tape supplied by the LAPD. Who at LAPD gave it to whom at the LA Times? Too bad the institution that ought to be investigating such things refused to do so.

In Brief: Ted Rall vs. the LA Times/LAPD

I’ve been asked to lay out the chronological narrative of what happened between me and the LA Times/LAPD. Please excuse my use of the third person; I think it’s easier to follow.

Jaywalking Arrest
October 3, 2001, 8 pm

Cartoonist Ted Rall leaves CBS Television City in the West Hollywood section of L.A. after taping an appearance on “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.” He plans to meet a group of friends and family on nearby Melrose Boulevard.

As he walks on the north side of Melrose, LAPD Motorcycle Officer Will(ie) Durr, an approximately 5-year veteran of the West Traffic Division, confronts him and accuses Rall of jaywalking across the intersection of N. Spaulding St. Rall had not jaywalked. Nevertheless, he is quiet, polite and compliant. He does not argue with Durr.

Rall volunteers his ID, a California driver’s license. Durr grabs Rall, roughly pushes him against a wall, and handcuffs him. He orders Rall not to move, then steps a short distance, perhaps 10 feet away close to his motorcycle on the curb, where he calls in Rall’s information and writes him a ticket.

A small crowd of bystanders, about two dozen people gather around Rall and Durr. Some just watch. Others discuss among themselves. Several confront the officer. A woman demands: “Take off his handcuffs!” Durr replies: “No no no no, I’m giving him a ticket first.” Several other people insult the officer, implying that he wants to sodomize Rall and offering to sate his sexual urges. Someone complains that there are bigger problems going on in L.A. As people talk to him, Durr whistles loudly.

Durr finishes writing the summons, which later turns out to be for misdemeanor jaywalking, a charge that would go on a permanent criminal record. He explains to Rall that he should call the number on the ticket. Rall asks Durr about the cost of the fine; Durr claims he doesn’t know (probably untrue; it’s currently a flat $197). Durr tells Rall he wants to remove Rall’s handcuffs so he can sign the ticket. Durr removes Rall’s cuffs.

Durr says that he’s returning Rall’s license, but instead tosses it in the gutter. (In one of a few recountings of the incident over the years, mistakenly remembers it as tossing his wallet, which contains his license. Rall correctly states it’s just the license in the relevant May 11th blog. Also, Rall sometimes calls it the “gutter,” at other times, the “sewer.” Though “gutter” is preferred, the two words are interchangeable.)

Rall, now late to find a restaurant to tell his friends and family about, asks Durr if he knows any place to eat. (Psychologists call Rall’s unusual question “normalizing” behavior — an attempt to de-escalate a high-tension confrontation.) At about this time, a white LAPD motorcycle policeman (Durr is black) pulls up. He urges Durr to stop what he’s doing. The two leave together.

Rall goes to dinner, where he describes what just happened to his friends and family, some of whom urge him to file a formal complaint. One, a local Angeleno, offers to contact City Hall to find out how to handle the ticket. She later tells Rall she managed to have the misdemeanor charge dropped but that he nevertheless has to pay the fine, which he does. (This is a standard disposition of jaywalking violations in L.A.)

October 13, 2001

Rall writes a letter to the LAPD to complain about Durr for false arrest and rude behavior. Acting on advice from the aforementioned friend not to mention the handcuffing (because it was legal, he wasn’t injured and might provoke retaliation from LAPD), Rall omits the handcuffs and rough treatment from his complaint.

May 11, 2015

The Los Angeles Times publishes Rall’s blog/column to accompany his weekly editorial cartoon. Since the cartoon is about an LAPD jaywalking crackdown, Rall opens his blog with a few paragraphs recounting his 2001 arrest.

Thursday, July 23, 2015
Afternoon

Rall receives a phone call from Paul Pringle, an LA Times investigative reporter. Rall replies quickly answers all of Pringle’s questions thoroughly.

In a recorded phone interview, Pringle tells him LAPD is disputing his May 11th blog on the basis of an audiotape secretly made by Durr of the 2001 stop. Rall has drawn at least 17 cartoons for The Los Angeles Times criticizing the police for being violent, unprofessional and inept.

Pringle says LAPD says Rall’s depiction of an unprofessional Durr “never happened”: no angry crowd, no handcuffs, no toss of the license. Pringle grills him about “discrepancies” between the apparently “polite encounter” on the tape and Rall’s description of an unprofessional policeman. (No mention is made of the false arrest.) He even asks why the sound of the license striking the ground cannot be heard.

Pringle tells Rall that Officer Durr has never handcuffed anyone throughout his long career with LAPD.

Rall is being treated as “guilty until proven innocent,” based upon the LAPD tape.

Asked what Pringle is working on — a story? — Pringle replies that he doesn’t know, that “they asked me to look into this.” This indicates that he probably was not the recipient of the tape.

Though tight-lipped about other matters, Pringle curiously volunteers that he knows the LAPD-supplied tape is legit and has not been tampered with, because the LAPD itself has assured the Times of this. The Times does not send the recording to an outside audio expert to have it analyzed for signs of manipulation such as splicing or editing. The Times also does not have the tape “enhanced” to see if more voices or sounds can be heard on it. (According to the paper in a statement issued August 19th, it still had not tried to have it enhanced, a common procedure.)

Rall then gets a call from Times editorial page editor Nick Goldberg. Goldberg, evidently not in the loop, asks: “What’s going on?” Rall fills him in, explaining his side of the story. Goldberg’s call implies that he did not order Pringle to investigate Rall.

Rall receives more calls from Pringle, who asks Rall to download a digitized version of the audio file via Dropbox. As Pringle listens on the phone, Rall listens to the tape, which contains 20 seconds of barely audible chatter by Durr followed by 6 minutes of inaudible noise. “This is a joke!” Rall tells Pringle it’s a “he said/he said” situation, arguing that it doesn’t prove or disprove anything in dispute: him being handcuffed, his driver’s license getting tossed, or the presence of the angry crowd. Without video, audio tells little, Rall says. Furthermore, the quality of the recording is atrocious.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Rall files his usual cartoon and blog for the Times because the Opinion Pages go to bed Friday afternoons. Goldberg emails Rall that the paper will make its decision after the weekend. However, Rall’s work does not appear Monday. This means the paper has decided to fire him less than 24 hours after talking to him, without having the tape analyzed or authenticated, without allowing him to tell his side of the story to members of the Editorial Board, the usual arbiter of decisions about an editorial cartoonist.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Rall calls deputy editorial page editor Susan Brenneman, who fills in for his usual editor, deputy editorial page editor Cherry Gee when she is on away. (Gee is on vacation to Japan for three weeks.) Brenneman tells Rall she is out of the loop on this issue, and has not attended any meetings about it. This means the Editorial Board was probably not involved.

At 3 pm PDT, Goldberg calls to inform him that the paper will run an Editor’s Note the next morning telling Times readers that due to discrepancies between Rall’s blog and the LAPD-supplied audiotape, the paper will no longer use his work. In journalism, this is the “nuclear option” normally reserved for extreme cases of malfeasance, such as repeated plagiarism.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Goldberg’s Editorial Note is published.

Tom Ewing of ANewDomain.net publishes an article that points out numerous YouTube videos of Angelenos standing in handcuffs while receiving tickets for jaywalking. Rall sends this to Goldberg, who does not reply.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rall posts a short snippet of cleaned-up audiotape processed from the LAPD WAV file in which the woman shouting “Take off his handcuffs!” can be heard. Rall writes Goldberg and the Editorial Board to inform them that this shows that, in fact, he was handcuffed and that there was at least one angry passerby, as he’d originally claimed on May 11th. Rall receives no reply.

Rall also posts an article to ANewDomain.net pointing out that Durr has indeed cuffed at least one suspect — and made fun of him as he stood waiting, for a lesser offense than jaywalking. He’s quoted and photographed in, of all places, the LA Times. Rall sends this to Goldberg. There is no reply.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Rall posts a full-length “enhanced” audiotape cleaned up by a professional L.A. post-production company, Post Haste Digital. The 6:20 enhanced version reveals many new voices not audible on the original audiotape, including 3-4 people giving Officer Durr a hard time as described above. Comparing the two audiofiles, it becomes clear that Durr’s whistles were a deliberate attempt to drown out the mic so that the sounds of the angry members of the crowd are not audible. Rall emails Goldberg and the Editorial Board again, asking them to reconsider their decision in light of the new facts. The Times does not react.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Nearly three weeks after Rall supplied the first enhanced audiotape, the Times posts a 2500-word screed reaffirming its belief that the May 11th blog shouldn’t have run (but, weirdly, not mentioning the paper’s decision to fire him in a humiliating and defamatory way). For the most part, the second statement repeats Goldberg’s July 28th Editor’s Note, adding in quotations that reflect Rall’s dislike of the police.

 

The LAPD Told the LA Times to Fire Me (Part 3 of 3)

On July 27, 2015, the Los Angeles Times fired me as its long-time editorial cartoonist. The reason given was their belief, based on a secret LAPD audiotape of my 2001 arrest for jaywalking, that I lied about my treatment by the police officer in a May 11, 2015 blog for the Times. However, when I had the tape enhanced and cleaned up, it proved I’d told the truth. So why won’t the Times comment or admit they were wrong?

The LAPD Told the LA Times to Fire Me (Part 2 of 3)

On July 27, 2015, the Los Angeles Times fired me as its long-time editorial cartoonist. The reason given was their belief, based on a secret LAPD audiotape of my 2001 arrest for jaywalking, that I lied about my treatment by the police officer in a May 11, 2015 blog for the Times. However, when I had the tape enhanced and cleaned up, it proved I’d told the truth. So why won’t the Times comment or admit they were wrong?

The LAPD Told the LA Times to Fire Me (Part 1 of 3)

On July 27, 2015, the Los Angeles Times fired me as its long-time editorial cartoonist. The reason given was their belief, based on a secret LAPD audiotape of my 2001 arrest for jaywalking, that I lied about my treatment by the police officer in a May 11, 2015 blog for the Times. However, when I had the tape enhanced and cleaned up, it proved I’d told the truth. So why won’t the Times comment or admit they were wrong?

SYNDICATED COLUMN: 14 Years Ago, a Woman Vindicated Me Now

A woman walking down the street in West Hollywood saw a police officer roughing up and handcuffing a man, whom he accused of jaywalking. Appalled, she challenged the officer. “Take off his handcuffs!” she demanded.

Noticing the commotion, more passersby approached. Soon a small crowd of people had gathered around. Some people shouted at the officer to stop. Others mocked his aggressiveness, sarcastically suggesting that his unfulfilled sexual desires explained his behavior. Surrounded by pissed-off citizens, the cop replied with a smirk: “I’m SO scared.” Others stood and watched, witnessing.

This happened 14 years ago. The man was me.

None of us knew that the cop, Officer Will Durr, was secretly capturing the audio of my arrest on a tape recorder — some of it, anyway.

Last week, a LAPD dub of Durr’s tape savaged my career in journalism, which can never be the same. But then that woman’s angry voice — “Take off his handcuffs!” — vindicated me. It was a kind of time travel. This woman, yelling on Melrose Boulevard on October 3, 2001, changed my life on July 30, 2015.

I wish I could go back in time so I could kiss her.

Or do her laundry. Whatever she wants.

About two weeks ago, someone at the LAPD and/or LAPPL (the LAPD police union) gave the dub of Durr’s tape to some unknown person at The Los Angeles Times. Despite obvious gaps in their credibility and logic, the Times used the tape as its justification, not to merely fire me, but to internationally shame me with a “Note to Readers,” signed by editorial page editor Nick Goldberg, that accused me of having lied about the cop’s actions during my 2001 jaywalking bust. In journalism, that’s a career death sentence, and Goldberg knew it.

What Goldberg didn’t know was that the real liars were the LAPD. And what Goldberg didn’t learn was one of the first rules of journalism: check it out.

If I brought a tape to any editor worth a damn, she’d say: have it analyzed and checked for signs of tampering. Not Goldberg, or Times reporter Paul Pringle, who was assigned to investigate me. They “authenticated” the tape by — get this — asking the cops whether their own tape was legit.

The answer to that question turned out to be: Not so much.

Thank god for technology. Despite Officer Durr’s apparent attempts to cover up those unpleasant remarks from the angry crowd by whistling into his mic, and covering it up, audio technicians were able to clean it up enough to reveal the truth.

“Take off his handcuffs!” That line, and many others, proved that I’d been cuffed, and that there had been an angry crowd — two crucial bones of contention. In the court of public opinion, I’d been vindicated.

The truth: which I’d been telling. The truth: which the cops did not. The truth: which the LA Times doesn’t care about — I’m still fired. The now-discredited “Note to Readers” is still up, with no mention of the secrets revealed by the enhanced audio tape.

But the truth is out. I have a fight ahead of me, sure. But I couldn’t defend myself without it.

There’s no way that woman could have known, or knows now, that her declarative statement — “Take off his handcuffs!” — was or ever would do any good. She, and the other witnesses, probably felt angry and impotent and helpless in the face of obvious injustice by an agent of the state.

If the woman on Melrose, whom I would kiss if I could, remembers this incident, it’s likely as just another time where she got involved but accomplished nothing.

But she’d be wrong.

My case serves as yet another example of the importance of stepping forward to witness, document and interfere with unfairness and state violence whenever you can. If, for example, you see a cop hassling someone, document the stop with your cellphone camera (don’t comment or talk because it blocks other sounds). If you dare, speak truth to power by demanding the officer’s badge information and name, and asking that he stop what he’s doing. Even if you just stand and watch, you greatly reduce the chances of another brutal police killing or maiming.

As a white man, I’m lucky. I suffer only a small fraction of the disgusting greed and brutality of corrupt police officers experienced by black and other people of color every day. I’m grateful.

One small way I can show my appreciation for my privileged status in American society is to speak out, like here, about my own experiences with bad cops. Because if it’s happening to white guys like me, you know it’s even worse for people of color.

In this case, however, I couldn’t have done it without that voice from the past, that beautiful angry ghost from 2001. So: witness. Document. Fight back.

It really does count.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower, to be published August 25th. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

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