A free-lance journalist who had worked briefly for the television news tabloid "A Current Affair" has been charged by authorities in New York and Los Angeles with attempting to steal sensitive information from the network's computers in those cities.
Stuart Goldman, 44, was arraigned in federal court in Los Angeles on Friday, a day after police searched his Studio City apartment and confiscated his personal computer and floppy disks. He was charged with violating federal law prohibiting computer hacking and was released on his own recognizance.
Goldman also faces a similar charge under California law, Los Angeles Police Lt. Fred Reno said.
According to an affidavit filed by federal prosecutors in U.S. District Court in New York, Goldman made several attempts--at least one of them successful--to gain entry to "sensitive data files regarding . . . news stories worked upon by the company's journalists."
Neither police nor Fox Televison network officials would disclose what information he was seeking or why he might have wanted it.
"We can't say what he was trying to gain access to," Fox spokesman Dennis Petroskey said. "That's confidential information."
But Goldman recently had been trying to sell an inside story on so-called tabloid television shows to The Los Angeles Times.
The Fox-produced "A Current Affair" offers a racy mix of gossip and news, relishing stories such as the the cop-slapping conviction of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor and the engagement of comedienne Roseanne Barr.
Petroskey said Goldman worked as a free-lance writer for "A Current Affair" out of Fox offices in Los Angeles for a week or two in February. The company spokesman said the story Goldman worked on never aired, but he does not believe Goldman left on bad terms. He would not say what the story was about.
"My understanding," Petroskey said, "is that they just weren't able to use the story he had been assigned to."
According to the New York affidavit, Fox employees there discovered in February that someone had been trying to gain access to their computers. Shortly after they complained to the U.S. Secret Service, employees of KTTV-Channel 11, the Fox station in Los Angeles, made a similar complaint to Los Angeles police.
In both cases, company officials told authorities, the hacker used the same computer password.
Police then traced the telephone calls used to gain entry to the Los Angeles computer to Goldman's Moorpark Avenue apartment, Lt. Reno said. Goldman was arrested at the apartment when his computer equipment was seized Thursday.
In years past, Goldman has written free-lance articles for the Calendar section of The Los Angeles Times and for other publications, including the National Review. The last piece he wrote for the Times--a feature on Elvis Presley fans--appeared in January, 1985.
In a 1988 National Review article, titled "I was a hit man for the L.A. Times," he claimed to have written letters to the newspaper's editors under phony names--and then responded to himself in print with more phony letters.
John Lindsay, editor of the Times' Sunday Calendar section, said that while he has never worked with Goldman, the free-lancer had for the past several months been trying to sell him a story about television tabloid shows.
"It was all very mysterious, but he said he wanted to do an inside story on these tabloid TV shows he worked on," Lindsay said. "He said he had worked for these two tabloid TV shows, and he wanted to do an inside story about how they do their business."
Lindsay, however, said he thought Goldman sounded a little strange, especially since he initially identified himself by a different name. "It was so weird that I just didn't want to deal with the guy," he said.
Lindsay said Goldman made his last pitch Wednesday--the day before police arrested him.