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LAPD Officer Misused Data, Witness Says

A former girlfriend of the suspect testifies that he sold information to the National Enquirer.

May 20, 2003|Wendy Thermos | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles police officer who is accused of improperly gaining access to law enforcement databases sold confidential information to the National Enquirer, according to testimony before a police disciplinary board.

"He told me he sold it to tabloids, specifically the Enquirer," said Cyndy Truhan, in sworn testimony before the board that is considering possible penalties against Officer Kelly Chrisman. The board is scheduled to resume hearings today.

Truhan, ex-wife of baseball player Steve Garvey, dated Chrisman from 1996 to 1999. She recently settled a lawsuit with Los Angeles for nearly $400,000. The suit alleged that Chrisman used LAPD computers to secretly investigate hundreds of people, including her, and that he sold some of the information to tabloids.

Truhan testified before the hearing board that the officer told her he ran celebrity names on LAPD computers and that he showed her two paychecks totaling $2,800 from the Enquirer, according to transcripts of the hearings.

"He told me, and he showed me, what he had planted in the Enquirer," she testified. "I remember $1,200 and $1,600" as payments Chrisman received from the Enquirer, she said.

Truhan also testified that Chrisman told her he sold a story about Christian Slater after running the actor's name on a police computer.

Slater was arrested, "and Kelly sold the story" to the Enquirer, she testified.

Chrisman, 35, has denied wrongdoing. His attorney, Christopher A. Darden, denied in April that his client had sold restricted law enforcement information, saying that there is "really nothing in those records to sell to tabloids." He did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

LAPD documents obtained by The Times show that Chrisman accessed restricted databases to look up information on scores of Hollywood stars and other famous people, including Sharon Stone, Courteney Cox Arquette, Sean Penn, Kobe Bryant and O.J. Simpson.

Chrisman faces administrative misconduct charges that he misused Los Angeles Police Department computers from 1994 to 2000 to access restricted files. The charges do not allege that he sold the information. LAPD officials said earlier that simply accessing the files without a law enforcement purpose constitutes misconduct.

The hearings, expected to last into summer, could result in Chrisman's firing. The district attorney's office declined to criminally prosecute the officer when it received the case in 2001, saying that the statute of limitations had run out.

During the hearing, Truhan examined two months' worth of Chrisman's telephone bills and identified numbers she recognized. "Numerous" calls were to phones used by Cindy Solomon, a National Enquirer correspondent in Los Angeles, according to a police investigator who was present during the hearing.

When reached at one of those numbers, Solomon identified herself as a National Enquirer reporter, but declined to comment on Chrisman.

A former National Enquirer employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Chrisman "was a major reliable source on a lot of the stuff that the Enquirer did over a long period of time."

Chrisman was the "go-to guy" for arrest records and other gossip-oriented background on Hollywood-based celebrities, the former Enquirer employee said.

The source said that the tabloid typically paid Chrisman and other informants $1,000 for each news tip that resulted in a story. If the tipster could provide additional details to help fill out an article -- vehicles owned by the celebrity, driving history, past arrests -- the paper would provide a larger check, up to $3,000, the source said.

The officer was such a frequent tipster that his earnings could well have topped $10,000 annually, said the former employee. Last month, Enquirer Editor David Perel acknowledged that the paper pays some sources, but said his reporters do not buy information from police officers.

Chrisman's computer inquiries, contained in an LAPD audit obtained by The Times, correlated closely with news events in some instances.

When actor Brian Keith committed suicide in 1997, Chrisman was on the LAPD computer system within three hours after sheriff's deputies were summoned to the death scene in Malibu, according to the audit. The records show that he accessed databases controlled by the California Department of Justice to get information on Daisy Keith, the actor's adult daughter, who had killed herself two months earlier.

In 1995, the audit shows, the officer checked records on actor James Stacy -- by entering the Ojai resident's real name, Maurice W. Elias -- when information became public that Stacy had tried to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff in Hawaii.

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