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Website duped by fake Ito's remarks on Simpson case

September 20, 2007|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

It seemed like another reporting coup for TMZ.com.

The celebrity website posted a video of "Judge Lance Ito," who presided over O.J. Simpson's 1995 murder trial, declaring the former football great "guilty as sin" of the crimes he is accused of in Las Vegas.

One problem: It wasn't Ito.

Officials at Los Angeles County Superior Court quickly informed the website about the error.

"The video does not depict Judge Ito. He is not in the video, and he did not, and has not, commented in any way to TMZ.com -- or any other media organization -- about the Las Vegas case or any other matter relating to O.J. Simpson -- past or present," the court said in a statement.

The 30-second video was quickly removed and TMZ.com issued an apology, calling it "a stupid mistake."

Simpson and three other men were charged Tuesday with 10 felony counts, including kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon, in the alleged theft of sports memorabilia worth at least $80,000.

The site, which recently launched a television show, has had a string of exclusives, including obtaining a police report detailing anti-Semitic rants by actor Mel Gibson and the comings and goings of jailed celebutante Paris Hilton.

In the video, which appears to be shot outside a party, a TMZ.com cameraman approaches two men, one with a passing resemblance to the longtime jurist, albeit with dark instead of salt-and-pepper hair.

Someone can be heard off camera referring to Ito and asking the men if they have an opinion about the Simpson case. The look-alike, who doesn't deny being the judge, replies, "He's guilty," and then chuckles to his friend.

Asked about the Las Vegas case, he says, "He's guilty as sin."

A TMZ spokesman declined to comment beyond a prepared statement.

"Judge Ito has not made, nor will he make, any public comments regarding this matter or any matters related to O.J. Simpson," the statement says.

--

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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