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Inmate recants story about LAPD link to rapper's slaying

In a deposition, the man says Biggie Smalls' family and its lawyer offered to pay him. The lawyer calls claims false.

September 26, 2007|Mitchell Landsberg | Times Staff Writer

A prison inmate who had implicated a former Los Angeles Police Department officer in the shooting death of rap star Biggie Smalls has renounced his story, tying a new knot in the tangle of intrigue that surrounds the still-unsolved killing.

Waymond Anderson, who was briefly a top-selling R&B artist and is serving a life term for murder, said in a recent deposition that he lied about LAPD involvement in the Smalls slaying as part of a "scam" concocted by two other convicts to squeeze a large monetary settlement out of the city.

Smalls' family has filed a wrongful death suit seeking damages from the city. In a surprising twist, Anderson accused the rapper's family and its lawyer of participating in the scheme and offering to pay him for false testimony implicating the LAPD.

He said he was offered a percentage of any settlement if he testified that former Los Angeles Officer Rafael Perez had told him that another ex-officer, David Mack, was involved in the murder. In the deposition, he repudiated earlier statements to police investigators in which he described conversations with both of the disgraced officers.

"I don't know David Mack, I don't know Rafael Perez," Anderson told lawyers representing relatives of the slain rapper, whose real name was Christopher Wallace.

The two officers "had no involvement with the . . . murder," Anderson said under oath. At various points in the deposition, he said, "It was a lie, and I'm ashamed of it," and, "I did what I had to do to survive."

The slain rapper also was known as Notorious B.I.G. He was gunned down outside the Petersen Automotive Museum in the Mid-Wilshire District after a music industry party on March 9, 1997.

Anderson's testimony, given Aug. 20, was an unexpected reversal for the Wallace family lawyers, who presumably assumed that he would tell the same story he had earlier told detectives.

In some of his most explosive testimony, Anderson charged that the family's lawyer, Perry R. Sanders Jr., offered to pay him to lie in court about Perez and Mack.

Sanders, a Louisiana lawyer who also has offices in Colorado Springs, Colo., said Anderson's allegations were "100%, demonstrably false."

"This is wholesale, made-up-out-of-whole-cloth perjury," he said in an interview.

Sanders added that Anderson appeared to have been acting at the behest of a Times reporter, Chuck Philips, who has written extensively about Wallace's death, including articles that raised questions about the theory that LAPD officers were involved.

The Times published an article by Philips earlier this year that cast doubt on Anderson's conviction in a 1993 arson-murder. Anderson has since filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking his release.

Sanders said Anderson "clearly would like to please Mr. Philips, because he's singing his song, first, second and third verse and certainly the chorus."

In a court filing after the deposition, two attorneys working with Sanders on the Wallace case suggested that an unidentified "third party" had induced Anderson to commit perjury.

Sanders offered no evidence to support his argument, except to say that Philips had been a "detractor" of the Wallace family's theory of the case.

Philips, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for his coverage of corruption in the entertainment industry, called Sanders' claim "idiotic."

"This guy clearly doesn't understand what an investigative reporter does for a living," he said. "I don't make up stories, I report them."

Times Editor James O'Shea said Sanders' accusations against Philips were "utterly groundless."

Sanders had an Encino lawyer, David Byers, write several letters to The Times threatening a libel suit if the paper published the "outrageous and false statements" in Anderson's deposition. But Byers also encouraged the paper to "do a story" about Anderson's motivations in making the statements.

Regarding the threat to sue, O'Shea said: "This deposition is part of a public lawsuit against public institutions in Los Angeles. We have an obligation and a right to report on it, and we will."

The wrongful death suit, brought by Wallace's mother, Voletta Wallace, and his widow, Faith Evans, accuses the LAPD, and specifically Mack, of responsibility for the rap star's death.

Mack is serving a federal prison term for stealing $722,000 from a bank near USC. His former patrol partner, Perez, became the central figure in the scandal that rocked the LAPD's Rampart Division. Both men were on the police force when Wallace was gunned down.

Mack has never been charged in the killing and has denied any involvement. In 2005, in an accusation that has echoes in Anderson's claim, he said Sanders and another lawyer offered him financial inducements to cooperate with the family's lawsuit. At the time, Mack's lawyer referred the alleged offer to the U.S. attorney's office, which did not pursue the matter. Sanders denied the allegation.

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