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.
Wallace was one of the two biggest stars in rap music when he was killed in an apparent drive-by shooting. The other, Tupac Shakur, was shot to death in Las Vegas the year before.
Various theories have linked the two homicides, neither of which has been solved. Some believe the two men were killed as part of a rivalry between East Coast and West Coast rappers, or between their two music labels, Marion “Suge” Knight’s Death Row Records, based in Los Angeles, and New York-based Bad Boy Entertainment.
In his deposition, conducted at the state Substance Abuse Treatment Facility at Corcoran prison, where he is incarcerated, Anderson testified that a fellow inmate, Kenneth Boagni, approached him sometime in 2001 and asked him to join a scheme to implicate the LAPD in the Wallace murder to aid the Wallace family lawsuit. He said he was promised 5% to 10% of any settlement.
Anderson said that Boagni, a one-time police informant serving a 40-year term for burglary, told him he had already received $25,000, beginning with a $2,500 payment from Sanders to repair plumbing at his mother’s house. Anderson said a third convict, Mario Hammonds, was also in on the scheme.
“They wanted me to corroborate with them this story that they had concocted together,” Anderson testified.
The story, he said, was that “we all three could verify that Rafael Perez and David Mack were involved with the crime of the murder of Christopher Wallace.”
Anderson said he subsequently had a phone conversation with someone identifying himself as Sanders. “He asked me if I received the message from his guys, and the message was that he was willing to pay me for participation in the scam against the city,” he said.
Asked for comment, Sanders said he had not been retained by the Wallace family and was not familiar with the case until after Boagni had left Corcoran. Therefore, he said, Boagni could not have told Anderson about Sanders’ involvement.
The attorney said he became involved in the case after reading about it in Rolling Stone magazine, which published an article in its June 7, 2001, edition, which was available online May 18. Boagni was in Corcoran from Feb. 27 to May 24 of that year.
“The lawsuit that we filed that put my name out there in the public, we didn’t file that until sometime in early 2002,” Sanders said. “There was no way anybody would have known to get hold of me.” The lawsuit was filed April 9, 2002.
In his testimony, Anderson said Boagni called Anderson’s wife repeatedly this summer, renewing the promise of money if he testified as instructed. He said Boagni first offered $25,000, then $50,000, then $75,000, and that ultimately, Voletta Wallace, in a message delivered through another inmate, offered him $150,000.
Asked if the Wallace family denied those charges, Byers said: “It goes way beyond denial. They’re demonstrably false and defamatory.”