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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 4:38 am | Fair 42º

 
 
 
 

Ted Rall: The LA Times Is Trying to Bankrupt Me

Got $75,000? That’s how much The Los Angeles Times is demanding that I pay them.

After they fired me for phony reasons. After they published lies about me.

They set out to destroy me, but the truth came out and ruined their plan, so now they’re determined to bankrupt me — by abusing the court system.

One year ago, The Los Angeles Times fired me in what became known as “The Ted Rall Scandal.”

I’d been their cartoonist since 2009. Never had a problem. Was never late. Never did anything wrong. My bosses never had a complaint — to the contrary, I received nothing but praise.

What I didn’t know was that the political cartoonist of The Los Angeles Times isn’t allowed to criticize the police. I wish I’d been informed.

I have principles, but I also have to eat. If they’d told me the cops were off-limits, I wouldn’t have criticized the LAPD, police brutality, corruption or incompetence.

If I’d known that LAPD chief Charlie Beck enjoyed the LA Times editorial page, I would have left him alone.

But no one told me. So I did what cartoonists are supposed to do: I criticized and ridiculed and made fun of the cops.

Unbeknownst to me, dark forces were aligned against me.

In 2014, Tribune Publishing, the Chicago-based $499 million conglomerate that was the parent company of the LA Times, brought on a brutal, cynical billionaire named Austin Beutner as its new publisher.

Beutner had big political ambitions and no experience in newspapers. Probably never even delivered one as a boy.

But Beutner had what Tribune wanted: a contact list full of potential investors. It was a match made in hell.

Beutner made good on his promise to bring cash into the troubled Tribune organization by midwifing a deal between his only political ally, the LAPD’s police union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, and Oaktree Capital, a Beverly Hills-based investment firm.

The LAPPL moved its $16 billion pension fund to Oaktree. At the same time, Oaktree became the number one shareholder in Tribune. The local police owned the local paper.

The LAPPL made no secret of its appreciation. Weeks after being named publisher, Beutner was given the LAPPL’s 2014 Badge and Eagle Award for “support[ing] the LAPD in all that they do.”

In July 2015, the fuzz called in their chit with Beutner.

As has only recently been revealed by my lawsuit against the LA Times for defamation and wrongful termination, the plot against me began with a conspiracy at the highest levels of city government and the corporate media elite.

They wanted to make an example out of me. They were out to destroy me. So they published articles calling me a liar.

I was freelance. Why not just tell me I was no longer needed? Because Beck and Beutner thought I’d be a pushover. Don’t criticize law enforcement. If you do, your career will be over.

The key evidence used against me to destroy my journalistic career was an audio file containing about 20 seconds of audible speech and over six minutes of road noise.

That recording, made by a police officer who arrested me for jaywalking in 2001, supposedly proved that I had been treated politely by the cop, not rudely handcuffed, as I had written in the Times. The Times didn’t have this “evidence” authenticated or analyzed. Big mistake.

Things fell apart for the Times after my firing.

I paid to have the tape professionally enhanced. There was a woman shouting “take off his handcuffs!” buried under all that static. I was vindicated. Independent journalists and other media outlets agreed.

Driving the point home, the LAPD public information office said that the audio never came out via official means. In other words, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck ginned up the evidence from somewhere else.

It wasn’t official evidence. It wouldn’t have been admitted in court and it shouldn’t have been used to fire anyone — something a real journalist, not a billionaire financier, would have known.

I eventually obtained a copy of the official audio file from the police department via a public records act request. What a difference!

It was clean. It was different. Without any enhancement at all, you could hear an angry crowd of people yelling at the officer about my mistreatment.

By this time, the Times’ ridiculous assault on free expression had blown up in their faces. Social media and the Internet had gone crazy. Journalists of all political stripes had come to my defense. Beutner was fired by the Tribune.

All I wanted was my job back and a retraction. An apology would have been nice. I don’t know why, even after all this, the Times is fighting this lawsuit. The way they’re acting, you would think that I was the one who had hurt them.

Now their lawyer is resorting to scorched earth tactics. The last thing they want is for 12 Angelenos to listen to my case, consider both sides and render justice

Their latest sleazy move is to file an “anti-SLAPP” motion against me. California legislature passed the anti-SLAPP law to stop the following scenario: “A deep-pocketed corporation, developer or government official files a lawsuit whose real purpose is to silence a critic, punish a whistleblower or win a commercial dispute."

I’m not a deep pocketed corporation. I’m not a developer. I’m not a government official. I’m a critic. So I’m the one this law was designed to protect.

Incredibly, the Times’ lawyer is arguing that I, an individual freelance cartoonist, is quashing the Times’ free-speech rights! If they convince the judge that they are right, my case gets thrown out and — get this — I’m going to have to pay their attorneys’ fees!

I owe the entire $75,000 on or before Thursday, Aug. 18. My lawyers and I prepared a brief to fight it, but because the Los Angeles court system is so backed up, we can’t get a hearing until next summer.

So, I either cough up $75,000 by next Thursday, or the Times gets away with what they did to me.

I’m not going down without a fight.

Ted Rall is the author of Bernie, a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography Trump, comes out July 19 and is now available for pre-order. Click here to contact him, and follow him on Twitter: @TedRall. The opinions expressed are his own.

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