Anthony Wagner, a former spokesman for the Santa Barbara Police Department.
Anthony Wagner, a former spokesman for the Santa Barbara Police Department, seen here in June 2020, was the subject of stories published and later retracted by Los Angeles Magazine. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk file photo)

The controversial stories that attempted to portray former Santa Barbara Police Department employee Anthony Wagner as a public official who orchestrated an underhanded deal to give a cannabis license to a former business associate has been taken down by the organization that published it.

In a rare move in the world of journalism, Los Angeles Magazine pulled three stories from its website, and then alerted local media Friday night that it had done so. 

“This letter is to inform you of the removal of three articles from the Los Angeles Magazine website,, which you have referenced and/or linked in your reporting,” the email statement read. “We request that you remove any and all links to the three L.A. Magazine articles referenced below.”

The email then referenced three articles, dated March 12, March 16 and May 24, 2021.

The original article was titled “In Sleepy Santa Barbara, a City Hall Insider Is Raising Eyebrows,” in which Wagner, the Police Department’s former public engagement officer and spokesman, was the central character in a story that highlighted Santa Barbara’s cannabis dispensary licensing process.

Wagner’s attorney on June 11 sent the magazine a demand for retraction and asked for $4.6 million, his earning potential for the rest of his career.

When contacted, Wagner declined to comment for this story.

L.A. Magazine and the story’s author, Mitchell Kriegman, did not respond to Noozhawk’s emails.

Shortly after the story hit, Wagner was put on administrative leave. Eventually, his position was eliminated from the City of Santa Barbara’s budget.

But the story apparently didn’t add up. It was immediately refuted by Wagner and others in the community.

Wagner told Noozhawk last March, after the story was published, that it contained unsubstantiated accusations.

“Just because a theatrical writer puts words into existence does not make them true,” Wagner said. “The story in L.A. Magazine violates basic journalistic ethical standards and due diligence. The piece misstates and misrepresents my background, significant events in my life, and past professional interactions and personal relationships.”

He alleged that the story was not adequately fact-checked by L.A. Magazine and had “multiple errors.”

“Despite the fact that I personally provided him my direct phone number and email address, the author did not reach out to me for comment prior to submission,” Wagner said previously. “In a flagrantly surreptitious and underhanded attempt to circumnavigate communication with me, he instead submitted public records requests to the city.”

At the time, Wagner said he was intent on restoring his “sterling professional reputation.”

“I have served the people of Santa Barbara for four years with honor and integrity,” Wagner said in March. “The investigation will yield as such.”

The issue never made it to a courtroom, so it appears as though the sides reached a settlement privately and then agreed not to speak to the press.

It is difficult to prove libel against public officials because a court would have to determine that a journalist or publication knowingly printed false information and, therefore, showed “actual malice.” For a private person, the standard for libel is much lower, only that the journalist and publication acted negligently. 

When the story hit nearly a year ago, many of Wagner’s critics were texting the story to one another all over town. Some critics attacked local journalists for not “breaking” the story and that a Los Angeles publication had to do so.

The information in the story where the accuracy is not disputed had previously been published in Noozhawk, and Wagner never asked for corrections to any of the local media coverage. 

Even though Wagner has essentially been exonerated by the takedown of the article, he, his wife and family have moved back to San Diego, and he was forced to uproot his daughter from her school late in the school year because of the drama around the story.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at