The Ted Rall Tapes, Director’s Cut Edition

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We return now to the matter of Ted Rall, the leftist cartoonist/columnist whose work until recently appeared in the Los Angeles Times.  We discussed Rall’s parting of ways with the newspaper in this space last week, but for those of you who missed that column (and shame on you), here is a summary of the relevant events:

On May 11, the Times published a piece by Rall in which he criticized the Los Angeles Police Department for its stepped-up enforcement against pedestrian traffic violations such as jaywalking.  Included in that criticism was an account of his own experience of rough treatment at the hands of an LAPD motorcycle officer, this occurring when he was stopped in Hollywood and cited for walking against a red light in October 2001.  According to Rall, he was innocent of the charge, but he was nonetheless handcuffed, roughed up, and thrown against a wall before receiving his traffic ticket.  The commotion, as Rall told it, attracted the attention of passersby, “a couple dozen” of whom were soon shouting in protest at the officer.

The tale came to the attention of someone within the LAPD, someone of sufficient rank and placement in the department to inquire if the complaint had ever been investigated.  It had been.  Shortly after the incident, Rall wrote a letter of complaint to the LAPD, which was duly investigated by a sergeant at West Traffic Division, where the involved officer was assigned.  The conclusion reached within the LAPD was that the officer had acted appropriately during his encounter with Rall, a conclusion backed up by the officer’s audio recording of the incident.

I’m unaware of how this information reached the attention of the editors at the L.A. Times, but keep in mind that the newspaper’s offices and the LAPD headquarters building sit on opposite sides of Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles.  LAPD officers sometimes eat in the Times’ cafeteria, where a cop on a budget can find good food at a reasonable price.  (I used to eat there myself on occasion.)  Though there is a history of friction between the two organizations, individuals within them have been known to have professional and even friendly relationships over the years.

In any event, someone from the LAPD informed someone from the Times that Rall’s tale of abuse during the 2001 traffic stop had been investigated and found to be false.  The LAPD provided the Times with copies of the audiotape and documents related to the investigation, and a reporter was assigned to investigate further on behalf of the newspaper.  The conclusion reached by the editors was that, yes, Rall had indeed embellished his account, inventing details that had not occurred.  On July 28, Nicholas Goldberg, an editor at the Times, issued a “note to readers” in which he laid out the paper’s case against Rall.  “Rall’s future work,” he wrote, “will not appear in The Times.”

Since being shown the exit at the Times, Rall and his defenders have taken to Twitter and various other forums on the Internet (including the comments to my earlier piece) to proclaim his innocence and assert that an “enhanced” version of the audiotape provided to the Times actually vindicates him.  They make their case most prominently at a website called A New Domain, where you can read their arguments here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

In the wake of all this, Rall’s reputation, not to mention his income, has been harmed, about which I confess to no small amount of schadenfreude.  But one cannot truly enjoy another’s misfortune -- no matter how annoying one may find that person -- if the case against him is not legitimate, so a sense of fairness demands that Rall and his defenders be given a decent hearing, which you can do by reading the posts at A New Domain linked above.  If you haven’t the time to read all of that, you can limit yourself to this post, in which Rall posted the “enhanced” audio of his run-in with the police officer as well as a transcript, or rather a transcript of what Rall claims to hear.