When it was finally over, I did something I’d been avoiding during the
previous months. I had a nervous breakdown (I guess that’s what they
call those things). Essentially, I simply stopped doing everything.
My shrink told me that I was severely depressed and put me on Prozac.
For the next two years I watched TV, ate mass quantities of junk food,
got fat, and felt sorry for myself. When the occasional assignment came
in, I turned it down. I worked part-time as a $7-an-hour telemarketer,
played guitar in a blues band on weekends and in an all black church
down in the ghetto every Sunday (the two activities that kept me sane).
Then in July 1993, something odd happened. It was called the Menendez
trial. Robert Rand, an old cohort from “Hard Copy” who was writing a
book for Simon & Schuster — hired me to do some investigative work. I
took the gig. Oddly, I noticed that I was enjoying myself. Then suddenly
it hit me. I’d been inside the tabloids once — why not do it again?
I came up with some new pseudonyms. I made the requisite phone calls.
And boom — just like that — I was back inside. That easy.
Once my motor was running, there was no stopping me. Over the next year,
I worked on all the biggies: Menendez, Michael Jackson, Tonya
Harding/Nancy Kerrigan, Lorena Bobbit, Amy Fisher/Joey Buttafuoco, Heidi
Fleiss, and (natch) the O.J. Simpson case. It tickled me that I was
getting paychecks from the same people who’d tried to put me in jail.
But the money was strictly a fringe benefit. I was there to do what I
hadn’t done the first time. Nail the bastards. I hoped beyond hope that
the tabs were still up to their old tricks.
I wasn’t disappointed.
I gathered information, slowly, quietly. This time I wasn’t focusing on
petty stuff. I was looking for incriminating evidence of the big ticket
items: money laundering, fraud, profit skimming, IRS evasion, interstate
wire piracy, unreported income, violations of FCC regulations and
antitrust laws — things which would perk up the ears of federal
One sunny afternoon, Ted Gunderson and I made a trip to the Wilshire
Boulevard offices of the FBI. There, Gunderson introduced me to two
agents. I briefed them on the investigation I was conducting. The agents
told me that they’d be very interested in having a look at the results
when I completed my work.
Gunderson and I also had a meeting with Detective Black of the LAPD in
regard to certain tabloid reporters who we had discovered were engaged
in a scheme to defraud privately owned phone companies. The specific
crime included hacking into pay phones and changing the internal codes.
This allowed the caller to make free phone calls all over the world, and
— more importantly — to make calls which left no record.
I next contacted the NAACP, whose recent criticism of Fox had prompted
the FCC to investigate owner Rupert Murdoch’s violations of foreign
ownership laws. At the time we spoke, the FCC was very anxious to gather
intelligence on Fox. As was I. Information was shared, to our mutual
benefit. (Following their investigation, the FCC concluded that Murdoch
had, indeed broken the law.)
I also spoke with Krista Bradford, a former “Current Affair” staffer
who’d written a scathing piece in Rolling Stonedescribing rampant
racism (as well as a host of other ethical breaches) at the tabloids.
When we spoke, Bradford indicated that she knew much more than she’d let
on in the article — as regards specific illegal activities engaged in
by the tabs. But when I pushed her for details she got nervous. She told
me that one of her sources — a man whose basement housed documents that
would literally “shut down the tabloids,” had recently “freaked out.”
The source, she said, was afraid for his life.
“These are real bad people,” Bradford said in hushed tones. “If I were
you, I’d be careful.”
But I hit the jackpot when I spoke with Bob Young, a former “Current
Affair” staffer who’d recently defected to the competing “Inside
Edition.” Young confirmed what I’d long known, but had, thus far, been
unable to prove.
“Oh yeah, mate, you were set up alright,” Young said. “There’s no doubt
“Who was it!?” I hissed. C’mon, man. I need names, man.”
There was a long silence.
Then: “It was Smirnoff and the pig.”
Paul Smirnoff was the head of Fox newsroom in New York, and manager of
their computer system. According to Young, Smirnoff was what’s known as
a Super User — i.e., he was one of a handful of people with the
requisite access to create the famed “nul passcode” which had allowed me
to get into the system, while making it appear to the authorities that
someone had “broken in the Fox system.”
“The pig,” Young informed me, was Ian Rae, Smirnoff’s boss and executive
producer at “A Current Affair.”
“Who else was involved?” I spat. I knew there had to be more than two
Now Young got nervous.
“I can’t say anymore,” he said. “I probably already told you too
I decided to push. I’d waited too long to back off now. “What about
(Peter) Brennan? Was he involved?” (Brennan had been the senior producer
at “A Current Affair” at the time of my arrest. He was also tight with
Riva Dryan — who at this point was simply referred to as Fatso, by
everyone working on my team.
“Brennan had nothin’ to do with it,” Young said shakily. “In fact, after
you got popped, Peter called me at around 3:00 a.m. He was f–king
furious because of what they’d done to you.”
“Do you know that for a fact?”
“I know that for an absolute fact,” Young said.
On September 12, 1994, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
handed down a decision in the case of Ayeni vs. Mottola, making it a
violation of the Fourth Amendment — which protects citizens from
illegal or unreasonable searches of their workplaces. The decision also
cemented the law prohibiting camera crews from “reality” TV shows from
accompanying law enforcement officers during the execution of a search
warrant (which they’d done in my case, in the process plastering me —
being led out of my house in handcuffs — all over the evening news).
Stated Judge Jack Weinstein, “You cannot, in search of news and profit,
break into people’s houses this way. It is simply intolerable.”
On October 7 — three years, four months and nine days after he had
pronounced sentence against me — Superior Court Judge Richard (“I
Goofed”) Neidorf said the words I’d been waiting to hear: “Case
My original nolo contendere plea was withdrawn. All charges against me
were dismissed and terminated, and my record was completely expunged. As
far as “the books” were concerned, none of this had ever happened.
After court, my attorney Mike Adelson, and I embraced. I caught sight of
the District Attorney Richard Lowenstein — who’d prosecuted me as if I
were a serial killer, as he exited the courtroom, blithely sauntering
down the hall. Amazingly, Lowenstein turned and waved at me. “Be good!”
he yelled over his shoulder.
Be good?! The poor guy reallywas dumber than nine
chickens. I said a small prayer for his soul.
But now none of it mattered.
The nightmare was over.
I was a human being again!
Re-energized, I dove head on into my investigation.
My file on the tabs continued to grow fatter by the day. I maintained
two copies of all documents and records. I kept a complete time-dated
log of every phone call. I stashed my audio tapes — over 75 of them —
in a safe-deposit box under a relative’s name. Most importantly, I did
what I hadn’t done the first time around. I kept my mouth shut.
And then one day a little voice went off in my head. It said:
It was time to end this thing. I picked up the phone and placed a call
to my attorney. I ran down a complete laundry list of the evidence I’d
accumulated, which now occupied 14 legal sized boxes.
My attorney told me to get the stuff out of my house immediately. He
suggested that I bring everything to his office, where it’d be protected
by the attorney-client privilege. Maintaining the documents in this
fashion, it was suggested, would serve as insurance against any further
reprisals from the tabloids.
I hung up the phone and began packing boxes into my car.
Which brings us, I guess, to the present.
Earlier, I used the word revenge. I want to retract that. What I’m doing
here is called “setting the record straight” — something every man has
a right to do. As regards revenge … sure, there was a time when that
was a motivation. A big one. After all, the tabloids had succeeded in
destroying my reputation, my marriage, and — worst of all — my
But revenge is a drag. It’ll drain your soul. I gave it up a long time
ago. My only concern now was with keeping my own back yard clean.
I had started out as a professional journalist, but somewhere along the
way I went over the line. I was never a hacker.
I was something
much worse. It’s called a snitch.
Now it’s over.
I’m not a snitch any more.
Today, with the exception of my Internet columns, I’ve happily retreated
to the world of fiction
writing. It’s a
world which doesn’t appear (at least thus far) to be populated by liars,
shysters, thieves, degenerates and pimps. It’s a place where — if you
keep your nose to the grindstone and do your gig — you won’t have to
deal with things like crooked attorneys, third-rate DA’s, sleazy PI’s,
lying cops, or a vengeful gang of middle-aged punks, cowards and
low-rent bullies who think it’s cute to destroy people’s lives.
But I guess I have the Mark of The Beast. Every week when I do my
shopping, I still find myself picking up a copy of the National
Enquirer. And I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy reading the
But you know what I enjoy even more?
Tossing it in the trash when I’m done.
In December of 1995, after a heated bidding war involving such
players as Universal Pictures, Robert De Niro, Tom Cruise and Interscope
Films, Goldman sold the rights to his story
to Phonenix Pictures and
director Oliver Stone. The film is currently “in development.”