Stories That Made a Difference

And some we regret

"Tears, Glam & Revelations" by Rich Kane, July 7, 2000

"The White Stripes appear strange and weird and nerdy at first—just a brother and sister onstage, Jack White playing guitar and blowing the harp while Meg bangs the drum kit (a kit with a bass drum painted to look like a big, red-and-white peppermint candy, no less). If you hadn't heard a lick of their music, you'd think they were gonna fart out Monkees covers or something just as sugary and safe. But then they totally surprise you with these great, noisy, wicked electric-slide blues songs that sound like the Reverend Horton Heat getting balled by Robert Johnson (at least that's what happened on their cover of "Stop Breaking Down"). They were, on this eve, a whiskey keg full of sonic splendors—Jack was albeit a trippy one all by his lonesome, with a freakily high singing voice that was equal parts Adam Sandler and Robert Plant, while the grooves he laid down were stitched-together Sabbath and Cheap Trick. Yet, through all the fuzzy pop tones that you wanted to believe they were kicking out, it was instead, unmistakably, undeniably the Blues, as authentic and honest and real as it gets." It's September 2005. You know where the White Stripes are now, don't you? There you go.

"The Painful Truth" by R. Scott Moxley, Nov. 29, 1996
"El Dia de Nuestro Señor Nativo" by Gustavo Arellano, Dec. 20, 2002

Photo by Davis Barber
When the mainstream media supported Rep. Bob Dornan's claim that he lost his 1996 race with Democrat Loretta Sanchez because of a "massive" voter fraud plot by Nativo Lopez, a Weekly investigation discredited the assertions and predicted exoneration. "Only the Weekly took the time to independently investigate Bob Dornan's smear campaign," Lopez said. Investigations by California's secretary of state, Orange County's district attorney and a House congressional committee—all headed by Republicans—failed to prove the Republican congressman's allegations.

But time wounds all: in late 2002, Lopez faced a recall. Parents unhappy with his support of bilingual education wanted him off the Santa Ana Unified School District board of trustees. But it wasn't until we dropped in on a fund-raiser Lopez supporters held Dec. 12—the same day as the feast day of Mexico's patron saint, Our Lady of Guadalupe—that we became interested and the recall effort became more than a conservative-funded effort. The sparsely attended rally was a disaster, with Lopez tying his ordeal to that of Jesus and the Holy mother. Lopez was also offended—by us. "I read with extreme disgust the piece Gustavo Arellano's 'El Dia de Nuestro Señor Nativo.' I found it offensive and distasteful," Lopez wrote us. But it was too late. After that, we revealed that Lopez improperly influenced district contracts and accepted contributions from PR firms whose clients he had said were victims of racism. Soon after, Lopez's friends fell away. In February 2003, 71 percent of Santa Ana voters recalled Lopez. Lopez hasn't been quite the same since; we hear he now performs at quinceañeras.

"Bad Rap" by Nick Schou, March 2, 2001

Photo by Jack Gould
In November 2000, a baby-faced kid from Lakewood named Joshua Moore was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the armed robbery of a Fullerton video store. The case against him relied on contradictory eyewitness testimony, gangster rap lyrics culled from Moore's high school notebook—and his rap music moniker, "Big J-Mo." As it turned out, Moore's biggest crime was that he hung out with black kids, one of whom was arrested in a holdup in which Moore drove the getaway car; he later claimed he didn't know his passenger had a gun, and the police report states that he pulled over just blocks from the scene. His problems might have ended there, but when the Fullerton video store robbery occurred and witnesses said a white guy and a black guy did the crime, cops immediately suspected Moore was the white guy.

But in a series of articles following Moore's conviction, the Weekly revealed that police, prosecutors and even his own defense attorney had failed to check his alibi: that he was selling golf clubs in Huntington Beach when the Fullerton robbery took place. One of those articles, "DA: Please Call this Guy!" featured a photograph of Sean Barbosa, the manager of the golf store, who remembered Moore never missed a day of work and could not have driven all the way to Fullerton and back on his lunch break to rip off a video store. Shortly after that article ran, the DA's office rechecked evidence collected in the trial—including golf store sales receipts stamped at exactly the time the video store robbery occurred. A lab test discovered Moore's fingerprints on those receipts, proving he was working the cash register in Surf City when someone else ripped off the video store. After being set free 10 years early, Moore told us he'd still be in prison if not for the Weekly. "In Orange County," he added, "if a cop arrests you, takes you down to the station and books you, you're guilty."

"Crack Cop" by Nick Schou, July 13, 2001

Photo courtesy Costa Mesa P.D.
People don't get much more mysterious than Ronald Lister, a former Laguna Beach police detective who quit his job and formed a globe-trotting security company just in time to cash in on Ronald Reagan's war against the Nicaraguan contras. Busted by drug agents during a 1986 raid on his Mission Viejo house, Lister claimed he worked for the CIA and that he knew the cops were watching his house. No drugs were found, but Lister continued to deal cocaine, avoiding jail time by working as an informant. In 1989 his luck ran out, and Lister spent three years in prison. In August 1996, his name became synonymous with the CIA-crack-cocaine connection, thanks to then-San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb's exposé "Dark Alliance." Dismissed as a con artist by the mainstream media—which worked overtime to debunk Webb's stories—Lister also recounted his previous allegation of CIA ties. "Crack Cop" proved Lister may have been a con artist, but he also had friends in high places—like William Nelson, a corporate executive at then-Irvine-based Fluor Corp., whose previous job was covert operations chief for the CIA. The FBI has refused to release uncensored copies of files on its investigation of Lister's security company and the company's relationship to Nelson. Fired from his paper and unable to land another job in daily journalism, Webb committed suicide last December. Lister's whereabouts are unknown.

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