Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Retired LAPD Captain Accused in Ex-CBS President Sex Assault Cover-up

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The Los Angeles Police Department has opened an investigation at its Hollywood Division after a scathing report from the New York Attorney General accused a captain of repeatedly interfering with a 2017 investigation into allegations of sexual assault implicating then-CBS President Les Moonves.

New York Attorney General Leticia James said Captain Cory Palka informed executives at CBS about a confidential sexual assault complaint against Moonves that was filed on Nov. 10, 2017, by a woman who had asked to speak with a female officer after arriving at the Hollywood Division. The woman then “reported that she had been sexually assaulted by Moonves” and pleaded with investigators to keep the report confidential.

That same day, James said, Palka called CBS’s Senior Vice President of Talent Relations and Special Events Ian Metrose and left a voicemail regarding the confidential complaint. 

“Somebody walked in the station about a couple hours ago and made allegations against your boss regarding a sexual assault. It’s confidential, as you know, but call me, and I can give you some of the details and let you know what the allegation is before it goes to the media or gets out,” Palka said on the call, according to the AG’s office. According to James, Palka then shared the report, which had been marked confidential three times; Metrose and Palka were familiar after the top officer had been hired to work security for Moonves at the Grammy Awards ceremony from 2004 to 2008.

Text messages that were recovered by investigators between the LAPD captain, a CBS executive, and Moonves reveal that the captain had shared confidential information; he also “worked with CBS executives for months to prevent the complaint from becoming public,” James said on Wednesday.

Several CBS executives then began circulating the report, which contained the accuser’s name, and started to investigate the “victim’s personal circumstances and that of her family, including her children, her brother, and her former spouse,” James said. They went as far as to see if the neighborhood in which she resides would indicate a need for money, according to the report.

LAPD Chief Michael Moore called Palka’s alleged behavior a breach of trust and vowed to launch an investigation into whether any other active or former officers may have been involved in the cover-up.

“What is most appalling is the alleged breach of trust of a victim of sexual assault, who is among the most vulnerable, by a member of the LAPD,” Moore said in a statement on Thursday. “This erodes the public trust and is not reflective of our values as an organization.”

The allegations arose during James’s investigation into insider trading at CBS under Moonves’s tenure; the case was sparked when the late Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Communication Officer Gil Schwartz—who knew about the allegations against Moonves—dumped 160,700 shares of CBS stock six weeks before the allegations swirling around Moonves became public. In making that move, which netted Schwartz close to $9 million, the executive “intentionally concealed those allegations from regulators, shareholders, and the public for months.” Schwartz died in 2020 of natural causes. 

The cover-up of the accusation against Moonves at CBS amounts to insider trading, James said in a 37-page report, and therefore violated New York’s investor protection laws. As a result, CBS and Moonves are now required to pay $30.5 million, the majority of which will be returned to CBS shareholders.

“CBS and Leslie Moonves’s attempts to silence victims, lie to the public, and mislead investors can only be described as reprehensible,” James said in a statement on Wednesday. “As a publicly traded company, CBS failed its most basic duty to be honest and transparent with the public and investors. After trying to bury the truth to protect their fortunes, today CBS and Leslie Moonves are paying millions of dollars for their wrongdoing.”

As the #MeToo movement grew over the next few months, Palka actively worked with CBS to contain the woman’s allegation from both the media and fellow LAPD investigators, James said. Palka went as far as to provide “status updates” on the woman’s accusation, she added.

“He assured CBS executives that he had spoken to his contacts within the LAPD and implemented controls to prevent news of the police report from leaking to the press from the LAPD,” James said. As the #MeToo movement spread, Palka reassured his contacts, writing: “I think at this point CBS should feel better than they did last week. The key is that NO other accusers come forward.” James added that Palka told the detective assigned to the woman’s complaint to admonish her against talking to the press, according to the report; the woman complied with this advice from authorities.

Meanwhile, other Moonves accusers were talking to journalist Ronan Farrow, who eventually broke the story about the CBS boss’s ugly history with women in a story for the New Yorker on July 27, 2018. Just after the story was published, the company’s stock plummeted, dropping 10.9% from the day prior.

James points out in her report that Moonves had pushed out Charlie Rose after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against the news anchor one week after his accusor reported her allegations to authorities. “When asked if he raised any questions about suspending or terminating Rose, Moonves testified, ‘We didn’t spend 10 seconds on it,’ and that he ‘felt it was the right decision that he should go,’” James said.

Moonves stepped down from the helm of CBS on Sept. 9, 2018. 

Palka sent a text message to Metrose that same day, writing: “I’m so sorry to hear this news Ian. Sickens me. We worked so hard to try to avoid this day. I am so completely sad.” He also reached out to Moonves that week, writing: “Les—I’m deeply sorry that this has happened. I will always stand with, by and [sic] pledge my allegiance to you. You have embodied leadership, class and the highest of character through all of this. With utmost respect…”

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