LAPD took highly unusual action after its handling of CBS sex scandal was questioned

LAPD Cmdr. Cory Palka of the Operation West Bureau asked protesters Monday in West Hollywood that if he took the knee, would they agree to make the protest peaceful. He heard screams of support, then dropped to his knee to more applause.
LAPD Cmdr. Cory Palka of the Operation West Bureau asks protesters in West Hollywood that if he took a knee, would they agree to make their protest peaceful. He heard screams of support, then dropped to his knee to more applause. (Matt Hamilton / Los Angeles Times)
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Days after an internal investigation was launched into whether a former Los Angeles police captain led a cover-up of sexual assault allegations against former CBS chief Leslie Moonves, the detective who handled the case years ago took an unusual step.

Last month, LAPD Robbery-Homicide Division Det. Oscar Gamino showed up at the district attorney's office in downtown Los Angeles to present his investigation on the 2017 case, according to the DA's office. At the time, the case had been closed for nearly five years and had already been rejected by the office of former Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey.

Gamino's action came seven days after a stunning report by New York Atty. Gen. Leticia James revealed that former LAPD Cmdr. Cory Palka, and perhaps others in the LAPD, worked in late 2017 and early 2018 to keep a lid on what they recognized would be explosive allegations against Moonves at a time when top media and film figures were being ousted based on MeToo allegations.

Leslie Moonves, then chairman and CEO of CBS at a premiere in 2017.
Leslie Moonves, then chairman and CEO of CBS at a premiere in 2017. (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

The detective re-presented his findings to Dist. Atty. George Gascón's office Nov. 9 — five years after Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb went to the Hollywood police station to report that Moonves assaulted her in the mid-1980s when they were co-workers at Lorimar Television. Golden-Gottlieb previously told The Times that she was haunted for decades by Moonves' alleged abuse. The former CEO has denied the allegations.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore acknowledged that he directed Gamino to bring the case to the DA last month.

"Out of an abundance of caution, I asked DB/RHD (Detective Bureau/Robbery-Homicide Division) to discuss the case file with LA DA for any feedback," Moore told The Times. "They concur with the original declination."

Tiffiny Blacknell, the district attorney's communications head and top aide to Gascón, said in a statement, "we can confirm that a case against Mr. Moonves was presented to our office a second time and that we didn't issue a separate statement because they didn't present any additional evidence."

The New York attorney general's report documented how Palka, then captain of the Hollywood station, worked closely with Moonves, his lawyer and an underling at CBS to ensure the sexual assault allegations did not become public at the height of the #MeToo scandals.

At Moonves and CBS' behest, Palka encouraged the alleged victim not to speak publicly and for the investigator to address his questions to Moonves' attorney and not Moonves, who eventually resigned in 2018 amid a widening sexual assault scandal, according to the report. After a distinguished career, Palka retired from the department nearly two years ago. Palka has not responded to requests for comment.

For months, the New York attorney general's investigation into alleged wrongdoing at CBS and the LAPD was quietly proceeding — unbeknownst to the LAPD. After James' report was released on Nov. 2, Moore opened an investigation to determine whether the handling of the investigation or other inquiries was tainted.

The district attorney's office, in February 2018, declined to file charges against Moonves, citing the statute of limitations as the two alleged sexual assaults took place in July 1986 and January 1988.

Multiple prosecutors speaking anonymously called Gamino's move "unheard of" and "unusual." Some questioned whether the LAPD was now seeking cover from the district attorney's office regarding the conduct of Palka and another unnamed Robbery-Homicide Division detective who may have helped Palka conceal the existence of Golden-Gottlieb's report.

Gascón said he would weigh whether any actions should result in criminal prosecutions of officers.

Gamino appeared at the DA's office last month, the same day after a Times reporter sent him a series of questions about whether he discussed the case with Palka and who was the colleague who communicated with him about the investigation on Palka's behalf.

In reply to questions last month, Gamino wrote to The Times: "The case is being reviewed by Internal Affairs Detectives, and I’m not at liberty to discuss the matter."

The Moonves case was first declined by the DA's office, then overseen by Lacey, on Feb. 23, 2018. The former network chief was accused of sexual assault, assault and battery, and exposing himself, according to the original declination.

The department has refused to identify any of the others involved beyond Palka.

Palka was part of Moonves' security detail for the music industry's Grammy Awards from 2008 to 2014, according to the attorney general's report that the LAPD was unaware of until last month. Hours after Golden-Gottlieb, then 81, walked into the Hollywood station to report that Moonves had allegedly assaulted her in the 1980s, a station watch commander told Palka about the report, and Palka called a CBS senior vice president to tip him off.

Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb
Former television executive Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb talks about abuse allegedly committed by Leslie Moonves in the 1980s in the law offices of Gloria Allred in Los Angeles on Sept. 11, 2018. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

It was just weeks after the New York Times and New Yorker in 2017 published accounts of abuse by former film producer Harvey Weinstein. CBS had just shown the door to morning anchor Charlie Rose amid tawdry allegations. To help his friends at CBS, Palka sent over an unredacted version of the police report that contained Golden-Gottlieb's name, address and other identifying information, according to the attorney general's report.

Moonves then pressed to meet with Palka in person, according to the report outlined in a $30.5-million settlement agreement reached by CBS' parent company, Paramount Global, Moonves and the New York attorney general.

According to the attorney general's report, Palka then worked to keep the Golden-Gottlieb allegations quiet, informing Moonves' attorney and CBS Senior Vice President Ian Metrose that the investigating officer would "admonish the accuser tomorrow about refraining from going to the media" and maintain her confidentiality and honoring the integrity of the investigation.

Due to Moonves' VIP status and because it was considered a high-profile MeToo allegation, the case was assigned to the elite sex crime unit of the Robbery-Homicide Division, according to investigators.

Palka told the CBS team he reached out to his contact in the division and made sure Moonves' lawyer was "the first and only point of contact."

Staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.