DOCUMENT: Crime

Feds Probed JDL For Rap Threats

The FBI "extensively investigated" whether late rap music stars Tupac Shakur and Eric "Eazy-E" Wright were the victims of death threats and extortion plots hatched by individuals aligned with the militant Jewish Defense League, The Smoking Gun has learned. Following a 2-1/2 year probe, bureau officials closed the investigation in May 1999, noting that agents were unable to corroborate information provided by two confidential FBI sources.

Details of the federal investigation, which began weeks after Shakur was murdered in September 1996, are contained in records provided by the bureau pursuant to a Freedom of Information request filed by TSG. Those records, many of which were heavily redacted prior to their release, indicate that the FBI probe was classified a "Domestic Terrorism" case because of the JDL's alleged involvement. One FBI memo notes that the Jewish group "has been the subject of numerous Bureau investigations involving bombings and homicides," including the unsolved 1985 killing of Arab-American activist Alex Odeh.

According to FBI records, agents in Los Angeles opened a preliminary criminal inquiry on October 17, 1996 after "two independent sources" provided information that JDL figures were "extorting money from various rap music stars via death threats." After six months of this initial inquiry, agents opened a full-blown "field investigation" on April 15, 1997 because, one memo states, there was a "reasonable indication" that"extortionate/criminal activity" was occurring.

Shakur and Wright, a founding member of the group N.W.A. who died in March 1995 from AIDS complications, were listed as victims of this reported shakedown. The redacted documents provide no specific details of the supposed threats, nor do they include allegations that the probe's targets were involved in any way with Shakur's murder.

The bureau records reveal that agents focused on whether the "extortionate activities" of the inquiry's subjects--whose names were redacted from the released documents--were "in furtherance of the social and/or political goals of the Jewish Defense League." During the course of the 31-month probe, records show, FBI agents in more than a dozen field offices aided the Los Angeles-based investigation. In addition, IRS agents, LAPD officers, and Los Angeles Sheriff's Department representatives also worked on the case.

On May 18, 1999, the FBI's "Act of Terrorism" (AOT) investigation was formally closed. In a memo to the National Security division at FBI headquarters in Washington, a Los Angeles agent reported that the matter had been "extensively investigated," but probers were unable to corroborate the "source information" which triggered their criminal inquiry. (12 pages)