LAPD captain’s allegiances probed in tipoff to CBS exec
LOS ANGELES (AP) — As the former captain in charge of the Hollywood Division of the Los Angeles Police Department, Cory Palka was a star himself.
The towering cop with a telegenic smile hobnobbed with celebrities getting stars on the Walk of Fame, ran security for the Oscars awards show and even landed a bit part playing himself on the television drama “Bosch” about a talented but troubled maverick LAPD detective.
But Palka’s ties to the entertainment industry and his allegiances were under scrutiny Thursday after prosecutors said he leaked a sexual assault victim’s confidential police report to the accused, former CBS leader Les Moonves, for whom Palka served as a private bodyguard for years.
The LAPD said it was conducting an internal affairs investigation into Palka’s conduct and the state attorney general was probing any criminal elements after a report said he conspired with CBS to conceal sexual assault allegations against Moonves.
The report, which didn’t name Palka, was part of a settlement announced Wednesday by New York Attorney General Letitia James in which CBS and Moonves, its former president, agreed to pay $30.5 million. About $6 million is going to sexual assault and harassment programs. The rest will go to shareholders kept in the dark while executives tried to prevent allegations from becoming public and at least one benefited by unloading shares before news broke.
Weeks after the #MeToo movement erupted with sex abuse allegations against film mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2017, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb reported to police in the Hollywood Division that she had been sexually assaulted by Moonves in 1986 and 1988 when they worked together at Lorimar Productions, the studio behind “Dallas” and “Knots Landing.”
A law enforcement official briefed on the matter confirmed that Golden-Gottlieb, who died this summer, was the woman involved in the leak by Palka. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.
Jim Gottlieb said in an email to The Associated Press that he was “shocked and very disappointed” that his mother’s report was leaked to CBS. He said his mother was never looking for money, she just didn’t want Moonves to “get away with what he did” and was satisfied that her report contributed to his downfall.
“We would like to think the police are looking out for us, the victims, and not the perpetrators,” Gottlieb said. “This sounds just like what you hear about certain police departments being in cahoots with organized crime.”
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represented Golden-Gottlieb, said in nearly a half-century of legal practice, she had never heard of police tipping off a suspect to an investigation and said it could have a chilling effect on other women coming forward to report abuse.
“It’s very, very disturbing,” Allred said. “It’s really outrageous if they did that. And I have to ask, what were their motives if that, in fact occurred? Why were they, for example, trying to curry favor with CBS? Did they receive anything in return?”
Golden-Gottlieb went public with her accusations at the time Ronan Farrow reported on allegations against Moonves in The New Yorker in September 2018. Within hours of that publication, Moonves quit.
Nearly a year earlier, the ink was just drying on her police report — which was marked “confidential” in three places — when Palka tipped off CBS, the report said. Palka then met personally with Moonves and another CBS executive.
The New York AG’s report said the complainant had requested confidentiality. It cited the California Constitution, which prohibits disclosure of confidential information to “a defendant, a defendant’s attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family.”
The captain told CBS that he instructed police officers investigating the complaint to “admonish” the woman not to go to the media with her allegations. He also put CBS officials in touch with the lead investigator.
CBS immediately went into damage control mode, with an executive alerting a member of the news staff to stay close to the phone because they “have a situation.” He told another staffer not to miss any messages and added: “I wouldn’t bother you if this wasn’t serious.”
When the allegations ultimately became public, Palka sent a note to a CBS contact saying, “We worked so hard to try to avoid this day.” He sent Moonves a note saying he was sorry and, “I will always stand with, by and pledge my allegiance to you.”
From 2008 to 2014, Palka had provided private security for Moonves at the Grammy Awards, which CBS produced.
Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School and former president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, said a police officer has to adhere to legal and ethical obligations as a member of the force and can’t violate those duties when providing private security. Typically, those two roles wouldn’t be in conflict.
“The question is on a case by case basis as to whether or not it leads to divided loyalty,” Levinson said. “But the truth is, most of the time it really shouldn’t be a tough call.”
Patti Giggans, executive director of the nonprofit Peace Over Violence in Los Angeles, said she expects the scandal to have repercussions that extend beyond victims being afraid to report assaults to the LAPD to advocates reevaluating relationships they have built with detectives.
Palka, who retired as a commander last year after nearly 35 years with LAPD, said in his LinkedIn profile that he grew up with eight siblings in a low-income housing project in the Mar Vista community and had spent most of his life in Los Angeles.
Video footage of Palka went viral during the racial injustice protests in Los Angeles in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death when he took a knee with protesters on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
He was incident commander at the Academy Awards and “numerous high profile events related to the entertainment industry,” his profile said.
In Hollywood, he was a frequent fixture on red carpets and at Walk of Fame ceremonies, posing with celebrities like Lynda Carter, Jack Black and Stacy Keach. He was personally thanked during Mark Hamill’s star ceremony and posed with Hamill, Harrison Ford and George Lucas.
The Hollywood Chamber Community Foundation’s honored him in 2019 as one of the “Heroes of Hollywood.”
“Celebrity always equates to power and influence,” said attorney Debra Katz, who specializes in sexual-harassment law. “It becomes very troubling when you have a town of celebrities that have access to the police — when they have a dual role where they provide security and they hobnob with one another.”
Palka did not return requests for comment Thursday, nor did an attorney for Moonves and CBS.
Moonves acknowledged having relations with three of his accusers, but said they were consensual. He denied attacking anyone, saying in a statement at the time that “Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me.”
The Los Angeles County district attorney declined to file criminal charges against Moonves in 2018, saying the statute of limitations from Golden-Gottlieb’s allegations had expired.
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak in New York contributed.