SECRETS OF THE L.A. RIOTS -- PART II
[Editor's note: Fred Celeni (pronounced suh-LAN-ee) worked as a
federal intelligence agent, he says, for the office of U.S.
Congressman John D. Dingell. Celeni was interviewed for public
access television in Los Angeles, and that interview was later
re-broadcast on Sherman Skolnick's television program,
"Broadsides," in Chicago. Following is my own abbreviated
transcript of Celeni's remarks. (Possible spelling errors exist
and are not noted.)]
-+- Tow Truck Mike -+-
INTERVIEWER: What happened to the black individual, you said,
who was a local resident who happened to be out there with a
video camera? He shot you, sitting in the LAPD car. Can you
tell us what happened?
FRED CELENI: A gentleman pulled up in a tow truck. I came to
find out, later on, that he was called "Tow Truck Mike." And Tow
Truck Mike took a videotape of what was going on; he swung the
camera around and picked me up, sitting, looking out the window
of the [squad] car. He was back, I'd say, 150 feet.
So what I did is, I wrote down the license number and I got on
the telephone. And a couple of hours later, the police invaded
Mike's home. And they took Mike down to the police station --
they took his mother, too... his mother or his father. And they
said to him, "If you don't give us this videotape, your mother
(or father) is never leaving this police station alive."
And so he turned over the tape.
INTERVIEWER: The meeting at the Hamburger Hamlet with Robert
Vernon, the Assistant Chief of Police: Who else was at that
FRED CELENI: There were three meetings that took place at that
location. The first meeting was Robert Vernon, Ira Reiner, and
myself. The second meeting was...
INTERVIEWER: Ira Reiner!? The District Attorney?
FRED CELENI: Yes, sir. The District Attorney.
Mr. Reiner wore a baseball hat -- a red baseball hat that
said "Los Angeles" on it. And when we left that first meeting,
he gave me the hat as a souvenir. And I wore it when they taped
me for "Street Stories." "Street Stories" came in when I was
interviewing Damian Williams' mother for my radio show. And when
they taped it for airing... It never aired, because Dingell
ordered it pulled. But the tape still exists, I'm sure, at CBS.
INTERVIEWER: Congressman John Dingell from Michigan ordered it
FRED CELENI: Yes, sir.
INTERVIEWER: How did he have this power?
FRED CELENI: He told me that he just called up somebody in New
York City and said that, "=I= =do= =not= =want= Celeni on the
They were there for an hour that day, taping me, at radio
station KIEV in Glendale.
INTERVIEWER: Congressman Dingell actually admitted this to you?
FRED CELENI: Yes, sir. He said, "=I= =do= =not= =want= you on
the air. Somebody might recognize your face. And I can't have
you on the air as 'Fred Sebastian.'"
INTERVIEWER: That was your code name, "Fred Sebastian?"
FRED CELENI: Yes.
INTERVIEWER: What knowledge did Ira Reiner have?
FRED CELENI: Basically what they were doing [at the Hamburger
Hamlet meeting] was internecine warfare. Mr. Reiner said that,
not only was there a wealth of intelligence coming out of
[Operation Lasso], but he felt that he had no control over it.
We had had an incident a couple of months before with the
Sheriff's Department up in Malibu, which almost blew the
operation wide open, and they had to come in and cover it up.
And at that point, Mr. Reiner said that he wanted more-direct
input. So he arranged for one of his murder prosecutors from Van
Nuys to start overseeing the cases. And he also arranged for one
of his former prosecutors to take a job directly at CCLJ.
The Center for Constitutional Law and Justice [CCLJ] was =not=
a store-front law firm. It had a quarter of a floor in an office
building. It had ten attorneys. They had a complete support
staff. They had $100,000 worth of computers and fax machines and
telephone systems. They had sophisticated taping and
surveillance systems. They had a sophisticated electronic entry
system: when you came in, you had to acknowledge that you were
coming into a videotaped and audiotaped area. The *California
Law Magazine* talks about it.
All of the money came from Congress. This is the first time
in the history of the country where you have Congressman John
Dingell running an illegal intelligence operation, and killing
people who are United States citizens.
The fact is, nobody has adequately checked this story out.
And until somebody checks it out, they will continue to get away
-+- Praying On O.J. Simpson -+-
INTERVIEWER: This leads us to an interesting coalition, of
Nathan Arnold and Mark Fuhrman, on another celebrated case.
FRED CELENI: It's kind of a strange story. And I'll tell you why.
One day, we were sitting at the Hamburger Hamlet. (And this
is =before= the riot. This is back about January of 1992.) And
Bob Vernon, every time we would meet, he would make us pray. He
was a devout Christian and a deacon in his church. And we had to
hold hands, and we had to pray. (Not that I have a problem with
it; I was an old Catholic altar boy. I thought it was kind of
strange, though, to do it in the Hamburger Hamlet.) And in the
course of doing this praying... We finished praying, and he says
to me, "What do you think about 'jungle bunnies' being with our
And I paused for a moment. I thought to myself, "Bunnies?"
(Because I'm thinking about what we're doing, and this guy's off
in the briar patch.) And he lost me for a second. Then it hit
me, what he meant. I said, "Well, if the woman and the man meet,
and they want to be together, I guess that's their business." I
don't think it's any of =my= business.
And he said, "Well that's not the kind of attitude you should
have. God means monkeys to stay in trees with monkeys; and God
means white women to stay with white men."
INTERVIEWER: And this is who, saying this?
FRED CELENI: This was Robert Vernon.
And I said, "What's the purpose of this? Where are you going?"
And he said, "Do you know O.J. Simpson?"
I said, "I don't know him personally, but as you know, we had
him under surveillance back in Buffalo a few years ago.
And he said, "Well, you know, that son-of-a-bitch is fooling
around with a woman from my church. And I hate that."
Well from there begins an odyssey where we start following
O.J. Simpson, Nicole Simpson. And it ends up that we had a woman
under surveillance, and in the course of the surveillance, we
begin to find out that Mr. Simpson is involved in the cocaine
INTERVIEWER: What time frame does this envelop?
FRED CELENI: Late 1991 to early 1992.
INTERVIEWER: Prior to the riots.
FRED CELENI: Prior to the riots.
The meeting where he discussed this, if I remember correctly,
was around February of 1992. But Mr. Simpson had been a subject
of an intelligence operation, by =their= office, in late 1991.
=We= had no direct contact with it in its early stages of 1991.
We came into it in 1992. But he had already been under
INTERVIEWER: By LAPD?
FRED CELENI: Correct.
Later on, we were told to keep up surveillance on O.J.
Simpson. And we found out that Simpson is basically a moron.
And I don't mean that in any racial fashion, when I say that.
I'm talking about as a human being. He's a moron. And if it's a
white woman and she has her legs open, O.J. Simpson will be
there. It's as simple as that. And it's sad, but that's the way
the man is.
What happens after that, as we get into the "Lasso" operation
and the riots, eventually I am told, in August, to start winding
things down. And this was in the Los Angeles Times: Everyone
wanted to know why, all of a sudden, in August, the Center for
Constitutional Law and Justice starts shutting itself down.
Everyone says, "What's going on here?" And then, one day, we
fire all the lawyers.
[...to be continued...]
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