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Former CBS chief Les Moonves pays fine for alleged interference in LAPD investigation

Former CBS chief Les Moonves pays fine for alleged interference in LAPD investigation

Former CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves personally tried to influence a former LAPD captain who had pledged his allegiance to Moonves and was leaking confidential information about a criminal investigation in which Moonves had been accused of sexually assaulting a former employee, according to new legal documents made public Friday by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

Moonves agreed on Feb. 5 to pay a $11,250 fine for violating the city’s ethics code by “inducing” a city official to misuse his position in order to create a private advantage for Moonves.

An attorney for Moonves in New York did not immediately return a request for comment.

The former LAPD captain was Corey Palka, who, according to the ethics investigation, while serving as commanding officer of the Hollywood Division in 2017, personally provided Moonves with information about the LAPD investigation and the former Moonves employee who made the accusation.

The Ethics Commission finding said Palka met personally with Moonves on Nov. 25, 2017, at a restaurant in Westlake Village to share what should have been confidential information.

“They met for about an hour and discussed the LAPD investigation,” the ethics summary said. “The meeting was not part of the official investigation by the LAPD.”

Then in December, Moonves texted Palka directly and discussed the case again, the commission found.

In a previous phone call Palka, who has retired from the LAPD, told NBC4’s I-Team he was unaware of allegations that he had leaked confidential information about the Moonves case to CBS executives or Moonves, which were first revealed in an insider trading settlement between Moonves and the New York Attorney General’s Office.

The woman who made the accusation, Phyllis Gottlieb, said during a news conference in 2022 that she was assaulted by Moonves while working for him at an entertainment firm in 1986.

When she made the crime report to the LAPD in 2017, the incident was well beyond the statute of limitations, and no criminal charges could have been filed, even if an investigation determined there was enough evidence to proceed, LAPD officials said at the time.

Moonves has denied the accusation.

Gottlieb and her attorney, Gloria Allred, declined to comment late Friday on the Ethics Commission finding.

In November 2022, the LAPD announced it had opened an internal investigation into the allegation that Palka had leaked information to Moonves, and whether or not any other LAPD officers were involved.

“I am beyond outraged,” Police Commissioner William Briggs said at a Board of Police Commissioners meeting.

“This is a stunning example of what some refer to as old-time cronyism, that goes to the heart of corruption,” Briggs said.

Moonves and Palka knew one another because Palka had been hired to act as Moonves’ security guard at the Grammy Awards between 2008 and 2014, the Ethics finding said.

The New York Attorney General’s Office said in 2022 that the effort to interfere with the LAPD investigation amounted to a violation of the state’s insider trading laws as, the office announced, Moonves allegedly benefited by concealing negative information from investors and the public.

“As a publicly traded company, CBS failed its most basic duty to be honest and transparent with the public and investors,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement, which said Moonves had agreed to pay a $30.5 million fine.

“After trying to bury the truth to protect their fortunes, today CBS and Leslie Moonves are paying millions of dollars for their wrongdoing. Today’s action should send a strong message to companies across New York that profiting off injustice will not be tolerated and those who violate the law will be held accountable.”

Moonves resigned from CBS in 2018 after at least 12 women accused him of sexually assaulting them. Moonves has denied the allegations.

According to the Ethics finding, Palka sent a message to Moonves after the resignation.

“I’m deeply sorry this happened. I will always stand with, by and pledge my allegiance to you,” Palka said, according to the documents.

Eric Leonard, NBC Los Angeles

Eric Leonard is an investigative reporter and joins NBC4 with more than 20 years of experience in the news business.

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