By Chuck Strouse
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By Terrence McCoy
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By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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By Kyle Swenson
Brian Andrews has been up for sixteen hours now. Rising at 3:00 a.m., the reporter for WSVN-TV (Channel 7)substitute-anchored the station's morning news show from 5:00 to 9:00 a.m. Then he hit the streets to cut live on-air spots as the John Acosta story broke: a grand juror indicted for leaking word of an imminent FBI raid to members of an alleged Ecstasy-smuggling/money-laundering/satellite-
TV piracy ring with purported links to OJ Simpson. And just to cap off the day, Andrews chased Acosta from the front steps of Miami's Federal Courthouse down First Avenue, hoping to capture an interview.
Ask him if he's tired. "I love my job!" he gushes. He's practically bouncing in his seat inside WSVN's $750,000 RV-size mobile news truck. Surrounded by banks of video screens and editing equipment, Andrews obviously is still wired on adrenaline -- and rightly so. In the television news game, he's hit the ratings jackpot: a local story with a celebrity behaving badly, drugs, cops, and courtroom intrigue. Best of all, in a move that seems to have infuriated competing Miami news outlets as much as law-enforcement officials, Andrews broke the story as it was unfolding -- in real time.
"We pull up near Simpson's house, and there's Brian waiting under a tree on a side street," grouses FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela to Kulchur. Her first-name familiarity with Andrews reveals that this December 4 dawn "surprise" raid on Simpson's Kendall home wasn't the first time the blond newsman's toothy smile had plagued her. Needless to say, the sight of a reporter lying in wait -- proof internal FBI security had been compromised -- didn't make agents on the scene too happy.
Andrews understandably is tight-lipped about just how he gained advance knowledge of Operation X (a gambit he and his producer code-named "Operation Citrus Pills" -- get it?), except to say his source was from the law-enforcement community and he'd known Simpson was targeted more than a week prior. But as Kulchur asks for a flashback to the raid itself, Andrews turns practically giddy, demonstrating why his newsroom colleagues have playfully nicknamed the manic reporter Chicken.
"It was 5:59 a.m. on my car's digital clock when we saw movement," he recalls, his eyes twinkling. "There goes an unmarked Lumina! And another one!" Both Andrews, carrying a hand-held video camera, and his cameraman David Hunt, lugging a standard 30-pound camera but essentially "running interference," leaped out of their hiding spot and charged toward Simpson's house.
"I ran right past Judy Orihuela," Andrews laughs. "You should have seen the look on her face: “Brian, what are youdoing here?' I said I just happened to be in the neighborhood shooting a documentary on the migratory patterns of tropical parrots. And there was OJ in his white bathrobe, flailing his arms, his dogs barking away!"
Fifteen minutes later, as WSVN was airing Andrews's live coverage, "everybody else showed up -- NBC, ABC, CNN. It was Elian all over again." He shakes his head with discernible pride: "The looks of ice they gave me -- there's nothing worse than not being first."
By that afternoon, however, Andrews's scoop was taking on a more sinister tone. In an impromptu press conference on the lawn across from the Simpson manor, the Juice's attorney and spokesman, Yale Galanter, said he'd "been aware of [Operation X] for a while, but I knew about the possibility of the FBI serving search warrants yesterday." As a phalanx of TV cameras rolled, he continued, "My information came from a news media source, and I was amazed that the news media knew this and it had leaked out." Had he warned OJ? a reporter asked, thus giving his client time theoretically to get rid of anything incriminating: Drugs? Bootleg satellite TV cards? A stray Bruno Magli shoe? "As OJ's lawyer, I will tell you any conversations I have with my client are confidential," Galanter replied brusquely.
"I was standing just a few feet away when he said that," remembers the FBI's Orihuela. "I was shocked to say the least." Less interested were the print media; only the Sun-Sentinel reported Galanter's admission of being tipped off by a newsman. The Herald, the New York Times, and the Associated Press (whose wire reports were dutifully reprinted in hundreds of papers across America and around the globe) all chose to ignore this nugget of news.
Behind the scenes, though, the rumor mill was churning, fingering Andrews as OJ's helpful tipster. After all, he was a newsman who'd obviously been informed the FBI was coming. "I know what people were saying, and it was jealousy, pure jealousy," Andrews remarks of the accusations. "This is a competitive business, and a lot of people at other stations would love to ruin my reputation. And in this business, you areyour reputation." He concludes: "I didn't kill myself all these years to ruin it all by doing something idiotic like leaking to Yale."
Two days later, on December 6, Galanter bizarrely changed tack. In an interview with New Times, he now claimed that statements saying he'd had "advance warning" of the Simpson raid were "categorically inaccurate." Contradicting exactly what he'd said only 48 hours earlier, Galanter continued, "If I'd known they were coming at 6:00 a.m., I would have spent the night at his place instead of schlepping down from Broward, and my client would have been dressed." He added indignantly: "He wouldn't have answered the doorbell with his nuts hanging out."