The Smoking Gun
The Smoking Gun is a website
A website, also written as Web site, web site, or simply site, is a collection of related web pages containing images, videos or other digital assets. A website is hosted on at least one web server, accessible via a network such as the Internet or a private local area network through an Internet...

 that posts legal documents, arrest records, and police mugshots on a daily basis. The intent is to bring to the public light information that is damning, shocking, outrageous, or amazing, yet also somewhat obscure or unreported by more mainstream media sources. Most of the site's content revolves around historical and current events, although it also features documents and photos relating to out-of-the-ordinary crimes and people. It is owned by truTV and is part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment digital network.

The name refers to the smoking gun
Smoking gun
The term "smoking gun" was originally, and is still primarily, a reference to an object or fact that serves as conclusive evidence of a crime or similar act. In addition to this, its meaning has evolved in uses completely unrelated to criminal activity: for example, scientific evidence that is...

A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

, which is commonly used to describe an incriminating piece of evidence
Evidence (law)
The law of evidence encompasses the rules and legal principles that govern the proof of facts in a legal proceeding. These rules determine what evidence can be considered by the trier of fact in reaching its decision and, sometimes, the weight that may be given to that evidence...


One section of the site is made up entirely of "rider
Rider (theater)
In theater , a rider is a set of requests or demands that a performer will set as criteria for performance.-Hospitality Rider:The hospitality rider is a list of requests for the comfort of the artist on the day of the show...

s" in the contract
A contract is an agreement entered into by two parties or more with the intention of creating a legal obligation, which may have elements in writing. Contracts can be made orally. The remedy for breach of contract can be "damages" or compensation of money. In equity, the remedy can be specific...

s of popular music acts, focusing on the artists' personal demands; some of the publicized demands are either highly self-indulgent or inherently humorous, while others are extremely simple.

The website
A website, also written as Web site, web site, or simply site, is a collection of related web pages containing images, videos or other digital assets. A website is hosted on at least one web server, accessible via a network such as the Internet or a private local area network through an Internet...

 was founded in 1997 by William Bastone
William Bastone
William Bastone is the editor of The Smoking Gun, and was an investigative journalist for The Village Voice. He also co-wrote a book titled The Smoking Gun: A Dossier of Secret, Surprising, and Salacious Documents....

 and Daniel Green, former reporters for The Village Voice
The Village Voice
The Village Voice is a free weekly newspaper and news and features website in New York City that features investigative articles, analysis of current affairs and culture, arts and music coverage, and events listings for New York City...

, and graphic designer Barbara Glauber. Most of The Smoking Gun's content is obtained Freedom of Information Act
Freedom of Information Act (United States)
The Freedom of Information Act is a federal freedom of information law that allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents controlled by the United States government. The Act defines agency records subject to disclosure, outlines mandatory disclosure...

 requests to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies
Law enforcement agency
In North American English, a law enforcement agency is a government agency responsible for the enforcement of the laws.Outside North America, such organizations are called police services. In North America, some of these services are called police while others have other names In North American...

, and from public records such as court documents. The site has used those requests to assemble a collection of mugshots of current and historical celebrities.

Court TV (now truTV) purchased The Smoking Gun, as well as the website Crime Library
Crime Library
The Crime Library is a website documenting major crimes, criminals, and trials, forensics, and criminal profiling from books, police reports, crime television shows, and writers...

, in 2000.

The site published its second book, The Dog Dialed 911: A Book of Lists from The Smoking Gun, in October 2006.

A series of the same name premiered on Court TV in 2005. The series features some of the site's stories and assorted sketch humor using string puppets. This series was later moved and shown on Adult Swim
Adult Swim
Adult Swim is an adult-oriented Cable network that shares channel space with Cartoon Network from 9:00 pm until 6:00 am ET/PT in the United States, and broadcasts in countries such as Australia and New Zealand...


From March 2008 until January 2011 on Court TV's successor, truTV, The Smoking Gun sponsored a cable television series called The Smoking Gun Presents: World's Dumbest.... The series was originally known as World's Dumbest Criminals, but later was retitled World's Dumbest... and became known for covering other topics. As of January 2011, the program was retitled again to truTV Presents: World's Dumbest...


The Smoking Gun has recently begun to organize in-depth investigations of criminal activity. In August 2009, the site outed members of Pranknet
Pranknet, also known as Prank University or Prank U, is a Canadian-based anonymous prank calling virtual community responsible for damage to hotels and fast food restaurants of more than $60,000 as well as multiple instances of telephone harassment. It was founded by a man who later referred to...

, a virtual community
Virtual community
A virtual community is a social network of individuals who interact through specific media, potentially crossing geographical and political boundaries in order to pursue mutual interests or goals...

 who were notorious for tricking hotel and fast-food restaurant employees into setting off fire alarms, engaging fire-suppression systems, and engaging in humiliating acts such as disrobing and consuming urine. The group, whose members include 2 convicted child molestors, also engaged in threatening telephone harassment by placing fake Craigslist
Craigslist is a centralized network of online communities featuring free online classified advertisements, with sections devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, services, community, gigs, résumés, and discussion forums....

 ads and shouting racial epithets and obscene language at people responding to their ads. Additionally, they responded to Craigslist ads placed by young mothers selling household goods, then when they had the sellers address, stated that they were on their way over to rape them and murder their children.

Perhaps their most famous investigation was the 2006 discovery of widespread fabrication in James Frey's
James Frey
James Christopher Frey is an American writer. His books A Million Little Pieces and My Friend Leonard , as well as Bright Shiny Morning , were bestsellers...

 alleged memoir A Million Little Pieces
A Million Little Pieces
A Million Little Pieces is a semi-fictional memoir by James Frey. It tells the story of a 23-year-old alcoholic and drug abuser and how he copes with rehabilitation in a Twelve steps-oriented treatment center...

This investigation led to a very public rebuke of Frey by Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress, producer and philanthropist. Winfrey is best known for her self-titled, multi-award-winning talk show, which has become the highest-rated program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011...

 who had previously endorsed Frey's book as part of her Oprah's Book Club
Oprah's Book Club
Oprah's Book Club was a book discussion club segment of the American talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, highlighting books chosen by host Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey started the book club in 1996, selecting a new novel for viewers to read and discuss each month. The Club ended its 15-year run, along with...

. Frey's book, describing his alleged years of drug and alcohol abuse and subsequent recovery, contained a number of descriptions of criminal or otherwise outrageous incidents. The Smoking Gun says that it originally became interested in the accuracy of Frey's account when they had difficulty tracking down mug shots from his various alleged arrests. After discovering one photograph, the web site was unable to locate any others from his numerous claims of arrest. A subsequent investigation revealed that Frey had fabricated or exaggerated many of the more noteworthy claims in his book. The Smoking Gun concluded that most of these fabrications were done in order to make Frey's early life seem more sad and depraved and thus contrast it with his later recovery from drug abuse and success as a writer. One arrest that the Smoking Gun highlighted in particular was a vehicular stop which Frey claimed involved his hitting a patrol officer with his car and later having to be restrained by several other policemen. The Smoking Gun's investigation revealed that he had merely parked his car partially on the sidewalk and had obediently complied with officer's instructions. The web site also took issue with Frey's recounting of the death of Melissa Sanders, referred to as "Michelle" in the book. Sanders, and a friend Jane Hall, who were students at the same high school as Frey, were both killed when the car they were riding in was struck by a locomotive. Frey eliminates the other victim from his recounting, and, according to the Smoking Gun, fabricated a close friendship with Sanders in order to dramatize his early life in small town Michigan.

External links

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