A legendary private investigator frequently hired by Hollywood stars, the political elite, and the rich and powerful as they maneuvered through major scandals has died this week after a street attack in San Francisco, his lawyer confirmed.
Jack Palladino, 76, sustained a head injury on Jan. 28 while being attacked and robbed by two young men who he was reportedly photographing outside his home in the city’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. He believed the two were up to "mischief" and ran out to take photos of them, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, when they attacked him with a car, which dragged him and led to a severe head injury and brain bleeding.
Palladino was hospitalized, but was ultimately taken off life support on Sunday, his lawyer, Melvin David Honowitz, confirmed to Oxygen.com.
“We’ve lost a giant,” Honowitz said on Tuesday. “I’m devastated. This is a terrific loss. Jack was a powerful advocate for freedom of speech.”
The two suspects have been identified as Lawrence Thomas, 24, and Tyjone Flournoy, 23, SFist reported. San Francisco Sheriff’s Office records indicate that both have been booked into San Francisco County Jail on charges that include attempted murder, attempted robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, and elder abuse. It is unclear if they currently have attorneys. They are both scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.
Palladino may have actually helped detectives make the arrests himself, as the photographs he’d taken of his alleged assailants were recovered from his camera, the Chronicle reported. While unconscious, he was reportedly told of this development by his wife and longtime professional partner, Sandra Sullivan.
“I said, ‘Guess what Jack, they got the bastards, and it was all your doing,’” Sutherland told the Chronicle.
Palladino’s lengthy career as a private investigator stretches back to the mid-1970s while he was a law student at UC Berkeley when he was brought on by the family of Patty Hearst to help investigate her 1974 kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Party. It moved through the decades to the #MeToo movement, when he was hired by convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein to help in his defense, as reported by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker in 2019.
In the years between, Palladino’s career brushed with some of the definitive stories and major players of the past 45 years. He investigated the mass suicide of over 900 people at the Peoples Temple’s Jonestown complex in Guyana, with his interview of survivors becoming part of the official record of the event. Later, he helped defend Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco-industry whistleblower depicted in the movie “The Insider.”
As an investigator, Palladino was known for some questionable tactics, including subterfuge, surreptitious recordings, and deploying attractive women to extract information, according to the New York Times.
Perhaps most famously, he was hired by the Bill Clinton campaign in the early 1990s as the scandal surrounding then-candidate Clinton’s affair with Gennifer Flowers emerged when she released tapes of their phone calls. Palladino reportedly said in a memo at the time that in his aggressive investigation into Flowers, he wanted her “destroyed beyond all recognition.” Clinton later admitted in a deposition that he’d had sex with Flowers.
Other Palladino clients over the years included Kevin Costner, Robin Williams, rappers MC Hammer and Snoop Dogg, hip-hop executive Suge Knight, Hells Angels leader Sonny Barger, Black Panthers co-founder Huey P. Newton, and R&B singer R. Kelly, as reported in an obituary in the Washington Post.
“I am somebody you call in when the house is on fire, not when there’s smoke in the kitchen,” Palladino told the San Francisco Examiner in 1999. “You ask me to deal with that fire, to save you, to do whatever has to be done to the fire — where did it come from, where is it going, is it ever going to happen again? People call me because they are in a great deal of trouble, and sometimes in a great deal of pain.”
In addition to Sullivan, he is survived by three stepchildren and a brother, according to the Post.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.