Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Adventures of Larry Flynt

Entrapping DeLorean

John DeLorean
John DeLorean

In his autobiography, Flynt explains how he obtained embarrassing evidence of FBI entrapment. Hustler readers had gotten into the habit of sending him unsolicited videotapes and photographs of "the rich, famous, and infamous in flagrante delicto," and by his own admission, he took delight in publishing some of this material in his magazine to humiliate public figures, especially right-wing politicians. But in 1983, he received an unusual videotape sent anonymously from the offices of the attorneys representing carmaker John DeLorean.

DeLorean had designed a state-of-the-art luxury automobile, which he had named after himself, and was desperately trying to get a piece of the market. The DeLorean was a distinctive-looking vehicle with a brushed steel exterior — a DeLorean body was used for the fictional time-travel machine in the Back to the Future movies — but the car did not catch on with the public, and the company was soon hemorrhaging money. Determined to salvage his dream, John DeLorean appeared to be willing to take desperate measures, and the FBI arrested him for possession of cocaine in dealer quantity. Allegedly, DeLorean hoped to use drug profits to keep his business afloat.

The DeLorean Car
The DeLorean Car

But the surveillance tape that Larry Flynt received showed DeLorean's arrest and the events that preceded it. An undercover FBI agent posing as a dealer had offered the cocaine to DeLorean, suggesting to him that this would be a solution to his financial problems.

It was clearly a case of entrapment, and Flynt, the political firebrand, was determined to show the nation how far its government would go to make a high-profile arrest. He showed the tape to 60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt, who agreed to air it. The government sought an injunction to stop CBS from broadcasting the tape, but they failed, and the tape was shown, causing a national brouhaha.

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