During the weeks before he was killed in a car crash in Los Angeles, reporter Michael Hastings was researching a story about a privacy lawsuit brought by Florida socialite Jill Kelley against the Department of Defense and the FBI.
Hastings, 33, was scheduled to meet with a representative of Kelley next week in Los Angeles to discuss the case, according to a person close to Kelley. Hastings wrote for Rolling Stone and the website BuzzFeed.
Kelley alleges that military officials and the FBI leaked her name to the media to discredit her after she reported receiving a stream of emails that were traced to Paula Broadwell, a biographer of former CIA director David H. Petraeus, according to a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., on June 3.
Petraeus resigned from the CIA after publicly admitting that he and Broadwell had carried on an extramarital affair.
The story about Kelley, Broadwell and the Petraeus affair would have been consistent with topics that Hastings has focused on during his reporting career. His unvarnished 2010 Rolling Stone profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, led to McChrystal's resignation. The story described the disdain McChrystal's staff showed for President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Since Hasting's death early Tuesday, wild conspiracy theories have bloomed on the Internet implying that he was murdered by powerful forces wanting to silence him.
On Wednesday night, the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks inserted itself into the story, publishing a message on Twitter that Hasting had contacted a lawyer for the organization hours before his car smashed into a tree on North Highland Avenue in Los Angeles.
The message read: "Michael Hastings contacted WikiLeaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson just a few hours before he died, saying that the FBI was investigating him."
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (KTLA) — The investigation continued on Wednesday into a fiery car crash in Hollywood that killed award-winning journalist Michael Hastings.
Hastings, 33, was perhaps best known for a Rolling Stone article that led to the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
The coroner’s office had yet to identify the victim, but both Rolling Stone and BuzzFeed, where Hastings worked most recently, reported that it was him.
The solo-vehicle crash happened near the intersection of Highland and Melrose avenues around 4:15 a.m., according to the LAPD.
Hastings’ Mercedes-Benz slammed into a tree and caught fire.
“I was just coming northbound on Highland and I seen a car going really fast, and all of a sudden I seen it jackknife,” said Luis Cortez, who witnessed the wreck.
“I just seen parts fly everywhere and I slammed on my brakes and stopped and tried to call 911,” Cortez added.
The engine of the vehicle was found in a yard about 100 feet away.
The driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Coroner’s officials said the body was too badly burned to make an immediate identification.
Police were investigating the possibility that speed may have been a factor in the crash.
Meantime, friends, family and colleagues were trying to come to terms with the news, and to offer some insight into Hastings’ life.
BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith issued a statement on Tuesday, saying his team was “shocked and devastated by the news.”
“Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered, from wars to politicians,” Smith said.
“He wrote stories that would otherwise have gone unwritten, and without him there are great stories that will go untold,” he said.
Friends said that, because of the nature of Hastings’ work, he often led a very paranoid lifestyle.
“A lot of his friends were worried that he was in a very agitated state, yes. No question, people were concerned,” said Cenk Uygur, host of “The Young Turks.”
“He was incredibly tense and very worried and was concerned that the government was looking in on his material,” he said.