The Smoking Gun

For similar terms, see Smoking Gun (disambiguation).
The Smoking Gun
Available in English
Owner William Bastone, Andrew Goldberg, and Joseph Jesselli
(TSG Industries Inc.)
Created by William Bastone and Daniel Green
Slogan(s) Paving the paper trail
Alexa rank Decrease 29,643 (March 2016)[1]
Commercial yes
Registration none
Launched February 13, 1997 (1997-02-13)[2]
Current status active

The Smoking Gun is a website 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.

The name refers to the smoking gun metaphor, which is commonly used to describe an incriminating piece of evidence.


The website was founded in 1997 by William Bastone and Daniel Green, former reporters for The Village Voice, and graphic designer Barbara Glauber. Most of The Smoking Gun's content is obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, 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.

The cable network truTV, formerly Court TV purchased The Smoking Gun, as well as the website Crime Library, in 2000.[3] 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. From March 2008 until January 2011 on 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 was retitled World's Dumbest... and began covering other topics. As of January 2011, the program was retitled again to truTV Presents: World's Dumbest... On June 2014, The Smoking Gun was sold back to William Bastone.[4]

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


The Smoking Gun has begun to organize in-depth investigations of criminal activity.[5] In August 2009, the site outed members of Pranknet, a virtual community 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 two convicted child molestors,[6][7] also engaged in threatening telephone harassment by placing fake Craigslist ads and shouting racial epithets and obscenities at people responding to them. They also responded to Craigslist ads placed by young mothers selling household goods, and once they had the seller's address said that they were on their way over to rape them and murder their children.[8]

In 2006, the site uncovered widespread fabrication in James Frey's alleged memoir A Million Little Pieces. This investigation led to a very public rebuke of Frey by Oprah Winfrey who had previously endorsed Frey's book as part of her Oprah's Book Club. 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.[9]



  1. " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2014-04-01.
  2. " WHOIS, DNS, & Domain Info - DomainTools". WHOIS. Retrieved 2016-07-11.
  3. "Backgrounder: William Bastone". NYU Journalism Bullpen. Retrieved 2015-08-16.
  4. "Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss: A Note From TSG World Headquarters". The Smoking Gun.
  5. Anderson, Nate (August 7, 2009). "The Smoking Gun exposes PrankNet as Internet badboys cower". Retrieved 2010-10-16.
  6. Time Waster (August 6, 2009). "Another Pranknet Child Molester". The Smoking Gun. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
  7. "Diboll woman says allegations against Markle are not shocking". August 8, 2009. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
  8. Telephone Terrorist The Smoking Gun, August 3, 2009
  9. A Million Little Lies The Smoking Gun, January 4, 2006
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