Episode 181: Phil Coghlan – Hit Man: A Technical Manual For Independent Contractors

Retired agent Phil Coghlan served in the FBI for 28 years. He was assigned to Columbus Resident Agency (RA) in the Cincinnati Division, the Washington Field Office, the Columbia Division, the Norfolk Division’s Peninsula RA, and FBIHQ. During his career, Phil specialized in violent crimes, serial killer and child abduction investigations, and was a team leader on the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team. In this episode of FBI Retired Case File Review, Phil Coghlan reviews his investigation of a sophisticated and complex two—year crime spree involving bank robberies, bombs/IEDs, and murder, and the highly controversial book, Hit Man: A Technical Manual For Independent Contractors that his bank robbery subjects read and used to commit their crimes. Phil also provides historical insight into the famously heated debate between Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flint and Reverend Jerry Falwell regarding the limits of freedom of speech and how lawsuits about the First Amendment and the publication of the Hitman book connected Phil Coghlan to the court case, and the subsequent book and feature film, both named Deliberate Intent.

During the second half of Phil Coghlan’s Bureau career, he worked terrorism investigation as part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.  After retiring from the FBI, he was fortunate to continue working for the Bureau as an instructor at the Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Operations Training Unit, where he trains current active agents on informant development. He also conducts investigations into allegations of workplace misconduct for private sector clients.

Special Agent (Retired)

Phil Coghlan

1988 – 2015







“The victim’s family sued the publishing company for aiding and abetting in a homicide by publishing a book that was a how-to guide on how to kill.”   — Retired Agent Phil Coghlan


The following are links to articles and court filings regarding the bank robbery case, the debates between Larry Flint and Jerry Falwell, and the book,  Hit Man: A Technical Manual For Independent Contractors, and the lawsuits filed by attorney Rod Smolla to increase and limit the First Amendment. The success of the civil case marked the first time in American publishing history that a publisher had been held liable for a crime committed by a reader:

Wikipedia – Hustler Magazine v. Falwell

Case Summary – Bank Robber William Ashley’s Federal Bank Robbery Appeal

Variety – 8/2/2000:  Deliberate Intent feature film

VIDEO:  Rod Smolla – The Man Who Read “Hit Man” to Learn How to Become One (1999)

VIDEO:  Deliberate Intent Trailer (2000)

The bank robbers in Phil Coghlan’s case confessed to reading “Hit Man: A Technical Manual For Independent Contractors” published by Paladin Press. Phil seized a copy of the book during a search of the defendant’s house. He believes the book is pure evil.











Attorney Smolla wrote “Deliberate Intent” about his landmark case and how the book Hit Man: A Technical Manual For Independent Contractors was used in multiple homicides around the county. Phil Coghlan’s Ohio bank robbery and murder case was cited.












The book Deliberate Intent was made into a movie by the same name starring Timothy Hutton. It featured the story behind the lawsuit to hold the publisher of the book Hit Man: A Technical Manual For Independent Contractors liable for the death of three people.














Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, attempts to relive her glory days by writing crime fiction and hosting FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast available for free subscription on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and other popular podcast apps. Her nonfiction book FBI Myths and Misconceptions: A Manual for Armchair Detectives and her FBI corruption squad police procedurals featuring Special Agent Kari Wheeler are available wherever books are sold.

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