McTiernan charged; Weitzman shifts gears
The Hollywood Hills continue to echo with sounds of the Pellicano investigation as the investigator’s name popped up on two fronts Monday.
Director John McTiernan became the highest-profile Hollywood player to be charged, while star litigator Howard Weitzman is leaving the Century City law firm that has been in the spotlight during the ongoing legal saga — though Weitzman said his exit is unrelated to the investigation.
The federal charge against McTiernan — who helmed such pics as “Die Hard” and “The Thomas Crown Affair” — claims he lied to the FBI when he told investigators in February that he had no knowledge of private eye Anthony Pellicano’s illegal wiretapping.
The FBI claims McTiernan in fact hired and paid Pellicano to conduct an illegal wiretap of producer Charles Roven. The document does not explain why he would want to wiretap Roven, but the two worked together on the 2002 movie “Rollerball.”
McTiernan is the 14th person to be charged in connection with the long-running probe, but the first high-profile name in Hollywood. The town has been buzzing for three years, guessing over who might be cited.
McTiernan could have been charged with additional crimes such as conspiracy, said Laurie Levenson, who teaches criminal law at Loyola Law School, but he was only charged with making a false statement. She suggested that single charge against the helmer — and the fact that it was in a criminal complaint instead of an indictment — could mean he’s worked out a plea deal with prosecutors and is cooperating with federal authorities.
The maximum penalty is a five-year sentence, but Levenson said it could work out to be less.
In a separate development, Weitzman and Dale Kinsella will leave Greenburg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, Machtinger & Kinsella to form their own litigation firm, with an emphasis on media and entertainment.
Weitzman said the departure to form a practice with Kinsella and others was unrelated to the Pellicano probe. “Dale and I have wanted to practice in a smaller environment. I’ve said for a long time that I don’t believe anyone here will face criminal sanctions and I still don’t.”
Greenberg Glusker has been at the center of scrutiny over the Pellicano wiretap probe because the firm and its star lawyer, Bert Fields, used Pellicano on numerous occasions. Fields and the firm have denied any knowledge of wiretapping activities, and no one at the firm has been indicted.
The new Weitzman law firm — to be called Kinsella, Weitzman, Iser, Kum and Aldisert — will start with 10 to 12 attorneys.
In addition to Weitzman, who joined Greenberg Glusker a year ago, the core of the firm will be some of Kinsella’s partners from his former firm, Kinsella Boesch Fujikawa & Towle who moved with him to Greenberg Glusker in 2000, as well as longtime Greenberg Glusker partners such as entertainment attorney Larry Iser.
Weitzman has been a well-known Los Angeles attorney since his successful defense of John DeLorean. (Weitzman is credited as the lawyer who introduced Pellicano to Hollywood when he used him in his successful defense of the automaker on drug charges in the 1980s.)
Over the years he has represented numerous celebrities; current clients include Ray Leonard, Courtney Love, Axl Rose and Paris Hilton. They are expected to move to the new firm. Weitzman has been a partner at several firms and did a stint as an executive at Universal in the late 1990s.
Kinsella has handled copyright and trademark cases for the studios; he represented “Cheers” actors George Wendt and John Ratzenberger in a high-profile copyright litigation and handled matters for Mike Tyson, Dick Clark, James Woods and Rob Lowe.
Pellicano was indicted in February for illegally wiretapping and gathering information in connection with lawsuits where he was hired by prominent entertainment lawyers. Well-known entertainment lawyer Terry Christensen was indicted last month.