Feds finish case against Pellicano
With the prosecution’s wiretapping and racketeering case against Anthony Pellicano and his four co-defendants having wrapped Thursday, it’s time to look at what did and didn’t happen during the government’s case.Much of the hype surrounding the years-long grand jury investigation revolved around speculation that a large swath of the Hollywood power structure, especially Brad Grey, Michael Ovitz and Bert Fields, would be indicted. That, of course, didn’t happen, although there have been some high-profile casualties, such as the guilty plea from director John McTiernan. So, the case that came to trial was not the case Hollywood was salivating over. As for the case the government did put on, it looks like a slam-dunk, at least against Pellicano. Unique in the annals of celebrity trials, Pellicano is representing himself. On cross-examination, he seemed determined to assure former clients like Grey that he will take their secrets to his grave. As for his victims, he gave Linda Doucett, Garry Shandling’s former girlfriend, the chance to tell him that he was the only bad man she knew and Anita Busch the opportunity to tell the jury that he ruined her life. Pellicano would have been better off declining to cross-examine the witnesses. How the defense will conduct its case is the next big mystery. U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer already has raised the specter of Pellicano running back and forth between the witness box and the podium, acting as a witness and his own attorney. Despite the lack of bombshells at trial, the government abundantly exposed the seamy underbelly of a Hollywood where money buys illegal access, petty vendettas are pursued and litigation is a battle where no weapon is off-limits. Long-forgotten scandals like the Heidi Fleiss mess sprang back to life. The low point in the sleaze parade was investor Adam Sender’s testimony that Pellicano offered to kill Aaron Russo for him. Sender had planned to launch his Hollywood career by investing $1 million with producer Russo (who has since died). The movie company never happened, and Sender found his way to Fields, who in turn recommended Pellicano, who, he said, used unorthodox methods but attained spectacular results. The sordid tale of billionaire Alec Gores unexpectedly dragged famed female litigator Patty Glaser into the Pellicano orbit. Gores testified that Glaser recommended Pellicano to do a background check on an employee, which he never did. Instead, he hired Pellicano to spy on his wife and brother, who were having an affair. Glaser, who is representing her indicted partner Terry Christensen, has long maintained that she didn’t recommend Pellicano. Beyond the overall slime factor, the most notable features and omissions of the government’s case included:
- The kid-glove treatment of Hollywood honchos and celebrities. Once the government decided that Pellicano was its only star defendant, it had no reason to undercut the credibility of its own witnesses such as Grey and comedian Chris Rock.
- The threats to reporter Busch were finally explained. As everyone in the civilized world now knows, Pellicano’s enterprise unraveled when he arranged a series of threats to Busch in 2002. The assumption was that Pellicano was hired to scare her off a story she was working on about Steven Seagal’s alleged mob connections, although Seagal has long since been exonerated.