Illegal phone recordings get airtime in court
After weeks of hearing about the types of calls Anthony Pellicano illegally recorded, jurors finally got to listen to several Monday — and some in Hollywood may have wished they had never picked up the phone at all.
In one instance, Pellicano blasts attorney Peter Knecht with profanities saying Knecht’s client, businessman Bilal Baroody, owes Universal topper Ron Meyer about $300,000.
In the call, Pellicano alleges to be working for Meyer to collect on the loan, which was made to Meyer’s Malibu neighbor Baroody, in 1997. Baroody, who had appeared to have been “down and out,” wound up leaving the country, and Meyer is said to have hired Pellicano in 1999 to reclaim the funds.
In the recording Pellicano threatens that Baroody’s “life is about to change exponentially unless he pays this money back” and that “this guy is fucking with the wrong person,” meaning the private eye.
In the midst of the call, Pellicano actually takes a call from former LAPD officer Mark Arneson, a co-defendant in the trial for having used police databases to access DMV records and criminal information on individuals for Pellicano.
In another recording, Pellicano tells his client, director John McTiernan, that he was in the middle of wiretapping producer Charles Roven’s phone calls and requests more money for having to sit through hours of “boring” phone calls.
“This guy takes up to 10 minutes deciding if he’s miffed or not,” Pellicano says. “I’m about to scream listening to this dialogue.”
In fact, Pellicano’s so frustrated with the content of the calls that he requests the helmer to listen in to decide what’s important. But McTiernan suggests having his girlfriend hear the calls instead, which Pellicano quickly passes on.
McTiernan says he wants to know if Roven “says one thing to the studio.”
But McTiernan ends up passing on an insistent Pellicano’s plan to wiretap Roven at his home, and when pressed for more money again to continue the recordings, McTiernan says it’s time to stop the wiretapping entirely.
McTiernan has already pleaded guilty to perjury in the government’s case against Pellicano.
The call with McTiernan was played after Roven took the witness stand. In his testimony Roven described his relationship with McTiernan as “cordial” during the production of the MGM and Warner Bros. actioner “Rollerball,” although he said they had “creative differences.”
Roven couldn’t have been more removed from the proceedings, hard to hear and seemingly unwilling to make eye contact with anyone in the courtroom.
He looked uncomfortable while listening to the recording, as well as when he was shown lists of phone calls with MGM and Warner Bros. brass that he was having in 2000.
Pellicano also appeared uncomfortable, especially during playback of a recording in which he bragged to McTiernan, “I saved Michael Nathanson’s ass. He was into prostitutes and coke.”
Nathanson was prexy and chief operating officer of MGM when “Rollerball” was produced.
Altogether, the recordings were played as audible proof that Pellicano had indeed wiretapped personal phone calls of individuals the private eye was investigating, as well as of his close ties to Arneson.
Even before the jury members took their seats in the downtown courtroom, sparks started to fly, as prosecutors announced that Bert Fields, the Hollywood attorney whose name has come up on numerous occasions during the trial for his employment of Pellicano over the years, wouldn’t testify and would take the Fifth Amendment. Fields’ name has been linked to lawsuits involving Garry Shandling and Vincent “Bo” Zenga, during which Pellicano was hired to wiretap phone calls and conduct illegal background checks.
But Fields told Daily Variety that the reports of him taking the Fifth Amendment weren’t true.
“I will testify if they ask me to,” Fields said, adding that he had yet to be subpoenaed to testify in the trial. “I have nothing to hide as I’ve said for years. I have no intention of taking the Fifth Amendment.”
Fields has not been charged in the case with any wrongdoing but is on the government’s witness list.
Also during the day, Robert Pfeifer testified on behalf of the prosecution. He hired Pellicano to investigate his ex-girlfriend, actress, model and former escort Erin Finn, and Pellicano’s efforts included wiretapping her calls during two lawsuits.
Pfeifer said he was “embarassed” and “remorseful” for having hired Pellicano.
“I’m ashamed of what I did with Pellicano because of breaking someone’s privacy, things I felt were immoral,” said Pfeifer, who has been charged with aiding and abetting Pellicano in wiretapping Finn.
If mentions of Meyer, Roven, McTiernan and Fields weren’t enough to whet the appetites of industryites, Michael Ovitz also found himself namedropped during testimony.
While on the stand, Pfeifer said that his own meeting with Pellicano had to be rescheduled because the private eye was meeting with Ovitz, who has often claimed that it was his lawyers who dealt directly with the detective.