FBI computer expert takes the stand at trial
Anthony Pellicano turned to an FBI computer expert as his only witness in his defense in the government’s wiretapping and racketeering trial against him.But Pellicano wasn’t looking for Donald Schmidt to lavish praise on the P.I.. He was looking to discredit him. Pellicano, who is representing himself, grilled Schmidt for an hour about evidence the technology expert found on computers seized from Pellicano’s Sunset Boulevard offices by the FBI in a raid in 2002. Specifically, Schmidt was tasked with identifying and decrypting audio files of phone calls that were allegedly recorded via illegal wiretaps. But when questioned by Pellicano, Schmidt admitted he was unable to listen to many of the encrypted telephone calls found on the hard drives. The government has played only one wiretapped call during the trial to date, yet they have played multiple calls between Pellicano and clients that he recorded himself. Always willing to promote his own technical prowess, Pellicano appeared confident in front of Schmidt, the way he has done in front of many of the tech experts that have appeared over the five-week trial so far. He even seemed to relish his time in court Friday, turning back to wink at his wife Kat and two teenage daughters in the courtroom. But he could hardly get many of his questions answered, with prosecutor Daniel Saunders letting objections fly. He also couldn’t hear the answers that did pass, given that Pellicano is suffering from an ear infection. Judge Dale S. Fischer had to repeat many of Schmidt’s responses, much to her dismay. Pellicano may still testify during the trial. And Chad Hummel, who is representing Los Angeles Police Dept. Sgt. Mark Arneson, one of the other four co-defendants in the trial, confirmed Friday that he plans to call attorney Bert Fields as a witness. That move would give Pellicano a forum in which to cross-examine the attorney about their investigations on behalf of high-profile Hollywood clients. Arneson took the stand Friday and was questioned by Hummel regarding his relationship with Pellicano. Arneson conducted hundreds of searches for Pellicano using police databases that drummed up DMV and criminal history reports on individuals the P.I. was investigating for clients. “Yes, I did cross the line,” he said, although he added he didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. The reason: He thought he was confirming information the P.I. already had, such as license plate numbers, social security numbers and addresses — and wasn’t the person who was getting them for him. Arneson also thought he was assisting Pellicano in police matters, considering that the P.I. had assisted the LAPD in analyzing video- and audiotapes in the past — on his own cases, as well. “Mr. Pellicano served as a resource for years. I pretty much used him as much as I could, getting his services for free,” Arneson said. Additionally, Arneson was employed by Pellicano to provide security services for high-profile clients that included Bert Fields, Nicolas Cage, Whoopi Goldberg, Goldie Hawn, Mary J. Blige, Farrah Fawcett and Rick Springfield.