Anthony Pellicano is guilty.
After 10 days of deliberation, a federal jury convicted the former Hollywood private eye of racketeering charges stemming from his use of illegal methods, including wiretapping, to investigate individuals for his high-profile clients.
The jury found him guilty of 76 of the 77 charges he faced, including one count each of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, as well as wire fraud, identity theft and conspiracy to intercept telephone calls or use wiretaps. He also was convicted of manufacturing or possessing a wiretapping device.
It judged him innocent of a single count of unauthorized computer access.
Co-defendants Mark Arneson, a former Los Angeles Police Dept. sergeant, and former phone company staffer Rayford Earl Turner were convicted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy counts for being paid by Pellicano to look up confidential information on individuals using police or phone company databases.
Computer expert Kevin Kachikian and Las Vegas businessman Abner Nicherie, also co-defendants, were found guilty of several charges.
Kachikian, who developed Telesleuth, the software Pellicano used to conduct wiretaps, was convicted of conspiracy to wiretap and manufacturing or possession of a wiretap device. He was acquitted of nine wiretapping counts, however.
Nicherie was convicted of aiding and abetting Pellicano in the wiretapping of Ami Shafrir, with whom Nicherie had a business dispute.
All five defendants are skedded to be sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Dale S. Fischer on Sept. 24.
Before that happens, the court will hold a hearing on the government’s allegation that Pellicano, Arneson and Turner should forfeit to the government more than $2 million that was collected as a result of their “criminal enterprise.”
“This case exposed a widespread criminal scheme that included paying bribes to sworn law enforcement officers so that Pellicano could violate the privacy rights of other individuals,” said U.S. attorney Thomas O’Brien. “Besides lining the pockets of the defendants, this scheme was designed to subvert justice and to give litigants an unfair advantage in court.”
Pellicano and the co-defendants now face prison time of up to 20 years for the racketeering charges alone. The wiretapping conspiracy conviction carries a potential sentence of five years. Wire fraud convictions carry a maximum penalty of five years for offenses committed before July 30, 2002, and up to 20 years in prison for offenses that occurred after that date. The remaining counts in the indictment all have maximum sentences of five years in prison.
Verdicts end the government’s grueling trial of Pellicano and the co-defendants that lasted nearly nine weeks.
During the trial, it was revealed that Pellicano had dug up private information on Garry Shandling, Kevin Nealon, Sylvester Stallone, scribe Bo Zenga, Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch, Charles Roven and CAA toppers Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane and worked for clients such as Bert Fields, Brad Grey, Ron Meyer, Michael Ovitz and Chris Rock. Clients who took the stand maintained they never knew of Pellicano’s illegal methods for obtaining information.
Despite the bold-faced names, the proceedings never became the trial of the century that would bring down some of Hollywood’s biggest players, as some had once expected or hoped. It would up bringing down only one, Pellicano himself.
The 64-year-old P.I. represented himself during the trial, wearing prison-issued clothing, which included an oversized green jacket, because he’s already serving time on a separate weapons and explosive charge, and prosecutors considered Pellicano a flight risk. He never took the stand to defend himself.
Pellicano said he was a “lone ranger” and that neither Arneson nor Turner assisted him in illegally accessing databases to collect information on individuals.
In addition to the prison sentence he now faces, Pellicano must also deal with another criminal trial, along with lawyer Terry Christensen, over their alleged investigation of Kirk Kerkorian’s ex-wife, Lisa Bonder Kerkorian. That trial is skedded to begin on July 15.
And attorneys not involved with the trial now say Pellicano can expect additional lawsuits as well.
“The Pellicano saga is far from over,” said attorney Brian Kabateck, who is the court-appointed lead counsel for the civil litigation arising from Pellicano’s activities.
“While there is satisfaction in seeing him found guilty for his crimes, we look forward to the civil process helping find justice for his victims and punishment for those who aided Pellicano’s conspiracy but escaped prosecution in the criminal courts,” Kabateck said. “The core of this case was Pellicano’s wiretapping scheme. Pellicano could not have engaged in such widespread and effective wiretapping without the complicity of AT&T. They need to be held accountable for their role in the violation of thousands of people’s personal, legal and financial privacy.”
Kabateck has filed a class-action suit against AT&T for its role in allegedly facilitating Pellicano’s wiretapping scheme.
If it goes to court, the case could potentially involve thousands of plaintiffs, making AT&T liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
“Everyone who hired (Pellicano) knew what they were getting — no doubt about it. Winning. That’s what it was all about,” said Pellicano during a rambling 20-minute closing statement two weeks ago. He ended it by telling the jury, “Life teaches you to utilize common sense, and I leave that common sense to you.”
In the end, Pellicano wound up the biggest loser.