Only days before closing statements were set to be heard on Monday, the Anthony Pellicano trial found itself dealing with some unexpected disruption in the court at the end of its eight week.
On Friday morning, Judge Dale S. Fischer dismissed the jury after defense attorney Chad Hummel introduced new evidence through his questioning of the prosecution’s witness Phyllis Miller.
Miller nearly implicated herself and husband David Miller as having fraudulently filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy paperwork for former Los Angeles Police Dept. Sgt. Mark Arneson, who is repped by Hummel.
Arneson is one of four co-defendants in the trial, who allegedly provided Pellicano with confidential information on Pellicano’s clients by accessing law enforcement databases.
Arneson had been adamant during his own testimony that he had never signed or filed the bankruptcy papers himself.
But after prosecutors brought Miller to the stand to verify that she’d met Arneson in 1998 and worked with him to stop the foreclosure on his Rancho Palos Verdes home, Hummel stepped in to verify some facts of his own: That Miller’s company, the Child Technology Institute, had its nonprofit status taken away in California and that her husband David had been convicted of fraud and forgery and was now in prison.
He also wanted to know whether Arneson’s signatures on the bankruptcy filing had been forged by Miller’s husband.
Judge Fischer quickly stopped Miller from answering the question and implicating herself until she could speak with a court-appointed lawyer.
Hummel quickly pounced, claiming that it was clearly the Millers who had defrauded Arneson, and that the government had hurt his client’s credibility by spending considerable time trying to get him to admit that he’d filed the falsified paperwork in order to prevent the foreclosure.
Without the chance to question Miller further and clear up any inferred wrongdoing by Arneson, he’d motion for a mistrial.
Judge Fischer is considering the motion, but not until the government and defense lawyers can debate the impact of Miller’s testimony.
“I suppose I’m going to have to declare a mistrial if this can’t be resolved,” Judge Fischer said.
Previous days of testimony had focused on Kevin Kachikian, the computer expert who had created the Telesleuth software used by Pellicano to record wiretapped telephone calls for clients.
And there was the revelation from Pellicano that he would not end up testifying on his own behalf.
His reason: “I don’t want to cause a mistrial and I don’t want to put myself in a position where I hamper my co-defendants’ defense. … If there is a chance that my testimony can be used by the prosecution to open any doors to my clients, it’s not going to happen. … I’m not going to discuss my clients. Mr. Pellicano’s intention would be to describe what he did and that’s that.”