A review of the Hollywood private eye's trial
THE PEOPLE VS. ANTHONY PELLICANO
Produced in Los Angeles by the U.S. District Court.
Executive producers, the United States of America.
Running time: Five weeks and counting
Anthony Pellicano the P.I.
Daniel Saunders Assistant U.S. Attorney
Kevin Lally Assistant U.S. Attorney
Dale S. Fischer the Judge
Mark Arneson former LAPD Sgt., co-defendant
Rayford Earl Turner former SBC and Pacific Bell staffer, co-defendant
Kevin Kachikian the computer programmer, co-defendant
Abner Nicherie businessman, co-defendant
Chad Hummel Arneson’s defense attorney
Adam Braun Kachikian’s defense attorney
Mona Soo Hoo Turner’s defense attorney
Lawrence Semenza Nicherie’s attorney
The government’s wiretapping and racketeering case against Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano got advance billing as the “trial of the century,” but the final production requires a much-needed rewrite to live up to that kind of hype. It hardly boasts the drama of a “Law & Order” or the quirks of one of David E. Kelley’s legal scripts. And despite the random appearance of a comedian or a former power player, or even the mention of risqué inter-office romances, plug needs to be pulled sooner than later.
Project had some serious potential: Pellicano’s clients were A-listers and their attorneys. And when the FBI raided Pellicano’s Sunset Boulevard offices in 2002, they seized computers containing hours of potentially salacious telephone conversations the P.I. had illegally recorded.
Yet prosecutors have sapped much of the intrigue by passing on the public takedowns and focusing on the minutiae — reams of documents listing phone numbers, DMV records, criminal histories and other private information from database searches, along with the names of those who provided them to Pellicano.
It makes sense if you’re the government, but yawn.
For someone who has long been portrayed as an intimidating figure in town, and has a penchant for codewords like “omerta” and “gaspar,” Pellicano, dressed in green prison-issue garb each day, comes across more as a bumbling 63-year-old whose beady eyes never stop blinking.
He’s provided some levity in the trial as he awkwardly represents himself, forced to use the third person and often forgetting to do so to the ire of no-nonsense Judge Dale S. Fischer. When he remembers, he asks the odd or random question, with witnesses only willing to answer with info that will hurt his case.
On occasion, the spotlight’s been stolen by boldface names guest starring as witnesses for the prosecution: Garry Shandling, Chris Rock, Par topper Brad Grey, Michael Ovitz, Charles Roven, CAA’s Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane, and Keith Carradine. Six years after allegedly being harassed by Pellicano, Anita Busch is still traumatized by the P.I. On other days, attorney to the stars Bert Fields, U topper Ron Meyer, John McTiernan, Farrah Fawcett and Sylvester Stallone were namedropped.
But former Pellicano staffer and Maxim model Tarita Virtue spent several days on the stand nearly stealing the show by regaling jurors with tales of how Pellicano conducted his shady business. Allegedly, of course. Then there was the cast of overly rich ex-wives or businessmen who either hired Pellicano or were his victims. Malibu, Brentwood and Beverly Hills have never looked so seedy.
Credit does go to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Lally and Daniel Saunders for confidently powering through their case. Only Chad Hummel has stood out among the defense attorneys.
After five weeks, the prosecution rested its case, opening the door for the defense to call its own cast of characters and begin Act II. Hummel will call Fields. Pellicano says he only plans to call one witness, and may take the stand himself.
Now there’s something to look forward to.