FBI leaks raising flags

Times articles new focus in Pellicano hearing

The sideshow is expected to be the main show at today’s Anthony Pellicano wiretap hearing when federal prosecutors will address leaks of FBI reports, information from which showed up in a series of New York Times articles over the past two weeks.

A criminal investigation into the leaks has been launched, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Monday’s hearing is one in a series of pretrial status conferences scheduled since Pellicano was indicted in February on charges that he wiretapped and ran illegal background checks on behalf of his clients. The hearings, which are attended by prosecutors and defense attorneys, usually involve routine scheduling and discovery matters, but in this closely watched case they also have been the source of such important tidbits as the announcement that prosecutors expect to issue at least one more indictment.

On April 5, FBI investigative reports were given to defense lawyers representing Pellicano and others under a protective order issued by U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer two days earlier. The information, called 302s, was only to be shared with clients and potential witnesses.

But just nine days later, the New York Times cited the FBI reports in an article about Pellicano’s dealings with Paramount chair Brad Grey.

At the hearing Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dan Saunders and Kevin Lally are expected to raise the issue of the leaks with Fischer.

A later N.Y. Times article cited FBI interviews with former agent Michael Ovitz and supermarket magnate Ron Burkle about their interaction with Pellicano, and the most recent article cited an FBI interview with divorce attorney Stephen Kolodny indicating that Kolodny’s adversary, Dennis Wasser, had knowledge of Pellicano’s illegal wiretapping.

FBI summaries also appeared to be the basis for producer Bo Zenga’s recently amended civil suit against Grey and his attorney Bert Fields claiming damages for illegal wiretapping.

On April 17, federal prosecutors Saunders and Lally, who are handling the wiretap probe, notified Fischer of the leaks. The criminal investigation will be handled out of the U.S. Attorney’s office in San Diego to avoid any conflict of interest with the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s office, which is handling the Pellicano case and has access to all the material. Because the leaks are so extensive, many defense lawyers have privately complained that the leaks were from the U.S. Attorney’s office to put pressure on witnesses and other targets of the probe.

In a 10-year period, Pellicano cut a large swath through Hollywood, working for high-profile attorneys such as Fields, Terry Christensen and Wasser.

Christensen has been indicted for illegal wiretapping. Fields and Wasser have not been indicted but acknowledge they have been informed they are “persons of interest.”

Meanwhile, the chorus of complaints about inaccuracies in the Vanity Fair story about Pellicano’s ties to Grey and his former clients continues.

Article, claiming Pellicano handled work for Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler and the late Chris Farley, provoked denials from representatives of all three. Story appeared on the magazine’s Web site April 26 and hits newsstands Wednesday.

The most significant disavowal of the story by John Connolly and Bryan Burrough came from Pellicano’s ex-wife Kat Pellicano, a major source for the story, who disputed several facts in the story, such as the claim that Pellicano let their son into the “War Room” when he was listening to wiretaps and that Fields urged him to convert to Judaism to improve his business. Kat Pellicano’s attorney, Ellen Feig, sent a notice for a retraction to Vanity Fair on Friday.

In a statement over the weekend, Vanity Fair spokeswoman Beth Kseniak said, “We are certainly looking at all these points that are being raised by people. If there is a need for a correction, we will certainly print a correction.”