Anthony Pellicano, the Hollywood private detective in prison for running wiretapping and other illegal investigative methods, faces resentencing after a federal appeals court overturned some of his convictions.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated his conviction for aiding and abetting both computer fraud and unauthorized computer access, but upheld racketeering convictions for what they called his “widespread criminal enterprise.”
The appeals court ordered resentencing on the convictions that were upheld.
“This is not a good day for Mr. Pellicano,” said Daniel Saunders, lead prosecutor in the case who is now in private practice. “This is certainly not what he was hoping for.”
He predicted that Pellicano would again receive the same sentence, as the racketeering conviction was the more serious offense.
Pellicano’s attorney, Steven F. Gruel, could not immediately be reached.
In 2008 Pellicano was sentenced to 15 years in prison for running wiretapping services for entertainment industry and business clients, drawing an FBI investigation into his attempt to intimidate reporter Anita Busch, then working for the Los Angeles Times, the appellate judges said. Busch was wiretapped as well, and received death threats, including a dead fish with a rose in its mouth that was left on her car’s broken windshield with the note “Stop!” in 2002. That led investigators to a search of Pellicano’s offices and the discovery of a wider operation.
The 9th Circuit also vacated convictions for aiding and abetting computer fraud against Rayford Turner, a phone company technician, and a conviction for computer fraud and unauthorized computer access against Mark Arneson, a Los Angeles Police Department officer. The judges said Pellicano paid Turner for confidential technical information needed for the wiretaps, and bribed Arneson to access to law enforcement databases.
The appellate judges found that the jury instructions that defined the charges of computer fraud and unauthorized access were erroneous and prejudiced the jury’s deliberations.
The appellate court also vacated a conviction against Abner Nicherie for aiding and abetting a wire interception. The judges said Nicherie hired Pellicano to wiretap the husband of a woman whose business he hoped to take over.
But the judges upheld racketeering convictions against Arneson and Turner, as well as a conviction against attorney Terry Christensen. The court said he hired Pellicano to wiretap Lisa Bonder, ex-wife of Christensen’s client Kirk Kerkorian, who was challenging the paternity of Bonder’s child.
The appellate court found that a substantial majority of recordings that Pellicano made with Christensen did not qualify for protection under attorney-client privilege. They also found that Christensen’s three-year prison sentence was not “substantively unreasonable.”
Also upheld was the conviction of Kevin Kachikian, convicted for his role in the operation as the developer who created software to record the conversations.
The appellate court judges said the vacated convictions will be remanded for further proceedings, including the possibility of a retrial.
The court noted that the defendants raised a “staggering amount of issues” in their appeal. In fact, the case was argued before the 9th Circuit nearly two years ago — on Nov. 4, 2013.
They also ruled that the district court did not make a mistake in ordering Pellicano, Turner and Arneson to forfeit more than $2 million, representing their proceeds from racketeering.
Pellicano is serving his time in a federal penitentiary in Texas and scheduled for release in 2019.