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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Jury to Begin 2nd Day of Deliberations in Racketeering Case Against Hollywood Private Eye Anthony Pellicano

AP-Fox News- LOS ANGELES — May2, 2008 - For the past nine weeks, jurors in the federal racketeering trial of private eye Anthony Pellicano got the inside story on some juicy Hollywood scandals. Now they have to decide if the man who investigated some of those sticky situations is guilty of running a criminal enterprise that targeted the rich and famous. Jurors began deliberations Thursday to determine if Pellicano spearheaded an illegal scheme that wiretapped such stars as Sylvester Stallone, and ran the names of other celebrities such as Gary Shandling and Kevin Nealon through law enforcement databases to dig up dirt that clients could use in legal and other disputes. Jury deliberations are set to resume on Friday. Pellicano, 64, and four co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to a variety of charges. More than two years have passed since the indictment was unsealed against Pellicano and Hollywood began to buzz with speculation about who might be snared in the investigation and what secrets might be revealed. Fourteen people were charged and seven, including film director John McTiernan and former Hollywood Records president Robert Pfeifer, have pleaded guilty to charges including perjury and conspiracy.

But the biggest power brokers with links to Pellicano, such as famed entertainment attorney Bert Fields, Paramount studio head Brad Grey and one-time superagent Michael Ovitz, insisted they didn't know about his methods and weren't charged. Before jurors began deliberations, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Saunders urged them in his final argument not to get caught up in the glitz and glamor of the case. "This case is not about Hollywood," Saunders said. "It's not about Sylvester Stallone, Keith Carradine, Brad Grey or even Michael Ovitz. "This case is about corruption, about cheating, greed, arrogance and the perversion of the justice system. It just happen to take place in Hollywood," the prosecutor said. During the trial, jurors watched as an uncomfortable Chris Rock testified about a model he believed was trying to shake him down. They saw a confounded Shandling study his name on a police records audit, and a stoic Ovitz recount how he had hired Pellicano to find the source of negative news stories about a company he was selling.

Pellicano, who acted as his own attorney, insisted in his closing arguments that he acted as a "lone ranger" while gathering information for his clients. He denied leading a criminal enterprise. Pellicano insisted he shared no information with colleagues as he conducted investigations, and allowed others to learn only what he wanted them to know. Saunders refuted Pellicano's claim, saying recorded conversations laced with expletives between the private investigator and his clients proved he was willing to divulge information. "He shared with client after client what he did and what he could do," Saunders said. The five defendants face a total of 78 charges. Pellicano, former Los Angeles police Sgt. Mark Arneson and ex-telephone company worker Rayford Earl Turner are charged under federal racketeering laws with taking part in a criminal enterprise. They face other charges such as identity theft and computer fraud. Earlier Thursday, jurors heard the final closing arguments from lawyers for Turner and Abner Nicherie. Nicherie, a Pellicano client, is charged with one count of aiding and abetting a wiretap.

Some of Pellicano's former employees testified they saw Nicherie wear headphones and listen to wiretapped conversations at the private eye's office. Nicherie's attorney, Lawrence Semenza, said in his closing argument there was no definitive evidence to show what his client heard. "They saw him with earphones on, but that doesn't mean he was listening to intercepted conversations," Semenza said. Turner's attorney, Mona Soo Hoo, said her client did not provide phone records to Pellicano and didn't assist with wiretaps."Mr. Turner is presumed innocent, not assumed guilty," she said. Arneson is accused of taking bribes in excess of $180,000 to run names through law enforcement databases but has said he received the money for off-duty security and surveillance work. Kevin Kachikian, a software designer who created the wiretapping program known as Telesleuth, is charged with wiretapping, conspiracy and destruction of evidence. His lawyer said Kachikian was misled by Pellicano and told the software would be marketed to law enforcement agencies.

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