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Suspect Links Actor, Threat

Man claims private eye Anthony Pellicano hired him to intimidate a Times reporter on behalf of Steven Seagal, the FBI says.

November 22, 2002|Matt Lait and Scott Glover | Times Staff Writers

A man charged with threatening a Los Angeles Times reporter who was researching the relationship between Steven Seagal and an alleged Mafia associate told an informant for the FBI that Seagal was behind the threat, according to court documents.

Alexander Proctor, a 59-year-old ex-convict charged with threatening reporter Anita Busch, allegedly told the informant during secretly recorded conversations that he had been hired to carry out the threat by Anthony Pellicano, known as the private detective to the stars.

According to the FBI, Proctor told the informant that Seagal had hired Pellicano to threaten the reporter.

"He wanted to make it look like the Italians were putting the hit on her so it wouldn't reflect on Seagal," Proctor told the informant, according to a search warrant affidavit filed by an FBI agent assigned to the case.

On Thursday, more than a dozen FBI agents searched Pellicano's West Hollywood office. An FBI spokesman, Matt McLaughlin, said Pellicano had been arrested in connection with what appeared to be explosive materials discovered in his office during the search. He is expected to appear before a federal magistrate today, McLaughlin said.

One federal law enforcement source close to the case said that "at this time, other than Proctor's uncorroborated statements, there is no independent evidence that Seagal was involved in the threat made to the reporter."

The source added that investigators were still assessing Proctor's credibility and possible motives.

An attorney for Seagal said his client had no involvement in the June 20 threat against the reporter, who woke up that morning and found a dead fish, a rose and a note attached to her car windshield, which had been punctured. The note was a one-word message: "Stop."

"This uncorroborated allegation by someone arrested is pure fiction and is nothing more than a transparent attempt to divert attention from himself and the real perpetrators," said attorney Martin R. Pollner, who represents Seagal. "This is part of an unrelenting campaign to disparage Mr. Seagal and reads like a bad screenplay."

Before he was handcuffed, Pellicano declined to comment. As a celebrity sleuth with a star-studded clientele, he has cultivated a tough-guy image: He hands out paperweights to reporters saying, "Sometimes ... you just have to play hardball."

Pollner, Seagal's attorney, said it was his understanding "that Mr. Pellicano and Mr. Seagal aren't even on speaking terms." In fact, he said, he had been told by his client that Pellicano had been retained as an investigator in an unrelated civil case against the actor. Pollner did not identify the case.

Proctor, who was being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles without bail, has pleaded not guilty in the case. His attorney, Victor Cannon, could not be reached for comment.

According to court documents, Proctor told the informant that he owed Pellicano $14,000 and agreed to intimidate Busch for $10,000. But after the job was done, Proctor said, "they" were so pleased with his work that Pellicano agreed to wipe out his remaining debt.

Proctor allegedly told the informant that he was supposed to "blow up" Busch's car as a warning so she would stop reporting on the story about Seagal. But he said it would have been too difficult to set her car ablaze, because she lived near an apartment complex.

He said Busch also had a neighbor who stayed up late at night, and he was apparently afraid he would be seen.

In the end, Proctor allegedly told the informant that he bought the fish and rose and placed them on Busch's car, putting a bullet hole in the windshield and taping the cardboard sign to it.

After Busch's car was vandalized, she told authorities she thought the incident was related to her investigative work on an article about Seagal and his former producing partner, Julius Nasso, who had a bitter business fallout with the film star.

According to federal authorities, Nasso is an associate of the Gambino crime family. He was indicted earlier this year, along with other reputed mob figures, in connection with a plot to extort money from Seagal. He has pleaded not guilty. Seagal is scheduled to testify next year as a prosecution witness at the trials of several alleged mobsters and Nasso in Brooklyn.

Last month, Nasso's attorney alleged in a court document that Seagal might have been involved in the threat against Busch, and that could reflect on the actor's credibility as a witness.

Proctor's taped statements to the informant are detailed in a 21-page application for a search warrant. Investigators requested court permission to search Proctor's residence, but a judge denied the request Oct. 17, a day after Proctor's arrest. There is no indication in the documents why the request was rejected. One source said there was technical language that needed to be fixed before the judge would approve it.

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