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Divorce, Pellicano-Style

Jude Green says the private eye blocked her car and glared at her, before issuing perceived threats through attorneys in a bitter split.

May 03, 2006|Kim Christensen | Times Staff Writer

In the throes of a rancorous divorce from a now-dead multimillionaire, Jude Green remembers the day five years ago when a sullen stranger confronted her outside a Santa Monica dog groomer where she'd taken her Shih Tzu for a trim.

Arms folded, eyes behind dark glasses, he had blocked her car with his and stood nearby, striking a menacing pose without uttering a word. Then he followed her to a nearby coffee shop, again boxing in her vehicle.

At the time, Green thought he "was just some jerk." Only later did she realize who it was: Anthony Pellicano.

"I saw his picture in the paper and I said, 'Oh, my God. That's the guy!' " Green, 53, said in an interview.

It was her only personal encounter with the Hollywood private eye, now indicted on federal wiretapping and racketeering charges. But Green said he also threatened one of her lawyers in her divorce from financier Leonard I. Green, and she suspects he was behind other incidents, including a telephone threat and the slashing of her Lincoln Navigator's tires two days after she testified before a federal grand jury in his case in 2003.

Though details of Green's once-lavish lifestyle and acrimonious divorce have been aired previously, her account sheds new light on why her name is on the government's list of Pellicano's alleged victims. It also underscores the investigator's penchant for hardball tactics and his role as a "negotiator" for the well-heeled clients -- or their lawyers -- who allegedly unleashed him.

But far from being Hollywood's best-kept secret, Green said, Pellicano's down-and-dirty approach was so well known in certain circles that two of her lawyers told her that opposing counsel -- prominent divorce attorney Dennis Wasser -- had hired him.

"One of the first attorneys I hired came right out and said, 'Dennis Wasser just told me down at the courthouse that Pellicano's on your case,' " Green said, recalling the lawyer's cautionary advice: "You need to get a cross-cut shredder because he's going to be going through your garbage and he's going to be checking your background. And you'd better get your house swept because your phones are probably tapped as well."

Green interpreted the advice as a not-so-subtle message, from Pellicano and Wasser, designed to force a quick settlement. And she said her lawyers viewed Pellicano's involvement with a business-as-usual attitude.

"They let me know that this is the way of life in L.A. family law," Green said.

Through his attorneys, Wasser has acknowledged he is a "person of interest" in the investigation but denies wrongdoing.

"My understanding is that Dennis Wasser did not hire Pellicano in connection with his representation of Leonard Green," said Wasser's attorney, Vincent Marella.

Pellicano is in jail awaiting trial on charges he used illegal wiretaps and background checks to obtain confidential information on celebrities, business executives and spouses, typically to help gain an advantage in litigation for attorneys or other clients.

When he allegedly invaded Green's privacy by accessing a law enforcement database -- on April 26, 2001, according to Pellicano's indictment -- she and Leonard were living apart and waging war in the courts.

A Michigan native and an occupational therapist by training, Jude had met Leonard in 1994 in Aspen, Colo., where she was living. At the time, she was separated from her second husband, a wealthy Greek nightclub owner, when the financier -- some 20 years her senior and the founder of the West Coast's largest leveraged-buyout firm, Leonard Green & Partners -- pressed her for a date, she said.

The couple married in July 1995, traveled abroad by private jet and hobnobbed with high society at such venues as the Los Angeles Opera. He was a founding director and chief executive. She chaired the 1998 Opening Night Gala.

She had carte blanche to design and build homes worth $20 million in Bel-Air, Malibu and Snowmass, Colo., according to court records, and her budget for art and antiques knew no bounds.

"I personally chose every single piece for our home in Bel-Air on Levico Way, totaling over $2 million," she said in a declaration.

For his part, Leonard was raking in tens of millions in income -- nearly $65 million for four years ended 1999, according to tax returns cited in court records. He made so much money that he obsessed about it, his ex-wife recalled, and he regretted that he hadn't insisted on a prenuptial agreement. In 1997, he asked her to sign a "post-nup," she said, and was upset when she balked.

That's when Leonard first uttered "the Pellicano word," Green said, threatening to sic the private investigator on her.

When she refused, Leonard filed for legal separation in May 1997. He later dropped it, but not before complaining in court papers that he had lavished her with cash and expensive jewelry, two valuable artworks by Toulouse-Lautrec, two Range Rovers and a Jaguar.

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