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Retrial sought in perjury case

Federal prosecutors say they have new evidence against Joann Wiggan, acquitted earlier on four of five charges linked to the Pellicano probe.

October 31, 2006|Greg Krikorian | Times Staff Writer

Federal authorities announced Monday that they will retry a former phone company employee acquitted last month of four of five charges in the first trial resulting from the wiretapping investigation of indicted private investigator Anthony Pellicano and others.

Citing "compelling" new evidence in the case, Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Saunders told U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer that the government would again prosecute Joann Wiggan for perjury for allegedly lying to a federal grand jury last October when she said she never retrieved a single message from her voicemail account at work. The jury last month hung on that charge.

Additionally, Saunders said, he expects a superseding indictment with additional charges against Wiggan to be returned in two weeks. She was found not guilty on four other felony counts of lying about her contacts with former co-worker Ray Turner, who is accused of illegally accessing telephone company records for Pellicano and assisting him in his alleged wiretapping. Saunders and co-prosecutor Kevin Lally declined further comment about the alleged new evidence or additional charges.

After the brief hearing, Wiggan's attorney, David Reed, expressed dismay at the government's decision.

"We are troubled and concerned at the timing of this new evidence, which I am unable to talk about at this point," Reed said outside court. "And I will look at whether motions are appropriate to dismiss the superseding indictment prior to trial."

On advice of her attorney, Wiggan did not comment.

Last month, Reed likened Wiggan's acquittal to "David beating Goliath," saying that the divorced mother of three withstood "tremendous pressure" from prosecutors and federal agents to plead guilty to perjury.

Though separate from the larger Pellicano case, the prosecution of Wiggan arose from the same FBI probe of the former private eye and allegations that he and others used a variety of illegal means, including wiretaps, to benefit his clients. He, Turner and other defendants have denied the charges.

During Wiggan's four-day trial, prosecutors produced a 23-page log of phone calls to and from Wiggan's home, office and cellphones between late 1998 and 2002, alleging that the records proved that she was lying when she said she had no contact with Turner and had not begun using her office voicemail until sometime in 2003.

The logs showed more than 1,000 calls from Wiggan's phone numbers to her voicemail, 117 calls from Turner's number to her office voicemail, and other calls between numbers assigned to Turner and Wiggan.

But Wiggan and her attorney attributed her misstatements to forgetfulness or innocent oversights. In addition, Wiggan's ex-husband and eldest son also testified that they had made numerous calls to her office voicemail.

Unlike two other former SBC employees who admitted helping Turner, Wiggan took the stand in her own defense to insist that she had not illegally provided him with information or even spoken to him in years.

Though the nature of the new charges was not disclosed, the government's questioning of Wiggan during the recent trial suggested that the new charges could relate to alleged inconsistencies between statements before the federal grand jury and before the trial court.

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greg.krikorian@latimes.com

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