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Allegations leveled in Pellicano case

A grand jury indictment identifies new details and victims in the investigation of alleged wiretapping by the Hollywood private eye.

February 15, 2007|Greg Krikorian | Times Staff Writer

The latest and perhaps final federal indictment in the long-running Anthony Pellicano investigation raised new allegations Wednesday about how the onetime Hollywood private eye conspired with attorney Terry Christensen to wiretap the ex-wife of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian.

While it did not charge any new defendants, the grand jury indictment named two new victims of Pellicano's alleged racketeering. Included is well-known entertainment attorney John LaViolette, who was chief negotiator in a bitter battle between the German company Intertainment AG and its onetime producing partner, the now-bankrupt Franchise Pictures.

The 111-count indictment, coming more than a year after federal prosecutors first charged Pellicano and six others with a litany of crimes, was immediately assailed by defense attorneys as a meaningless addendum to what they characterize as an overblown case.

"These are not even new charges," said Pellicano's attorney, Steven F. Gruel. "And what upsets me the most about it is that instead of providing discovery so we can contest the existing charges, it seems to me that they are wasting their time before the grand jury bringing meaningless accusations against Mr. Pellicano."

Christensen's attorney, Terree Bowers, was equally critical, suggesting the U.S. attorney's office brought the indictment in retaliation for the sharp criticism leveled at its tactics by defense attorneys.

"The prosecutors have made a huge mistake in their attempt to strike back at Terry Christensen for his recent charges of misconduct and disorganization against the government," Bowers said.

He contends that the details of that conversation "will actually clearly prove Terry's innocence if this matter is ever aired before a jury."

The U.S. attorney's office, as is its custom in pending cases, did not respond to the accusations of the defense attorneys.

The new allegations center on a March 18, 2002, conversation between Pellicano and Christensen in relation to his representation of Kirk Kerkorian in a child support case with his estranged wife, Lisa Bonder Kerkorian. Prosecutors contend Christensen paid the investigator $100,000 to eavesdrop on Bonder Kerkorian's phone calls to her attorneys and pass on information to Christensen.

The new indictment asserts that Christensen told Pellicano "one of the criteria" of arranging the illegal wiretap "is that no name ever surfaces anywhere" because "the people related to me don't want to do this."

The next month, the indictment adds, Pellicano allegedly told the attorney that "if we continue to get this kind of information with their strategy, we're really killing 'em."

And later in April 2002, according to the indictment, Pellicano allegedly told Christensen that he had 80 intercepted telephone calls to review "just from today."

The latest indictment also identifies attorney LaViolette as a victim of alleged wiretapping in 2001. On March 15 of that year, the attorney was involved in a negotiation between Intertainment and Franchise Pictures, then owned by Hollywood producer Elie Samaha and onetime actor Andrew Stevens.

In an interview Wednesday, LaViolette said he was told more than two years ago by his client, an Intertainment executive in Los Angeles, that the FBI had found phone records at Pellicano's offices suggesting that their conversations had been bugged. "The implication was that our calls were tapped, but [FBI agents] didn't give much more information than that," LaViolette said, adding that the FBI never interviewed him.

The indictment is the fourth issued by a grand jury that was impaneled in February 2005 and is expected to disband. It also names Los Angeles art dealer Paul Rusconi as a wiretap victim.

To date, seven people, including a former Beverly Hills police officer and film director John McTiernan, have pleaded guilty in the case.

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greg.krikorian@latimes.com

Times research librarian John Jackson contributed to this report.

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