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Jury deliberations begin in Pellicano wiretapping trial

Hollywood private eye and an attorney are accused of bugging the ex-wife of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian in a child support case.

August 28, 2008|Victoria Kim | Times Staff Writer

Jurors started deliberating Wednesday in the criminal trial of Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano and attorney Terry Christensen, who are accused of conspiring to illegally wiretap the ex-wife of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian.

The key evidence in the case, according to prosecutors and defense attorneys, consists of 6 1/2 hours of recordings that Pellicano secretly made of his phone calls with Christensen, in which the two men are heard discussing Pellicano's work on the case.

In closing arguments this week, both sides said the recorded conversations supported their case.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Saunders told the jury the recordings provided ample proof from Christensen's own mouth that he clearly knew of and was directing Pellicano's illegal taps into the phone conversations of Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, who was seeking $320,000 in monthly child support from Kirk Kerkorian. Christensen was Kirk Kerkorian's lawyer at the time.

Saunders noted for jurors one recording in which Christensen tells Pellicano that "the people related to me don't want to do this."

"Ladies and gentlemen, ask yourselves, what is the 'this'?" Saunders said. "All the secrecy . . . is not about what information they were getting, it's about how defendant Pellicano was getting it."

During the six-week trial, prosecutors called to the stand attorneys who represented Bonder Kerkorian in the child support matter, who testified that the information Pellicano was telling Christensen was from privileged attorney-client conversations that took place over the phone.

Prosecutors do not have any of the alleged wiretapped calls of Bonder Kerkorian, or transcripts or summaries of those calls -- a fact that was pointed out by Christensen's lawyers.

Christensen's attorney, Patricia Glaser, told jurors that her client was "not running away from" the recordings, and that the contents of the conversations actually vindicated Christensen. She said the conversations show that Pellicano was lying to Christensen and failing to convey critical information he should have known if Pellicano indeed was wiretapping Bonder Kerkorian.

Glaser also said the recordings show that Pellicano obtained his information from many sources, such as e-mails, files, records or spies, and that it was not unreasonable for Christensen to assume that the private eye was getting his information legitimately.

"Ladies and gentlemen, context, and common sense. This is not a wiretap case," she said.

Glaser said that when Christensen and Pellicano used expressions such as "listen about" or "hear some more," they were merely using figures of speech to refer to the results of Pellicano's investigations.

Saunders, in his rebuttal argument Wednesday, called Christensen a "disgrace to his profession" and said Christensen was a lawyer who was not interested in fairness and justice but only in winning at all costs, even if that meant breaking the law.

"You can let them know justice is not available to the highest bidder," Saunders said to the jury.

He then gave Christensen and Pellicano the last word, playing excerpts from their phone conversations.

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victoria.kim@latimes.com

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