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Lawyer gets 3 years in wiretap case

L.A. attorney Terry Christensen sentenced for conspiring with private investigator Anthony Pellicano.

November 25, 2008|Joanna Lin | Lin is a Times staff writer.

A prominent Los Angeles attorney was sentenced Monday to three years in federal prison and fined $250,000 for conspiring with Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano to wiretap billionaire Kirk Kerkorian's former wife.

Terry Christensen, 67, also was ordered by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer to three years on supervised release after his prison term.

He will remain free pending an appeal.

Christensen was found guilty by a federal jury in August.

The former Century City attorney was known for his hardball litigation tactics and represented the Las Vegas casino mogul in 2002 in a contentious child support battle that grabbed tabloid headlines.

Prosecutors said Christensen hired Pellicano to wiretap Kerkorian's ex-wife, Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, who was seeking $320,000 in monthly child support for her then-4-year-old daughter, to gain an edge in the high-stakes legal battle.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, November 26, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 86 words Type of Material: Correction
Wiretap case: An article in some editions of Tuesday's California section about the sentencing of Los Angeles attorney Terry Christensen in a wiretapping plot involving private investigator Anthony Pellicano said Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, the ex-wife of Christensen's client Kirk Kerkorian, had submitted a DNA sample from her child in an effort to prove that Kerkorian was the father. The article in those editions should have noted that court records showed she falsified the DNA sample. Also, in some editions Bonder Kerkorian's name was misspelled as Bonner.

Fischer said before issuing her sentence that Christensen had not taken responsibility or expressed remorse for his criminal actions that had "marred the legal profession" and "cast a shadow of distrust over the legal system."

"In a real sense, the legal community and the justice system are the real victims," Fischer said, adding that deterring other lawyers from illegal conduct was an important goal in Christensen's sentencing.

Christensen declined to make a statement, saying a letter he previously submitted expressed his regret for having worked with Pellicano.

Terree Bowers, an attorney for Christensen, said his client's conviction was enough punishment and argued for a sentence of home confinement.

"This has been a humiliating experience for him, and he is mortified," Bowers said, noting that Christensen left the law firm he founded and was suspended by the state bar. "The message has gone out loud and clear."

Bowers contended that his client never knew of the wiretapping and was being used by Pellicano, whose roster of celebrity clients included the father of Bonder Kerkorian's child.

"Mr. Pellicano held all the cards, all the control," Bowers said.

Prosecutors, however, pointed to 34 recorded phone conversations between the two men, in which they discussed Bonder Kerkorian's private phone calls with her attorneys. In the nearly 6 1/2 hours of recorded calls, Pellicano said he was "a soldier" and told Christensen, "You're the boss. Tell me what you want me to do," according to court documents.

"The men on those recordings did what they did because they could, and they enjoyed it," Fischer said. Christensen, she said, "deliberately, repeatedly and happily violated the law."

Christensen paid Pellicano $25,000 and told the private investigator he would receive an additional $100,000 if he could determine the biological father of Bonder Kerkorian's daughter, which Christensen considered crucial for winning the case.

Bonner Kerkorian falsified a DNA sample in order to claim that Kerkorian was the biological father. Later DNA tests revealed that film producer Steve Bing was the father, according to court documents.


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