Wednesday, May 21, 2008

P.I.'s High-profile Clients Got Off Easy

by Tina Dirmann

Here in California, one of the splashiest cases to hit this state’s court just wrapped up. Anthony Pellicano, private investigator to the rich and famous, was found guilty on 76 counts of wire fraud, computer fraud, wiretapping, and racketeering.

Despite the number of counts, he’ll likely do just about 10 years in prison when he’s sentenced later this summer.

Although the case is long and involved, the gist is that Pellicano used mobster-like methods to spy on people for his high-powered clients. And the client list is a glitzy one. CAA talent agency co-founder Michael Ovitz and Paramount Pictures chief Brad Grey used Pellicano’s talents to get dirt on their enemies. Comedian Chris Rock hired Pellicano to investigate a woman claiming, erroneously, that she was carrying the comedian’s baby. And Sylvester Stallone was on the other end, a victim, wiretapped by Pellicano when the actor’s former business manager hired him to get dirt on Stallone that might help in a nasty court case between the two. Garry Shandling was a victim, too.

I don’t think anyone is sad to see a man like Pellicano go down. How low did it get? This self-described wanna-be Tony Soprano even dropped a dead fish onto the hood of a car belonging to reporter Anita Busch, hoping to intimidate her enough, she’d stop the negative articles she was writing about his clients (specifically, Michael Ovitz) for the New York Times.

But here’s what I’m wondering as Pellicano fades from the headlines.

How is it that Pellicano is going down – but none of the clients who hired this man for his below the belt information gathering tactics aren’t going down with him?

In the early stages of the six-year investigation, journalists following the case speculated that it could involve trials against Hollywood’s power elite. The highest rollers on Tinsel Town would be shown that they aren’t above the law.

But alas, the Hollywooders and moneyed types would go unscathed. Again. We didn’t even see most of these folks in the courtroom. Not even Bert Fields, THE de facto attorney to the stars. Witnesses described Fields as Pellicano’s mentor. And, later, his frequent employer. And though his name was mentioned repeatedly in court testimony, was he ever called to take the stand? No. He was not. Though I suspect if he was called, he may have stood up there and pleaded the 5th, for fear of implicating himself with each and every word.

It reminds me of the headline-grabbing profile madam cases, which typically end with the prosecution of the ladies. And who goes free? All of those high-power, high-dollar clients. I never see justice in that, either.


Anonymous said...

Anita Busch worked for the Los Angeles Times, not the New York Times.

She got a fish slapped on her windsield because she was writing about Ovitz, not Pelicano.

Sloppy work, bad blogger

Tina D said...

She is a former reporter for both the NY Times and the LA Times. The articles were written for the NY Times. She then jumped to the LA Times and that's when the incident happened. But it was FOR articles written for the NY Times. See this summary in a story by LA Observed:

[Busch] recounted coming out to her car on June 20, 2002, and finding a dead fish under a pan and a note saying "Stop!" By that time, she was working for the Los Angeles Times, but she had previously written unflattering stories about Ovitz for the New York Times.

ALSO: At the NY Times, she was writing unflattering articles about Ovitz, who was a Pelicano client.

Tina D said...

Note, I've clarified my points, for your benefit anonymous reader, in the text.