Attorneys for Hollywood's "detective to the stars" Anthony Pellicano ask for his release on bail from a Texas prison while he appeals his racketeering convictions
Anthony Pellicano, Hollywood’s hard-boiled “detective to the stars,” filed a motion in federal court Tuesday in Los Angeles requesting bail pending the appeal of his two 2008 convictions on federal racketeering charges.
His attorney says Pellicano wants out of a Texas federal prison while he awaits his appealj ust like his other co-defendants in a criminal trial that for months mesmerized Hollywood with its potential revelations about personal scandal and abuses of power in high places.
He was sentenced to 180 months for the racketeering counts, which included charges of computer fraud and identity theft and operating a criminal enterprise aimed at wiretapping its rich and famous victims.
If Pellicano’s request for the bail hearing is granted, it would take place on July 9 in the U.S. District Court, Central District, in Los Angeles and before Judge Dale S. Fisher, who sentenced Pellicano in 2008 to 15 years in prison for his convictions on two counts of illegal wiretaps.
At issue in this motion, as well as all bail requests, is whether a defendant will jump bail.
“Mr. Pellicano has already served approximately 67 months in federal custody, which completely satisfies his prison terms for all convictions in this case but the two flawed RICO counts,” Pellicano’s attorney, Steven F. Gruel, argued in his motion, which is called “bail pending appeal.”
The flamboyant Pellicano is being held at the Federal Correctional Institution at Big Springs, Texas. He is impoverished, has no assets and his once powerful firm has been out of business for nearly 10 years, his attorney says, contending he is hardly a flight risk.
“Mr. Pellicano,” the motion stated, “is 68-years-old and suffers from a serious eye condition. His movements are obviously affected by the condition to his sight.”
There are other factors suggesting Pellicano, whose clients included Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor and power brokers like Mike Ovitz and manager Brad Grey, would not skip bail, he attorneys say. Family members have offered in the motion to let Pellicano stay with them under electronic supervision at the risk of losing their assets as surety for him.
Pellicano's troubles began in 2002 when Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch began writing negative articles about Ovitz, then one Hollywood’s most powerful players. The writer went to authorities after she found a dead fish, a rose and a note saying "Stop" on the battered windshield of her car.
A probe of the attack led authorities to Pellicano's office, and the investigation mushroomed, implicating a who’s who of Hollywood powerbrokers, attorneys, movie stars, a rogue L.A. cop and a computer technician in what seemed to be a sequel to the classic wiretap movie, “The Conversation,” directed not by Francis Ford Coppola but Pellicano.
Among the trove of material found in Pellicano’s office were audio recordings of illegal taps, which were supposedly going to reveal the inner workings of Hollywood, financially, legally and sexually. Government experts have had difficulty breaking Pellicano’s encryptions on the recordings and no lurid tales have ever emerged about the sex life of the entertainment industry.
Pellicano sidetracked any revelations when he refused to name names despite hints of leniency if he talked and sent his clients to jails.
While Pellicano has remained in federal custody during the appeal process, others who were convicted at the same time remain free on bail, most notably Terry Christensen, a prominent attorney who hired Pellicano for eavesdropping.
Another convicted RICO codefendant, is Mark Arneson, a former LAPD sergeant who disclosed DMV and personal records on subjects Pellicano was investigating. The rogue cop has been free on bail since 2009.
A key element in Gruel’s motion during what has become a lengthy appeals process on the racketeering convictions are two recent court decisions — one in the U.S. Supreme Court and the other in the influential Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. They curtail the government’s reach and activity in such matters that “have rendered two opinions which completely eviscerate the government’s convictions in their (RICO) case.”
The attorney anticipates his client’s convictions will be overturned and maintains he isn't a bail risk.
“To the contrary, and as successfully witnessed in the government’s first prosecution, there are conditions which can be imposed to assure Mr. Pellicano’s appearance (in court) as well as ‘safety’ concerns,” Gruel’s motion stated.
For instance, the private eye would live at the home of his cousin while under “intensive” electronic monitoring and travel restrictions.
Pellicano's attorneys point out that Judge Fischer, who sentenced him to prison, stated in court at the time of his sentencing that she did not believe the private eye is a menace.
“The court correctly opined at sentencing that Mr. Pellicano would never commit another crime,” the motion stated, “’His age, his health and his past performance on pretrial release, along with a combination of intensive conditions of supervision, show, by clear and convincing evidence, that he is not a danger to any person or the community.”
Gruel further argued in the motion that Pellicano’s status meets the requirements of the federal Bail Reform Act whose purposes is “not to deny bail entirely to persons who appeal their convictions.”
Bail should be granted, the motion said, if Judge Fischer finds “clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety to any other person or the community.
“Mr. Pellicano completely satisfies his burden and he is statutorily entitled to bonding pending this protracted appeal…and (he) shares many of the same issues presented with his released co-defendants,” the motion maintained.