Defendant list closed in wiretapping case

first_imgLOS ANGELES – A judge on Tuesday moved to break a legal logjam in the Hollywood wiretapping case by ruling that no new defendants can join the 13 lawsuits already filed against private eye Anthony Pellicano and other defendants. More than 20 attorneys packed a downtown courtroom for the hearing, illustrating the furor that could accompany the civil trials. Many of the lawsuits seek unspecified damages while accusing Pellicano and others of invasion of privacy, negligence and infliction of emotional distress. Prosecutors contend in a 111-count criminal indictment that Pellicano illegally wiretapped the phones of Hollywood stars such as Sylvester Stallone and bribed police officers to run the names of more than 60 people, including comedians Garry Shandling and Kevin Nealon, through government databases. The information gathered was used to get dirt for threats, blackmail and in some cases to secure a tactical advantage in litigation, prosecutors alleged. Attorneys in the civil cases want to begin deposing witnesses soon, even though they believe the trials might not begin until next year. “We want to start moving this giant battleship forward as quickly as we can,” attorney Brian Kabateck said. The ruling by Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman stopped the addition of defendants but didn’t forbid the filing of new lawsuits. The judge scheduled a March 29 hearing to consider delaying the civil trials until Pellicano and five other defendants are tried on criminal charges of wiretapping and conspiracy. Fourteen people have been charged in the case, with seven pleading guilty so far. Last month, a federal grand jury returned a revised indictment that detailed taped conversations involving Pellicano and one of his clients but did not name any new defendants. “It does look like a clean-up indictment,” said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor. “I think there is plenty of dirt to come” at trial, she said. Defense attorneys in the criminal case are still sifting through evidence in preparation for the Aug. 22 trial. Meanwhile, several key issues remained unresolved. Pellicano’s attorney Steven Gruel has indicated he will challenge the validity of search warrants served at his client’s office in 2002 that prosecutors said contained conversations involving Pellicano. In addition, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer, who is overseeing the criminal trial, wants to review the government’s inquiry into leaks of confidential FBI documents to the New York Times. Defense attorneys have complained the release of the records hurt their clients’ right to a fair trial. “We are convinced now more than ever there are viable motions attacking the evidence that was accumulated by the government in this case,” Gruel said. Pellicano, who has pleaded not guilty, listened by phone from a federal prison to Tuesday’s hearing on the civil cases. He said he has seen only a few of the lawsuits and expressed concern that he couldn’t be present for future civil hearings. “I can’t guarantee I can be at every court appearance,” he said.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more