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Feature Articles


May 2008

HOLLYWOOD CONFIDENTIAL:
The Rise and Fall of Anthony Pellicano

By J. R. de Szigethy


Part Two: Pellicano Convicted!

     The crimes committed by the self-styled "Private Investigator to the Stars" have now resulted in the convictions in Los Angeles Federal Court against Anthony Pellicano that has the busted gumshoe facing over a hundred years in prison. A jury convicted Pellicano on 76 counts of illegal wiretapping, identity theft, and racketeering in a trial that featured testimony from or about Hollywood stars including Chris Rock, Sylvester Stallone, Gary Shandling, Keith Carradine, and Kevin Nealon. While Pellicano has been blatantly committing a host of crimes all of his adult life, it was his crimes committed against journalists that ultimately led to his undoing.

     Pellicano’s career as a celebrity P. I. began as it ended; with the commission of a crime. The crime that started Pellicano on this long and improbable journey was, of all things, grave robbing. The year was 1977, and someone had stolen the body of Hollywood Producer Mike Todd from an Illinois cemetery. Baffled members of law enforcement meticulously searched the area around the graveyard for clues, but came up empty-handed. At that point, Pellicano interjected himself into the case; the story being floated around was that low-level Mafia associates had robbed the grave, believing Todd had been buried wearing an expensive ring given to him by his wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor. Utilizing his Mafia contacts, Pellicano, with a TV news film crew in tow, found the missing body in an area close to the cemetery that had previously been searched by law enforcement without success. A grateful Liz Taylor then vowed to recommend Pellicano’s services to all of her friends in Hollywood. Prior to this case, Pellicano had been a low-level information peddler with ties to Chicago Mafia associates. Once he had incurred the favor of Elizabeth Taylor, a star - of the private eye profession - was born.

     Pellicano then ‘went Hollywood’ and took up business on Hollywood’s famed Sunset Strip. A self-taught expert on the examination of tape recorded evidence, Pellicano soon became - in addition to being an FBI Informant, a highly-sought analyst whose clients included Congressional committees as well as celebrity businessmen such as automaker John DeLorean. Anthony Pellicano was on his way, eventually signing up as clients Hollywood icons Tom Cruise, Mike Myers, James Woods, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Sylvester Stallone, Roseanne Barr, Robert Blake, Kevin Costner, and Priscilla Presley, as well as ‘bloody glove’ cop Mark Fuhrman of the O. J. Simpson murder case.

     During his rise to power, a curious phenomenon arose; journalists who had crossed paths with Anthony Pellicano began to suffer misfortune. One of the first such was Hillel Levin, a respected writer from the Midwest and the author of WHEN CORRUPTION WAS KING, which details two decades of Mafia mayhem in Chicago. Back in the mid 1980s, however, Levin was arrested on drug charges which were later dropped after authorities determined Levin had been set-up. At the time, Levin was researching auto maker John DeLorean, who was acquitted on drug trafficking charges after Anthony Pellicano testified on his behalf. Levin’s book, GRAND DELUSIONS: THE COSMIC CAREER OF JOHN DELOREAN, was published in 1984.(1)

     In 1990 reporter Stuart Goldman was working on a story regarding the tactics of the National Enquirer, to which Anthony Pellicano was a frequent source. Goldman was then arrested by the Secret Service on charges he illegally hacked into the computer files of the Fox TV network. Goldman claimed he was set up and was the victim of a campaign of intimidation run by Anthony Pellicano. The charges against Goldman regarding hacking into computer files were the very same sort of charges Pellicano would eventually be convicted of.

     Journalist Rod Lurie has claimed that in 1990 while he also was investigating a story on the National Enquirer, Anthony Pellicano engaged in a systematic campaign of intimidation over the telephone in order to persuade Lurie to back away from the story. In March, 1990, while out riding his bicycle, Lurie was run over by an automobile in a case of hit-and-run that nearly killed the courageous journalist. Goldman’s and Lurie’s harrowing story is to be found in the book TABLOID BABY, written by Burt Kearns, a former Producer for the television programs HARD COPY and A CURRENT AFFAIR.

     In 1991, Pellicano, according to published reports, was hired by the Kennedy family to obtain discrediting information on Patricia Bowman, the wealthy Florida resident who had claimed William Kennedy Smith raped her at the Kennedy family compound in Palm Beach. British journalist Taki Theodoracopulos then published the allegations of a London woman who claimed that several years earlier she had been raped in Manhattan by William Kennedy Smith and had then fled back to England after receiving death threats. The British woman’s allegations dovetailed that of three other women who would come forward to claim that Kennedy Smith had also attempted to rape them. None of those women were allowed to testify in the Kennedy Smith rape trial. Kennedy Smith was acquitted.

     While Theodoracopulos’ account of the British woman’s claim was never challenged, three years later he and his magazine The Spectator of London were sued by Pellicano’s client Sylvester Stallone, alleging Stallone had been libeled in a report that suggested the "Rocky" star had evaded the draft during the Vietnam war. Stallone received a cash settlement. In addition to the lawsuit filed against Theodoracopulos that year, someone planted a bomb aboard the journalist’s yacht, blowing it into pieces. Luckily, no one was killed in the bombing of the yacht.

     Sylvester Stallone was never accused of any impropriety and evidence of actions taken against Stallone by Pellicano would later be revealed in his trial. Stallone was one of several clients of Pellicano, including Jean-Claude Van Damme, who had been double-crossed by the Hollywood private investigator.

     In 1993, Diane Dimond, a reporter for the television tabloid HARD COPY told the police that she believed her phone had been tapped. At the time, Dimond was aggressively following the story of a young boy who was making child molestation allegations against Pellicano’s client Michael Jackson.

     Also in 1993, former NYPD Detective John Connolly began to write about the Mafia ties of Pellicano’s client Steven Seagal. Pellicano associate Marty Singer then threatened legal action against Connolly BEFORE his article about Seagal was even published in Spy Magazine. Predictably, the proposed litigation was unsuccessful.

     Taped conversations between Marty Singer and Pellicano were played during the recent trial regarding Pellicano’s hostile attitude towards Sylvester Stallone. Singer was never accused of a crime.

     In 1997, Jim Mitteager, a reporter for the National Enquirer and Globe Magazine, was dying of cancer. Just prior to his death, Mitteager turned over secretly-recorded conversations between himself and Pellicano to one of Pellicano’s associates, Paul Barresi. Once Pellicano was indicted, Barresi turned the tapes over to CBS2 News in Los Angeles. The tapes reveal that Pellicano would ‘barter’ information on one client against another. In one instance, Pellicano agreed to reveal information about his client Jean-Claude Van Damme in exchange for an agreement by Mitteager to kill an upcoming tabloid story on Pellicano’s client Whoopi Goldberg.

     In August, 2002, journalist Ned Zeman reported to the police that a motorist pulled up alongside his car, pointed a gun at him and yelled: "Bang!" Neman at the time was researching his story on Steven Seagal and his mob ties which was published in the October, 2002 edition of Vanity Fair magazine.

     Steven Seagal was never accused of any wrongdoing in regards to Anthony Pellicano. In fact, Seagal was called as a Prosecution Witness in the trial of Peter Gotti and his associates, including Hollywood Producer Julius Nasso, who was convicted for his role in attempting to extort money from his partner Seagal. Peter Gotti, the brother of Gambino Godfather John Gotti, was convicted and sent to prison.

     In 2002, journalist Anita Busch of the Los Angles Times was working on her own story regarding Steven Seagal when she became the victim of a campaign of harassment by Pellicano. Pellicano’s employee Alexander Proctor’s arrest in 2002 was brought about by a tape made by an FBI Informant in which Proctor bragged about his role in the campaign to silence Busch. Pellicano had wanted Proctor to blow up Busch’s automobile, but in scooping out the layout for such a crime, Proctor believed the close proximity of the car to Busch’s residence would likely set that building on fire. Thus, Proctor instead put an apparent bullet hole in the windshield of the reporter’s car, along with a dead fish, a standard Mafia symbol, with the attached written admonition: "Stop!"

     Armed with such allegations on tape, authorities then raided Pellicano’s Sunset Boulevard office, having obtained search warrants seeking evidence to back-up the car bombing plot. Inside Pellicano’s safe the FBI found grenades and C-4 plastic explosives. A small amount of C-4 can destroy an automobile, a jet airliner, or a yacht.

     While Pellicano was in prison on the original charges involving the illegal explosives case, the Los Angeles Times reported that Pellicano has plotted to utilize Mafia associates in Chicago to murder Proctor. DeadlineHollywoodDaily.com also reported that the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles had notified John Connolly that Pellicano had also plotted to harm him as well.

     Anita Busch was also victimized when someone was able to hack into and destroy her computer. That same crime was committed during that time against this reporter as well by a person or persons unknown.

     While the Feds were raiding Pellicano’s office seeking evidence of the bombing plot against Busch, they found in addition computers containing literally thousands of illegally recorded conversations of both Pellicano’s clients and their perceived enemies. The Feds eventually determined that the plot against Busch was not in retaliation for her investigation of Steven Seagal but rather her parallel investigations of other associates of Pellicano. That investigation led to the 110 Count indictment that charged Pellicano destroyed evidence, committed witness tampering, perpetrated identity theft, and conducted illegal wiretapping, and that among his victims were Hollywood actors, news reporters, and members of Hollywood’s show business community. Pellicano committed these acts, the Feds alleged, as part of a ‘racketeering enterprise,’ invoking RICO statutes usually only used against members of the American Mafia.

     When the case finally went to trial this year, Pellicano proved the adage "a man who represents himself as a lawyer has a fool as a client," by acting as his own attorney. That strategy has rarely worked; the most significant example was when Youngstown Mafia associate James Traficant successfully defeated a Federal bribery trial in 1983. However, then-Congressman Traficant was convicted when he defended himself again during a Federal bribery trial in 2002.

EPILOGUE

     The Constitutional guarantees of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press which Anthony Pellicano so despised ultimately proved to be his undoing. Had Pellicano allowed Ms. Busch to do her job unmolested, Pellicano would be a free man today.

     After his conviction, a relieved Anita Busch spoke out, proclaiming that the story of Anthony Pellicano is "a case study of how Pellicano worked his Media relationships to try to destroy his adversaries."

     Journalist John Connolly’s response is coming in his book about this case, THE SIN EATER, and will thus get the last laugh on Pellicano while he cries all the way to the bank.

Related Features by this author:

HOLLYWOOD CONFIDENTIAL
The Rise and Fall of Anthony Pellicano, Part One:
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_336.html

SECRETS OF THE PRIVATE EYES
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_351.html

THE ‘ON THE WATERFRONT’ TRIALS
Part Five: Hollywood Investigations Continue
http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_258.html

Notes:

1. "The Pellicano Brief," by Howard Blum and John Connolly, Vanity Fair Magazine, March, 2004.

Bibliography

DISH: The Inside Story on the World of Gossip by Jeanette Walls, William Morrow & Company, 2000.

‘Inside Hollywood’s Big Wiretap Scandal,’ by Bryan Burrough and John Connolly. VANITY FAIR, June, 2006.

© 2008


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