No mistrial in wiretap case

Empty

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a motion for a mistrial in the government's case against former LAPD Sgt. Mark Arneson, a co-defendant in the wiretapping and racketeering trial of Hollywood superspy Anthony Pellicano.

In an emergency hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer ruled that there was not a deliberate attempt by federal prosecutors to reveal to jurors that Arneson was the subject of a police internal affairs investigation in 1999.

"I find no deliberate attempt to coerce a compelled statement" from Arneson while he was testifying, Fischer said.

She also found there was no violation of evidence discovery rules, which require prosecutors to turn over evidence they plan to use at trial, and it was likely an oversight that prosecutors did not provide the evidence to the defense before the trial.

The judge ruled on the motion after an emergency hearing in which jurors were dismissed for the day and Arneson's attorney, Chad Hummel, called several witnesses, including the two lead federal prosecutors in the case.

Hummel filed the motion Monday. At issue was whether the government was aware it had in its possession an LAPD internal affairs tape from the 1999 investigation relating to DMV and records searches Arneson did for Pellicano.

Arneson was questioned Friday about the records searches and the investigation by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders.

Arneson had signed a "Garrity" agreement during that investigation that protected him from those statements being used against him in any subsequent criminal prosecution.

"If he made a statement to internal affairs and prosecutors had it, they had an obligation to produce it," Hummel said outside court.

Saunders was called to testify in the special hearing Tuesday. He said he was unaware of the tape, which was included in a box of records on Arneson provided to the defense and prosecution by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office. Saunders said he did not know about the tape until the motion by Arneson was filed.

Federal prosecutor Kevin Lally also testified that he listened to five seconds of the tape before turning it off and turning it over to a U.S. Attorney who acted as a custodian and sealed the tape in an envelope.

Three special FBI agents involved in the investigation of Pellicano and his co-defendants also were questioned on the witness stand by Hummel. Each testified that they were unaware of the tape's contents when they reviewed the box of documents at the city attorney's office. Retired special agent Stanley Ornellas, who led the investigation, testified that he specifically asked the city attorney to make sure such protected statements were not included in the box.

The prosecution is expected to continue its cross-examination of Arneson today.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
comments powered by Disqus