Pellicano may yet take stand to make case
EmptyFormer Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano called his one and only witness — an FBI computer expert — in his defense against wiretapping and racketeering charges.
On the witness stand Friday, Donald Schmidt testified that he was told to look for evidence of audio recordings on Mac computers confiscated by federal agents in a search of Pellicano's Sunset Boulevard office in November 2002.
"I recall hearing audio files," Schmidt said.
"Did you or anybody determine these files were wiretaps?" Pellicano asked.
"It's not my job," Schmidt said. "I was told to find audio files."
Watching Pellicano defend himself Friday were his wife, Kat Pellicano, and his two teen daughters. Pellicano, at different times, smiled, waved and winked at them, and at one point, gestured to his wife that he liked his daughter's hair.
After questioning Schmidt, Pellicano told Judge Dale Fischer that he had no other witnesses to call. He still could take the stand and has discussed in open court with Fischer (outside the jury's presence) how that would happen.
Fischer suggested Pellicano draft questions and recruit one of the other defense attorneys to ask them while he's in the witness chair.
Pellicano is accused of being the ringleader of a criminal enterprise that included tapping phone lines and employing others to dig up often confidential information on adversaries of clients who hired the private eye.
Among the co-defendants is retired Los Angeles police Sgt. Mark Arneson, who took the stand in his own defense following Pellicano's witness.
Under questioning by Arneson's attorney Chad Hummel, the former sergeant admitted he "crossed the line" when he ran records searches for Pellicano on police computers during a seven-year span.
Arneson said he met Pellicano in 1986, when he was working on a case that involved audio recordings that the court allowed Pellicano to analyze for the defense.
Over time, they developed a personal friendship and a working relationship whereby Pellicano was used as a "resource" and "source," Arneson said. Arneson justified his searches by thinking of them as "short cuts" for Pellicano because the information found was public record.
Eventually, Arneson, through the permission of the LAPD, formed a business, Mark Enterprises, in which Pellicano paid him $2,500 a month to assist the private eye and his clients with security matters, including serving as a body guard, residential security checks and surveillance. Arneson's business also involved recruiting other off-duty officers to work location shoots for TV and film.
Among those he was a bodyguard for: Farrah Fawcett, Whoopi Goldberg, Rick Springfield, Mary J. Blige and Vidal Sassoon. Arneson said he also agreed to be a 24-hour consultant to Pellicano.
But on cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders peppered Arneson with questions about the day he retired, which was the same day he was scheduled to talk with LAPD Internal Affairs investigators about his dealings with Pellicano.
Saunders repeatedly asked Arneson whether he announced his retirement that day in order to avoid talking with police investigators.
And Arneson repeatedly responded, "I didn't think it was necessary."
His reasoning? Arneson already had been questioned by Saunders and the government's lead investigator in the case, Stanley Ornellas. From the stand, Arneson accused Saunders and Ornellas of threatening him in that interview, with the prosecutor allegedly telling him to "roll over on Pellicano" or else he would be charged with racketeering.
Arneson resumes his testimony Tuesday. His attorney, Hummel, has said he plans to call Ornellas and entertainment attorney Bert Fields as witnesses.