Pellicano Victim Will Fight Early Jail Release
On June 20, 2002 -- exactly 10 years ago this week -- journalist Anita Busch discovered a dead fish with a red rose in its mouth and a note on the cracked windshield of her Audi: "Stop." The threat, and Busch's complaints to Los Angeles police, began the Hollywood legal odyssey known as the Pellicano scandal, which ensnared everyone from power brokers Michael Ovitz and Brad Grey to actor Steven Seagal, culminating in the 2008 sentencing of private investigator Anthony Pellicano and others to 15 years in prison for possession of firearms, wiretapping and racketeering.
Now Pellicano, 68, wants out of a federal penitentiary in Texas, arguing in court papers June 11 that he should be granted bail while he appeals his case because two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions "completely eviscerate the government's convictions." And Busch, whose once-vibrant career -- including a stint as editor of THR -- was derailed by her wiretapping ordeal, is coming forward to challenge Pellicano's request and reveal new frustrations with the L.A. District Attorney's office.
In an interview, Busch says that if Pellicano is allowed to plead his case before U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer during a requested hearing July 9, she will appear in court to oppose his effort. "I'll attend and speak if I can," Busch says. "He should not be let out of prison."
In the court papers, Pellicano attorney Steven Gruel argues that the former sleuth, who suffers from an eye ailment, is not a threat and should be granted bail like others who were convicted and are appealing, including attorney Terry Christensen and former LAPD Sgt. Mark Arneson. But Busch counters that she and other Pellicano victims would fear for their lives if he were released. "If you're dealing with a sociopath, which is what Mr. Pellicano is, you cannot predict his behavior," she says. "You cannot predict the behavior of someone who is going to hire someone to go blow up a reporter's car." That sentiment is shared by other wiretap victims, including Pamela Miller, a former nanny who was spied on by Pellicano and tells THR she also will attend a court hearing to voice opposition.
For Busch, 51, the Pellicano case did not end with his conviction. Despite various health issues, she continues to press a civil lawsuit against Ovitz, who she believes hired Pellicano to torment her when she pursued articles about him for the New York Times. (Ovitz was never charged and testified at trial that he had no knowledge of Pellicano's tactics.) She is a plaintiff in a complex class action against Arneson and the cities of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills related to wiretapping and invasion of privacy as well as a separate class action against a telephone company over the wiretapping.
Busch also is raising new questions about the handling of the Pellicano case by the L.A. District Attorney's office, which she says has ties to the P.I. and the law firms that hired him. Busch, for instance, says she was told that her file in the matter, which contains records and statements she gave police, went missing for about a year around the time Pellicano was preparing his appeal. "They had no reasonable explanation for why the file wasn't found," she says. A district attorney spokesperson says the documents were never lost: "They were electronically scanned for preservation, and they are now sitting in the prosecutor's office." (Busch counters that the D.A. told her he didn't know where the file was.)
Despite the ordeal, Busch says she will remain in L.A. while her lawsuits play out, even though she is still fearful a decade after she was first threatened. "My life has completely changed," she says, "I don't think anyone has seen the level of corruption I've seen."