Prosecution rests in Pellicano trial

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UPDATED 5:33 p.m. PT April 10, 2008


After six weeks of showing illegal searches of police records, extracting the most private of details from top Hollywood players and playing audio recordings between Anthony Pellicano and his plethora of high-powered clients, the government Thursday rested its wiretapping and racketeering case against the former private eye and four others.

Before finishing its case, the government dismissed 28 counts against Pellicano and co-defendant Mark Arneson, a former Los Angeles police sergeant, because some of the alleged victims weren't able to testify and many of the 110 counts against Pellicano were redundant.

The dropped counts mostly involved wire fraud that authorities had alleged involved Arneson searching law enforcement databases for Pellicano.

Over the weeks, the jury has heard witnesses testify to titillating facts and tawdry details that point to the unglamorous underbelly of Hollywood.

Prosecutors Kevin Lally and Daniel Saunders have called several high-profile Hollywood figures as witnesses, a mix of former Pellicano clients and alleged victims, including Chris Rock, Brad Grey, Michael Ovitz, Garry Shandling and Keith Carradine. Other well-known names have been dropped but have yet to be called as witnesses, including Sylvester Stallone, Bert Fields and Ron Meyer.

Among the highlights:

-- Shandling, who was one of the first witnesses called, painted former manager and Paramount chief Grey as a Svengali who kept his contracts in lockdown, away from the comedian and his lawyers. Grey, who had hired Pellicano when Shandling sued him, later testified those allegations were "completely false."

-- Former Hollywood Records president Robert Pfeifer admitted he hired Pellicano because he was obsessed with his ex-girlfriend, Erin Finn, who also happened to be a paid escort with her own Web site, EducatedEscorts.com.

-- Ovitz blamed the press on the collapse of his Artists Management Group. He admitted he hired Pellicano to dig up "embarrassing" information on two reporters he believed were targeting him, Anita Busch and Bernard Weinraub.

-- Busch gave some of the most dramatic testimony to date, sobbing uncontrollably at times as she talked about death threats against her (including dead fish on her car's windshield and a dark car practically running her down outside her apartment). She said she believed the threats were a result of Ovitz hiring Pellicano.

But scintillating details aside, the case is still about serious crimes allegedly committed by Pellicano and the others.

"The reality is it's a legal trial where the prosecutors want to prove their case," said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor. "They're not concerned about the entertainment value of the case. They're concerned about getting a guilty verdict."

Although she hasn't been in court to watch the proceedings, Levenson has heard reports from the courtroom that the case isn't going well for Pellicano.

"I do think the case is most solid on the bull's-eye, which is Anthony Pellicano," she said.

Now the case is in the hands of the defense, which so far has shown a somewhat united front in fighting the prosecution. But with five defendants fighting the same charges, that could change, though Levenson said it's not likely.

"I don't necessarily envision that it's going to be divide and conquer," she said. "I don't anticipate a free-for-all where they set out to save themselves. The best chance, still, is to attack the prosecution and not the co-defendants."
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