Seagal blames slumping career on probe

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Steven Seagal wants an apology from federal investigators he says wrongly implicated him in a plot to scare a journalist who was working on a story about the actor's possible ties to organized crime.

The 56-year-old action star blames his slumping career on the negative publicity he says resulted from the FBI affidavit that accused him of hiring former private eye Anthony Pellicano to threaten a freelance reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

"False FBI accusations fueled thousands of articles saying that I terrorize journalists and associate with the Mafia," Seagal told the Times in an interview published Friday. "These kinds of inflammatory allegations scare studio heads and independent producers -- and kill careers."

Seagal was never charged but the FBI has not issued any statement clearing him of wrongdoing. FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said Friday the agency does not comment on pending investigations.

Pellicano and others were eventually indicted for allegedly participating in a wiretapping scheme. Pellicano, once known as the private eye to the stars, has pleaded not guilty and is in prison awaiting trial next year.

Fourteen people have been charged in the case, with seven pleading guilty so far.

A criminal indictment issued last year charges Pellicano with tapping the phones of such celebrities as Sylvester Stallone and bribing police officers to run the names of more than 60 people, including comedians Garry Shandling and Kevin Nealon, through government databases.

Seagal was linked to a 2002 threat against reporter Anita Busch, who found a dead fish and a rose on the windshield of her car with a note that read "stop."

Busch told authorities she believed the threat stemmed from a story she was putting together on Seagal and his former producing partner Julius Nasso. Earlier that year, Nasso was indicted with New York mob figures for plotting to extort money from Seagal.

The investigation led federal authorities to raid Pellicano's offices, where they found explosives, and he was later convicted of weapons charges. The raids also led to the wiretapping case.

U.S. attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek said his office does not comment on discussions it holds with "attorneys representing defendants, targets of investigations or witnesses."

"I should add that the government has never charged or accused Mr. Seagal of being involved in the incident that led to the search of Pellicano's office," Mrozek said. "Investigators decide on the most appropriate time to conduct an interview, and that might not always coincide with when the person would like to be interviewed."

Seagal said the notion that he would hire Pellicano to intimidate a reporter was "laughable." His attorney, Jan Handzlik, said he told authorities several years ago that the actor and Pellicano did not like one another and were unlikely to have collaborated with each other on the threat against Busch.

Despite providing that information, Handzlik said, Seagal's name continued to surface in news stories.

"Steven was left hanging for years while the allegations were reprinted over and over again," the attorney said. "The stories continued to damage his reputation and career, even though these allegations were demonstrably false."

Seagal was one of the biggest action stars of the 1990s, his films generating more than $1 billion in ticket and DVD sales. Most of his recent movies, however, have been released straight to video.
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