Witness: Pellicano suggested murder
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Foul-mouthed taped audio conversations more reminiscent of HBO's "The Sopranos" than a courtroom were played Tuesday for the jury in the federal wiretapping and racketeering case against former celebrity sleuth Anthony Pellicano.
The recordings, made by Pellicano at his Sunset Boulevard office, were of talks between the private eye and his client Adam Sender, a New York hedge fund manager.
Pellicano and four others are on trial on charges of wiretapping and racketeering.
Sender had hired Pellicano to investigate the late producer Aaron Russo ("Trading Places"). Sender testified that he had loaned $1.1 million to Russo in 1999 to start up two joint ventures, a film production company and a dot-com to sell holistic medicine.
But Russo, who died last year of cancer, never delivered on the investment, Sender said, and so he filed suit against the producer to recover the money. Sender brought in Pellicano on the advice of his attorney, Bert Fields, after Russo managed to elude being served with court papers for a year. Sender testified that it became evident that Pellicano was wiretapping his adversary.
"I want to make this guy's life as miserable as possible," Sender told Pellicano in one profanity-laced conversation.
It was Sender's live testimony, however, that the former private eye offered to have the producer murdered that really raised eyebrows and brought snickers from a few courtroom watchers.
"If I wanted to, I could authorize to have him murdered on the way back from Las Vegas -- have someone follow him back, drive him off the road and bury his body somewhere in the desert," Sender testified Pellicano told him.
Sender testified it was the "scariest" thing that occurred during his dealings with Pellicano and that he never approved the suggestion.
But on cross-examination by Pellicano, who is representing himself, Sender admitted that perhaps the exchange between them was more a passing suggestion, since he was spending so much money on the investigation and lawsuit.
"He may have phrased it that way," said Sender, who was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.
During the course of more than a year, Sender paid Pellicano half a million dollars for his services, on top of a $300,000 legal bill with Fields' firm. Sender testified that he only met with Fields once and that his case was managed by another associate at the firm, David Moriarty. He won a $25,000 default judgment in the Russo lawsuit.
Also taking the stand Tuesday was Sandra Carradine, the ex-wife of Keith Carradine. The couple was in a child custody dispute, and she paid Pellicano to find out how much the actor was making. He also investigated the actor's girlfriend (now wife), Hayley DuMond.
Sandra Carradine has pleaded guilty to lying to a grand jury. She became emotional when she testified that she was protecting Pellicano, with whom she had an on-and-off romantic relationship for five years.
On cross-examination by Pellicano, Carradine said the former private investigator never asked her to lie for him.
The courtroom dramatics continued later in the day when Lisa Gores took the stand to talk about being followed and investigated by Pellicano.
Gores was married to entrepreneur Alec Gores, who hired Pellicano in 2000 to find out if his wife was cheating on him. She was -- with her husband's brother, Thomas Gores.
She tearfully testified how she met with Pellicano, after her husband confirmed that he was investigating her, to ask the private eye to destroy any phone conversation recordings between her and her brother-in-law/lover.
"I asked him to please destroy whatever he had because I didn't want anything out there," she said, before lowering her head and breaking down.