10:00am PT by Eriq Gardner
Brad Grey Escapes Liability in Anthony Pellicano Matter
This story first appeared in the Feb. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
In the 10 years since Anthony Pellicano burst onto Hollywood's radar as the shadowy private eye hired by the town's most powerful figures to spy on one another, more than two dozen civil lawsuits have been filed in which he figures. Pellicano was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison in 2008, and some of those suits recently have begun to settle -- including one filed against Chris Rock by a woman who accused him of hiring Pellicano in the midst of a paternity proceeding.
Others persist. There is, for example, a proposed class action against the city of Los Angeles over police officers under Pellicano's thumb. And in another case now heating up, former Bold magazine editor Michael Davis Sapir is suing Tom Cruise and his attorney Bert Fields for allegedly hiring Pellicano to spy on him in a $100 million dispute over the publication's claim that it had evidence the star is gay. Cruise's recent deposition is sealed, but sources say he denied any connection to Pellicano.
But one high-profile lawsuit is now finished. THR has learned that Paramount Pictures chief Brad Grey was let off the hook by a judge Dec. 21 over his own alleged connection to Pellicano. Writer-producer Bo Zenga, who sued Grey's company over a claimed agreement to co-produce the 2000 film Scary Movie, had filed a new suit against Grey personally, in which he charged him with using Pellicano to spy on him. Also named as defendants were Fields, the city of Los Angeles and Pacific Bell.
Unfortunately for Zenga, he waited until May 2006 to assert wiretapping allegations -- when much of Hollywood already had been buzzing about Pellicano for years. That created statute-of-limitations problems, meaning his claims were brought too late. Zenga had many tip-offs to what was happening -- clicking noises on his phone, conversations with the FBI and other Pellicano victims and a Vanity Fair article -- but his lawyers say he still wasn't sure that he was a Pellicano target.
Grey, who has always denied knowledge of Pellicano wiretapping, was fortunate his adversary didn't follow up sooner on his suspicions. According to court documents, Zenga expressed his fears to a therapist in 2002 or 2003. He later told a reporter that Pellicano would threaten his mother "that unless her son dropped the lawsuit, her daughter would lose her house; she, her daughter and grandson would be homeless; and he would see to it that her son went to prison."
The delay didn't serve him well. At a hearing in December, defense attorney Brian Sun said the facts of the case were "pretty much not in dispute" but that Zenga should have filed his claims quicker.
The judge accepted that reasoning, ruling that because he had a suspicion, Zenga had a duty to conduct a reasonable investigation. But Zenga waited, and thus his claims were barred by the statute of limitations.
Grey's representatives declined comment.
Greg Dovel, the attorney for Zenga, responded:
"The evidence shows that Defendant Brad Grey and his lawyers hired Pellicano to use 'extraordinary' tactics, gave him Zenga’s telephone numbers, and received back information that could only have come from listening to confidential conversations. Because the facts are damning, Grey could argue only that the statute of limitations had run. We are confident, however, that we will win on appeal on that issue, because the Defendants committed their crime in a way that could not have been discovered before Pellicano’s federal wiretapping indictment."
E-mail: email@example.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner