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Will the pelican finally fly free?
Notorious Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano is currently serving time in a federal penitentiary in Texas for illegal possession of firearms and explosives, unlawful wiretapping and racketeering. But an attorney for Pellicano this week requested his client be granted bail and be released until his appeal can be heard in a filing to Judge Dale Fischer of the U.S. District Court. His request is expected to be a subject of discussion at a hearing July 9 in federal court in Los Angeles.
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“Mr. Pellicano has already served approximately 67 months in federal custody which completely satisfies his prison terms for all convictions in this case but the two flawed RICO counts,” writes attorney Steven F. Gruel in his presentation to the court. (Download a PDF of the document here.)
RICO is a legal term for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Pellicano’s attorney says in his filing that since his client was convicted, the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal appeals court have issued opinions that he believes “completely eviscerate the government’s convictions” in the Pellicano case.
Gruel argues that will provide ample grounds for an appeal, so it is reasonable for his client to be granted bond and freed until that can be heard, which could take into 2014.
“Given the recent court rulings,” the filing says, “it would be completely unjust to insist that Mr. Pellicano remain in custody any longer while his appeal is pending.”
The case involving Pellicano was one of the highest profile prosecutions involving major Hollywood players in recent years. Pellicano at the turn of the century was one of the most active private investigators specializing in show business clients, working closely with many top lawyers.
Among the clients Pellicano was alleged to have worked on behalf of were studio heads Brad Grey and Ron Meyer, power broker Michael Ovitz, actors Elizabeth Taylor and Chris Rock, powerful lawyer Bert Fields and billionaire former MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian, among many others
Among those whose phones Pellicano illegally tapped were actor Sylvester Stallone and comedians Gary Shandling and Kevin Nealon.
Things started to unravel in 2002 when Anita Busch, then a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, was harassed and threatened. That created a trail that eventually led authorities to Pellicano, and allegedly to his client Ovitz as well. Ovitz, who was never prosecuted, is still being sued by Busch in a civil case, as are others.
Prominent attorney Terry Christensen was also convicted in the case in 2008 but remains free on bail pending his appeal. Mark Arneson, a former LAPD sergeant who aided Pellicano by accessing confidential government records, was granted bail in 2009.
The filing says that Pellicano prosecutors have not yet filed an answer to briefs in the case filed in 2010. “Such unacceptable foot dragging by the prosecution (with its massive resources),” says the filing, “smacks of blatant vindictiveness that results in irreparable loss of time to Mr. Pellicano.”
Gruel raises numerous other questions about how the case and the trials against Pellicano – who in some cases acted as his own lawyer – were conducted, and says they will raise substantial questions for the appeals court.
Gruel also pleads that Pellicano, now 68, indigent and suffering from an eye condition, is not a danger to the community or likely to flee if granted bail. He points out that during the process that led up to his convictions, which began with his indictment in 2006, Pellicano has been cooperating with authorities. He also notes Pellicano will not repeat his crimes since his investigation firm has been out of business for almost a decade.
The filing also includes a declaration from Pellicano’s cousin Fred Filippi of San Clemente, who says he is prepared to take him into his home if he is released. Filippi says he is also willing to act as a court appointed custodian for Pellicano, would be willing to sign a surety bond (along with other relatives) putting up his home to insure his cousin does not flee, and would go along with an order for Pellicano to wear electronic monitoring equipment.
Gruel also alludes to one reason Pellicano allegedly was treated so harshly. He has never agreed to provide information about his many celebrity clients to the authorities, despite pressure to do so.
“Although it may not publically say so,” says the filing, “the government shares this view that Mr. Pellicano is not a danger. When the prosecutors and agents approached Mr. Pellicano to “flip” him to cooperate, they clearly dangled the keys to his freedom in exchange for his honor. The set of ‘keys’ would not have been repeatedly offered by the prosecution if it truly considered Mr. Pellicano a danger.
“Rather, to suggest that Mr. Pellicano is a ‘danger’, now in light of his advanced age, health and lack of resources would be a further illustration of the prosecution’s frustration with Mr. Pellicano’s steadfast decision to stand tall (and silent); all the while unwilling to cooperate.”
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