Hollywood Flashback: In 2002, PI Anthony Pellicano Was Indicted After Wiretapping Former MGM Boss' Ex-Wife

PI Anthony Pellicano - H 2015
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

PI Anthony Pellicano - H 2015

While investigating the paternity of Kirk Kerkorian's presumed daughter, the high-profile PI illegally recorded 34 phone calls with his ex and shared the info with lawyer Terry Christensen. Thirteen years later, both men are still trying to overturn charges.

This story first appeared in the Sept. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

"There is no way, except with my unique techniques, that you would know this," cautioned Anthony Pellicano as he gave information to a client, lawyer Terry Christensen, during a call Pellicano, now 71, recorded in 2002. In those days, Pellicano was Hollywood's most high-profile private eye, and his "unique techniques" were wiretapping, which is what got him convicted in 2008. The PI (whose personality evokes Showtime's Ray Donovan) partially won an appeal Aug. 25 from a three-judge panel. It remains to be seen whether the net result will shave any time off his internment at the Federal Correctional Institution in Big Spring, Texas, where he's scheduled for a 2019 release.

Pellicano's fall from grace began when FBI agents raided his office in 2002 with a warrant for "all audio recordings of telephonic conversations." Agents took his computers and hard drives, which included recordings he'd made of his own calls to such clients as Michael Ovitz and Chris Rock, plus the ones he had wiretapped on behalf of clients. This turned out to be very bad for Christensen. The USC law school graduate had paid Pellicano $100,000 to investigate the paternity of the late Kirk Kerkorian's presumed daughter with former pro tennis player Lisa Bonder. The former MGM boss, then 82, and Bonder, then 34, had been married for 28 days in 1999, and she was seeking $320,000 in monthly child support. But dental floss retrieved from Get Carter producer Steve Bing's trash would prove Bing was the biological father. (Bing also would prove to be the father of Elizabeth Hurley's son in an unrelated paternity suit around the same time.) And while the dumpster diving was legal, Pellicano's wiretapping of Kerkorian's ex-wife was not. What nailed Christensen in court were the 34 recorded phone conversa­tions he'd had with Pellicano discussing what the PI had learned, presumably from tapping Bonder's phone.

While Christensen was not alone in employing Pellicano (the PI's client list included Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise and Brad Grey), the lawyer was the only one convicted of illegal behavior. Christensen, 74, who was sentenced to three years in 2008, has been out on bail for seven years awaiting the results of his appeals. On Aug. 25, all his challenges were rejected. Both Pellicano and Christensen intend to seek review of the panel's split decision from the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.