2:34pm PT by Austin Siegemund-Broka
Anthony Pellicano Discusses Michael Ovitz Deposition in Court
Anthony Pellicano spoke by phone from prison in court on Wednesday. The conference offered more questions than answers regarding the next steps in the legal saga that has surrounded his activities for more than a decade.
Up for discussion is when — or whether — a trial will go forward in the case filed against the private eye by journalist Anita Busch. It was Busch, a former Los Angeles Times reporter and Hollywood Reporter editor, who helped expose the now-infamous Pellicano after she found a dead fish and a note that read "Stop" on her windshield in 2002, an intimidation attempt he was revealed to have ordered.
She didn't know who had directed his actions when she filed her 2004 lawsuit, but she's since pointed the finger at former superagent and Disney president Michael Ovitz, and she's received judicial go-ahead to pursue claims against Ovitz. Now, she's looking to bring the case against Ovitz and Pellicano to trial.
Pellicano was sentenced to 15 years in 2008 in a separate criminal matter. He was charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, unlawful wiretapping and racketeering, and he's currently imprisoned in Texas. But he's pursuing an appeal of the racketeering convictions in the Ninth Circuit, and if the conviction is overturned, he will be released.
The parties in several civil cases against him, including Busch's, have intended to wait until the Ninth Circuit decides before they bring their claims to trial. But they're facing a deadline. It's been years since the time limit to bring the cases to trial expired, and while Pellicano has agreed to extend the five-year limit to Apr. 30, he's said he won't extend it further. There's no estimating when the Ninth Circuit will give its ruling. The question is, what happens if the court doesn't rule within the private eye's time frame?
In court on Wednesday, the discussion centered on the likelihood of bringing him to trial before the Apr. 30 deadline.
"I've been advised the decision may be for a new trial. If there's a new trial, that presents lots of interesting dilemmas," Pellicano said. "I thought everybody was going to wait until the Ninth Circuit had made its decision," he added.
"I'm willing to extend the five-year date, but we can't do it at the last moment," Busch's attorney Evan Marshall said. "I would prefer to get a trial date."
"Once the Ninth Circuit rules we'll try to go to trial as soon as possible," L.A. Superior Court judge Elihu Berle responded.
Part of the holdup is Pellicano's deposition: The private eye, representing himself in the civil cases, has delayed the proceedings by extending the five-year limit and exercising his Fifth Amendment right not to testify against himself while his criminal appeal is ongoing. But last year, he agreed to a deposition. He's scheduled to speak from prison in Texas with attorneys on Feb. 3-5.
He insisted in court Wednesday that he'd only testify with regard to several of the cases filed over his activities. (Revelations of Pellicano's activities have led to twenty-some similar lawsuits, and while some have settled — like Keith Carradine's and a case against Chris Rock — others remain pending.) Pellicano said he wouldn't have the resources in prison to testify accurately in some of the cases. "I don't know what anyone's going to bring. I don't have any records to my advantage, I don't know how many or which questions are going to be asked," he told the judge.
He agreed to speak with Marshall and Ovitz's lawyer, Eric M. George at Browne George Ross, as well as Geoffrey Plowden, who represents the City of Los Angeles in the Busch case. He said he'll also speak with the attorneys for a case filed against Pacific Bell by businessman Kirk Kerkorian's ex-wife Lisa Kerkorian, who is represented by Johnson & Johnson's Neville Johnson. If other attorneys show up, he added, "I'm just going to sit down and not say a word."
Berle responded that he might nevertheless be compelled to testify in other cases. But even in the matters on which he'll talk, it's not certain his testimony will be used at the potential trial.
"We don't know what's going to happen," Marshall told THR after the conference. "It'll depend on his mood at the deposition, how talkative he is. Anything could happen."