5:55pm PT by Ashley Cullins
Anthony Pellicano Severed From Anita Busch's Trial Against Michael Ovitz
Anita Busch has been waiting more than a decade to resolve civil claims against investigator Anthony Pellicano and former super-agent Michael Ovitz — and now a judge has ruled that she'll have to take them to trial separately.
The journalist sued in 2004, and added Ovitz as a defendant two years later, claiming he was involved in the harassment campaign meant to deter her from her reporting. In 2002 — when a dead fish appeared on Busch's broken windshield alongside a note that read "Stop" — she had finished a series of stories about Ovitz's career after his firing from Disney and was working on a feature about Jules Nasso, Steven Seagal and organized crime in Hollywood.
Ovitz's attorney Jennifer Keller asked the court to separate the defendants, arguing it would be unfair to her client if Busch were allowed to present evidence against Pellicano that could prejudice a jury against Ovitz — especially since the investigator won't be at trial to address any claims. The CAA co-founder contends that, while he hired Pellicano to investigate Busch, it was a third party who hired him to threaten her.
"Plaintiff's evidence against Mr. Pellicano is not made admissible or relevant to Mr. Ovitz merely because she incorrectly alleges that Mr. Pellicano threatened her as Mr. Ovitz's agent," writes Keller in a Nov. 1 filing. "Accordingly, had Plaintiff sued the correct person, Mr. Pellicano's conviction, plea and other statements might be admissible against that third party. But because Plaintiff cannot satisfy her burden to show the requisite authority between Mr. Pellicano and Mr. Ovitz, none of that evidence can be used against Mr. Ovitz."
Busch's attorney Evan Marshall opposed the motion, arguing that Pellicano has already testified about his actions and Ovitz has admitted to hiring him, so his lack of participation at trial is irrelevant. (Pellicano is currently behind bars in Texas for a variety of crimes, including unlawful wiretapping and racketeering.)
In a brief Wednesday afternoon hearing, the court sided with Ovitz. "I think there are arguments on both sides," said Los Angeles Superior Court judge Elihu Berle. "On balance, I think it’s more appropriate that we sever Mr. Pellicano from the case."
The trial is currently set to begin Feb. 5, but a potential attorney scheduling conflict could see that date pushed back yet again.