Notorious private eye Anthony Pellicano will be arraigned this morning on a variety of charges still unknown (not this afternoon as previously stated) in Los Angeles.
Pellicano just finished a stretch in prison on Friday stemming from an incident in which he threatened the life of a reporter.
Sources tell me that when his indictment is unsealed at a noon press conference in Los Angeles federal court, there will be many famous names and juicy tidbits.
But termed "safe" for the moment is famed entertainment attorney Bert Fields, who regularly employed Pellicano but has insisted that he never knew or authorized him to break the law. This doesn't mean that Fields will not become involved in the case sometime soon, but for today, he can rest easy.
Eventually, though, the Pellicano case could cause a lot of trouble for Tom Cruise and Michael Jackson.
Both stars at one time or another have retained Fields to represent them in unusual and delicate matters pertaining to their personal lives. And Fields, by extension, often used Pellicano in the obtaining of information on such matters.
In recent weeks, the Los Angeles Times has reported, authorities have been able to link Fields and Pellicano when they arrested a former Beverly Hills police officer who admitted using police computers to help Pellicano gather information on a man being sued by a client of Fields’ firm.
In the case of Cruise, there isn’t an arm of the entertainment press that hasn’t gotten a letter from Fields sometime in the last 20 or so years demanding a retraction, correction or apology.
Fields has been a fervent defender of Cruise against all perceived accusations, allegations and possible libels or slurs. The matters almost always extended to speculation about Cruise’s sexuality or religion.
At the same time, Fields is now legendary for representing Jackson back during his original child molestation scandal in 1993-94. Well documented by now, Fields interceded with the family of Jackson’s accuser, shaping the terms of Jackson’s settlement with them.
What’s at the center of this is that Fields often employed Pellicano as an investigator. In the Jackson case, much has been chronicled about Pellicano’s role as Fields’s operative. What’s always been extraordinarily interesting, my sources have insisted for the last two years, is that the raid on Neverland on Nov. 18, 2003, coincided with Pellicano starting his prison term in a seemingly unrelated matter that week.
Two weeks before Jackson’s arrest and Pellicano’s incarceration, Fields, according to Variety, “became the first lawyer to acknowledge that he had been interviewed by the FBI in connection with a wiretapping investigation of Pellicano.”
Fields, it should be stressed, has always insisted he never knew about or authorized Pellicano’s wiretaps.
Today, Pellicano will face the music big time. His indictment, re-arrest, and arraignment today comes after a 30 month sentence for possession of explosives.
All of it came from Pellicano’s attempts in 2002 to stop a story by Hollywood journalist Anita Busch, whom he threatened with a dead fish, a rose and a note on her car window that said “stop.”
The new arrest and indictment comes from the rest of Pellicano’s shining career digging up dirt and handling sensational personal matters.
Fields, who admitted in 2003 to being interviewed by the government about his relationship with Pellicano, has always denied knowing anything about his illegal activities.
Still, he cannot be pleased that this day has come. No attorney wants to be in a situation where he has to reveal the inner workings of his office.
But the federal investigators may be very serious with regards to Fields — whether they prove to be right or wrong about his dealings with Pellicano.
The many dozens of boxes removed from Pellicano’s offices in 2002 included files on many of Fields’ high-profile clients as well as those of other prominent Hollywood attorneys.
It’s a potentially explosive situation that could wind up naming not just Cruise and Jackson but lots of other stars who wouldn’t want their personal business made public.
Sources told me yesterday that federal authorities have been so keen on Fields’ involvement with Pellicano that, on the eve of Pellicano’s new indictment, Fields’ home in Malibu was definitely being kept under surveillance.
When this reporter drove by the relatively quiet stretch of Malibu highway on Sunday afternoon, I was surprised to find a lot of activity involving unmarked vehicles and men with earpieces. Was the government watching Fields? Was Fields protecting himself? Frankly, the whole thing looked like an episode of “Get Smart” or Mad magazine’s “Spy Vs. Spy.”
Meanwhile, court observers are wondering just who is paying for what is sure to be Pellicano’s pricey defense. His new attorney is Steven Gruel, a former federal prosecutor from San Francisco.
According to my sources, who are Pellicano experts, the 61-year-old ex-P.I. has run dry of money. By coincidence, Fields is being represented in the government’s inquiry by John W. Keker, a highly regarded defense attorney from … San Francisco.
Keker is not another former federal prosecutor, but in 1987 he was a member of the Iran-Contra legal team charged with taking down Oliver North. Keker has often represented the U.S. government in cases, and has specialized in high-profile cases. He is also representing Andrew Fastow, the Enron mastermind.
In 2003, the San Francisco Chronicle named him that city’s No. 1 attorney, stressing that he only took cases going to trial. “John Keker, 59, is a trial lawyer,” they wrote. “Not a criminal lawyer or a corporate lawyer or any other label you try to give him. He does trials. That's it.”
Fields obviously thinks that’s where he’s headed.
And you may be thinking, wow, all the good defense attorneys in California come from Frisco!
Le Scandal Pellicano has only just begun, believe me! But so far Tom Cruise — if Pellicano ever did any spying for him via Fields — doesn’t seem worried. He spent the weekend at the Record Plant in Los Angeles with Katie Holmes, working on the soundtrack for “Mission: Impossible 3.”
If you want another take on the world of show biz, you must come to Hollywood. It’s the opposite of New York — a bizarro world where you find yourself giving a standing ovation for the least likely achievements.
On Saturday night, the Writers Guild gave out awards on both coasts simultaneously, sort of. There’s that three hour time difference. So the East Coast announced all the winners and went home. They honored James L. Brooks ("Terms of Endearment," "Mary Tyler Moore." etc.) and Marshall Brickman ("Annie Hall," "Jersey Boys").
That meant that here on the West Coast, a lot of people already knew in advance the winners of the awards being handed out at the Hollywood Palladium. Was it a coincidence that Ellen Pompeo presented an award to the writers of “Grey’s Anatomy”? Or that Terrence Howard gave an award to the writers of “Crash”? Hmmm. I don’t think so.
But OK. The WGA West gave an award to Frank Pierson, now head of the Motion Picture Academy. It was his fifth honorary award. I mean, Pierson is a great guy, but even he looked a little shocked. Elegant and gracious as usual, he gave a short acceptance speech and exited.
The WGAW also gave a lifetime achievement award to Stephen J. Cannell. After seeing a medley of video clips from a collection of guilty pleasures like “The A Team,” “Hunter,” “21 Jump Street” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep” — not exactly TV’s finest moments — the entire audience gave Cannell a standing ovation. Yikes!
Now, I like Cannell personally. He’s a very nice man. But I think even he knows that his crowning TV glory was “The Rockford Files.” Maybe “The Commish” comes in second. But for the most part, he made his millions by serving up slam-dunk commercial entertainment that is best forgotten.
But this is Hollywood after all, and the bread and butter of the local economy here is TV. When thunderous applause met strains of the theme song from “The Greatest American Hero,” really, that was quite enough.
Steve Carell, droll as ever, told me on Saturday night he still can’t believe that his “Little Miss Sunshine” was such a hit at Sundance. His next movie role? Playing Maxwell Smart, the role for which he was born. Don Adams will be smiling from heaven…
Chris Rock, looking sharp in his tux, at the Four Seasons after the Writers Guild Awards. Also there, separately, but just hanging out, the estimable Morgan Freeman, getting ready to narrate something and get an Oscar for it. That’s just what he does…
At the WGA ceremony, I ran into Sandra Oh, from "Grey’s Anatomy," one of my favorite people. She’s spending her hiatus from the show in New York, doing a play at the Public Theater. Lucky us!...
Bob Yari, who put up the money for “Crash” and is turning into a mini-mogul (see our story about him from a year ago), told me he lives in a “cottage” in Malibu, and that so far his lunch schedule is not cluttered with execs from other studios. I expect that’s about to change big time…
Larry O'Donnell, one of the reasons “The West Wing” was such a quality, realistic show, told me he’s not unhappy it’s coming to an end. “It makes sense,” he said…
And Lauren Hutton, gorgeous as ever, flying in to Los Angeles: did you know that she has a hit line of makeup sold only on the Internet? Check it out at www.laurenhutton.com. This brilliant, articulate woman told me she’s thinking about writing her memoirs — now that’s one book we’d all like to read!