LOS ANGELES – The wiretapping trial of private investigator Anthony Pellicano had its first injection of Hollywood star power Tuesday, when actor-comedian Garry Shandling testified he was troubled to find his name on an unauthorized background check allegedly done by a former Los Angeles police sergeant.
Shandling, 58, was shown documents by prosecutors indicating that police databases had been searched four times for his personal information in 1999.
At the time of the searches, Shandling was involved in a lawsuit in which he accused former manager and now Paramount studio head Brad Grey of taking excess commissions and fees from the HBO series "The Larry Sanders Show."
Attorney Bert Fields, who represented Grey, called the lawsuit "sheer lunacy" when it was filed in 1998.
While testifying, Shandling leafed through a printout of the background checks that also included names of his friends and associates.
"This bothers me as much as the first time I saw this," he said. "It's a creepy feeling."
Prosecutors said Shandling was among the victims of a racketeering scheme headed by Pellicano that dug up dirt on celebrity and other prominent Hollywood clients for use in legal and other disputes.
Pellicano, 63, and four co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to various charges. Pellicano is acting as his own lawyer during the trial.
For about 45 minutes, Shandling chronicled his falling out with Grey after hiring him as his manager in the early 1980s.
The two men collaborated on "The Larry Sanders Show," -- a behind-the-scenes look at a fictional talk show -- that garnered wide acclaim and ended in 1998.
Shandling said trouble began between the two men when his accountant said the actor wasn't receiving the right amount of commissions from the cable show.
The relationship with Grey changed drastically after Shandling hired an attorney, he said.
Grey said "he would make my life miserable and that sort of thing," Shandling testified.
Shandling filed a $100 million lawsuit against Grey, accusing him of "triple-dipping" on commissions and fees as well as making deals worth more than $200 million with other studios on the comedian's behalf without his permission.
"I realize he was looking out for his own best interest and not for me," Shandling said. "I realized that a little late."
After learning that Fields would represent Grey, Shandling recalled a conversation he had years earlier with Grey.
Grey said, "'with Bert Fields, you get Anthony Pellicano,"' Shandling said. "I didn't quite know what he meant then."
Shandling later had a security consultant examine his phone for any wiretaps but none were found, Shandling testified.
Prosecutors believe Pellicano bribed police officers, including co-defendant LAPD Sgt. Mark Arneson, to run names of his clients' rivals through databases.
On the witness stand, Shandling reviewed a list of names allegedly searched by Arneson in early 1999 and identified his ex-girlfriend, associates and his friend and fellow comedian Kevin Nealon.
During cross-examination by Arneson's attorney, Shandling said he didn't know if any of the information had been used against him. The lawsuit was settled in July 1999 for a reported $10 million.
Both Grey and Fields have denied knowing of Pellicano's tactics and have not been charged in the case. Their names appear on the prosecution witness list, but it was unclear if either would testify.
Tarita Virtue, 38, a former Pellicano employee, testified Wednesday that she feared for her safety after she decided to cooperate with federal authorities in the case.
In a lighter moment, Shandling and U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer drew laughs in the courtroom when he first took the stand and was asked by prosecutor what he did for a living.
"I'm a comedian" Shandling replied.
"Not today, sir," Fischer cracked.