LOS ANGELES – A Hollywood private investigator was convicted Thursday of federal racketeering and other charges for digging up dirt for his well-heeled clients to use in lawsuits, divorces and business disputes against the rich and famous.
Anthony Pellicano, 64, was accused of wiretapping stars such as Sylvester Stallone and running the names of others, such as Garry Shandling and Kevin Nealon, through law enforcement databases to help clients in legal and other disputes.
Pellicano was found guilty of all but one of the 77 counts against him. He looked at the judge with his arms crossed and didn't react when verdicts were read.
"We went by the evidence," said Terri Winbush, forewoman of the 12-member jury. "There was a lot of evidence."
The jury found him guilty of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, along with wiretapping, wire fraud, identity theft, conspiracy to intercept or use wire communications and manufacture or possession of a wiretapping device. He was acquitted of a charge of unauthorized computer access.
The racketeering counts each carry a maximum of 20 years in prison, while most of the other counts have five-year maximum sentences. Sentencing was set for Sept. 24, and U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer ordered Pellicano to remain in custody.
The jury also found four co-defendants guilty of a variety of charges.
The indictment charging Pellicano and his supporting cast in February 2006 had Hollywood buzzing with speculation about who might be ensnared in the investigation and what secrets might be revealed.
Fourteen people were charged and seven, including film director John McTiernan and former Hollywood Records president Robert Pfeifer, have pleaded guilty to charges including perjury and conspiracy.
But the biggest power brokers with links to Pellicano, such as famed entertainment attorney Bert Fields, Paramount studio head Brad Grey and one-time superagent Michael Ovitz, insisted they didn't know about his methods and weren't charged.
Pellicano starred in the real-time court drama as a tough-talking gumshoe who valued loyalty and secrecy as necessary virtues in his profession. He also acted as his own attorney but called only one witness and rarely raised objections.
The private eye decided against taking the stand to defend himself and kept true to his promise that he wouldn't betray the trust of his clients.
A number of dramas played out during the trial and cast a spotlight on the seamy side of Hollywood, detailing death threats, offers of murder and extramarital affairs.
Jurors watched as an uncomfortable Chris Rock testified about a model he believed was trying to shake him down. They saw a confounded Shandling study his name on a police records audit and a stoic Ovitz recount how he had hired Pellicano to find the source of negative news stories about a company he was selling.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Saunders urged jurors not to get caught up in the glitz of the case.
"This case is about corruption, about cheating, greed, arrogance and the perversion of the justice system. It just happened to take place in Hollywood," the prosecutor said.
During his closing argument, Pellicano insisted he shared no information with colleagues and said he alone was responsible for the investigations, although he didn't elaborate.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors portrayed Pellicano as a well-connected thug who ran a lucrative business by charging clients a nonrefundable retainer fee that started at $25,000.
They played a number of profanity-laced recordings made by Pellicano while he spoke with clients, including one with Rock, who hired the private eye to investigate a model who demanded money after claiming she was pregnant with his baby.
Attorneys for Pellicano's co-defendants also pleaded ignorance and tried to distance their clients from Pellicano, painting him as ultra-secretive.
Co-defendants Mark Arneson, a former Los Angeles police sergeant, and former telephone company worker Rayford Earl Turner were also convicted Thursday of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. Abner Nicherie, a Pellicano client, was convicted of aiding and abetting a wiretap.
Kevin Kachikian, a software designer who created a wiretapping program, was convicted of conspiracy to wiretap and manufacturing or possession of a wiretap device. He was acquitted of nine wiretapping counts.