LOS ANGELES – A federal judge presiding over the trial of a private investigator accused of wiretapping Hollywood celebrities said prosecutors can use evidence gathered in a search of his offices.
FBI agents raided Anthony Pellicano's offices in 2002 and found illegal explosives. Authorities were investigating whether Pellicano hired a man to threaten a Los Angeles Times reporter working on a story about actor Steven Seagal and his possible links to the Mafia.
Pellicano's attorney Steven Gruel challenged the legality of the search, saying the raids amounted to a fishing expedition. FBI agents seized computers and numerous digital audio tapes that led to a 112-count indictment unsealed in February against Pellicano.
Fourteen people have been charged in the government's wiretapping case. Six have pleaded guilty. Federal prosecutors say Pellicano used wiretaps, threats and blackmail to help lawyers and their clients win high-stakes legal disputes.
Judge Dale S. Fischer on May 22 concurred with an earlier ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that found the search was valid. The judge's decision was made public Thursday.
"There is no authority to suggest that officers seeking a search warrant must describe all of the crimes they believe the subject of the warrant may have committed or all of the things they hope to find," Fischer wrote. "So long as the warrant is valid and properly executed, the search is lawful."
However, the judge said her decision doesn't preclude Pellicano from requesting a hearing at which Gruel could call FBI agents to determine if there were any misrepresentations made with the search warrants.
"I'm encouraged and enthused by her decision," Gruel said. "She has clearly indicated in written form that if we can show there are falsehoods. She is going to look at this seriously."
Fischer found no grounds to support Gruel's assertion that agents had violated Pellicano's attorney-client privilege by enlisting his ex-girlfriend to extract information.
Pellicano claimed the government used Sandra Carradine, former wife of actor Keith Carradine, to gather a "fountain of information" about his legal strategy during jail visits last year.
Sandra Wil Carradine pleaded guilty to two counts of perjury and is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 25. She admitted in January that she lied to a grand jury about her knowledge that Pellicano had wiretapped the home of Keith Carradine during a child support dispute.
Pellicano, 62, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial on charges of wiretapping such stars as Sylvester Stallone and paying two police officers to run names, including comedians Garry Shandling and Kevin Nealon, through a government database.
Pellicano served a 2 1/2-year sentence on charges related to the explosives.