The 110-count federal indictment against L.A. detective-to-the-stars Anthony Pellicano was unsealed last week, and you could hear Hollywood's relief: Pellicano's most famous employers weren't named in the indictment, which accuses the private eye and six others of illegal wiretaps and searches of police databases to dredge up embarrassing material on his clients' enemies. Pellicano and the others pleaded not guilty.
The story is still unfolding. Former superagent Michael Ovitz has been subpoenaed by attorneys for journalist Anita Busch, who has filed a separate civil suit against Pellicano. The federal indictment charged that Pellicano in May 2002 paid an LAPD officer to check the police records of Busch and the then New York Times entertainment reporter Bernard Weinraub. The pair had written articles about the collapse of Ovitz's company, Artists Management Group. "Look at who they were writing about during that period," Busch attorney Matthew Geragos told NEWSWEEK. While Busch's lawyers say they "are not accusing [Ovitz] of anything," they want to learn more about Ovitz's "relationship with Pellicano," says Brian Kabateck, another Busch attorney. Ovitz wouldn't comment, but a source close to the situation, requesting anonymity because the case is delicate, says Ovitz denies instructing Pellicano to search police or phone records on Busch or Weinraub. Ovitz testified before a grand jury in the wiretap investigation but was told he is only a witness, not a target or suspect, said the source.
Pellicano was working on two Ovitz-related matters, the source tells NEWSWEEK: Ovitz's AMG had hired a small Los Angeles law firm to represent it in disputes with a former employee and an athlete's representative. The law firm in turn hired Pellicano in May 2002 to do some investigating. According to last week's indictment, Pellicano was allegedly snooping into police records for info on the AMG lawsuit opponents at the same time he had the reporters' records pulled. The indictment further charges that a year earlier, Pellicano had run the names of two former Ovitz partners, Kevin Huvane and Bryan Lourd, through the LAPD database. Ovitz had long battled with his old firm, Creative Artists Agency. The source says Ovitz denies ever authorizing those checks.
Busch's attorneys say they plan to subpoena another high-profile Pellicano client, lawyer Bert Fields. He and others at his entertainment-law firm represented several clients whose opponents showed up as victims in the indictment, among them Sly Stallone and Garry Shandling. (The firm denies knowledge of any illegal activity by Pellicano.) Pellicano and an associate have been charged with making a criminal threat against Busch in a separate state indictment. (He has denied those charges, too, including that his associate left a dead fish on Busch's car as a threat.) Federal prosecutors say their investigation will continue, and Pellicano, who just finished serving a 30-month sentence for possession of explosives, sits in federal custody without bail.