Editor's note: A clarification is appended to this article.
Anita Busch would like her life back. Nothing has been the same for her since June 20, 2002, when she found her car vandalized—someone had damaged the windshield, leaving a dead fish with a rose in its mouth and a note with one word on it: “Stop.” Over the following months, someone tried to run her down, her computer’s hard drive was wiped out, and a repairman found equipment on her phone that turned out to be a tap.
The person ultimately found guilty of threatening her: notorious private investigator Anthony Pellicano, now serving a 15-year sentence for this and other crimes, including wire fraud and racketeering.
Busch was an entertainment reporter at the time, working on an investigative series for the Los Angeles Times about celebrities and their potential connections to organized crime. She had also written in the past for The New York Times on the fall of Michael Ovitz, the once all-powerful agent who had started a doomed management company. She says there were plenty of people who would have wanted her silence.
“I was scared every day,” Busch, now 50, says about the months she lived in terror. Every time she started her car, she feared it would explode. She had nightmares. She stayed with friends and her parents until she realized they were scared to house her. “My peace of mind was completely obliterated.”
Busch is convinced that Ovitz hired Pellicano to investigate, harass, and threaten her, and she is suing them both for unspecified damages in Los Angeles Superior Court, along with two of Pellicano’s convicted co-conspirators. Ovitz has denied hiring Pellicano to threaten Busch. In a jailhouse interview with NEWSWEEK, Pellicano denied having anything to do with the Busch case.
In the meantime, she continues to try to pick up the pieces of a shattered career. When she learned of the phone tapping, none of her sources would talk to her anymore. “I don’t blame them,” Busch says. Also hard to take, she says, was that many of her colleagues accused her of fabricating the whole thing. “I always thought journalism was you’re all together in a flippin’ foxhole.” She left the Times in May 2004.
Since then, Busch has cobbled together a living doing research, marketing, and selling screenplays. She sometimes posts in the comments section of the Deadline Hollywood website, most recently about Rebekah Brooks’s testimony before Parliament about the News of the World hacking scandal.
If Busch wins money in any of her pending lawsuits, she says, she’ll donate some of it to nonprofits that help crime victims, and might start an organization herself. “It’s the Devil’s money, so I’d like to do God’s work with it.”
Most of all, Busch says, “I’d like it to come to an end. I’d like to start my life over.”
Editor’s Note and Clarification: The article states that Busch “says there were plenty of people who would have wanted her silence.” In her interview, Busch said she was surprised by the threats and had no idea who would have gone after her.