Hollywood private eye convicted in wiretap

Thu May 15, 2008 8:15pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Anthony Pellicano, known as Hollywood's private eye to the stars, was convicted on Thursday of running a vast criminal enterprise involving wiretapping and bribery to fix the problems of his wealthy clients.

After a two month trial that exposed the seamy side of the movie industry and featured a celebrity-heavy witness list, a Los Angeles federal jury convicted Pellicano on all but one of the 77 charges against him.

His four co-defendants, including a former police officer, a telephone company official and a computer expert who designed the sophisticated "Telesleuth" wiretapping device, were found guilty on most of the dozens of charges they faced.

Pellicano, 64, who pleaded not guilty and conducted his own rambling defense dressed in prison clothes, is expected to spend the rest of his life behind bars when he is sentenced in September. He has already served time for weapons and explosives possession.

The veteran private investigator, who once worked for lawyers representing Tom Cruise, Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson, presented himself as the ultimate problem solver.

He was charged with racketeering -- under U.S. laws originally used against the Mafia -- and with wiretapping and unlawfully obtaining information about troublesome foes.

Movie stars Chris Rock and Garry Shandling, and Paramount Pictures chief executive Brad Grey and former Walt Disney Co president Michael Ovitz were among a string of witnesses who testified they hired Pellicano, or were spied on by him, during disputes ranging from cheating spouses and paternity lawsuits to show business contracts.

The prospect of the trial had kept Hollywood abuzz for years but all of those testifying said they were unaware of any illegal activities by Pellicano, and none was charged.   Continued...

<p>Private detective Anthony Pellicano is shown in this 1993 file photo. Pellicano was convicted on May 15, 2008 of racketeering after a high-profile two-month trial that featured testimony from Hollywood celebrities. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich</p>