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Lawyer to Celebrities Is Subject of Inquiry
His name is nowhere in Monday's 60-page indictment of celebrity gumshoe and alleged wiretapper Anthony Pellicano.
But the shadow of 76-year-old lawyer Bertram Fields, who for years employed Pellicano as an investigator, looms over the case. Listed throughout the indictment are a host of alleged victims, including such prominent names as actor Sylvester Stallone and comic Garry Shandling, who battled with Fields' clients.
According to the federal indictment, Pellicano and his associates either allegedly wiretapped the victims, as with Stallone, or performed background checks on them, as with Shandling, using a database that is supposed to be restricted to law enforcement agencies.
The indictment alleges that Pellicano was trying to gain a tactical advantage for his clients by uncovering embarrassing information on their courtroom opponents.
Fields, whose hardball legal tactics have made him a favorite of many studios and celebrities, has denied knowledge of any illegal activity. Nonetheless, he remains a subject of the ongoing Pellicano investigation.
Fields, who has publicly acknowledged his status as a subject, issued a terse comment Monday. "It's something I want to stay out of," Fields said. "I try to keep practicing law and not pay a lot of attention to it."
Norman Levine, managing partner of the Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, Machtinger and Kinsella firm where Fields is a partner, said that although some members of the firm used Pellicano as an investigator, "if Mr. Pellicano engaged in any illegal activity, he did so without their or the firm's knowledge or authorization."
Pellicano and his associates were charged with operating an illegal activity that sought information on a variety of key Hollywood figures, including top agents Kevin Huvane and Bryan Lourd of Creative Artists Agency, former New York Times entertainment journalist Bernard Weinraub, former Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch and actors Keith Carradine and Kevin Nealon.
Although the indictment does not specify which cases Pellicano was working on, names cited in the charges read like a road map leading to Fields and his firm. Some of those victims were involved in especially bitter cases, and reportedly have been questioned by authorities.
Stallone, for example, sued former business manager Kenneth Starr, a Fields client, over the "Rocky" and "Rambo" star's ill-fated investment in the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain. The case has since been settled.
Around the time Stallone sued, the indictment alleges, Pellicano and his co-defendants sought to intercept the actor's phone calls. Stallone, through his publicist, declined to comment Monday, as did Lawrence Nagler, the actor's attorney in the Starr lawsuit.
Pellicano and his associates allegedly performed an illegal background check on comedian Garry Shandling when he was suing former manager Brad Grey, now head of Paramount Pictures, for alleged conflict of interest.
Grey, a Fields client at the time, countersued, and the two eventually settled. A background check also was performed on Shandling's former girlfriend, actress Linda Doucett, the indictment alleges.
Shandling could not be reached, and his lawyer in that case, Laurence Silverman, called it "ancient history" and declined to comment further.
When "Scary Movie" executive producer Bo Zenga sued Grey's former management firm, Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, for allegedly violating an unwritten agreement to form a producing partnership, he became a target of Pellicano's wiretaps, according to the indictment. Court documents also show that information was sought on Zenga's wife, entertainment journalist Zorianna Kit. Zenga could not be reached for comment.
Two other individuals who battled attorneys with Fields' law firm also were listed as victims in the indictment. Jude Green was involved in a bitter divorce with the late financier Leonard Green, who was represented by firm partner Dale Kinsella. Her lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Former nanny Pamela Miller of Costa Mesa said she was in "a little bit of shock" after learning that background checks allegedly were conducted by Pellicano on her elderly parents, her minister brother and herself.
Miller has been embroiled in a lawsuit with her former employer, Taylor Thomson, the daughter of Canadian media mogul Kenneth Thomson. Robert Chapman, one of Fields' partners who represented Taylor Thomson in the case against Miller, could not be reached for comment Monday.
Also allegedly wiretapped was producer Aaron Russo, who was sued by New York investment manager Adam Sender, represented by Fields' law firm.
From his perch in his law firm's executive suites in Century City, Fields has long been Hollywood's attorney of choice when bare-knuckle legal tactics are needed. Fields has represented nearly every studio, along with such celebrities as Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Michael Jackson and John Travolta.
A UCLA graduate who attended Harvard Law School, Fields has been front-and-center in some of Hollywood's headline-grabbing lawsuits since he started out representing such clients as Jack Webb of "Dragnet" fame and actor Edward G. Robinson.
More recently, he has bedeviled the Walt Disney Co. in a number of cases, settling former studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg's breach of contract lawsuit for more than $250 million, and representing Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein in their business dispute with Disney. He also for a time fought Disney over royalties involving the "Winnie the Pooh" franchise.
Fields also represented Paramount in the "Coming to America" case in which humor columnist Art Buchwald said he had the original idea for the film.
Along with his legal exploits, Fields also has developed a second career as a historian, publishing a recent book investigating the identity of William Shakespeare, and another on King Richard III. He also publishes pulp novels under the pen name D. Kincaid.
Times staff writers Claudia Eller and Chuck Philips in Los Angeles and Paul Lieberman in New York contributed to this report.