Federal prosecutors have alleged that Hollywood private detective Anthony Pellicano tried to intimidate a potential witness against him in a grand jury investigation.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Saunders, in court papers made public Monday, asked a federal judge to overturn a magistrate's decision allowing Pellicano to remain free on $400,000 bond.
On Feb. 13, Saunders said, Pellicano telephoned the father of a former employee to "intimidate and dissuade" the son from testifying before a grand jury "conducting an ongoing inquiry into his suspected criminal conduct." No other details were given, and Saunders declined to elaborate.
"It's complete nonsense; it never happened," said Pellicano's criminal defense lawyer, Donald Re.
Pellicano, who has worked for prominent figures in the entertainment industry, is the target of a multi-pronged investigation.
It began with the arrest of Alexander Proctor, an ex-convict charged with threatening Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch. She was delving into the relationship between actor Steven Seagal and a reputed Mafia associate. Proctor was accused of planting a dead fish, a rose and a sign reading "Stop," on her car.
Proctor allegedly told an FBI informant that he had been hired by Pellicano to carry out the threat on behalf of Seagal. Pellicano and Seagal have denied involvement, and neither has been charged with trying to threaten the reporter.
When investigators searched Pellicano's Sunset Boulevard offices last November, they seized two unregistered hand grenades and a quantity of plastic explosives that had been stored in a locked safe. Pellicano was charged with weapons offenses. He was freed on bail over prosecutors' protests.
FBI agents and Los Angeles police detectives conducted another search in January, looking for evidence that Pellicano was engaged in illegal wiretapping, according to the motion filed by prosecutors. No charges have been filed in connection with those allegations.
It was not clear Monday whether the prosecution's claim of witness intimidation was related to the wiretapping case or to the threat against the Los Angeles Times reporter.
U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian is to hear the government's motion on March 12.
Proctor remains in custody. He was charged under the federal Hobbs Act with interfering with commerce through threats of violence against Busch. Last week, however, the U.S. attorney's office moved to drop the charge because of a Supreme Court ruling in another case that restricted use of the Hobbs Act. Saunders said his office intends to refer the case to the Los Angeles County district attorney.