Two lawyers who worked with celebrity sleuth Anthony Pellicano said in interviews Thursday that they had personally listened to telephone conversations that Pellicano had secretly recorded.
Both lawyers denied having authorized the surreptitious recordings.
The statements by the attorneys, Daniel Davis and Ronald Richards, mark the first time that lawyers who have worked with Pellicano have publicly said the private investigator had engaged in such conduct. In general, state and federal law prohibits electronic eavesdropping on another person's telephone conversations without consent.
Pellicano, who has pleaded guilty to keeping illegal explosives in a safe in his West Hollywood office, is at the center of a federal investigation into alleged illegal wiretapping, primarily in Hollywood.
As part of that investigation, sources familiar with the case said Thursday that the FBI is scrutinizing Pellicano's role in the defense of John Gordon Jones, who was Davis' and Richards' client and who also employed Pellicano.
Jones, a wealthy Los Angeles businessman, was acquitted of multiple rape and kidnapping charges two years ago.
Davis, in a telephone interview, said Pellicano had played recordings of conversations involving Jones for him in a lab in the private investigator's office on Sunset Boulevard. Davis added that he did not authorize the recordings and said they were made before he was assigned to the case.
Davis said Pellicano showed him the eavesdropping equipment used to make the recordings, which he described as a massive computer system that took up nearly an entire wall in the private investigator's office.
Pellicano, he said, described the recording as "not tapes, and not wiretaps, but a computer program that converted electronic impulses into sound."
Richards also told The Times that Pellicano had played the recordings for him. Like Davis, he denied that he ever authorized any such recordings.
A third lawyer for Jones, Richard G. Sherman, has said in court papers that "from late 1998 through an unknown date in 1999, Pellicano, without the knowledge of Jones, caused the conversations that took place over the home telephone(s) of Jones, both incoming and outgoing, to be intercepted and recorded without the knowledge of Jones or either party to the conversations."
None of the attorneys involved in the case said they could explain Pellicano's motive for allegedly recording his own client. Donald Re, Pellicano's attorney, did not respond to a call seeking comment.
FBI agents working on the wiretap investigation have questioned some of the lawyers involved in the case against Jones, who was accused of slipping drugs into women's drinks, taking them to his mansion in his limousine and then raping them.
Agents also have questioned Deputy Dist. Atty. Karla Kerlin, who was involved in the unsuccessful prosecution of Jones in the rape case, according to sources in the district attorney's office. Kerlin did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
The sources in the district attorney's office, speaking on condition of anonymity, would not specify what Pellicano was alleged to have done in the case. But they said top prosecutors were trying to determine whether he in any way hindered the prosecution.
Sherman, who has been interviewed by the FBI, took over the case from Davis and Richards. The earlier lawyers left the case, along with Pellicano, before it went to trial.
Sherman and his partners, in preparing Jones' defense, came across documents that suggested to them that Pellicano had made the surreptitious recordings. Sherman said in the court papers that neither Davis nor Richards nor Pellicano would provide him with any information about the tapes.
The tapes purportedly captured numerous telephone conversations involving one of Jones' alleged victims. The calls were apparently made by the woman from Jones' home, according to the court documents, and the contents of the conversations tended to cast doubt on the truth of her allegations against Jones.
In the court papers, Sherman said that Davis "now equivocates" about his knowledge of the tapes. Pellicano and Richards refused to discuss them, Sherman wrote. "While those positions are understandable because of their illegality, they are not acceptable to Jones," he added.
Richards denied that he ever withheld information from Sherman or anyone else.
"I was not in a position to turn over information I didn't have," he said. Both Davis and Richards said Pellicano kept control of the alleged recordings.
In the court filings, Sherman was also critical of the district attorney's office and the Los Angeles Police Department for their "long-standing failure ... to respond to Jones' requests for information" about the tapes.
Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley would not discuss the case in detail. In a prepared statement, he said: "Under the previous administration there was a brief contact with the FBI on a matter which may or may not turn out to be related to the federal Pellicano investigation."
In March, the FBI again contacted the district attorney's office, which "provided information and items" to investigators, he said. "Federal authorities will determine as to their relevance or non-relevance" to the Pellicano investigation, he added.