Pellicano Allegedly Linked to Threat
Federal agents have gathered significant evidence linking private investigator Anthony Pellicano to a threat against a Los Angeles Times reporter who was working on a story about actor Steven Seagal’s alleged ties to the mob, according to law enforcement records and sources.
When FBI agents searched Pellicano’s office last year, they found a folder labeled “Seagal” and other documents with the actor’s name lying on a desk. They also found a “call list” with the name Alex Proctor -- the man charged with placing a dead fish, a rose and a one-word note reading “stop” on the vandalized car windshield of reporter Anita Busch.
In addition to the evidence recovered during the search of Pellicano’s office, authorities have obtained telephone records that appear to show calls between Pellicano and Proctor, according to a source. And, according to law enforcement sources, a recently retired LAPD officer is suspected of providing Pellicano with information from Busch’s driver’s license shortly before her car was vandalized and the threat was made.
Federal agents obtained the Pellicano search warrant after a confidential informant secretly taped a conversation with Proctor, who said he had been hired by Pellicano to carry out the threat on June 20, 2002, according to court papers. Proctor told the informant he was working for Pellicano on Seagal’s behalf, court documents show.
Though federal authorities believe there is evidence suggesting that Pellicano was linked to the threat, investigators have doubts that Seagal was involved.
Through their lawyers, Pellicano and Seagal have denied any involvement in the threat against Busch.
“If any prosecutor thought he had enough evidence to file charges against Pellicano in the Anita Busch incident, he would have,” said Donald M. Re, who represents Pellicano. “There simply is no sufficient evidence to link him to the threat.”
Re dismissed the evidence taken from Pellicano’s office, saying the private investigator had files on the actor because he had been trying to collect money that Seagal owed to one of his clients. Re would not identify the client, but court records show that a Los Angeles law firm, in a dispute over legal fees with Seagal, had hired Pellicano.
Martin Singer, an attorney for the actor, said Seagal and Pellicano were legal adversaries who “hated” each other at the time of the threat against Busch. Any suggestion that they were working together is “ridiculous,” he said.
Jan Handzlik, another attorney for Seagal, said the actor once had a business relationship with Pellicano, but it “ended on bad terms.” The two men, he said, have not spoken to each other in more than 10 years.
“As a result, Pellicano has been antagonistic to Steven for many years,” Handzlik said. “We believe that any information concerning Steven found in Pellicano’s offices would support the fact that Steven was a target of Pellicano’s activities.”
Friends and associates of Seagal say they believe Pellicano was hired by one of the actor’s business rivals to set him up. Seagal’s attorneys also noted that, before Proctor made his taped statement, the confidential informant said Proctor had told him that the threat against Busch had been made at the behest of “some people back East” who were “ruthless.”
Federal prosecutors initially filed criminal charges last year against Proctor in connection with the threat against Busch and were considering charges against Pellicano. But federal authorities said they had been forced to dismiss the case against Proctor because a recent Supreme Court ruling had made it clear that they had no jurisdiction over the matter.
Federal authorities said other criminal laws exist that might give them jurisdiction and added that they would not rule out the possibility of charges against Pellicano, Proctor or others in connection with the threat against Busch.
Based on the federal investigation, the Los Angeles district attorney’s office filed charges in March against Proctor. Local prosecutors are awaiting further information from federal authorities before moving forward with the case.
Proctor, who has denied any wrongdoing, has yet to be arraigned in the state case. He remains in federal custody in connection with an unrelated drug case.
Federal prosecutors “have told us we’ll be provided with everything in the Proctor case when their case is concluded,” said Sandi Gibbons, a district attorney spokeswoman.
As for any role that Pellicano might have played in the threat, Gibbons said, “We’ve not been presented any evidence on that. As far as we know, there’s a continuing investigation” by federal authorities.
Pellicano, meanwhile, has surrendered to authorities to start serving a federal prison sentence for possessing illegal explosives. He elected to start serving his term before he was formally sentenced. Under the plea agreement, he is expected to be sentenced to 27 to 33 months. A judge is expected to determine his precise sentence at a hearing in January.
Federal authorities are continuing to investigate Pellicano for allegedly wiretapping people, including Hollywood celebrities. Investigators are trying to determine whether clients or lawyers who hired Pellicano had authorized or known about any unlawful wiretaps.
Two attorneys in interviews with The Times confirmed last week that Pellicano had played them tapes of secretly recorded conversations from their client’s telephone. The lawyers said neither they nor their client had authorized the recordings.
On Wednesday, sources close to the investigation confirmed that the FBI had interviewed Sylvester Stallone. Last year, Stallone sued his former business manager, who reportedly had hired Pellicano to work on his defense in the lawsuit.