Links Between Pellicano, Director Come Into Focus
About noon on Feb. 24, two FBI agents visited veteran producer Charles Roven in his Sunset Boulevard office after calling to tell him that he was allegedly a victim of Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano.
The agents brought a tape recording that would startle Roven, according to sources close to the investigation. Director John McTiernan, whom Roven worked with on the 2002 box office flop “Rollerball,” was allegedly on the tape with Pellicano, discussing the details of Roven’s wiretapped conversations.
Pellicano allegedly briefed McTiernan on Roven’s conversations regarding “Rollerball,” the sources said, as well as Roven’s personal calls.
Authorities charged McTiernan on Monday with lying about having hired Pellicano. A day later, the full extent of McTiernan’s reliance on the indicted detective was beginning to come into focus.
McTiernan’s association with Pellicano began years ago, long before the alleged Roven wiretap, when the director allegedly hired the private eye in 1998 as part of his highly publicized divorce. But it did not end there. Pellicano also allegedly intimidated a witness in a manslaughter case involving the son of McTiernan’s ex-wife, Donna Dubrow.
In an interview Tuesday, Dubrow said she has seen financial records indicating that her ex-husband paid Pellicano in the neighborhood of $100,000 during their protracted divorce. The payments began at least as far back as June 1998, she said, adding that she did not know what services they were for.
“I do know that he hired Pellicano ... in our divorce,” Dubrow said. “I do not know if he wiretapped me.”
McTiernan could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Based on Dubrow’s account, McTiernan had a well-established relationship with Pellicano when he began his collaboration with Roven on “Rollerball” in 2000. That collaboration began when the Los Angeles-based Mosaic Media Group, a multimedia, talent management and production company in which Roven is a partner, signed a deal with MGM to co-finance a slate of movies, including “Rollerball.”
McTiernan directed and produced the film, on which Roven was also a credited producer.
People involved in “Rollerball” confirmed that McTiernan and Roven, both known for being strong-willed, had numerous creative disagreements over the film. But, they added, they could not recall any blowups between the two, and characterized the friction as typical for a Hollywood production.
When McTiernan learned that Roven was being brought aboard the project, according to one person familiar with the matter, he gained assurances that he would retain virtually all of the creative control as a way to limit Roven’s role as a hands-on producer.
As a result, people who worked on the movie were mystified why McTiernan would have allegedly resorted to hiring Pellicano to wiretap Roven.
At the time, coincidentally, Roven’s Sunset Boulevard office was across the street from Pellicano’s. In early 2002, Roven moved into the same building where Pellicano was based.
Roven’s productions include “Batman Begins, “Three Kings,” “Twelve Monkeys” and “Scooby-Doo.” He was married to the late Dawn Steel, former head of Columbia Pictures, who died of a brain tumor in 1997. Through his representatives, Roven declined to comment.
Three years before Roven’s collaboration with McTiernan began on “Rollerball,” McTiernan employed Pellicano as part of his divorce case. Court records in the case assert that he hired Pellicano to “harass and intimidate witnesses” in a closed criminal case involving Dubrow’s son, Ethan Dubrow.
Ethan Dubrow was 26 in 1993 when a shotgun he was showing to friends at his Los Angeles home discharged, fatally wounding one of his dinner guests, Adam Scott.
After initially telling police that he thought the gun was not loaded, Dubrow later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Scott, 27, the son of Jack Scott, then president of Pasadena City College and now a Democratic state senator from Altadena.
In May 1998, several years after Dubrow’s guilty plea, one of the witnesses in the shooting said Pellicano called her and implied that she had been involved in obstructing justice in the case. He accused Ethan Dubrow and his attorney of hustling her out of the country before she could testify.
The witness, Suzonne Stirling, said in a sworn declaration that she at first put Pellicano off, but called him back a few hours later to deny Pellicano’s allegation that she might have obstructed justice and to ask why he was raising questions about Scott’s death.
Stirling said Pellicano initially refused to identify his client but relented, saying “he had been hired by John McTiernan, who was getting a divorce from Ethan’s mother.”
When she asked him what that had to do with Adam Scott’s death, Stirling said, Pellicano told her the case had not been thoroughly investigated and it was unheard of that Ethan Dubrow had served no time in jail after his conviction.
“Mr. Pellicano told me that Ethan was not working, that Ethan’s mother was supporting him, that the money for Ethan’s support was coming out of John’s pocket, and that John wanted to know the truth,” Stirling said in her declaration.
Stirling also said that Pellicano apparently had investigated her as well.
“Mr. Pellicano made several comments to me which made it clear to me that he knew several personal facts about me, including where my grandmother lived,” Stirling said.
The contact by Pellicano came in the midst of a nasty divorce, which began when McTiernan allegedly served Dubrow with divorce papers disguised as a gift-wrapped package he had delivered to her.
In addition to squabbling over money that Dubrow may have used to support her son, the couple fought over millions of dollars worth of property, including a Wyoming ranch and a private plane.
In the meantime, federal prosecutors Tuesday underscored the complexity of their still-unfolding investigation in court papers that aim to block efforts by Pellicano’s lawyer to derail the case.
Last month, attorney Steven Gruel challenged the legality of the federal government’s search of Pellicano’s offices and raised questions about witnesses and evidence collected by authorities.
In its response Tuesday, the U.S. attorney’s office disputed the notion that authorities used a threat allegedly involving Pellicano as a ruse to search his Sunset Strip offices.
The search warrant, they said, was based on a June 2002 threat against a Los Angeles Times reporter and the agents involved in the search “were no more looking for evidence of wiretapping than they were looking for the plastic explosive and homemade bombs that they found in defendant’s safe.”
Times staff writers Andrew Blankstein and Chuck Philips contributed to this report.