Separate trial in Pellicano case urged

Times Staff Writer

The federal judge overseeing the wiretapping and racketeering case against indicted private eye Anthony Pellicano and five co-defendants was urged Monday to set a separate trial for prominent entertainment attorney Terry Christensen.

Lawyer Terree Bowers told U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer that his client’s alleged role was minuscule, spanning three months -- from March to May 2002 -- of the four-year criminal enterprise charged in the indictment. Christensen is charged in only two of 111 counts, Bowers noted.

The biggest part of the indictment involves racketeering, Bowers said, “and Mr. Christensen obviously had nothing to do with that whatsoever.”


But Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Saunders argued that Christensen clearly knew of Pellicano’s allegedly illegal tactics and, as such, has a logical connection to the racketeering enterprise.

The grand design of the scheme, Saunders told the judge, was for Pellicano and others to get information that they could use “to deceive the court and cheat” the legal system on behalf of clients. And there is ample evidence, including 34 tape-recorded conversations between Pellicano and Christensen, that Christensen knew of Pellicano’s tactics, including illegal wiretaps, Saunders said.

“The defendant knows he is not going to call up someone in the Yellow Pages and say, ‘Hey, I want you to put a wiretap on a phone,’ ” Saunders said of Christensen. And Pellicano, the prosecutor added, was not just “a big talker full of hot air.... He actually did wiretaps.”

Christensen’s request, if approved, would remove the biggest name other than Pellicano’s from next year’s trial, which comes after a four-year FBI investigation into the onetime Hollywood private eye and his alleged accomplices.

In an indictment unsealed last year, Christensen, 66, was charged with paying Pellicano $100,000 to wiretap the ex-wife of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian in the middle of a bitter child support battle. Christensen, one of Los Angeles’ best-known celebrity attorneys, has denied the charge.

If the judge grants a severance, Christensen is likely to be tried first, followed by the main trial, now scheduled to begin in February.