An FBI agent and federal prosecutors repeatedly violated Anthony Pellicano’s 6th Amendment right to counsel by having his onetime girlfriend secretly elicit information from him during prison visits, the former private eye’s attorneys allege in new court papers.
The accusation of government misconduct is contained in a request by Pellicano’s lawyers for an unusual court hearing in which they hope to prove that wiretapping and racketeering charges against him should be dismissed. The request is scheduled to be heard in court today.
In recent days, the U.S. attorney’s office and lawyers for Pellicano and his five co-defendants have filed a flurry of motions and opposition papers under deadlines set by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who is presiding over the long-anticipated trial set to begin in February.
In their papers, federal prosecutors revealed that they first discovered that Pellicano’s former girlfriend, Sandra Carradine, had lied to them after recovering tapes from Pellicano’s offices on which he and Carradine allegedly discussed wiretaps placed on the phone of her ex-husband, actor Keith Carradine. Sandra Carradine pleaded guilty last year to perjury in the case.
The government papers also provide new details into an alleged plot by Pellicano against an ex-con, Alexander Proctor, whom the private eye purportedly hired to threaten a Los Angeles Times reporter. According to the new papers, Sandra Carradine was not asked by authorities to provide information about Pellicano until after she told them in October 2005 that Pellicano had communicated threats against Proctor and others, including a federal prosecutor in the case, Daniel Saunders.
But in their court papers, Pellicano’s attorneys have asserted that although he was in state prison on explosives charges, authorities improperly used Sandra Carradine in a “secret, intentional and long term” manner to uncover evidence that could be used against Pellicano and undermine his ability to rebut charges of wiretapping and other crimes.
Attorneys Steven Gruel and Michael Artan say prison records show that Carradine visited Pellicano at Taft State Prison near Bakersfield at least 27 times between August 2005 and January 2006. During that time, they allege, Carradine was essentially a spy for the government, making some 55 calls to Stan Ornellas, the lead FBI agent in the Pellicano case.
Pellicano’s lawyers also assert that authorities have sought to hide Carradine’s involvement in their investigation, producing only 13 reports written by Ornellas that mention Carradine during the time when she was in contact with the FBI agent.
Carradine could not be reached for comment, and an FBI spokeswoman said Ornellas could not speak about the criminal case because it was ongoing.
To date, authorities have downplayed Carradine’s role in their prosecution of Pellicano. And in the latest court papers, prosecutors Saunders and Kevin Lally reject the notion that Pellicano’s rights were violated, noting that most of Carradine’s prison visits occurred before he was indicted.
Of the eight visits that occurred after that time, prosecutors say, five have already been documented by the FBI and do not include any information about the wiretapping alleged in the original indictment. Of the three visits that did not result in official FBI reports, the government says, one included a joint visit to Pellicano by his mother and Carradine.
In asserting that their client was wronged, Pellicano’s attorneys cited a previously sealed court transcript in which prosecutor Saunders described Carradine as a “covert” source for the government on Jan. 6, 2006.
“Using concealed indictments, a hidden plea agreement, and closed court proceedings, the prosecution charged Mr. Pellicano with new offenses while creating a scenario for his longtime friend to gather information and trial strategy,” Pellicano’s attorneys alleged.
In doing so, the lawyers added, “the government knew and ignored the clear long-standing invocation of Mr. Pellicano’s right to counsel.”
Last year, Pellicano’s defense made similar accusations that Carradine had improperly spied on him and that his right to proper legal representation had been violated.
The allegations went nowhere after authorities insisted that they did not assign Carradine to obtain information. Authorities also said they had reason to believe that Pellicano intended to represent himself on any new charges because of cash problems and potential conflicts involving other attorneys whom he had used in the past.
But the new allegations by Pellicano’s attorneys contain more details than previously heard by the judge.
For example, the papers include the number of visits and calls involving Carradine. They also include a sworn declaration by Pellicano’s attorney in previous matters, Don Re, that he represented Pellicano from November 2002 to Dec. 13, 2005. In his declaration, Re also said he did not agree with the government’s claim that he might be disqualified from representing Pellicano.
Whether the new details will be enough to warrant a hearing remains uncertain.
In their court papers, prosecutors Saunders and Lally said the government has not decided if it will call Carradine as a witness, and if it does, it will limit her testimony to how Pellicano allegedly wiretapped her ex-husband during their divorce.
In an interview Friday, Carradine’s former attorney, Peter Knecht, also confirmed the government’s assertion that she was repeatedly told that she was not acting at the behest of authorities when visiting Pellicano.
“They didn’t ask her to go in [to state prison], and they made it very clear to her that she was not going in at their request,” Knecht said.
But when Carradine went to authorities with information about an alleged plot to harm others, Knecht said, they were obliged to listen. “If she goes inside prison and finds out something that may save a life, what are they going to do, turn their back on it?” Knecht said.
“Besides,” Knecht added, “in my opinion they can make this case [against Pellicano] without using anything she told them. I think they have enough evidence against him with words out of his own mouth and tapes and other witnesses.”
Criminal defense attorney Thomas Sleisenger, who recently left the U.S. attorney’s office after 17 years, said the accusations of government misconduct in the Pellicano case underscore the delicate balancing act for prosecutors whenever they have informants who may figure in a trial.
“Any time you have a cooperating defendant who has access to another defendant, you are always worried about their information and whether, in trying to curry favor with you, they might do something inappropriate under the law,” Sleisenger said.
“The most disturbing part of this to me is what was going on between Carradine and Ornellas . . . what did Ornellas know and what did he do with the information she was telling him?” Sleisenger said. “It seems to me that is something that would need to be resolved before the court could make a ruling” about whether Pellicano’s rights were violated.