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Prosecutors wrap up case in Pellicano trial

Times Staff Writer

No doubt seeking some privacy, action star Sylvester Stallone listed a home telephone number in the name of Johnny Friendly. It’s ironic, then, that his nom de phone didn’t keep him from a severe invasion of privacy, according to testimony Thursday in the criminal trial of private investigator Anthony Pellicano.

The private eye allegedly wiretapped Stallone’s line to monitor his phone conversations with one of his lawyers, according to evidence offered by assistant U.S. attorneys in federal court.

The testimony came as the government, after five weeks, rested its case against Pellicano on wiretapping and racketeering charges. He’s being tried along with four co-defendants on myriad counts.

On Thursday, the government dismissed 28 of the 107 counts collectively facing the five defendants, citing the unavailability of witnesses, among other reasons. The dropped charges involved allegations of wire fraud, identity theft and computer fraud, all stemming from unauthorized access of police computer databases. That still leaves the defendants facing a total of 79 counts, with Pellicano remaining the most heavily charged.

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The reduction in charges is not expected to significantly alter possible prison terms.

Pellicano bugged Stallone’s phone, the government contends, on behalf of his client, Kenneth Starr, Stallone’s former business manager (not the former special counsel who investigated President Clinton). Stallone was suing Starr, alleging he mismanaged the actor’s investment in Planet Hollywood, the now-defunct restaurant chain.

On the stand, Lawrence Nagler, the attorney who represented Stallone in the business dispute, said Starr had hired attorney Bert Fields -- a name that frequently pops up in this trial -- who engaged Pellicano.

Nagler said he worried Pellicano might wiretap his client. “There was a rumor going around that he did these kinds of things,” Nagler testified. “We hired a private detective to sweep the home, and he found nothing.”

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But prosecutors played a secretly taped recording of Pellicano talking to Starr about Stallone’s strategy in the lawsuit. It was information, Nagler testified, that paralleled everything he had been discussing with Stallone over the phone.

At one point on the tape, Pellicano confides that Stallone’s lawyer was trying to get in touch with a disgruntled former client of Starr “to get her to sign an affidavit about you.”

“Is that what you were trying to do?” asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders.

“That’s exactly what we were trying to do,” Nagler said.

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carla.hall@latimes.com


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