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Pellicano co-defendant loses his bid for a mistrial

Times Staff Writer

The federal judge hearing the criminal case against Los Angeles private detective Anthony Pellicano denied a request Tuesday for a mistrial from one of his co-defendants, former Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Mark Arneson.

But before she ruled, U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer stopped the trial for the day and sent the jury home so she could hold a hearing on Arneson’s motion. The former cop faces charges of racketeering, wire fraud and making hundreds of unauthorized runs in confidential law enforcement databases for Pellicano.

Chad Hummel, Arneson’s attorney, made an energetic if ultimately unsuccessful attempt to convince the judge that the prosecution had acted improperly during Friday’s trial session. Arneson, who took the stand in his own defense, was undergoing a blistering cross-examination when Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Saunders asked him about a 1999 Los Angeles Police Department internal affairs investigation into allegations that he ran illegal checks on people.

Saunders hammered Arneson with a series of questions suggesting he was untruthful during that investigation. (“You beat that internal investigation because you lied to them, didn’t you, sir?” Saunders asked him at one point.)

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The LAPD concluded then that the case against Arneson was unfounded.

However, any so-called compelled statements that a police officer makes to internal affairs investigators cannot be used against the officer in criminal prosecutions. Therefore, Saunders should not have brought up Arneson’s internal affairs investigation, Hummel said.

But what really turned Tuesday into a free day for the jury and a grinding legal debate for lawyers and observers (and be forewarned, the recounting may bore all but the most enthusiastic legal geeks) was this:

Prosecutor Kevin Lally had stumbled across a tape of Arneson’s internal affairs investigation interview in a box of documents the prosecution received. Both prosecutors said in court that neither listened to the actual taped interview -- they’re not supposed to -- and properly turned it over to another assistant U.S. attorney not involved in the trial.

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But Hummel said not alerting him was a violation of law. So the morning’s hearing was devoted to the odd spectacle of prosecutors being grilled by Hummel about what they knew and when they knew it.

Hummel argued that Saunders -- whether he knew about the tape or not -- “had to have known that Mr. Arneson would have given a compelled statement in that investigation.”

Saunders said he knew about the 1999 complaint about Arneson and about the investigation from sources other than the taped interview.

But, Hummel said, “there’s no way to rehabilitate” Arneson without waiving his client’s 5th Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

Fischer concluded that the prosecution did not “deliberately” obtain Arneson’s statements and that Saunders’ questions “were completely logical conclusions based on Mr. Arneson’s own testimony.”

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carla.hall@latimes.com


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