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Pellicano trial witnesses may exceed 120

Times Staff Writer

Federal prosecutors Wednesday released a list of more than 120 witnesses -- including actors Sylvester Stallone, Chris Rock and Farrah Fawcett -- whom they plan to call during the racketeering and wiretapping trial of private investigator Anthony Pellicano and his four co-defendants.

Also on the five-page list are agent Michael Ovitz, studio executives Ron Meyer of Universal Studios and Brad Grey of Paramount Pictures, and well-known entertainment attorney Bert Fields, who acknowledged long ago that he was a subject of the probe.

Fields was never charged, and there has been no indication that Fields would be more than a witness.

Fields and other Hollywood power brokers have said they had no idea that Pellicano engaged in the wiretapping, witness intimidation and other allegations the government will outline today during opening statements in what is expected to be an eight- to 10-week trial.

The 63-year-old Pellicano and co-defendants ex-LAPD Sgt. Mark Arneson, former telephone company technician Rayford Earl Turner, computer consultant Kevin Kachikian and Las Vegas businessman Abner Nicherie, have pleaded not guilty.

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So has entertainment attorney Terry Christensen, who will stand trial in a second proceeding on charges of paying Pellicano to wiretap the ex-wife of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian. Pellicano is also a defendant in that case.

An eight-man, four-woman jury was quickly impaneled Wednesday after a selection process that gave few hints at the breadth or depth of the government’s case.

But in a brief address to potential jurors, Pellicano, who is representing himself, hinted that he might offer some surprises about the real-life world of private eyes and his years as an investigator known for hardball tactics and well-heeled clients.

“Is there anyone here who has preconceived notions of what a private investigator does?” Pellicano asked the jurors, standing before them wearing a green nylon Windbreaker and prison garb because he remains in federal custody.

When no one responded, Pellicano then asked if any jurors who considered hiring a private investigator would “like them to bend the law” -- a question that is at the heart of the government’s case.

Before his indictment, Pellicano was wired into state and federal prosecutors, and over the years was often used as a government witness on audio recordings. During his questioning, he also implied that he would raise questions about the government’s own use of wiretaps, asking jurors if they had “any questions” about how the government conducts surveillance.

Another surprise Wednesday was the absence from the government’s witness list of former agent Stan Ornellas, who led the Pellicano investigation until he reached mandatory retirement age with the FBI last year.

For months, the defense has been bashing Ornellas with misconduct accusations involving his questioning of witnesses and other aspects of the investigation. Federal prosecutors have persuaded U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer that the allegations were unfounded.

But defense attorneys made it clear to Fischer on Wednesday that they want to call Ornellas to the stand if the government does not.

“It’s very telling that the lead case agent is not on the government’s witness list,” attorney Chad Hummel, representing former LAPD sergeant Arneson, said outside court.

“I think it indicates that only a small part of the real story has been told here. Until now.”

After opening arguments, the government’s first witness will be former major league baseball all-star Matt Williams, who is expected to testify about Pellicano’s alleged chicanery when the ballplayer considered hiring him for a case.

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greg.krikorian@latimes.com


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