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Pellicano jury hears first A-list testimony

Times Staff Writer

Comedian Garry Shandling offered a somber and sometimes pained account Thursday of a “smear campaign” he said Anthony Pellicano orchestrated against him while the private eye was working for Paramount Pictures executive Brad Grey and entertainment attorney Bert Fields.

The first celebrity witness to testify in the racketeering and wiretap trial of Pellicano and four others, Shandling told a federal jury that he became the target of ugly media stories after he sued Grey, believing that the executive, then the comedian’s manager, was improperly pocketing proceeds from a popular HBO television program Shandling starred in and helped create, “The Larry Sanders Show.”

After he hired an attorney to explore Grey’s financial dealings, Shandling testified, the then-manager called him late one night at home and angrily threatened that he “would make my life miserable.”

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Shandling said he later learned from the FBI that Pellicano and his alleged accomplices, including a former LAPD sergeant, had rifled confidential police databases for personal information about the actor and others close to him, including his former girlfriend, Linda Doucett, and a close friend, comedian Kevin Nealon.

Shandling did not detail what Pellicano might have found in the police files. Nor did he describe the negative stories, other than to say that reporters told him they were planted by Pellicano.

But with its famous names and charges of chicanery, Shandling’s testimony hinted at what federal authorities have been alleging for years: that Pellicano and others resorted to dirty tricks to sidestep the justice system and give his powerful clients an upper hand in battles inside and outside court.

Both Grey, who testified as a witness before the grand jury, and Fields, who acknowledged years ago that he was a subject of the federal investigation, have denied knowing of any illegal activities by Pellicano and have not been charged with crimes. Both are on the government’s witness list.

In a statement released by his spokesman, Grey said: “I am extremely saddened by Garry’s recollection of events dating back more than a decade. His representation is very different than what I remember and what I know to be true.”

Grey said his long relationship with Shandling ended when he and his management company were sued by the comedian and he hired Fields.

“Even though we haven’t spoken since that time,” Grey said of Shandling, “he remains one of the most talented people I have known and I wish him only the best.”

Fields’ attorney, John Keker, had no comment on Shandling’s testimony.

The 63-year-old Pellicano is being tried on 110 counts of wiretapping, conspiracy, racketeering and other federal charges after a six-year federal investigation into allegations that he illegally investigated targets and bribed sources to gain an edge for clients. Pellicano and his four 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.

Federal prosecutors earlier in the long-running case won guilty pleas from seven other Pellicano clients or co-conspirators, including “Die Hard” film director John McTiernan; former music company executive Robert Pfeifer; Sandra Carradine, ex-wife of actor Keith Carradine; and former Beverly Hills Police Officer Craig Stevens.

Pellicano will be tried later on separate counts with entertainment attorney Terry Christensen.

Shandling’s 45 minutes of serious testimony began light-heartedly when Assistant U.S. Atty. Kevin Lally asked the television star a standard question to get the proceedings underway.

“What do you do for a living?” Lally asked.

“That’s a bad sign,” Shandling deadpanned, drawing laughs. The implication was that he was not as well-known as he had hoped. “I’m a comedian,” he said.

Under questioning by Lally, Shandling described his dispute with his former manager.

Shandling said he believed that Grey was taking fees from the show as well as money for managing him. Grey also refused to provide Shandling with a copy of his own contract, the comedian testified, and made “side deals” involving the show without telling him.

“It was then I realized he was looking out for his best interest . . . and not me,” Shandling said.

After Shandling hired a lawyer, Grey resigned as the comedian’s manager and said any further questions about the business should be directed to attorney Fields, Shandling testified.

Shandling eventually sued Grey for $100 million; the suit was settled before trial. Shandling did not disclose the settlement amount during his testimony.

Five years before their bitter split, Shandling testified, he and Grey had discussed finding the right attorney to handle another legal matter. When Fields’ name was mentioned, Shandling recalled, Grey told him, “Well, with Bert Fields, you get Anthony Pellicano.”

Shandling said he never hired Fields.

Thursday’s testimony ended with Karla Kerlin, a longtime Los Angeles County prosecutor, recalling how eight victims in a serial date rape case she prosecuted years ago also had their police records searched, allegedly by Arneson.

The government’s theory is that Pellicano paid Arneson tens of thousands of dollars over the years to obtain confidential records that could be used as part of campaigns to dig up dirt for Pellicano’s clients -- in this case, attorneys representing a then-accused rapist named John Gordon Jones.

Reviewing page after page of computer records with Arneson’s name, Kerlin testified that those searched involved witnesses in the government’s ultimately unsuccessful prosecution of Jones. Among them were women who alleged they were raped by Jones, as well as their families, including a 4-year-old son.

“They were scared. They were frightened,” Kerlin said. “Not only were they threatened, but people around them were threatened.”

Arneson’s attorney has said that the former LAPD sergeant ran names for Pellicano without knowing who the people were and only because Pellicano was a longtime police informant.

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greg.krikorian@latimes.com


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