Pellicano resists effort to delay trial
The long-awaited racketeering and wiretapping trial of indicted Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano and six others is likely to be postponed again for months if federal prosecutors and defense attorneys can scale one significant hurdle: Pellicano.
Though attorneys for the government and five of Pellicano’s co-defendants have agreed to delay the trial date until September 2007, Pellicano has so far resisted, eager to move forward with the case after spending years behind bars.
“Either take me to trial or let me out,” Pellicano said in a telephone interview Saturday from the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles.
If U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer agrees with Pellicano, the central figure in the case, the trial would continue as scheduled in February or perhaps on a date far short of the one-year delay now agreed to by the government and all but one other defendant.
The proposed delay was outlined in a stipulation jointly filed by prosecutors and defense attorneys Monday, the deadline for filing substantive pretrial motions in the case. The deadline was set in anticipation of a trial beginning Feb. 13.
According to the stipulation, the delay was necessary for defense attorneys to review the voluminous evidence, including 150,000 pages of documents and 443 recorded conversations, already turned over in the case.
“Counsel for defendants and for the government have ... determined that the length of the requested continuance is necessary to accommodate for conflicts in counsel’s schedules and to permit defense counsel to complete their necessary trial preparation,” the stipulation reads.
The agreement was signed by attorneys for all of the defendants except Pellicano and Daniel Nicherie, who is representing himself, and, like Pellicano, remains in custody. Neither Nicherie nor anyone assisting in his defense could be reached for comment.
In response to Monday’s stipulation, Pellicano’s attorney, Steven Gruel, filed court papers asking that his client’s case move forward without the other defendants because Pellicano was “ready for trial” and was entitled to a speedy resolution of the charges against him.
“Here, a one-year delay from the stipulation date to the proposed trial date renders it unreasonable,” Gruel wrote.
He said the delay was particularly unreasonable because the government has opposed releasing Pellicano on bail pending trial.
Pellicano, 61, has been locked up without bail since his indictment in February. His incarceration came as he was about to complete a 30-month sentence at a federal prison in Bakersfield after pleading guilty to charges of storing hand grenades and plastic explosives in his Sunset Strip offices.
Fischer has repeatedly made it clear that she wants the high-profile case to move forward as quickly as possible. But she has acknowledged that the case’s complexity will dictate how fast the trial can proceed and whether delays are warranted in the interest of justice.
Under federal law, defendants have a right to trial within 70 days of their arraignment, though exceptions can be made in cases that are particularly complex with multiple defendants, complicated evidence or other factors. Pellicano and all six co-defendants have previously waived their rights to speedy trial.
Since their indictment early this year, Pellicano and his co-defendants have maintained that they are innocent of the grand jury charges that they used wiretaps and confidential police records to give the private eye’s clients the upper hand in lawsuits and business disputes.
Pellicano has been particularly dismissive of the government’s allegations, repeatedly denying that the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office have any real evidence that he broke the law.
“These prosecutors have been working on this investigation for four years now and have come up with nothing,” Pellicano said in a recent interview.
Pellicano said authorities approached him again during the summer to discuss a possible plea bargain. But, he said, he rejected their offer as he has numerous times before.
“Why do they keep coming to me and asking me to settle?” he asked, rhetorically. “I’ll tell you why: Because I’m innocent. And I’m ready for my day in court.”
Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Saunders declined to comment about Pellicano’s remarks, as did Gruel, Pellicano’s attorney.