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California

Federal judge denies Pellicano’s bid to be released on bail

A federal judge on Monday shot down Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano’s bid to be released on bail during an appeal of his 2008 convictions for racketeering and wiretapping.

Judge Dale Fischer, who presided over the private investigator’s six-week trial, said she was not convinced the 68-year-old was no longer a threat to society, despite his attorney’s pleas that Pellicano suffered from a serious eye condition and had neither the resources nor the motivation to engage in the intimidation and sleuthing that landed him in federal prison.

The attorney, Steven Gruel, contended some of the most serious counts Pellicano was convicted of were likely to be overturned given recent U.S. Supreme Court and appellate court decisions. The former investigator is serving a 15-year sentence at a federal lockup in Big Spring, Texas.

“Having spent a number of years with Mr. Pellicano ... I have a great deal of confidence in his abilities,” Fischer said, denying the request for release without elaborating. She said she would later issue a written ruling.

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The judge heard briefly from former Times journalist Anita Busch, who was threatened by Pellicano. Busch said she continued to be afraid of the man and urged the judge to keep him behind bars.

Pellicano, whose client list included Hollywood stars, studio executives and high-powered attorneys, was charged with bribing police and phone company officials to obtain information that would give his well-heeled customers an edge. During the years that his criminal case wound through the legal system, the investigator, — who often cited omerta, a Sicilian code of silence — refused to cooperate with authorities or give information about those who retained his services.

At the time of his sentencing, Fischer called Pellicano’s operations “reprehensible” and remarked that the investigator broke the law “eagerly, sometimes maliciously, and with pride.”

Pellicano’s attorneys wrote in court papers that the prosecution’s claim that the investigator remained a threat was an “illustration of the prosecution’s frustration with Mr. Pellicano’s steadfast decision to stand tall (and silent); all the while unwilling to cooperate.” They wrote that his family members were willing to put up surety bonds to guarantee he would not flee and said that he could remain on electronic monitoring while living with a cousin.

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“The court witnessed the same trial we all did,” Assistant U.S. Atty. Kevin Lally said after the hearing. “The evidence is overwhelming that he’s a danger and a flight risk.”

victoria.kim@latimes.com


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