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Sentence upheld for ex-celebrity private investigator Pellicano in wiretapping and racketeering case

Sentence upheld for ex-celebrity private investigator Pellicano in wiretapping and racketeering case
Former Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano in court in 2009. A federal judge sentenced him to 15 years in prison for illegally wiretapping phones for rich and famous clients. (Nick Ut / Associated Press)

A U.S. district judge Monday upheld the 15-year prison sentence of former celebrity private investigator Anthony Pellicano, who was charged with illegal wiretapping and running a criminal enterprise.

Pellicano faced resentencing because of a technical error during his original 2008 trial, when the judge gave erroneous jury instructions for charges of aiding and abetting computer fraud and unauthorized computer access.

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The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated those two charges in 2015 and ordered a resentencing. But the appellate court upheld more serious charges against Pellicano for running a criminal enterprise that illegally obtained police records and wiretapped celebrities so his clients could outmaneuver them in litigation.

At Monday's hearing, U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer called the 15-year punishment "reasonable and sufficient," ruling that the vacated counts had a marginal impact on the original sentence.

Pellicano appeared at the hearing via a video conference from the Terminal Island correctional facility in San Pedro, where he is incarcerated, because he feared losing his jail cell. He is expected to be released in March 2019. Pellicano must also undergo three years of supervision following his release.

Sitting at a table with a guard seated behind him, Pellicano, who did not request his own attorney, was quiet during the hearing, speaking only to address the judge with affirmative "yes, Ma'ams" when asked procedural questions.

After receiving his sentence, Pellicano said he would take no further action in court.

"I have no intention of appealing anything," Pellicano said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Lally said the sentence was what prosecutors had sought. During his remarks, Lally accused Pellicano of subverting public institutions by obtaining confidential information through his racketeering enterprise.

Pellicano was originally convicted in 2008, after a widely watched trial gave a glimpse into the inner workings of Hollywood feuds.

Prosecutors said Pellicano bribed police officers to search law enforcement databases and phone companies to wiretap his clients' opponents and listen to their most intimate conversations. According to prosecutors, Pellicano's rates for the confidential information were expensive.

His clients included big-name celebrities and businessmen.

At the hearing, two of Pellicano's victims, Jude Green and former Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch, implored the judge to uphold his 15-year sentence.

The investigation into Pellicano began in 2002, when Busch's car was vandalized in an alleged attempt to intimidate her into not pursuing stories about former Hollywood super agent Michael Ovitz. Her windshield was broken and a dead fish and a rose were discovered inside the car, along with a sign that read "STOP."

"He needs to stay in prison," said Green, whom Pellicano's agency spied on and threatened during a bitter divorce with her multi-millionaire husband, Leonard Green, in 2001, according to prosecutors.

When she spoke, Pellicano lifted his sunglasses and leaned forward, then raised his arms and turned to the guard behind him to ask her identity.

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After the hearing, Green said she still feared Pellicano could retaliate and had taken a risk in coming to the federal courthouse in Los Angeles despite her sons urging that she stay away.

But Busch, whom Green had not met before Monday, said she convinced her to attend, and the two drove to court together sharing stories of their experience with Pellicano and how the private investigator had reshaped their lives.

In an interview, Busch said she lives in constant fear that Pellicano still could retaliate against her.

"It's hard to live like this," she said.

UPDATES:

4:55 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from Busch.

This article was originally published at 1:40 p.m.

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