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Los Angeles-Three law firms and six lawyers have settled a civil suit alleging that they hired private investigator Anthony Pellicano to wiretap a woman who had sued their clients. The terms of the settlement are confidential, and the defendants deny they were involved in any wiretapping. Kissandra Cohen, who worked at Westlake Village, Calif.-based Masry & Vititoe in 1999, filed the suit two years ago against her former firm and two Los Angeles-based firms, Lynberg & Watkins and Gaims, Weil, West & Epstein. The settlement includes the six attorneys and Erin Brockovich, a researcher at the Masry & Vititoe firm who was the subject of the 2000 film Erin Brockovich. Cohen alleged that the firms wiretapped her telephone while litigating a previous sexual discrimination and slander suit she filed in 2000 against Masry & Vititoe and Edward Masry, name partner of the firm. Masry died last year. That original discrimination suit ended in a jury verdict of $120,000 against Masry, who won on all the claims except slander. Lynberg & Watkins and Gaims Weil represented Masry in that case. Kissandra Cohen v. Masry & Vititoe, No. BC228935 (Los Angeles Co., Calif. Super. Ct.). The settlement in the wiretapping suit comes amid a sweeping criminal probe out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California that has implicated some of the biggest names in Los Angeles’ legal and entertainment circles. Among the 14 people charged is Pellicano, the only remaining defendant in the civil case. Prosecutors are investigating lawyers and law firms who hired Pellicano in the past few years to illegally wiretap the phone lines of their opponents in litigation, often in celebrity divorces or high-profile business disputes. ‘Out of the case’ In addition to the three firms, the settlement includes Norman Watkins and Ric Ottaiano, two partners at Lynberg & Watkins; John Gaims and Peter Steinman, two partners at Gaims Weil; Amy Rice, a former lawyer at the firm; and Nancy Seidler Eichler, a lawyer, and Brockovich of Masry & Vititoe. Kissandra Cohen v. Anthony Pellicano, No. 05cv01485 (C.D. Calif.). “We are out of the case; whether we paid any money I have no idea,” said Watkins of Lynberg & Watkins. He referred calls to Ottaiano, who declined to give specifics, citing a confidentiality agreement, but added that the defendants “have denied and continue to deny they were a party to, or authorized, any kind of wiretapping.” The Cohen case is the first settlement among nearly half a dozen high-profile civil suits filed since the federal wiretapping investigation began in 2002. More suits are expected to follow. Cohen originally filed the wiretapping case in Los Angeles Superior Court, but voluntarily dismissed it and re-filed the case last year in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. In court papers filed on March 27, Dorothy Wolpert, a partner at Bird, Marella, Boxer, Wolpert, Nessim, Drooks & Lincenberg representing the Gaims Weil law firm, withdrew a recent motion to request documents from Cohen “in light of the settlement entered into” between Cohen and Gaims Weil and its three defendant partners. Ottaiano said that the settlement also includes the two other defendant law firms and their individual partners named in the suit. “The agreement is in the process of being signed by all the parties,” he said, noting that Pellicano is the only defendant who is not a party to the settlement. Wolpert and Cohen’s lawyer, Rory Lancman of Morelli Ratner in New York, did not return calls seeking comment. Brockovich and Seidler Eichler of Masry & Vititoe also did not return calls, nor did Gaims and Steinman at Gaims Weil. Gaims Weil partner Alan Weil, who is not named in Cohen’s suit, represented Pellicano in a separate investigation in which he pleaded guilty in 2003 to two felony counts of illegally possessing C-4 plastic explosives and hand grenades, which were found when FBI officials raided his office the year before. Pellicano served a 30-month prison term ending in February, when the wiretapping indictment was unsealed. Rice, the former Gaims Weil lawyer and defendant now at Los Angeles-based Wasser, Cooperman & Carter, did not return calls. The federal prosecutors’ probe so far has led to an indictment of only one attorney, Terry Christensen, managing partner of Los Angeles-based Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro.

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