With Anthony Pellicano indicted, L.A. federal prosecutors are going to indict their way through a major swath of the entertainment bar � or will they? We round up our full coverage of the ever-evolving case surrounding an ethically challenged investigator and the lawyers who used his services.
In a complaint against Pellicano and AT&T filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, lawyers for Lisa Bonder Kerkorian claim that Pellicano was hired in 2002 to eavesdrop on conversations between Kerkorian and her lawyer to help her billionaire ex-husband gain a leg up in divorce litigation.
“The motivation for the illegal wiretap was to glean information to secure a tactical advantage in litigation between Kerkorian and her former husband, Kirk Kerkorian, including Kerkorian’s plans, strategies, perceived strengths and weaknesses, settlement position, and other highly confidential information,” her lawyers, Neville Johnson, Brian Panish and Lawrence Ecoff, wrote.
The suit accuses Pellicano � indicted for illegal wiretapping in several cases earlier this year � of wiretapping Kerkorian, and the phone company of failing to stop the invasion of privacy.
A former employee of the company, Rayford Turner, was indicted alongside Pellicano for helping in the wiretap scheme. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in February.
“The one thing you expect from the phone company is privacy and confidentiality,” said Johnson, a partner at Johnson & Rishwain in L.A.
AT&T, being sued in San Francisco for participating in legally questionable government wiretaps, said privacy is a priority, but one it can’t always guarantee.
“AT&T takes customer privacy very seriously, though no network is immune to those who break the law,” said spokesman John Britton. Any employees who violate their strict guidelines are subject to discipline up to and including termination, he said.
But Christensen, Kerkorian’s personal lawyer and the top rainmaker at Christensen, Miller, Fink, Jacobs, Glaser, Weil & Shapiro, is conspicuously absent from the complaint, despite the fact that in a detailed indictment, federal prosecutors accuse him of hiring Pellicano � and working directly with him � in the Kerkorian divorce. In fact, prosecutors have audio recordings of those conversations, which are quoted in the Christensen indictment.
It’s unclear why Christensen isn’t named in the civil suit, and Johnson wouldn’t elaborate. “It’s highly probable that other parties will be named,” is all he would say.
But so far, civil litigation stemming from the criminal case against Pellicano has taken several routes.
In the only case to settle to date, attorney Kissandra Cohen sued the L.A. firm Gaims, Weil, West & Epstein � along with her former employer, Masry & Vititoe, and another firm � for allegedly wiretapping her. Gaims, Weil settled their part of the case earlier this month.
In another case, screenwriter Vincent “Bo” Zenga has included high-profile litigator and frequent Pellicano client Bertram Fields in connection with alleged eavesdropping.
Zenga’s lawyer, Gregory Dovel, has said he’s not worried about whether lawyers’ insurance in the wiretapping cases will cover their liability, a major question since insurance doesn’t cover illegal behavior.
But more recent suits � Zenga’s was filed in 2003 � indicate that deciding how or whether to go after the law firms is a major question.
On March 24, actor Keith Carradine and his girlfriend, Hayley Dumond, filed a suit against Pellicano; Carradine’s ex-wife, Sandra Will Carradine; and Pacific Bell Telephone Co. No lawyers were listed in that suit, partially because there’s not enough evidence pointing to anyone else, said Matthew Geragos, Keith Carradine’s lawyer and a partner at Geragos & Geragos.
Since Sandra Carradine was Pellicano’s girlfriend, it’s possible any alleged wiretapping was done without the involvement of her lawyers, he said.
Without clear evidence of a direct connection, Geragos said, he was hesitant to name the attorney. “Later, if we go through and we find any other evidence, people can be added.”
Geragos speculated that reasons to not name Christensen in the Kerkorian suit could include wanting to see how his criminal case pans out.
“It could be a strategic move on their part; maybe they want to see if he does plea,” Geragos said. “They might want to gather up some more information.”
In other Pellicano-related news Monday, Hollywood director John McTiernan entered a plea agreement with the government.
He was charged last month for lying about his involvement with Pellicano. McTiernan allegedly hired Pellicano to wiretap phone calls involving Charles Roven, a movie producer who worked with McTiernan on the movie “Rollerball.”
Geragos is also representing Donna Dubrow, McTiernan’s ex-wife, though no suit has been filed. Often, Geragos said, when plea bargains are unsealed, more information becomes available.
“We’re monitoring it and keeping options open,” he said. “It just depends on what facts will come up.”