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Steven Gruel has long contended that the feds were out to get his client, the celebrity private eye Anthony Pellicano, well before they executed a 2003 search warrant that resulted in Pellicano’s conviction on explosives charges � and a protracted federal investigation aimed at some of Hollywood’s biggest lawyers. In court papers filed late Tuesday, Gruel � a former San Francisco federal prosecutor � gave the most detailed peek yet into how he plans to support that claim. He also outlined his contention that prosecutors improperly used Pellicano’s girlfriend as an informant to pry into the detective’s defense strategy. All of the arguments are aimed at getting more discovery out of Los Angeles federal prosecutors and ultimately, Gruel said, getting the indictment tossed. Based on discovery turned over by prosecutors and evidence gathered on his own, Gruel’s filings challenge the FBI’s reasons for initially searching the detective’s office. The warrant, which was obtained in connection with a threat made to former L.A. Times reporter Anita Busch, “was a subterfuge,” Gruel wrote. He argues that agents were actually seeking evidence of illegal wiretaps � particularly a recording of an FBI agent � but didn’t have probable cause to get a warrant for such material. He supports his claim by pointing out that in 2002, FBI agents had issued a subpoena to Pellicano asking for “any audio or video recordings in your custody or control which were obtained from investigative services” relating to a separate criminal case in which Pellicano worked for a defendant. The government asked for “recordings or photographs of any federal or state law enforcement personnel.” The Pellicano search warrant has already been upheld by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in connection with the explosives case. But Gruel said he believes the warrant � along with a handful of follow-up searches and seizures of the detective’s computers and storage locker � are open to new challenges. “I’m trying to figure out whether there was bad faith,” he said in a Tuesday phone interview shortly after visiting Pellicano in jail. That charge is one of several that Gruel has made in an attempt to discredit the conduct of FBI agents and prosecutors working the case. Daniel Saunders and Kevin Lally, the lead prosecutors in the case, did not return calls by press time. “We will respond in writing in due course,” said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office. Gruel also said he plans to argue that the lead FBI agent in the case, Stanley Ornellas, provided misleading testimony and should be deposed. Perhaps most significantly, Gruel is aiming to show that the government used Sandra Carradine � Pellicano’s ex-girlfriend, who had a cooperation deal with prosecutors � to plumb the jailed detective for information about his defense late last year and early this year. Citing discovery turned over by the government, Gruel wrote that “Carradine would speak with Mr. Pellicano in the morning and report the conversation to agent Ornellas later that same day.” He charges that the government used Carradine to gain strategic information on Pellicano that may have violated attorney-client privilege. For example, he wrote, Pellicano late last year told Carradine about a potential defense witness in the case. “That information, as well as the content of the defense witness’ possible assistance, was then reported to FBI agent Ornalles [sic],” Gruel wrote. “Later, in February 2006, I was contacted by that possible defense witness who said that agent Ornellas contacted him in late December or January 2006 concerning this case.” Gruel also said Carradine provided the government with information about Pellicano’s legal representation, and that “she acted as a ‘go-between’ for me and Mr. Pellicano in December 2005 with respect to messages about the case. My recollection is that during this time she would solicit my thoughts, opinions and general observations about the government’s case,” Gruel wrote. “I am concerned that she provided the government with information pertaining to my involvement in the case,” he added. The questions about Carradine’s role in the case are aimed at arguing that prosecutors engaged in outrageous conduct, Gruel said. Such a finding � which can be extremely difficult to prove � could justify dismissing the case. “The standard is high,” Gruel said Wednesday. “It says the government has to shock the standards of society.” Gruel took a separate tack in seeking to question Ornellas, arguing that a contention made by the detective in obtaining the 2002 warrant � that he knew from his “own personal experience” what would be in a PI’s office � is less than kosher. The problem, Gruel said, is that while Ornellas had a private investigator’s license, “the government has conceded that although passing the written test for a private investigator’s license, agent Ornellas really has no experience as a private investigator.” Gruel also claims that in a 2003 case, Ornellas “may have, at a minimum, provided inconsistent or troubling testimony.” Taking aim at the FBI could result in a Franks hearing, in which a defense lawyer may directly question an agent. Patrick Robbins, a partner at Shearman & Sterling who worked with Gruel in the San Francisco U.S. attorney’s office, said all of Gruel’s efforts seemed aimed at forcing the government to cough up information to defend its conduct. “Steve appears to be trying to obtain as much discovery as possible on all these fronts,” Robbins said.

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