More than two years after attorney-to-the-stars Terry Christensen appealed his 2008 wiretapping conviction charges, federal prosecutors have moved to uphold the verdict and enhanced prison sentence, citing his "moral blindness" and violation of his position of trust.
In a brief filed on March 5 before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, prosecutors insisted that Christensen, who was convicted alongside Hollywood sleuth Anthony Pellicano, should serve three years in federal prison. In agreeing to sentence Christensen in excess of the guidelines, U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer in Los Angeles said the lawyer’s "shocking and outrageous" conduct "marred the legal profession" and "showed disrespect for the system of the law on a grand scale," the government argued.
"Moreover, as the district court found, this was not a matter of mere titles: Christensen actually did direct Pellicano as to whether to engage in wiretapping, when to continue doing so, and when to stop," prosecutors wrote.
The brief, more than 970 pages long, also addressed the appeals of Pellicano and four additional defendants who were convicted in an earlier wiretapping trial.
Christensen’s attorney, Dan Marmalefsky, a partner at Morrison & Foerster, did not return a call for comment. Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, declined to comment.
Christensen was indicted in 2006 on charges that he paid Pellicano more than $100,000 to wiretap the phone lines of Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, the ex-wife of his billionaire client, Kirk Kerkorian, during a custody battle in which she sought $320,000 per month in child support payments.
In all, Pellicano had been convicted on 78 counts related to the wiretapping. In the second trial, he and Christensen each were convicted of one count of conspiracy and one count of intercepting wire communications.
Pellicano was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Christensen, whose California law license has been suspended given his conviction, is free on bond pending his appeal.
In their brief, prosecutors sought to uphold the convictions. As for Christensen, they refuted his accusations that they obtained search warrants of Pellicano’s office in violation of the private investigator’s and Christensen’s Fourth Amendment rights. The search turned up "devastatingly incriminating recorded words in 34 separate conversations" with Pellicano in 2002 that became the centerpiece of the trial against Christensen.
"Pellicano and Christensen were jointly thieves, stealing the contents of others’ private telephone conversations," they wrote. "Christensen had no right to the information at all."
They insisted that those recordings were properly designated as unprivileged. "Indeed, perusing the full transcripts of the recordings makes clear that Christensen was abusing his position as a lawyer to engage in criminal activities that subverted the justice system and perverted Christensen’s role as a lawyer," they wrote.
Prosecutors also defended Fischer’s decision to try Christensen alongside Pellicano, who represented himself and showed up in a jail uniform.
And they refuted claims by all the defendants of juror and prosecutorial misconduct. A juror was properly dismissed during deliberations because he had questioned the wiretapping law on which the case was based and had lied during voir dire, they wrote. As for alleged misconduct by the government, prosecutors insisted they did not err in failing to disclose a witness statement to the witness’ probation officer that showed up in a presentencing report.
Contact Amanda Bronstad at email@example.com.