There’s nothing like a juicy Hollywood scandal to get the blood flowing:
- The case began with a dead fish and a rose in an aluminum pan, left on the hood of a car parked on a Los Angeles street. Taped to the windshield of the car, which belonged to a reporter for The Los Angeles Times, was a piece of cardboard with a single word: “Stop.”
The discovery in June 2002 – for which an ex-convict was later arrested – unleashed a chain of events that has suddenly entwined many of the Hollywood elite and threatens to turn into the kind of scandal that the show business world has not faced in decades. Managers, actors, businessmen and lawyers are being questioned, and in some cases subpoenaed, by the federal government in a widening grand jury investigation of suspected illegal wiretapping that has moved beyond Los Angeles to New York, according to entertainers, producers, lawyers and others involved in the inquiry.
At issue are the contents of what federal investigators have told potential witnesses are wiretap transcripts found on the computer of Anthony Pellicano, a private investigator who has worked for some of Hollywood’s top celebrities, including Michael Jackson, Kevin Costner, Sylvester Stallone and Roseanne Barr. The transcripts were among a huge trove of computer files discovered last year in an F.B.I. raid of Mr. Pellicano’s Sunset Boulevard office in connection with the threat against the reporter, Anita M. Busch. The grand jury investigation is now seeking to unravel the details of the wiretapping, and whether prominent lawyers or their clients had hired Mr. Pellicano to do it.
….vague speculation turned specific last week after a prominent Hollywood lawyer, Bert Fields, told the entertainment trade journal Variety that he had been questioned by the F.B.I. It was the first time anyone who had spoken to the F.B.I. as part of the investigation had identified himself. Over the years, Mr. Fields’s client list has included Tom Cruise, John Travolta, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Jackson. Mr. Fields and his law firm have long used Mr. Pellicano as a private investigator.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Fields said there was “no question” that the F.B.I. was seeking information about Mr. Pellicano.
“That’s what they were questioning me about,” said Mr. Fields, who has hired a criminal defense lawyer, John W. Keker. Mr. Fields denied any knowledge of wiretapping. “I do not do that, nor did I authorize Anthony Pellicano to do any wiretapping, ever,” he said.
….What set off the investigation was the threat against Ms. Busch, an entertainment reporter for The Los Angeles Times who has also written for The New York Times. Ms. Busch had told the authorities that she thought the incident was related to her research for an article about the actor Steven Seagal and his relationship with a suspected Mafia associate.
According to court documents, Alexander Proctor implicated himself in the threat against Ms. Busch during a tape-recorded conversation with an F.B.I. informant. Mr. Proctor told the informant that he had been offered $10,000 by Mr. Pellicano to set Ms. Busch’s car on fire but, uncomfortable with that, he bought the fish and a rose to warn her off the story.
The authorities obtained a warrant to search Mr. Pellicano’s office for evidence linking him to Mr. Proctor. Federal agents said that during the search, two unregistered hand grenades and some plastic explosives were found.
The search also turned up the computer files that have become the focus of the federal investigation. Mr. Pellicano pleaded guilty last month to charges of possessing explosives
….Mr. Pellicano came to Hollywood under strange circumstances. In 1977, he found the body of Elizabeth Taylor’s third husband, Mike Todd, which had been stolen from a Chicago cemetery. In front of a television camera crew, Mr. Pellicano walked about 75 yards from the excavated grave, reached under some leaves and revealed a plastic bag containing Mr. Todd’s remains. Mr. Pellicano’s rivals claimed he had staged the episode for publicity.
But the episode endeared Mr. Pellicano to Ms. Taylor, who introduced him to her Hollywood friends. The criminal lawyer Howard Weitzman hired him in 1983 to help in the defense of John DeLorean, who was accused of cocaine trafficking. From then on he was a high-profile investigator [NY Times]
who clearly thought he could get away with just about anything, including wiretapping those he was hired to investigate.
The NY Post reports on another alleged victim:
- COURT TV anchor Diane Dimond, who reported on the first days of the Michael Jackson sex case a decade ago, is the latest to be caught up in a Hollywood phone-bugging scandal.
Dimond said yesterday that authorities have informed her that wiretaps on her phone from 1994 are part of evidence seized by the FBI last year from the computer of Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano.
Dimond was a reporter for “Hard Copy” in 1993 in the first days after the story broke of a youngster accusing Jackson of sexually molesting him.
Pellicano worked for Jackson’s attorney, Harold Weitzman
“I [was] positive my phones were tapped – I heard lots of clicking and crackling noises on the line and then my words started coming back to me through others,” Dimond told The Post.