Pellicano Trial: The Jury Has The Case

As promised, Mr. Saunders (and his buddy Mr. Lally who wore matching suits for this final day of trial) got the last word. It was all Mr. Saunders in the last stretch of this trial, taking his final opportunity to argue against almost every single point brought up by the defense. He said that he wasn't going to do that--but, he couldn't quite resist. He's only human, after all. But honestly, the key thing that happened during Mr. Saunders' closing is that it finally became clear exactly what the government actually thinks that it's accomplishing by trying to convict Mr. Pellicano and his merry band of alleged co-conspirators. Mr. Saunders said it all at the end of his final rebuttal--"This isn't a case about Hollywood...Sylvester Stallone, Brad Grey or even Michael Ovitz," he explained to the courtroom. "This is a case about greed and the perversion of the justice system." See, now that's what I thought in the beginning as well, way back when the F.B.I. first raided Mr. Pellicano's offices. But then, things went differently than most of the people in this town expected. Because the general perception was that this case actually was about greed and the perversion of the justice system (that just happened to occur in Hollywood of all places), we expected that those who'd abused and perverted this system of justice would be prosecuted. But, Mr. Saunders had a different perspective on the issue which he finally shared with us in the closing moments of this trial and six year investigation. "This is about Bo Zenga having the same rights in a courtroom as Brad Grey," he said with conviction. "This is about Larry Nagler [Mr. Stallone's attorney] having the same right to have confidential conversations with his clients as Bert Fields." Okay, again, that's what I thought. And then, the big finish, "this is a case about people who believed that justice could be bought for a $25,000 non-refundable retained." Now, again, that's what we all thought, but then why didn't government prosecute all these people who thought that? Wait a minute...wait a minute, it's coming, ah yes, no one prosecuted those people because they're all too rich and too powerful to go after and put in prison. So, one is left to conclude that even though Mr. Pellicano and his alleged criminal enterprise might be out of commission, the people who thought they could buy just justice $25,000 retainer were absolutely right. Not only did they think they could do it, they actually did it and they got away with it.

And yes, Mr. Saunders did tell us that it wasn't the government's fault that some of these people were able to buy justice for $25,000 non-refundable retainers and not face any consequences. He did make the point that he'd decided not to go after the clients in this case and that was because of different reasons--statute of limitations problems, the fact that some of the incriminating conversations were found by the F.B.I. after they'd cut deals with clients (oh well) and then, because every case needs witnesses and sometimes, you have to use some of the people who were involved in criminal activity. (Some of the time?) But, his major argument and central stated reason for putting his focus on Mr. Pellicano and some of his sources of information: "the government attacked not the demand, but the supply." And by going after former Sgt. Arneson, who Mr. Saunders characterized as part of Mr. Pellicano's RICO machine, he was busy shutting down the suppliers of illegally obtained information. His goal was to get the jury to look at the bigger picture--the fact that the government went after the illegal machine and shut that machine down. He compared the government's choice to not go after the clients, but rather Mr. Pellicano and friends to the choice often made by law enforcement to not go after the johns in a prostitution ring, but rather the prostitutes. Therefore, we can all understand--and I hope this is of some comfort to Mr. Shandling and Mr. Zenga and Ms. Doucett and Mr. Stallone and Mr. Bernier and Mr. Casey and everyone else who knows better than anyone that justice can be bought in this town for $25,000--that the government made a conscious choice to prosecute Mr. Pellicano and his merry gang of alleged co-conspirators rather than to go after his clients or the lawyers like Mr. Fields and others who hired him again and again and again.

So, that government decision to go after Mr. Pellicano (and Mr. Turner and Mr. Arneson and Mr. Kachikian and for some still unexplained reason, Mr. Nicherie) has got to make someone feel better about the justice system here in town. The people who abused the system and paid millions to keep the Pellicano machine functioning--and that would be the people who basically make up the very top echelons of society on both coasts and particularly here in Los Angeles including many of the town's top attorneys--all of those guys and gals are never going to do anything illegal again because they now know that they'll end up punished. Oh wait, that's not true. They now know that they're free to go and find themselves another criminal enterprise and get back to business as usual since none of them got prosecuted. And the lesson is--and I hope that Mr. Christensen who is still practicing is listening--you need to make sure that the private eye who is doing wiretapping for you isn't all recording you. (Mr. Christensen has plead not guilty and has denied all knowledge of any illegal wiretapping activity by Mr. Pellicano on his or his client's behalf.) As for Mr. Pellicano's alleged victims--those people who spent most of their time on the stand authenticating DMV and criminal history runs done by Mr. Pellicano instead of actually getting to tell the jury the horrible things that happened to them because of those runs--those people whose privacy was invaded and who got lost in litigation because the other side knew all of their private and confidential legal information, well, those guys are going to have to be content with the fact that Pellicano is gone and that the rich people in this town are going to have to pay someone else to set up a new system. It's good to finally have some clarity on this issue.

It's clear that Mr. Saunders gets what happened here. He knows that these rich people were abusing the legal system and he knows that it was a disgusting abuse of the process and that a lot of people took advantage of what Mr. Pellicano and friends had to offer. It's just that he's obviously got a different perspective on how to fix the problem. He didn't think that the way to destroy the perversion of the legal system was to indict the lawyers and the clients who abused that system by paying Mr. Pellicano to do all sorts of illegal and often horrible things to their adversaries. Mr. Saunders thought that the better way to deal with this problem. Based on Mr. Saunders final comments about how he was trying to clean up the legal system by shutting down Mr. Pellicano, I can only guess that he thought if the government destroyed and dismantled this one corrupt private investigation organization with its sophisticated technology and well placed sources, then it would send a message to all these wealthy clients and lawyers who think they're above the law. And then, and I have to confess that I'm just guessing here, they'd be more cautious about hiring a similar private eye and his merry band of friends to replace Mr. Pellicano. It's a nice thought and a noble quest, even if it's not terribly realistic.

Frankly, all Mr. Saunders had to do to understand how little effect this trial has had on the people who hired Mr. Pellicano is to spend one evening at a westside party listening to them chat about how they're still hiring many of the attorneys who they know clearly used Mr. Pellicano for wiretapping. Some of these wealthy movers and shakers in Los Angeles think, if anything, that those attorneys that used Mr. Pellicano are the kind of advocates they want working for them--it's almost as if using Mr. Pellicano has been come a calling card for additional business for some of these litigators.

The thing that's really annoying about this case and seems to be lost on everyone is that the people who perverted this system along with Mr. Pellicano--those rich and famous upstanding citizens of this community--very few of them have publicly expressed any remorse for what they'd done to their enemies or in some cases, even admitted to doing anything wrong at all. Brad Grey, who has denied knowing that Mr. Pellicano did anything illegal on his behalf in either the Shandling case or the Zenga case, only admitted to paying Mr. Pellicano quite a bit more than his $25,00 retainer to work for him on both cases. He told the jury that he had no idea that Mr. Pellicano was wiretapping and that all dealings about the case with Mr. Pellicano were done by his attorney, Bert Fields. And then, Mr. Grey, walked off the stand and back to his job as the head of Paramount Studios without so much as an apology to either Mr. Shandling or Mr. Zenga. After all, what does he have to apologize for? He wasn't indicted or accused of any crime by the government. As for Mr. Fields, he never even made an appearance in court, but then why would he? As Mr. Saunders told the jury, this was about destroying the heart of Mr. Pellicano's enterprise and going after people who perverted the justice system. So, why would Mr. Fields, who merely told Mr. Grey, Adam Sender, Ken Starr and Andrew Stevens to hire Mr. Pellicano have to do with the prosecution's case? For that matter, what was Mr. Ovitz doing in court either? He just hired Mr. Pellicano to get dirt on people like Anita Busch, Bernard Weinraub, David Geffen, Ron Meyer and a list of others. Yes, Mr. Pellicano worked for him, but he didn't know what he was doing and that was enough for the government to not charge him with any crime.

As for Mr. Arneson, well, the government wasn't as kind. They said that he had to know what he was doing because he worked with Mr. Pellicano, doing runs, for years. And, Mr. Kachikian also worked with Mr. Pellicano for years on Telesleuth and then there was Ray Turner, who also worked with Mr. Pellicano for years. (I'm still trying to figure out why Mr. Nicherie got charged for listening to wiretaps when all those other guys who did the same thing got a pass. Maybe, just maybe, it's because he's not rich and he didn't have a lawyer when he talked to the F.B.I. Or as his attorney, Mr. Semenza so eloquently argued, it's because the real client had the cash and the pull to get herself a deal with the government.)

Clearly, certain people who worked with Mr. Pellicano for years were held accountable for knowing certain things about what he did and other people, who also worked with Mr. Pellicano for years were believed by the government when they said they knew nothing about what Mr. Pellicano was doing. What's wrong with this pictures? And why aren't more people outraged by what's happened here? Why don't more of the town's movers and shakers give a damn that the legal system was for sale? Are they so sure that they won't end up the wrong end of the next Pellicano? Maybe, they are. But the good thing is that even though we still have to worry about the rich and powerful abusing the system and setting up another allegedly criminal enterprise to deal with their enemies, we know that at least Mr. Pellicano, who by his own admission did most of the information gathering and "the winning" at any cost will end up in prison for the rest of his life as well as his merry band of alleged information gatherers who were busy trying to make some extra bucks like the poor telephone worker, the police officer, the computer technician and again for some reason, Abner Nicherie. Those guys--who sadly can be replaced in a minute by other poor guys looking to make a buck- it's likely that those guys won't be around to bother anyone. Oddly enough, that doesn't really make me feel like anyone who sues someone powerful in this town will have the same legal rights as the powerful people whose authority they dare to challenge.

And so, the jury has the case. The prosecutors and the defense attorneys have shaken hands and I'm sitting in the hallway wondering about how so many people who broke the law walked away from this mess without so much as a scratch.