Its pretty easy to figure out why lawyers in this town hired celebrity sleuth Anthony Pellicano as their investigator. A tireless self-promoter, he got the information they wanted even if he had to bend the rules. Pellicano also worked for law-enforcement agencies and government lawyers across the country, doing audiotape work for their criminal cases.
Whats not so easy to figure out is why prosecutors and defense attorneys would work with him on the same case.
Take the so-called Limousine Rape case involving a wealthy San Fernando Valley businessman named John Gordon Jones. Jones faced charges that he assaulted nine women, sometimes drugging them before he raped them. A jury acquitted him on all charges in 2001.
Jones first defense attorney, Ronald Richards, hired Pellicano shortly after Jones arrest in October 1998. It did not take long for Pellicano to contact law enforcement about Jones. The P.I. wanted legal cover for his sessions with police and prosecutors and got it from attorney Daniel Davis, who replaced Richards in 1999. In March 1999, he gave Pellicano a letter giving him the right to meet with prosecutors and detectives and offer them information about the case.
The letter directs Pellicano to use his discretion, but hes given carte blanche to tell them whatever he wants. Jones said
he signed off on the letter only because Davis and Pellicano convinced him they could get the charges dropped. Gigi Gordon, a veteran defense attorney and director of the Culver Citybased Post-Conviction Center, says shes never seen a letter like that. Why would any defense attorney give an investigator this kind of authority? she asks. I cant even imagine why the D.A.s Office would go along with this arrangement. What is going
The letter was signed several months after a December 1998 meeting at the Hollywood police station involving Pellicano, Deputy D.A. Karla Kerlin, and LAPD Detectives Tim Marcia, Dean Gizzi and Denise Montgomery.
At the meeting, the authorities turned the tables on the
P.I. known for questionable surveillance and taping practices, and secretly recorded the session. I dont think either side
trusted each other. And we certainly didnt want anything said
at the station to be misrepresented, says Marcia. Thats why we taped him.
Shortly before Jones trial, the prosecution was forced to turn over a copy of the tape. A transcript reveals Pellicanos penchant for playing both sides of the fence.
In the transcript, Pellicano tries to persuade Kerlin to
give him a photocopy of Jones telephone book and support a motion to reduce his bail, but he also undercuts his own client. Now, when I met this guy, my first reaction was hes dead-bang fucking guilty. I looked in his eyes, he was nervous, upset,
irritated, and I said to the attorneys, You know, Im not anxious to do this.
But Pellicano says his opinion of Jones is evolving, and doubts about his guilt have emerged. Then he abruptly contradicts himself, saying, I dont know where you guys are with your investigation, but this guys guilty. Get him.
Pellicano insists hes really interested in giving the prosecution information to resolve the matter quickly for Jones sake. But he says, If this guy is, as he claimed to have been doing, serial-raping women get the motherfucker. Get him. I know if it was my daughter, Id rip his fucking heart out.
Pellicano also tries to ingratiate himself with Kerlin and the cops. He brags about his unnamed friends at the LAPD and D.A.s Office. And he says, Im a very prolaw enforcement person. I defend police officers all the time. Ive got three open cases now that Im defending police officers.
Responding to a question from Kerlin, Pellicano says that Jones has admitted his drug use. Oh yeah, like I said, hes an asshole. And he advises Kerlin on her legal strategy, saying he would take the case to a grand jury. Kerlin jokingly responds, Okay. Note to self.
Pellicano claims hes the brains behind the defense. I tell everybody this, if you did it, theyre going to get you . . . I come across somebody that youve done this to, you have a problem with me. To which Kerlin replies, Hey, maybe youll end up working for me. Pellicano then says, I do more favors for the Police Department, for her department [D.A.s Office], than you can imagine.
Pellicano was also monitoring his own client. He surreptitiously taped Jones home phone in November 1998. Jones says he found out about the taping in May 1999, when Richards told him about it. Both Richards and Davis have publicly acknowledged listening to the illegal tapes, but they denied authorizing the taps. Neither lawyer returned the Weeklys calls for comment. Pellicanos recordings included more than 30 phone calls made by Jane Doe No. 3, one of Jones alleged victims.
During the trial, Jones defense team repeatedly accused Kerlin, Deputy D.A. Patrick Dixon, and Robbery-Homicide Detectives Marcia and Gizzi of withholding evidence and concealing their dealings with Pellicano. The prosecution vehemently denied the charges. And two judges, Jacqueline Connor and, later, William Garner, rejected defense requests for hearings on these issues.
Now the questions are, how much did the prosecution know about Pellicanos taping activities, and when did they know it?
D.A. Steve Cooley has publicly acknowledged that the Garcetti administration investigated Pellicanos activities in 1999. And a source in the D.A.s Office said the investigation focused on Pellicanos alleged illegal wiretaps of Jones. But the source claims the office found no evidence to prove his guilt and turned its findings over to the FBI. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders, whos prosecuting Pellicano, disputes that claim.
Court documents and police records reinforce the notion that prosecutors knew about the illegal wiretaps in 1999. Davis bail motions included portions of Jane Doe No. 3s taped conversations. And Bradley Brunon, one of Jones defense attorneys, says its clear the material came from the tapes.
Davis also sent a letter, dated July 16, 1999, to Dixon responding to his request for discovery materials. To the extent that any tape recordings may have been made of telephone calls made by Jane Doe No. 3, I neither have such tape recordings nor have them within my direct or indirect possession or access, he wrote.
The letter also refers to conversations Richards had with witnesses in the case. One involved a meeting between Richards and Jane Doe No. 3 at the Barfly Restaurant in June 1999.
Their confrontation was detailed in an unsigned memo found in Davis files, which Jones, his civil attorney Barry Rothman, and Richard Sherman, one of Jones defense attorneys, all confirmed Davis wrote. The document recounts a phone call between two lawyers.
According to that memo, Richards suggested that the woman be pressured not to cooperate with prosecutors, but Davis worried that the alleged victim would ask the D.A. to start a formal inquiry. At the restaurant, Richards told Jane Doe No. 3 the defense had tapes of her phone calls. Davis told Richards that the tapes would not legally be admissible in court, and that they could implicate Pellicano and Richards in a conspiracy to illegally tape conversations.
Some definitive answers about Pellicanos conduct could yet come out in court. Jones has sued L.A. County, L.A. city, Cooley, Kerlin, Dixon and Deputy D.A. Robert Foltz, who replaced Dixon, and Detectives Marcia and Gizzi in federal court for alleged violation of his constitutional rights, fabrication of evidence, illegal searches and defamation. Although U.S. District Judge Nora Manella chided Jones lawyers for their sloppily written suit, and dismissed several claims, she issued an order in March allowing the case to proceed. Jones is asking for $6 million in damages.
Jones is also suing Davis, Sherman, Brunon, and two other defense attorneys, Frank Lizarraga and Milton Grimes, in state court to recover some of his hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, for alleged breaches of service. Grimes and Davis are countersuing. Jones suit against Davis also accuses the defense lawyer of withholding information regarding Pellicanos alleged illegal recordings, thereby jeopardizing his defense.
Brunon adamantly denies Jones claims. We had a flat-fee arrangement, he says. And I provided those defense services. Brunon also insists Jones missed the statute of limitations for filing the suit, and he believes it will be dismissed.
Pellicano remains inside a federal lockup in downtown L.A., quietly marking time against an expected prison term of 27 to 33 months for illegal possession of explosives and hand grenades. Sentencing is scheduled for January 20. Federal prosecutors want the P.I. to testify before a grand jury about illegal wiretapping he reportedly did for his well-known legal, entertainment and business clients. But Pellicano is refusing to cooperate. Hes publicly turned down a deal for leniency in exchange for information on his surveillance activities.