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By Patrick Range McDonald
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By Jill Stewart
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“I WOULD LIKE TO TALK to Mr. Pellicano for half an hour — I would never tell anyone,” says Elaine Jordison as she drives up PCH, miles away from the Anthony Pellicano trial, which ended just hours before. “Why didn’t he testify or have a lawyer? I feel bad for his family. He has children. I cried.”
Jordison’s speaking by cell phone, letting the world receding in her rearview mirror know what it was like to spend 11 weeks as Juror No. 7 in the trial of Pellicano and four co-defendants who were convicted Thursday of identity theft, wire fraud and racketeering. (Click here for verdict-day blog.)
She lives in Templeton, a small town 215 miles from Los Angeles, in San Luis Obispo County, where she works for the mental health department. She was, indeed, seen weeping as Pellicano’s 76 guilty verdicts were read by Judge Dale Fischer, but she is now going home to her husband, kids and “many animals.” No more Monday drives to L.A., where she was put up in a motel for four days each week by the government, driving home each Friday afternoon.
She doesn’t sound as though she’ll miss L.A. and hearing about the lives of its neurotic celebrities and millionaires.
“We had Christian values — we wake up wanting to be healthy and happy and to go to work,” she says of her fellow jurors, before describing the wealthy witnesses and victims of Pellicano’s wiretaps: “They were spiritually robbed and empty people. They write checks for $100,000 the way we would for $100.”
The peek Jordison offers into the jury room might give both sides in the trial pause to assess their strategies. According to Jordison, the government’s case didn’t seem very coherent.
“The prosecution brought in all this information,” she says. “We didn’t know how it all fit in together until we went into the room and started putting it together.”
She clearly felt straitjacketed by Judge Fischer’s instructions, which laid out the ground rules for how jurors were to perceive and weigh the testimony. Those instructions prevented the panel from reconciling federal law with what seemed to be mitigating circumstances. Jordison, for example, found it compelling that the taps on the home phones of billionaire Alec Gores were authorized by Gores himself (to check up on his adulterous wife, Lisa) but knew she was told to consider the taps strictly illegal.
“When you read the instructions, they were pretty much pro-guilt, pro-prosecution,” she says. “If I believed the [defense] testimony, it didn’t matter. It always got back to Instruction No. 30 — aiding and abetting.”
Perhaps just as interesting as the jury’s deliberations were tidbits on its daily routines: The jurors remained cordial to one another throughout deliberations; many “really liked” defense attorney Chad Hummel; Jordison believed Fischer was a good judge, and she had never heard of Keith Carradine before the trial, although she knew of brother David from Kung Fu.
Most of all, Jordison explained the mystery of why the jurors had told the judge they had reached a verdict but wanted to wait an hour to have lunch before entering the court:
“We hadn’t eaten breakfast and were hungry!”
The great paradox of Jordison’s experience was the amiable figure Pellicano cut for the jurors, while, to Jordison, at least, the people whose privacy Pellicano invaded evoked little sympathy.
“Nothing really bad happened to the victims,” Jordison flatly says. Nor did she think much of the prosecution’s star witnesses, many of whom had cut deals with the prosecution or were hoping for reduced sentences for their own crimes.
“[Pellicano’s] ex-employees seemed on medication or on drugs,” Jordison says. “They were spacey cartoon characters.”
Jordison saved most of her displeasure for Pellicano’s buxom executive assistant, who rolled over on her master and then turned his cross-examination of her into a tearful group-therapy session.
“I did not believe Tarita Virtue,” Jordison says of Virtue’s melodramatic testimony. “That was showmanship, it was totally unbelievable. I think she has problems and her father lied for her.”
What’s striking are the positive feelings Jordison developed for Pellicano, who, many in the media thought, merely performed a kind of lawyer karaoke whenever he stood at the lectern and acted as his own attorney. Not to mention the geyser of four-letter words he was heard spewing at clients and employees on recorded phone conversations played in court.
“The profanity didn’t bother me,” Jordison says. “That was who he was. He had a great business; he did a lot of legitimate things. I don’t know what made him stray — he’s a likable person.”
For Jordison, Pellicano was a worthy man who’d done unworthy things — even his illegal activities were done in the service of his clients.