On Trial: Pellicano, Scat-Porn King Ira Isaacs, Designer Anand Jon | Features | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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On Trial: Pellicano, Scat-Porn King Ira Isaacs, Designer Anand Jon 

Verdicts are never the last word in court

Wednesday, Dec 31 2008
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I propose a new opening voice-over for Law and Order: “In the criminal-justice system ... nothing ever ends.” Closure, as cops and judges will tell you, is strictly for the movies. Even casual followers of crime stories know that it seems to take forever for defendants to come to trial — and even when a verdict arrives, there follows a dreary drizzle of trial “sequels” in the form of victim civil suits, retrials, malicious-prosecution suits or appeals. The pretrial motions of several big cases in 2008 seemed to promise speedier trials, but these trials soon reverted to form. A very long, drawn-out form.

In March, federal prosecutors began their conspiracy and racketeering case against one-time Private Eye to the Stars Anthony Pellicano and four other men. The group was charged with wiretapping the business foes or spouses of Pellicano’s clients, and the trial narrative swirled around some very rich and/or famous people, including Michael Ovitz, Bert Fields, Garry Shandling and Chris Rock.

After two months of testimony, jurors brought in a lengthy, repetitive list of guilty verdicts. Pellicano was convicted on all 76 counts he faced. His co-defendants for the most part suffered similar wipeouts: former LAPD sergeant Mark Arneson, telephone-company technician Ray Turner, computer programmer Kevin Kachikian (who developed unique eavesdropping and transcription software for Pellicano) and Abner Nicherie, a shadowy Israeli-American who used Pellicano’s wiretaps to gain advantage over a business rival.

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The hard wooden pews of Judge Dale Fischer’s courtroom in the Roybal Federal Building had barely emptied before Pellicano, the judge and prosecutors returned for the trial’s sequel. A second trial was required because earlier this year Century City superlawyer Terry Christensen had sought and won a severance from Pellicano’s first trial. No way was Christensen going to be included in that rogue’s gallery of defendants, a trial setting whose Wagnerian stagecraft more resembled a war-crimes tribunal than the intimate legal habitat Christensen was used to operating in.

And so in July he began trial with his former intelligence contractor, Pellicano, to fight charges that the two conspired and carried out a scheme to wiretap the phone of Lisa Bonder during a scorched-earth child-support battle between Bonder and her ex-paramour, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian. Pellicano, as he had in the first trial, acted as his own attorney; observing him stumble at the podium while cross-examining witnesses was like watching a teenager learn to drive.

The results were the same as Pellicano I: On August 29, both men were convicted of the two counts they each faced. Judge Fischer threw the book at Christensen, giving the disgraced attorney three years in prison plus fines. A month later, Pellicano received 15 years behind bars for his two trials’ combined 78 convictions, and was ordered by Fischer to join Arneson and Turner in paying more than $2 million in restitution. At least Pellicano had saved money by acting as his own lawyer.

Meanwhile, Pellicano’s wife, Kat, and his daughters are pitching cable-TV execs a reality show based on their lives. “Project,” Variety’s Michael Schneider recently wrote, “will revolve around Kat Pellicano and her three daughters — Alana, 21; Tori, 18; and Josi, 17 — as they figure out how to fund their extravagant lifestyle without the family patriarch.” The premise of the show, reportedly, is that it follows the women as they try to reopen the detective agency so they can pay off family debts. (Huh?) No matter — it’s clear that the success of such a show would rest on Anthony Pellicano’s being in prison.

Another trial that promised to be a quick slam-dunk — either way, for innocent or guilty — was the federal obscenity prosecution of scat-porn king Ira Isaacs. The L.A. man had been hauled into court by Republican-appointed prosecutors as part of the culture wars. In a case that was expected to last about a week, Isaacs was accused of distributing films depicting bestiality and women eating feces and being urinated upon. Unfortunately for the government, the trial was taken away from Judge George King, who’d been hearing the pretrial motions, by 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, a loose-cannon libertarian. Kozinski, who speaks in a drowsy Old World accent, decided to try the case himself and, after trial began in June, seemed to enjoy pinching Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Whitted’s cheeks, counseling him to relax more. Defense attorney Roger Diamond joined in on the fun, reminding the serious Whitted that the case was “only a trial.”

Then the L.A. Times, supplied with information by a longtime Kozinski enemy, attorney Cyrus Sanai, disclosed that Kozinski maintained a private Web site whose salacious images and jokes were publicly accessible. Within days, Kozinski recused himself from the trial (but not before jurors had been forced to watch about two hours of bestial horseplay and literal shit-eating grins. Suddenly, to Roger Diamond’s chagrin, the case wasn’t even only a trial. It was in legal limbo.

It wasn’t until September that original judge George King approved a government motion for a new trial. Diamond is presently appealing that ruling, which will run the clock out on the Bush Justice Department. Diamond and Isaacs have made no secret that they hope an Obama DOJ will not take up prosecuting pornographers.

Anand Jon, the L.A./N.Y.-based fashion designer, was convicted in L.A. Superior Court of 16 of the 23 sexual-assault charges leveled at him by seven of nine young women or underage girls. He and his family members listened in ashen-faced silence November 13 as jurors found him guilty of felonies that, according to prosecutor Francis Young, will keep him behind bars for 67 years before he is even eligible for parole.

Anand Jon’s five-lawyer defense team has pledged to appeal his convictions, but in order to do so they will have to present new evidence of his innocence. In the meantime, he faces sentencing on January 13, as well as new trials in New York and Texas. One odd development occurred December 2, when a Glendale polygraph agency declared that Jon had taken and “passed” a lie-detector test in which he was asked two yet-to-be-disclosed questions regarding his behavior toward victim Jessie B, whose accusations led to Jon being convicted of the trial’s one rape charge.

The designer’s family and supporters have made much of the polygraph test and are asking that Jessie B take one herself. Besides the fact that lie-detector tests aren’t admissible as evidence in court, Jon took his after his conviction, when passing such a test before the trial might’ve persuaded prosecutors to drop the charges involving Jessie B. As USC law professor Jean Rosenbluth told L.A. Weekly, “He could’ve taken this test before — it’s not going to get him very far.”

Cyber-bully: Lori Drew

Lori Drew, the matronly suspect accused of setting in motion a cyber-bullying scheme that ended in the suicide of a fragile 13-year-old girl, was never charged with culpability in Megan Meier’s 2006 death. In fact, Missouri authorities could find no statutes on which to arrest and try Drew, who believed Meier, a suburban neighbor, was badmouthing her daughter. Instead, the state passed a cyber-bullying law. Los Angeles–based U.S. Attorney Tom O’Brien, however, did think there were grounds on which to bring Drew to federal court – and got a grand jury to indict Drew on conspiracy and computer-fraud charges. In November she stood trial in downtown L.A., because MySpace’s corporate parent, Fox Interactive, is headquartered in Beverly Hills.

Drew’s jury only convicted her of misdemeanors, however, for helping to set up a MySpace account under a false identity – that of “Josh Evans,” an imaginary teen hunk whose taunts pushed Meier over the edge and led her to hang herself. In the end it was the federal government that seemed to have engaged in vindictive overkill, forcing a case that should have been left to Missouri’s civil courts.

So far, Drew has no scheduled sentencing date and the government has not yet decided whether to ask for a new trial (unlikely) on the deadlocked conspiracy charge. In the meantime, her defense lawyer, Dean Steward, still has a motion pending before the trial’s judge, George Wu, to dismiss all the charges because Drew didn’t intentionally violate MySpace contract prohibitions against creating fictitious accounts – because she didn’t read the long document. A hearing on that motion was scheduled for December 29.

Either way, it does not now seem probable that Drew will serve any time for the three misdemeanors, which carry one year apiece in prison. In December, however, came some related news from Missouri: Police had filed the first charge against a woman under the state’s new cyber-bullying law.

Reach the writer at smikulan@laweekly.com

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