By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Last week, as Judge Dale Fischer ruled with sudden finality in the Anthony Pellicano racketeering case by lowering the hammer on three of the Hollywood private eye’s convicted co-defendants, there were no photographers lingering in the hall, no sketch artists scraping away on pads in the courtroom. None of the curious law students, legal clerks or ambitious young prosecutors who’d stopped by the Roybal Federal Building’s Room 840 during last year’s trial were around this time to witness the sentencing and handcuffing that each man received. Last Tuesday meant the end of the world for some of those gathered in Fischer’s courtroom. Even for those who thoroughly believed in the guilt of Pellicano and his crew, it was not the easiest thing to watch the defendants’ family and friends’ crestfallen reactions when the sentences were announced.
“This sentence is ridiculous,” said one court spectator, when the judge handed down a sentence of 121 months for defendant Ray Turner.
The visitor was no casual court gawker but Elaine Jordison, the woman known during Pellicano’s 2008 RICO trial as Juror No. 7. Back on the May afternoon when Pellicano and his co-defendants were found guilty, Jordison shared with L.A. Weekly her thoughts about the trial, expressing a surprising sympathy for Pellicano and his family, while complaining of a jury-deliberation process that she believed was tilted against acquittal verdicts. In fact, following the 2008 trial, Jordison took the unusual step of contacting the defense lawyers to air charges of juror misconduct. She claimed several jurors had openly expressed their beliefs in the defendants’ guilt and that she herself was the target of intimidation by her co-panelists. Her allegations eventually found their way into a letter asking Judge Fischer to show leniency toward the five men, and at this week’s sentencings Jordison was seen hugging the defendants and consoling their family members — she wept as Judge Fischer read out the prison time for each man.
During breaks between sentencings, Jordison again expressed her unhappiness with the jury panel on which she served.
“There were three jurors,” she told L.A. Weekly, “who could’ve gone either way — they just didn’t care.”
Perhaps worse, said Jordison, who at the time lived more than 200 miles away in San Luis Obispo County, the juror to whom she gave a ride home in Thousand Oaks at the end of each week had made up her mind for guilt by the second week. Did Jordison, though, ever feel she needed to remind her carpooling colleague to keep an open mind?
“No, I just kept quiet,” she admitted.
Likewise, she went along and voted for guilty verdicts even though she now claims she didn’t believe in the defendants’ guilt.
“The foreperson told me we had to find them guilty, it was the law, and I went along.”
Jordison said she didn’t realize that when jurors were individually polled following the reading of the May verdicts to a packed courtroom, she then had the chance to tell the judge she disagreed with the verdicts.
“I had tried to tell the judge during the trial but was told to keep quiet,” she said of the deliberations. “Afterward, some of us went up to Ray Turner and told him, ‘We know you didn’t do the wiretaps.’”
Jordison blamed her panel’s lack of balanced, civil dialogue on its foreperson.
“The foreperson didn’t preside over anything,” Jordison says. “She turned her back to us. One man got mad at me and threw a chair. There was so much juror misconduct.”
(In her May 2008 interview with the Weekly, Jordison spoke of a cordial atmosphere in the jury room, though this past Tuesday she denied saying this.)
During these most recent proceedings and at Pellicano’s own sentencing hearing last December, co-prosecutor Daniel Saunders made it plain that he didn’t think “a juror’s second thoughts about the verdict” should have any mitigating impact on the prison time the defendants received.
“I’m tired of Dan Saunders getting up and singling me out,” Jordison said last week. “I think he’s a joke.”
Nearly a week later in Judge Fischer’s courtroom, another Pellicano co-defendant went down.
“I’m not a warm fuzzy type,” Judge Fischer told Kevin Kachikian at his sentencing on Monday. As an understatement, the icy jurist’s comment ranks just below “Houston, we have a problem.” But there was no need to point this out to Kachikian — he knew all about it.
Last year he was one of five men, including Pellicano, who stood trial in the racketeering and wiretapping extravaganza that played out in Fischer’s courtroom. As in any caper movie, each man had brought a specific skill to the party. Pellicano was the tough-talking detective at home as both a Hollywood fixeur and law-enforcement helper. Mark Arneson was the cop who provided DMV and criminal-database info to Pellicano, while Turner was the hands-on technician who installed the wiring necessary for Pellicano to eavesdrop on his targets’ phone conversations for clients like Abner Nicherie, who’d hired him to illegally tap the calls of business rivals.
Kachikian was the brain — or rather, the nerdy computer wiz who brought to life Pellicano’s idea for the TeleSleuth computer program that allowed him to tap and digitally record calls from the comfort of his Sunset Boulevard office. Kachikian was something of an anomaly: Although his co-defendants were found guilty on virtually every count with which they were charged, he was able to beat nine of the wiretapping counts he faced. Unfortunately for Kachikian, two of the charges that stuck to him — construction of an illegal wiretapping device and conspiracy — carry serious prison time. On Monday, his attorney, Adam Braun, made a pitch for Fischer to treat these crimes as “regulatory offenses” that merit only probation.
Kachikian himself read a one-page statement requesting leniency — “My blinders are off,” he said, repeating his longstanding claims that he knew nothing of Pellicano’s illegal-wiretapping activities.
Co-prosecutor Kevin Lally dismissed Kachikian’s claims of ignorance. “It’s a time-honored tradition among Pellicano defendants,” Lally said, “to deny responsibility and instead accuse others of wrongdoing.”
A tall, gentle figure with a shaved head, Kachikian had arrived this morning as though it were a kind of Casual Monday, attired in the same kind of sweater-and-khakis, sox-’n’-sandals outfit he wore during the trial. Today he even threw in a beaded necklace. It didn’t help. Fischer threw 27 months in prison Kachikian’s way and seemed to be inclined to remand him into federal custody on the spot — as she had with the other defendants after their sentencings last week.
As Braun then appealed for his client to remain free during appeal on the $100,000 bond that had allowed him to move at will during the trial, Kachikian’s wife gently wept. A woman friend who arrived in court carrying a teddy bear held the wife’s hand, while another woman sat, eyes closed, her palms opened skyward.
Judge Fischer allowed that she wasn’t taken in by the naive-computer-nerd persona Kachikian had projected, adding he had to have known TeleSleuth was intended for illegal use. She accused him of committing perjury when he testified last year, but when Kachikian’s mother, Lydia — who arrived at court in a wheelchair — told Fischer she was willing to double the amount of bond her Fountain Valley home had provided her son, the judge relented. She gave Braun a week to come up with an arrangement that would increase Kachikian’s bond as a way to allow him to remain free while he appeals his sentence. This was a gesture none of the other defendants had received. Perhaps Judge Fischer was getting warm and fuzzy without realizing it.
Just how much so will be seen by the case’s remaining suspects — all of whom escaped inclusion in Pellicano’s RICO trial by pleading out and cooperating with the government — to be sentenced next month. At the end of Monday’s hearing, Kachikian and his supporters enjoyed an emotional hug-a-thon outside Fischer’s courtroom. Clearly Adam Braun had been expecting the worst. As he put it: “I had to put on my emotional bulletproof vest.”