0 for 4: Pellicano and Christensen Strike Out

Former “private eye to the stars” Anthony Pellicano and high-powered entertainment/corporate lawyer Terry Christensen were found guilty by a jury this morning of all four counts of the conspiracy and wiretapping that the men faced. For Pellicano this must seem now routine, having been convicted last May of 76 counts of racketeering and wiretapping involving a range of victims and cases. For first-time felon Christensen, though, it means the loss of his right to practice law in California, regardless of how much of his sentence’s potential 10 years in prison he actually serves.

Unlike the huge ensemble of witnesses and suspects who appeared in Pellicano’s first trial, this two-hander was simplicity itself. The government alleged that Christensen, acting on behalf of his billionaire client Kirk Kerkorian, hired Pellicano to wiretap the privileged lawyer-client phone calls between Kerkorian’s ex-wife, Lisa Bonder, and her attorneys. In 2002 Kerkorian and Bonder were locked in a bitter child-support battle. At the heart of the government’s case, presented by U.S. Attorneys Daniel Saunders and Kevin Lally, were 34 phone conversations between Pellicano and Christensen that Pellicano had secretly recorded. Christensen’s defense, led by his law partner Patty Glaser and by attorney Terree Bowers, argued that nowhere on the recordings, played in court, do the two men use the word “wiretap” or “eavesdrop,” and that the government produced no physical evidence of such taps.

Nevertheless, after hearing these recordings, in which the two discussed intimate details of Bonder’s life and legal strategies, jurors concluded that such information could only have come from illegal wiretaps. Pellicano’s doom seemed sealed from the start, since he had, at the very least, clearly recorded his calls with Christensen. Still, there seemed some possibility that Christensen might beat the actual wiretapping charge, if not the conspiracy charge. In the end, though, both men were found equally guilty and now face sentencing by Judge Dale Fischer in November.

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