When they put the cuffs on Ray Turner the convictions that had ended the Anthony Pellicano trial last May suddenly seemed real. On Tuesday afternoon the racketeering verdicts now acquired the metallic sound of consequences and finality -- coming after federal Judge Dale Fischer, having read Turner his sentence of 121 months, remanded him directly to prison. The afternoon had been set aside for the sentencing of the supporting players in the RICO Act trial, with Pellicano and another defendant, power-lawyer Terry Christiansen, having already been given prison terms. (Co-conspirator Kevin Kachikian, Pellicano's computer expert, alone remains to be sentenced.)
Turner was a telephone company technician who had installed the eavesdropping hardware that enabled Pellicano, "Private Eye to the Stars," to tap the lines of his clients' enemies. Turner's family and friends sat quietly in Room 840 of the Roybal Building as Fischer rejected his lawyer's plea to accept a federal probation officer's recommendation that Turner only serve 70 months.
The arguments made by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel Saunders for denying Turner's request to remain free on bond during his forthcoming appeal reminded court spectators how trivial indiscretions from the past can come back to haunt people. One of the reasons for denying extending Turner's bail, Saunders said, was a 1986 shoplifting incident in which Turner had tried to swipe some batteries from a Kmart.
Next up was Abner Nicherie, the Israeli national who had hired Pellicano to spy on a business rival. During the trial Nicherie was the most casually attired person in court and had appeared largely inattentive, as though he were a kid fulfilling some detention requirement in high school. Wednesday, however, he looked like a somber businessman in suit and tie, and spoke softly about how his easy-going personality had led him to a series of criminal convictions for fraud.
He had, Nicherie told Judge Fischer, learned his lesson now, and only wanted to complete his courses in a Nevada nursing school.
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"Some people need a couple of kicks," Nicherie said. "This horse got the message."
At this Dan Saunders' mouth buckled into a mirthless smile and moments later the co-prosecutor was on his feet denouncing Nicherie as a smooth-talking con man whose past convictions for pharmaceutical fraud made his career in nursing highly undesirable. Such words may have hurt Nicherie's mother, Orah - except, sensing what was to come, she had already left the courtroom. Indeed, her son was given 21 months and moments after the sentence bailiffs were ordering him to remove the belt and tie from his nice suit, before leading him off in handcuffs.
The long afternoon ended with Mark Arneson, the disgraced LAPD sergeant who had provided Pellicano with reams of DMV and crime-database printouts outlining the lives of his eavesdropping targets. Everyone knew it would go badly for Arneson. Not only was he a cop who had betrayed the public trust, he had apparently been caught perjuring himself during testimony. This time Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Lally enumerated why Arneson shouldn't have his bail extended during appeal, let alone shown mercy in his sentencing.
Judge Fischer needed no persuasion, though, and brushed away attorney Chad Hummel's justifications for letting Arneson avoid immediate lockup. In the end the former cop drew 121 months and, like the other men, will have to suffer fines and forfeitures. Arneson had prepared his wife and family members for the inevitable during a court recess, and began removing his tie and belt before the bailiffs had even reached him at the court podium. Arneson wouldn't be needing these for a long time and soon he, too, was handcuffed and led out.