Yesterday Anthony Pellicano, the former Private Eye to the Stars,
was brought out of a prison cell and
ordered by Superior Court Judge William Pounders to stand trial with
co-defendant Alex Proctor against charges they colluded to intimidate
former L.A. Times Hollywood correspondent Anita Busch. Pellicano was convicted in two 2008 of intercepting
private phone calls on behalf of mostly rich and powerful clients. He
was sentenced last December by U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer to 15 years on dozens of
racketeering and conspiracy charges, although the fallout from those
trials is still being felt whenever a cooperating federal witness comes
before Fischer for sentencing.
Monday, former record-company
executive Robert Pfeifer, a onetime client of Pellicano's, was
sentenced to time served, community service and a $5,000 fine for his aiding and abetting Pellicano in exchange for his
previous testimony against the detective.
The Anita Busch
trial will play out downtown in Superior Court, where Pellicano
and Proctor are to be arraigned August 18. This is the story of Busch
finding a dead fish with a rose in its mouth on her Audi in June, 2002 -- allegedly a warning
to Busch to cease reporting on the declining fortunes of Hollywood
executive Michael Ovitz. Busch, who in Pellicano's record books was
referred to as "Catholic Girl Reporter," gave emotional testimony
about her ordeal at the two previous trials. At the time of the dead
fish incident, however, suspicion immediately fell upon actor Steven Seagal,
about whose alleged Mafia contacts Busch was also writing.
is charged with hiring Proctor, then a former convict who is now
serving a separate drug sentence, to scare Busch off the Ovitz stories
she was writing.
The attack on her car, along with indications that her phone line was
being accessed by an outside party, brought the FBI into the case to
join the LAPD investigation. Eventually Pellicano, who was then serving
time in Terminal Island prison for keeping plastic explosives in his
office, was connected with the alleged intimidation of Busch.
As narratives of Hollywood dirty tricks and power run amok, the first
two Pellicano trials never captured the popular imagination. Although
some red carpet faces appeared on the witness stand (Chris Rock, Keith
Carradine), most of the cast was too old and too "insider" to be of
interest to celebrity followers. This new trial will probably rate even
less public attention (think of it as the court version of Godfather III),
especially since the two defendants are looking at relatively light
maximum sentences of three years apiece for the conspiracy and
criminal-threatmaking counts they each face.
Still, in some ways the "Busch trial" might make for the most exciting,
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given its narrow focus, compact narrative and screenplay-like story arc
of a woman being menaced and betrayed by unseen, unknowable forces.
And, most important for shortened attention spans, it promises to be
over quickly compared to the first trial.