Pellicano Briefs: The Snitch Wore Black

Anthony Pellicano discovers Tarita Virtue is her own reward

For four days ex-Pellicano employee Tarita Virtue wore black to court as she testified under an immunity grant. And why not? It wasn’t her funeral, but that of her ex-boss, “P.I. to the Stars” Anthony Pellicano, who, with four others stands accused of Federal wiretapping and racketeering charges. Day after day Virtue described in damning detail the eavesdropping shenanigans of the Pellicano Investigative Agency, Ltd., while shedding light on the pressure-cooker work environment at 9200 Sunset Boulevard.

“Everyone working for Anthony is a personal assistant,” she said.

Women employees, Virtue recalled, were required at the end of each work day to stop by Pellicano’s office to give him a kiss and good-bye hug, and all assumed their private calls at work were tapped. Needless to say, none of the 14 rooms that have been diagramed at trial of Pellicano’s Suite 322 contained an HR office. One particularly revealing incident involved Pellicano’s response, in 2000, to Virtue’s speaking aloud while he was trying to concentrate on a matter.

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“All right – you’re fucking fired!” she says Pellicano shouted. “Get your shit and leave!” Yet after sacking Virtue, Pellicano ordered her not to leave the building, but to remain at her desk to reflect on what she had done wrong. Hours passed before she was allowed to leave for home – and later to grovel and beg Pellicano to give her another chance.

All this took place at Christmas time. Perhaps Pellicano’s agency wasn’t Santa’s Village to work at -- but, defense lawyers seemed to suggest on cross-examination, neither did Virtue live up to her name. Except, perhaps, when it came to her Myspace page handle, “Boobs and Brains.” Again and again the lawyers showed screen shots of her Web site (www.taritavirtue.com) and its photos displaying her dressed in nothing more than white panties and long hair. Defense lawyers repeatedly tried to grill her on her use of ecstasy and marijuana before being overruled by Judge Dale Fischer.

Still, on Wednesday the judge allowed defense attorney Mona Soo Hoo to query Virtue about what was legally taking up space in her medicine cabinet. The short list was Ritalin, birth control pills and an unidentified psychotropic drug that Virtue takes for depression. She was going to need plenty of that soon enough, when Pellicano stepped forward as his own counsel to begin cross examining Virtue later that day. Finally the canary was meeting the pelican.

It had been clear up to this point that Pellicano had been some sort of surrogate father to Virtue, but now the court was about to see how deep the star government witness’s Electra complex ran. The confrontation was astonishing as Virtue tearfully accused Pellicano of threatening her life, while the old P.I. claimed she was feeling guilt and remorse for betraying him by cooperating with the government.

“Aren’t these conversations you’re having about Mr. Pellicano,” he said in a lifeless voice, referring to himself in the third person, “really about your own father? Doesn’t he have a bad temper?”

“Yes, but your temper far surpasses his.”

“Perhaps,” Pellicano reflected. “We had this father-daughter relationship.”

Forget Electra – Wednesday afternoon sounded more like the psychodrama of an incest-survivors meeting than anything out of Greek tragedy. For what seemed like eternity the court melted away to reveal a passionate, accusatory dialogue between prodigal daughter and indicted father figure. Spectators and lawyers alike sat transfixed, mouths agape -- even the Federal prosecutor, Daniel Saunders, seemed paralyzed by the verbal duel, unable to raise his voice in objection.

Also read Anthony Pellicano's Gang of Five Stand Trial.


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