Pellicano Trial’s Restless Defense
Today defense attorneys in the racketeering trial of Anthony Pellicano and four co-defendants began their closing arguments, with lead-off hitter Chad Hummel attacking prosecutor Daniel Saunders’ Tuesday closer on two fronts. Hummel reliably tried to exploit the government’s court pratfall of last week, when Hummel impeached a defense witness called to impeach his own client, former LAPD sergeant Mark Arneson. Hummel, employing a classic quote-the-enemy strategy, also used former FBI agent Stanley Ornellas’ testimony to suggest that the Feds didn’t connect Arneson to Pellicano’s alleged wiretapping operation, nor that they considered Arneson’s handing of confidential crime and DMV data to Pellicano an activity that imperiled the safety of Arneson’s fellow officers involved in undercover work.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Saunders listened intently as Hummel spent 65 minutes trying to undo Saunders’ handiwork of the previous day. Making only slightly better use of a PowerPoint display than the government, Hummel eventually moved to an old-fashioned easel and sketch pad, on which appeared a kind of Venn diagram consisting of two circles – one with Arneson’s name inside it, the other encompassing Pellicano’s and the other three defendants’ names. Not surprisingly, the two circles did not overlap. He also cited Arthur Miller’s Red Scare fable, The Crucible, to show how, like the play’s hero, Arneson was the victim of a Salem-like witch hunt – as well as being a man who had committed no heresies to recant.
Although it lacked a certain sound and fury that some in court may have been expecting, Hummel’s performance was both self-assured and convincing. Anthony Pellicano, who presented the next closing argument, certainly could have learned something from it. Pellicano had told Judge Dale Fischer that he needed somewhere between an hour to an hour and a half to complete his speech to the jury, but he gave himself the hook after only 16 minutes. Appearing relaxed, affable and confident, Pellicano nevertheless gave a rambling dissertation on the roles of the jury and prosecutor. Jurors stared at him alertly but with opaque expressions.
If Hummel had alluded to The Crucible, Pellicano would have done well to quote from Miller’s A View from the Bridge, in which a confused figure pays the ultimate price for being a government informant. Pellicano has made much of how he detests snitches and “rats,” and certainly the government’s dance card was packed with witnesses who were either cooperating with prosecutors for lesser sentences in cases related to Pellicano’s, or who had completely dodged indictments in exchange for their testimony about Pellicano’s alleged wiretapping activities.
"I could stand up here and take up more of your time and try to sway you," Pellicano instead told jurors. "But Mr. Pellicano has instructed me not to do so."
Wednesday’s final presentation, however, was in some ways more baffling than Pellicano’s brief strut across the stage. Adam Braun, who’d previously put on a shrewd and capable defense of his computer-programmer client, Kevin Kachikian, spent 77 excruciating minutes flipping pages of testimony and jury instructions on and off an overhead projector as he meandered from one seemingly unconnected topic to another. His argument seemed a willful act of anti-drama in which he showed an almost avant-garde scorn for theatrics and narrative build-up. Braun’s postmodern contempt for text was clear from the way he sometimes flipped those pages too quickly for jurors to read them -- a deliberate reference, no doubt, to Jacques Derrida’s dismissal of archiving as a reliable tool of human memory.
Braun did, however, draw a clear line between Kachikian and Pellicano, for whom Kachikian designed the Telesleuth software that enabled the private eye to wiretap subjects’ phones from his Sunset Boulevard office.
“Mr. Pellicano duped Mr. Kachikian,” Braun said of his shaved-headed client. “Mr. Pellicano swam in a sophisticated world with the sharks – with talent agents, businessmen and billionaires. If [Kachikian] had been an agent from CAA he would have picked up on this and left.”
Yes, either that or have gotten Vin Diesel to play Kachikian in a movie version of this case.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss LA Weekly's biggest stories.