Cheetahs never prosper

In a Dickensian twist, Anthony Pellicano was confronted this past week by women whose lives he had touched over the years – although the ladies in question might claim “blighted” is a more appropriate word. Tuesday saw L.A. assistant district attorney Karla Kerlin take the stand. Kerlin, who had worked as a Las Vegas showgirl before trying criminals in Los Angeles, sensed her phone was being tapped in 1999 when she was prosecuting John Gordon Jones, the so-called Limousine Rapist.

“You always seemed to know what I was doing,” she told Pellicano when the alleged racketeer, acting as his own attorney, cross-examined her. Even years after her brief dancing career, Kerlin presented a striking figure in a dark outfit with a bright smear of tulip-red lipstick on her mouth. She good-naturedly deflected Pellicano’s ineffectual attempts to portray himself as being on her side during the Jones trial, like a mother denying a naughty kid his allowance.

“Yes,” she said smiling, “I believe you were investigating me . . . [a] detective and I believed you were going to blackmail us.”

Later that morning came Lily LeMasters, Pellicano’s former executive personal assistant/girlfriend, who arrived in court wearing a cheetah-print jacket bearing a picture of the spotted jungle beast on its back. But cheetahs never prosper, and LeMasters looked more like a tired tabby than the top cat she was in Pellicano’s office during the private investigator’s heyday. With her shiny frond of blond hair and beaten-down expression, LeMasters resembled one of the more forlorn-looking creatures from a Dr. Seuss book. As with the appearance of her former office colleague, Tarita Virtue, LeMasters was ritualistically asked by defense attorney Mona Soo Hoo if she was, at that moment, under the influence of alcohol or medication.

For the next day and a half LeMasters seemed ready to pitch forward from her chair whenever prosecutors or defense counsels examined her. She spent long moments considering even the simplest questions; then the cheetah jacket leaned forward to the microphone and LeMasters’ teeny, tiny voice asked, “Could you repeat that?” When queried by prosecutor Kevin Lally about John Gordon Jones’ notorious, multiple-count sexual assault case, all she could remember was that “he had some rape problem.” Although she had once been Pellicano’s lover, she told Lally that the bullying Pellicano had once yelled at her so loudly that she had passed out in the office. By the time the P.I. cross-examined LeMasters, the only three little words she had for him were, “I can’t remember.”

LeMasters was followed by the human collateral damage of the Jones case, whose trial ended in Jones’ acquittal. This included alleged rape victim Jane Doe #8, who verified that a computerized rap sheet, generated by the LAPD for the benefit of Pellicano contractor Sgt. Mark Arneson, contained her date of birth, Social Security Number and other private data, including her employment information when she was 13 and 14 years old. None of the chivalrous male attorneys dared cross-exam her – or her friend, witness Julie Westby. That dirty work was left to Diana Kwok, a subordinate to Arneson’s lead lawyer, Chad Hummel.

The next woman up was Jude (pronounced “Judy”) Green, whose husband’s civil attorney, Bert Fields, had hired Pellicano to literally dig through Jude’s trash. She testified that she filed for divorce in 2000 from her husband, leverage-buyout king Leonard I. Green, who then got Fields to counter-sue in civil court for $25 million. The toxicity of that marriage was glimpsed when Jude claimed wasn’t sure if Leonard was now dead, merely allowing that she thought this might be the case. The court gasped when she spoke about her home, “a pretty big house” – having 48 phone lines. I couldn’t help imagining what the last years of that marriage were like, and thought of comedian Selma Diamond’s routine about a wife whose huge wedding ring draws an admiring comment from another woman:

“I told her the ring came with the Plotkin Curse. She asked, ‘What’s the Plotkin Curse?’ I said, ‘Mr. Plotkin.’”

Nevertheless, the comic antics of Pellicano around Jude were less Borscht Belt and more Curb Your Enthusiasm. One day in 2001, Jude Green said, she was taking her dog to the groomer when Pellicano parked his Mercedes Benz perpendicular to hers, wedging her in. He then stood staring at her with his arms folded. A little shaken, she proceeded to the groomer's shop, only to turn around to find Pellicano with his face pressed against the establishment’s window. Upon leaving, Jude told him she was backing her car up, whereupon he scrambled to drive his expensive ride out of harm’s way. She next parked in front of a Peet’s coffee shop and ran inside, “to be around people.” Tough guy Pellicano followed and shoved her in line before she turned around and pushed him, yelling, “Back off!” Of all the people in Peet’s that day, none could have been more startled than the P.I. to the Stars – here was a woman who shoved back.

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