The government’s case against former private eye Anthony Pellicano and high-powered attorney Terry Christensen finally landed in the jury’s lap this morning. For a while it seemed doubtful the trial would ever get beyond closing arguments, which dragged on long enough to draw uncomfortable resemblances to Sartre’s claustrophobic play, No Exit.
Tuesday’s courtroom had been packed with visitors who included former L.A. District Attorney Ira Reiner and Manatt, Phelps and Phillips partner Chad Hummel, whose forceful defense of a Pellicano co-defendant in the latter’s first trial gave those proceedings their legal pyrotechnics. In that first trial all five co-defendants were found guilty of most of their charges, with Pellicano leading the pack with 76 counts of racketeering and wiretapping.
Christensen had wisely and successfully petitioned to get himself severed from that shipwreck, and for the past five weeks ran a kind of sack race with Pellicano to beat charges that the two had carried out wiretaps on behalf of Christensen’s client, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, during Kerkorian’s toxic child-support battle with ex-wife Lisa Bonder. What’s made this particular sack race so problematic is that Christensen’s defense team has continually clubbed co-defendant Pellicano on the head by accusing him of setting up Christensen – who, they claim, was ignorant of Pellicano’s illegal eavesdropping tactics.
Tuesday morning had begun with Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders delivering a muscular, 90-minute summary of the case from the government's point of view. (Either Pellicano or Christensen, or both, may be found guilty of either or both of the charges of conspiracy and wiretapping.) Saunders’ presentation was a by-the-book use of affirmative points and minimal graphics — and one in which he kept his sarcasm to a minimum.
Christensen defense counsel Patty Glaser, a partner in Christensen’s own law firm, quickly recovered much of the ground taken by Saunders during her first hour. But then, soon after, her argument devolved into a jerky, meandering tour of the case. Glaser never seemed to tie her conclusions together and, to Saunders’ swift objections, often referred to alleged facts that were never established during the trial’s testimony. Worse, though, was the sheer length of Glaser’s three-hour peroration, during which she frequently had to correct herself when naming the people she quoted.
Today, Messrs. Reiner and Hummel, and half of yesterday’s visitors, were nowhere to be found, perhaps not eager to sit through what seemed to be never-ending closing arguments. Saunders began his nearly two-hour rebuttal by dismissing Glaser’s previous day’s performance.
“That’s not a defense,” Saunders said, “that’s a smorgasbord.” Saunders appeared, Wednesday, to refocus the jury’s attention back to the prosecution’s viewpoint. Still, it’s anyone’s guess what the panel’s members are thinking. The government’s chief evidence has been a startling library of 34 phone conversations between Pellicano and Christensen that the former had secretly recorded. Yet neither man is on trial for the recording of these talks and nowhere on them do either openly say the information they are receiving on Lisa Bonder is through wiretaps. Nor is there any direct physical evidence of the alleged wiretaps. And so now the fun begins, as the jury begins to make sense of it all.