A Los Angeles judge agreed with a prosecutor’s request to toss out 28 charges against Anthony Pellicano and a co-defendant a day after CAA co-founder Michael Ovitz was put on the stand in the Hollywood gumshoe’s wiretapping trial.
Prosecutors moved to dismiss the charges April 10th, and U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer agreed, because witnesses were unavailable and some of the counts were redundant.
The dismissals come on the heels of explosive testimony from reporter Anita Busch, who has a civil suit of her own against Pellicano and Ovitz, the onetime "most powerful man in Hollywood." At one point, the two nearly crossed paths in the courtroom hallway, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Busch alleges she was threatened by Pellicano at what she believes was Ovitz’s request, even though she was working on a story about Steven Seagal’s alleged ties to organized crime at the time. The alleged threat led to the FBI’s investigation of Pellicano and the current trial.
At about the same time, Ovitz was trying to connect former CAA partner Ron Meyer and DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen to a series of unflattering articles appearing in the New York Times that were co-bylined by Busch and reporter Bernard Weinraub.
Ovitz admitted paying Pellicano $75,000 in cash to investigate who was supplying information about financial troubles with his then-venture, Artists Management Group, which he was attempting to sell.
Ovitz suggested Pellicano might know if the sources were Meyer, the current head of Universal Studios and also a co-founder of CAA, and Geffen, adding that he was having unspecified problems with both.
"I assumed [Pellicano] had information from people he was involved in representing," Ovitz testified. "He was someone who moved around in the highest levels of the community and talked to the people who were sourcing the press."
Ovitz, who has not been charged in the wiretapping case, testified Pellicano gave him the code name "Gaspar" to identify himself when he called the private investigator. He also said he had no knowledge of any illegal activity Pellicano may have done on his behalf.
"I assume whatever he did, he did legally. I would never instruct him to do anything illegal," Ovitz said.
During cross-examination, Ovitz was asked what information he was hoping to obtain from Pellicano about the leaks to the press.
"Whatever I could get from him," Ovitz said. "I wanted to know when I was going to be ambushed, and when the next shoe would drop."
In the meantime, Busch believed Ovitz was behind at least one threat on her life.
She found a dead fish with a rose in its mouth, along with a note that said "stop," on a broken windshield when she went to her car one morning in April 2002. A few months later, a car with no license plates attempted to run her down in the street, she testified.
She testified that she believes Ovitz and Pellicano orchestrated at least one of the threats because she and Weinraub had reported on AMG’s difficulties some months earlier.
"You believe [Ovitz] was the client who hired Mr. Pellicano to put the fish on your car?" asked attorney Chad Hummel. "Yes," Busch said.
A tearful Busch recounted how she was terrorized during several months that summer, while working under contract for the Los Angeles Times.
"I was thinking I was going to die," she testified. "I thought this is how it ends, in front of this stupid apartment building."
Busch was also asked why she thought Ovitz was responsible for the first threat and not someone associated with the Seagal story.
"Because the evidence points to Michael Ovitz," she said, without elaborating.
Busch’s testimony was so inflammatory that defense attorneys for Pellicano’s co-defendants asked Fischer for a mistrial, which the judge denied.