The nine-week trial of Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano often had seamy plot lines and suspense worthy of a movie: death threats, offers of murder and extramarital affairs.
But for those who believe they were targets of Pellicano’s ruthless tactics, reality could be terrifying. Their cars were vandalized, their homes broken into and, worst of all, they say, their private conversations were wiretapped.
On Thursday, they welcomed the 64-year-old private investigator’s conviction on racketeering and wiretapping charges.
"We are certainly relieved," said actor Keith Carradine, whose phones prosecutors say were wiretapped by Pellicano in May 2001. "We’re grateful the jury came to the right conclusion."
Carradine and others who spoke to The Associated Press recounted how they were harassed and intimidated by Pellicano and his cohorts to help his clients gain a tactical advantage in legal and other disputes.
Erin Finn said she was involved with a Pellicano client, former Hollywood Records president Robert Pfeifer, who testified that he paid the private eye $225,000 to eavesdrop on her. Finn had been deposed in a wrongful-termination lawsuit filed by Pfeifer in 2000 against a former employer, and her testimony threatened to undermine his chances of winning.
Finn said she was followed, her car was vandalized and she believed her phone was wiretapped. As a countermeasure, she played talk radio into her receiver and used pay phones instead.
"I think that scared them a little bit," said Finn, who has filed a lawsuit against Pellicano and others.
Carradine, who also has filed a civil suit, testified that his trailer was broken into and threats were made against family members of his then-girlfriend Hayley Dumond in 2001. Carradine was involved in a child custody dispute with his ex-wife, Sandra Will Carradine, who has pleaded guilty to two counts of perjury in the case.
Carradine said he has gone to great lengths since the Pellicano incident to make sure his family is secure, including installing security cameras. Dumond, now Carradine’s wife, said she still looks over her shoulder to see if she’s being followed.
"We had our lives broken into," Carradine said. "The feeling of violation is so profound it gives me shivers to think about it today. The depth of which they invaded our privacy is appalling."
Representatives for Sylvester Stallone and Garry Shandling, who prosecutors said also were Pellicano targets, declined to comment on the verdict.
A number of subplots played out during the trial.
Jurors watched as an uncomfortable Chris Rock testified about a model he believed was trying to shake him down. They saw a confounded Shandling study his name on a police records audit and a stoic, one-time superagent Michael Ovitz recount how he had hired Pellicano to find the source of negative news stories about a company he was selling.
But the biggest power brokers with links to Pellicano, such as famed entertainment attorney Bert Fields, Paramount studio head Brad Grey and Ovitz, insisted they didn’t know about his methods and weren’t charged.
The jury convicted Pellicano of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, along with wiretapping, wire fraud, identity theft and manufacture or possession of a wiretapping device. He was acquitted of a charge of unauthorized computer access.
The racketeering counts each carry a maximum of 20 years in prison, while most of the other counts have five-year maximum sentences. Sentencing was set for Sept. 24, and U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer ordered Pellicano to remain in custody.
The jury also found four co-defendants guilty of a variety of charges.
Mark Arneson, a former Los Angeles police sergeant, and former telephone company worker Rayford Earl Turner were convicted of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy. Abner Nicherie, a Pellicano client, was convicted of aiding and abetting a wiretap.
Kevin Kachikian, a software designer who created a wiretapping program, was convicted of conspiracy to wiretap and manufacturing or possession of a wiretap device. He was acquitted of nine wiretapping counts.
The indictment charging Pellicano and his supporting cast in February 2006 had Hollywood buzzing with speculation about who might be snared in the investigation and what secrets might be revealed.
Fourteen people were charged and seven, including film director John McTiernan and Pfeifer, have pleaded guilty to charges including perjury and conspiracy.
Former reporter Anita Busch was in court Thursday when the verdict was read, nodding her head as the judge ticked off the "guiltys" against the defendants. It was Busch who reported finding a dead fish with a rose in its mouth on her car in June 2002 that led to the federal investigation.
She testified during the trial that she was terrorized for months after co-writing a series of unflattering articles about alleged financial troubles at Ovitz’s Artists Management Group. Ovitz testified that he hired Pellicano to find out who was behind the stories.
Busch, who filed her own lawsuit, said she was grateful to the jury, judge and law enforcement officers who helped in the investigation but believes there’s more that might be revealed during a civil trial.
"The full story of Pellicano’s reach has yet to be told," she said in a statement. "To Pellicano and his wealthy clients ‘winning’ meant completely obliterating someone’s life and livelihood."