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A-list lawyer entangled in Pellicano case

When A-list stars have legal troubles or need to negotiate seven-figure movie deals, they often turn to powerhouse attorney Bert Fields.The 77-year-old legal legend has built a reputation as one of the most feared litigators in Hollywood while working for Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg and other celebrities.Now, it’s Fields who may need help.In recent months, prosecutors have been
/ Source: The Associated Press

When A-list stars have legal troubles or need to negotiate seven-figure movie deals, they often turn to powerhouse attorney Bert Fields.

The 77-year-old legal legend has built a reputation as one of the most feared litigators in Hollywood while working for Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg and other celebrities.

Now, it’s Fields who may need help.

In recent months, prosecutors have been investigating his involvement with private investigator Anthony Pellicano, the suspected kingpin of a wiretapping ring accused in a federal indictment of threats and blackmail while digging up dirt to help clients in legal disputes.

Prosecutors believe actor Sylvester Stallone was among the celebrities wiretapped by Pellicano.

Fields began working with Pellicano in the early 1990s and has acknowledged being a subject of the ongoing investigation. He denies knowing about any questionable tactics by the private detective and is now waiting for prosecutors to decide whether to charge him.

Fields declined a request from The Associated Press for an interview.

“We have acknowledged in the past that Mr. Fields and the firm engaged Mr. Pellicano on a number of matters,” said attorney Brian Sun, who represents the law firm where Fields works.

“We maintain that neither the firm nor any of its attorneys were involved in any illegal activity,” he said.

A long road to proof

To charge Fields, prosecutors would likely need taped conversations between the two men or testimony by Pellicano against Fields.

Pellicano, 62, has insisted he will not cooperate with authorities. Prosecutors have said they seized recordings of conversations between Pellicano and clients but have not named them or revealed the content.

“The government has a couple of hoops to jump through to prove wrongdoing,” said Heidi Rummel, a former federal prosecutor and professor at the University of Southern California.

“They have to show that Pellicano got his information illegally and that Fields knew he got it illegally,” she said.

Fourteen people have been charged so far in the case.

Among the most notable, “Die Hard” director John McTiernan pleaded guilty in April to making false statements to an FBI agent, and former Hollywood Records president Robert Pfeifer admitted hiring Pellicano to wiretap the phone of his former girlfriend as part of a legal dispute.

Pellicano and Fields have worked together for a number of celebrities.

In 1993, they helped defend singer Michael Jackson against molestation allegations involving a 13-year-old boy. Pellicano tried to discredit the boy’s father by claiming he was trying to extort money from the pop star.

Both parted ways with Jackson before the entertainer reached a reported $25 million settlement with the boy’s family.

Fields also hired Pellicano to investigate a lawsuit filed in 1999 against then-talent manager Brad Grey by comedian Garry Shandling, who accused Grey of taking excessive commissions from his HBO series, “The Larry Sanders Show.” Grey now heads Paramount Pictures.

The federal indictment accuses Pellicano of paying a Los Angeles police officer to run Shandling’s name through government databases.

Grey, who has been interviewed by FBI agents, has said he had no knowledge of any illegal activity by Pellicano. The legal dispute with Shandling was settled out of court.

Fields also represented talent manager Kenneth Starr in a lawsuit filed by Stallone in February 2002. The action star claimed he was advised by Starr to keep his investment in Planet Hollywood restaurants even though Starr told others the chain was headed for bankruptcy. The suit was eventually settled.

Fields built his reputation as a civil litigator and says he’s never lost a trial in which he was lead counsel.

‘Holy war’

Cruise recruited Fields to file a lawsuit against a publication that claimed to have a videotape showing the actor engaged in a homosexual act. The publication eventually printed a retraction. Fields also beat back a plagiarism claim against director Steven Spielberg involving his 1997 slave story “Amistad.”

In a 1989 interview with American Film magazine, Fields issued a warning to his legal opponents.

“When somebody does something to one of my clients, I tend to become very angry and turn it into what I call a ‘holy war,”’ Fields said.

His intensity doesn’t ease outside the courtroom. He has written a book questioning the identity of William Shakespeare and another about the life of Richard III.

His two novels, written under the pen name D. Kincaid, feature a high-profile Los Angeles lawyer named Harry Cain.

Fields created another character — private investigator Skip Corrigan — before meeting Pellicano.

In one passage of “The Lawyer’s Tale,” the private eye tells Cain that a man they’re investigating calls a suspected prostitute several times a day.

“Don’t ask me how I know,” Corrigan says. “You don’t wanna know.”