Private investigator Anthony Pellicano was the architect of a criminal enterprise that spied on Hollywood’s rich and famous, a federal prosecutor said Thursday.
Clients “would pay a premium fee to discredit, and in some cases destroy, their adversaries,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Lally during opening statements. “This is a case about corruption.”
Pellicano, 63, is representing himself at trial and could provide fireworks when he cross-examines some of his former clients and employees expected to testify. He indicated he would give an opening statement.
Pellicano wore a prison-issued green jacket, gray shirt and green pants. As Lally presented the government’s case against the private eye and four co-defendants, Pellicano watched with his head rested on his hand.
On Wednesday, federal prosecutors released a list of 127 potential witnesses that included Sylvester Stallone, Chris Rock and Garry Shandling.
Pellicano is accused of running a criminal enterprise that wiretapped phones and bribed police and telephone workers. Prosecutors said he obtained confidential information that could be used to gain an advantage in divorce, business and other cases.
Pellicano and his co-defendants, including Kevin Kachikian and Abner Nicherie, have pleaded not guilty.
“At the end of the day I hope the jurors understand one thing — that I’m not a criminal enterprise,” Pellicano told The Associated Press in an interview last month from federal prison. “If they understand that I’m ecstatic.”
Fourteen people have been charged, and seven already pleaded guilty to a variety of charges including perjury and conspiracy. Six of those seven, including film director John McTiernan and former Hollywood Records president Robert Pfeifer, are expected to be called by prosecutors.
Other prominent Hollywood players on the potential witness list include one-time Walt Disney Co. president and agent Michael Ovitz; Brad Grey, chairman and chief executive officer of Paramount Pictures; and Ron Meyer, president and chief executive officer of Universal Studios.
Stallone and Shandling were alleged victims in the case. Stallone told the AP last month that he wouldn’t mind testifying.
One of the first prosecution witnesses was expected to be retired baseball player Matt Williams, who had a bitter divorce with his second wife, actress Michelle Johnson, in 2002. Prosecutors said in a court filing they have an audio recording of Williams and Pellicano, but didn’t elaborate.
The trial is expected to last up to 10 weeks.