- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A bumbling attempt to scare a newspaper reporter off a story last year has mushroomed into a federal investigation that has left some of Hollywood’s elite wondering if their phones were tapped illegally.

The affair began June 20, 2002, with a scene befitting a B-movie: Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch, who was looking into reports of actor Steven Seagal’s mob connections, found a dead fish and a rose on the hood of her car, along with a cardboard sign with the word “Stop” taped to her windshield.

Seventeen months later, an ex-convict, Alexander Proctor, is awaiting trial on charges he made the threats, while the man he says hired him to do it, celebrity private eye Anthony Pellicano, is set to begin serving time for possessing military-style explosives and hand grenades.

Pellicano and Mr. Seagal have denied any involvement in the threats against the reporter.

But what has Hollywood talking is the fact that the FBI, which in the course of the investigation searched Pellicano’s office, apparently turned up transcripts of phone conversations and began investigating whether Pellicano tapped the phones of some celebrities, their attorneys and their agents.

One of Hollywood’s most prominent celebrity lawyers, Bert Fields, said the FBI has questioned him about wiretapping involving Pellicano. Mr. Fields, whose clients over the years have included Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson and Kevin Costner, issued a statement Tuesday saying that, like many Hollywood lawyers, he often hired Pellicano as an investigator.

“I have absolutely no information involving Mr. Pellicano and illegal wiretapping, and any suggestion that I do is complete baloney,” Mr. Fields said.

One of Mr. Fields’ partners, lawyer Norman Levine, added that federal investigators “apparently have spoken to a number of prominent people in the entertainment community.”

He declined to elaborate. FBI officials did not immediately return a call for comment. U.S. attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek declined to comment.

At the center of the intrigue is Pellicano, 59, who has provided detective work and security and sometimes acted as spokesman for such stars as Elizabeth Taylor, Mr. Jackson and Sylvester Stallone.

The private eye, who is to begin serving a 27-month prison sentence Monday because of the explosives found in his office, declined to discuss the investigation.

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