- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anthony Pellicano handled some sticky situations during his days as a private investigator for some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

He helped Michael Jackson fend off child molestation allegations and found the remains of Elizabeth Taylor’s third husband after they were stolen from a cemetery.

One of his toughest challenges, however, has been acting as his own attorney in his federal wiretapping trial that could go to the jury in the next few days.

Though he built his reputation as a tough-talking, bare-knuckled gumshoe, Mr. Pellicano mostly left his aggressive demeanor outside the courtroom and chose to preserve his loyalty to his famous clients rather than reveal their secrets as part of his defense.

He called only one witness during the two-month trial and rarely raised objections. He also decided against taking the witness stand to defend himself, even though prosecutors played several profanity-laced audiotapes in which he reassured clients that he would make their problems disappear.

His “presumption was that those conversations would never be made available to anybody,” Mr. Pellicano told jurors with little emotion during a 10-minute opening statement in which he failed to declare his innocence.

“I don’t think he’s been very effective in court,” said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor and former federal prosecutor. “He looks like a defendant who doesn’t have much to work with.”

Mr. Pellicano, 64, is accused of running a criminal enterprise that wiretapped the phones of stars such as Sylvester Stallone and bribed police officers and telephone workers to run the names of celebrities such as Garry Shandling and Kevin Nealon through protected government databases.

He and four co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to a variety of charges.

Mr. Pellicano charged clients a minimum of $25,000 and once boasted in a GQ magazine article, “I can shred your face with a knife.”

U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer called it a “bad idea” when Mr. Pellicano said before trial that he was broke and wanted to represent himself to prevent his attorneys from having to work free of charge.

He stumbled at the start, finding it difficult to correctly phrase questions and refer to himself as “Mr. Pellicano,” as court procedure requires for someone acting as their own attorney.

He was unable to counter much of the prosecution’s case.

“The skills and techniques that accompany a successful private investigator unfortunately are not the same skills that make you a good trial lawyer,” said lawyer Steve Gruel, who previously represented Mr. Pellicano.

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