Wiretapping Case Has Hollywood Celebs on Edge

Private detective Anthony Pellicano has been charged with wiretapping the phones for what seems like half of Hollywood. Madeleine Brand talks to Los Angeles Times reporter Greg Kerkorian about Pellicano and why many of the city's celebrities and other Hollywood players are nervous about what the investigation might reveal.

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MADELINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News this is DAY TO DAY. Los Angeles is embroiled in its own wiretapping scandal and it has all the makings of a film noir. Indictments are flying in a case involving private eye Anthony Pellicano. He was allegedly paid to spy on scores of Hollywood celebrities, including Keith Carradine, Sylvester Stallone and Gary Shandling.

This week the lawyer for billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian was indicted for allegedly paying Pellicano to wiretap Kerkorian's ex-wife during their child support battle. Joining me now is Los Angeles Times reporter Greg Kerkorian, who is covering this story. And welcome to the program.

Mr. GREG KERKORIAN (Reporter, Los Angeles Times): Thank you very much.

BRAND: And let's just note first off that you're not related to Kirk Kerkorian in any way.

Mr. KERKORIAN: Not so far as I know.

BRAND: Okay. So apparently the feds say that they have taped conversations between Pellicano and his clients. And this must be making Hollywood very nervous.

Mr. KERKORIAN: It has. It's made the legal community in Los Angeles, I think, also very nervous. The case began about three and a half years ago, actually, and it really began with a look into a threat against a former Los Angeles Times reporter who was working on a story about someone in Hollywood, Steven Seagal.

BRAND: Steven Seagal, was he an alleged victim of the wiretap or was he one of the clients of Pellicano?

Mr. KERKORIAN: No, he was, when the threat occurred with Anita Busch, she and another reporter at the L.A. Times were working at that point on a story that involved Steven Seagal. The implication was, at the time, that he must have had something to do with the threat, because he was not excited about the story that they were working on. So he would not have been, I don't know if you could classify him as a victim or a suspect, because he was really neither. He was just somebody that was caught up in this thing. The FBI got involved in this investigation.

They raided Pellicano's offices and that's where they first came up with these tapes and this other evidence that they claim, we've never seen it or heard it, but that's where they hauled away a lot of documents and that's where this investigation began.

BRAND: And the latest twist in this investigation was this week with the indictment of Kerkorian's lawyer. Tell us about that.

Mr. KERKORIAN: Well, it was a surprise to a lot of people, I think, because his was not a name that was commonly associated with Pellicano. Terry Christensen is well known, but not too many people knew that he had worked with Pellicano. So when his name surfaced in the indictment this week it really, I think, stunned a lot of people.

BRAND: Now, did the Feds themselves wiretap Pellicano to get this information or are they using the wiretaps that Pellicano allegedly made?

Mr. KERKORIAN: To the best of our knowledge the evidence that they have compiled so far really comes from Pellicano's office for the most part. No evidence whatsoever that they have used anybody or put anybody on a wiretap themselves to gain information about Pellicano, but that remains to be seen. This has been a very closely held investigation. We really have only gotten bits and pieces of it. Don't forget it's been underway for more than three and a half years and there have been periodic rumors that indictments would happen, but they've only surfaced this past six weeks.

BRAND: Well, who else may be at the top of the feds list in terms of who they might be interested in?

Mr. KERKORIAN: That's a good question. You know, they've already charged twelve people in this case, although most of these people seem to be sort of secondary players. They allegedly helped Pellicano in his alleged enterprise. And you know, we could have some arrests within the next few weeks.

BRAND: Greg Kerkorian is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times covering the Anthony Pellicano story in all its crazy twists and turns. Thank you for joining us.

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