Anthony Pellicano Talks Murdoch, Michael Jackson, and Mafia

The old Hollywood scandal gets new legs with a Newsweek interview

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It's been five years since Ken Auletta, writing in The New Yorker, predicted that the then-ongoing federal investigation into illegal wiretaps carried out by "private eye to the stars" Anthony Pellicano would end up being "the biggest, and dirtiest, scandal in Hollywood's history."

It hasn't been, though not for a lack of trying on Pellicano's part, or on the part of the reporters who tried to make the case Watergate West almost as soon as FBI agents raided Pellicano's Sunset Strip offices back in 2002, where they found explosives encrypted, illegally recorded conversations, "the equivalent of nearly 2 billion double-spaced pages of text, enough to fill 245 rooms measuring 10-by-12-by-10 feet," according to the Los Angeles Times,

The idea that power brokers like Brad Grey, Michael Ovitz, Ron Meyer, and entertainment law pitbull Bert Fields knew of and approved Pellicano's less-than-legal tactics gave the story legs, but the closest the inquiry came to fireworks was an embarrassing conversation where Chris Rock and Pellicano discuss how to push back against a phony rape charge. The only bold-faced Hollywood name to draw prison time from his dealings with Pellicano has been Die Hard director John McTiernan, who was sentenced to a year in jail last October after pleading guilty to "two counts of making false statements to the FBI" after Pellicano wiretapped McTiernan's Rollerball producer, Charles Roven. In a new jailhouse interview with Newsweek, Pellicano's first since 2008, when he was found guilty on 78 counts of racketeering, wiretapping, and wire fraud, and sentenced to 15 years in prison, Pellicano does his best to add some intrigue to a five-year-old scandal that most gossip-watchers would deem underwhelming.

As he did during his trial, Pellicano takes pains in the interview to note his adherence to "omerta, the Mafia code of silence," despite the fact he's not in the mafia and had no qualms about playing clients against each other when he was still in business. Despite the vow of silence, he has a habit of letting details slip about how much bigger the scandal would have been if he wasn't a man who kept secrets. Yes, he's met Rupert Murdoch, and no, they did not discuss phone-hacking. "[B]ut it had to do with Judith Regan,” he adds, somewhat mysteriously, considering the sheer volume of flare-ups the former HarperCollins publisherr had during her time at News Corp. Then there's Arnold Schwarzenegger. "I have personal stuff on Arnold…If they found that stuff, he never would have been governor." Something about his love child, maybe? Nope, sorry. "I can’t say one way or another if I knew it."

He's also proud that he "quashed a story headed for The National Enquirer about a male superstar who liked to play with a female sex toy" (no names!) and "boasts about how he discredited an erotic wrestler who claimed he’d had an affair with Tom Cruise." But the strangest interlude comes when he dances around his work on Michael Jackson's child-molestation case from 1993. It's an anecdote cultivated to make Pellicano look tough and principled, but it comes across as deliberately vague. Writes Christine Pelisek:

"Later in the interview, Pellicano reveals that when he agreed to work for Jackson during the star’s 1993 child-molestation case, he warned Jackson that he’d better not be guilty. 'I said, ‘You don’t have to worry about cops or lawyers. If I find out anything, I will f--k you over.’' The detective took the assignment, but says, 'I quit because I found out some truths…He did something far worse to young boys than molest them.' But he refuses to say anything more about it."

If you want the full story, you'll probably have to wait for "the autobiography [Pellicano] claims he’s received numerous offers to pen."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.