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Pellicano Pile Up Expected in the Courts

Los Angeles- As federal authorities move closer to issuing new charges in the Anthony Pellicano investigation, a dozen people – including the ex-wife of billionaire Kirk Kerkorian – are weighing civil lawsuits against the indicted private eye, his alleged accomplices and their former employers.

In recent interviews, attorneys representing potential plaintiffs also said they may target law firms and celebrities who hired Pellicano. The private investigator is charged with using various tactics, including illegal wiretaps, to head off lawsuits or give his clients unfair advantage in the courtroom.

To date, 13 people have been charged or pleaded guilty in the wide-ranging Pellicano investigation. Former Beverly Hills Police Officer Craig Stevens has pleaded guilty to illegally accessing law enforcement databases, and former Los Angeles Police Department Officer Mark Arneson has been charged with using confidential databases to collect information on dozens of people and conspiring with Pellicano to wiretap people. Arneson and Ray Turner, a former employee of Pacific Bell, now AT&T, have pleaded not guilty.

Well-known entertainment attorney Terry Christensen also has been charged with conspiring with Pellicano to wiretap Kerkorian’s ex-wife, Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, during a bitter child support dispute. Christensen, who was representing Kirk Kerkorian, has denied the charge. His attorneys say the lawyer turned to Pellicano to investigate threats against Kerkorian and the couple’s daughter, Kira.

In recent interviews, lawyers Neville Johnson, Brian Panish and Lawrence Ecoff said their firms were jointly representing Lisa Kerkorian and that they had been contacted by half a dozen potential clients about filing invasion of privacy lawsuits naming Pellicano and others.

Panish and Johnson said they would probably pursue individual lawsuits but have not foreclosed the possibility of class-action litigation.

One potential class-action lawsuit already has been filed against AT&T’s predecessor company, SBC, by attorneys representing Erin Finn, the ex-girlfriend of a Pellicano client. Finn’s lawsuit alleges the phone company is responsible for the actions of employees who have been charged with helping Pellicano wiretap phones.

SBC has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation, spokesman Fletcher Cook said Monday. But the company has denied all of Finn’s allegations in court papers. Among its defenses: that the alleged misconduct was committed by workers “acting outside the course and scope of their employment.”

A spokesman for Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo also has declined to comment on the city’s potential financial liability in civil claims. The Beverly Hills Police Department does not believe the city will have any liability because Stevens allegedly played a small role in the case, a spokesman has said.

Finn’s attorneys, Brian Kabateck and Matthew Geragos, have said in recent days that they have signed up five other clients who were named as victims of Pellicano’s alleged wiretapping or other crimes. The attorneys also are in talks with three other people who were listed as victims in the grand jury indictment.

“People are now starting to put the pieces together,” said Kabateck, who with Geragos declined to identify their clients or potential clients.

“Now people are saying to themselves, ‘It makes sense how my adversary knew so much about me and my case and what I was going to do.’ ” Kabateck said.

Pellicano and others already have been sued by individuals who believe they were hurt financially by the private eye’s alleged crimes. Two of them – producer Bo Zenga and attorney Kissandra Cohen – lost lawsuits in which they later learned that Pellicano had been working for the other side.

Another alleged Pellicano target, former Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch, sued Pellicano and others in June for harassment, invasion of privacy and ruining her journalism career.

The Pellicano investigation is ongoing, and Assistant U.S. Atty. Daniel Saunders said in open court that another indictment was expected by mid-April.

Until more details of the federal investigation become public, Panish said, it was too early to know how extensive the civil litigation could become. “A lot of the story hasn’t come out yet,” he said.

“This unfolds more and more each day,” added lawyer Johnson. “Its tentacles reach out across this community, and even internationally. And at the center of it all is Mr. Pellicano.”

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