"Private Eye To The Stars" Trial On Tap

Private investigator Anthony Pellicano has boasted he could get Hollywood information that others couldn't. He must now prove to a jury he didn't break the law in the process.

Opening statements in the wiretapping trial of the tough-talking Pellicano and four co-defendants were expected to begin Thursday, a day after a jury was impaneled.

Pellicano, 63, is representing himself, and could provide fireworks when he cross-examines some of his former clients and employees expected to testify.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors released a list of 127 potential witnesses that included Sylvester Stallone, Chris Rock and Garry Shandling.

Pellicano is accused of running a criminal enterprise that wiretapped phones and bribed police and telephone workers. Prosecutors said he obtained confidential information that could be used to gain an advantage in divorce, business and other cases.

The trial is "going to show a level of corruption and dishonesty at the highest levels (of Hollywood) for such a long time," asserted Vanity Fair magazine investigative reporter John Connolly on The Early Show Thursday.

Connolly, who's writing a book about Pellicano that he plans to call "The Sin Eater," told co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez some of the household names and others called to testify, "don't know what they're gonna be asked. So, do you lie to a federal jury, or do you tell the truth and gamble that it's not gonna destroy your career?"

Prosecutors estimate Pellicano and two co-defendants - retired Los Angeles police Sgt. Mark Arneson and former telephone company employee Rayford Earl Turner - collected nearly $2 million from what they say was a racketeering scheme.

Pellicano and his co-defendants, including Kevin Kachikian and Abner Nicherie, have pleaded not guilty.

"At the end of the day I hope the jurors understand one thing - that I'm not a criminal enterprise," Pellicano told The Associated Press in an interview last month from federal prison. "If they understand that, I'm ecstatic."

Fourteen people have been charged, and seven already pleaded guilty to a variety of charges including perjury and conspiracy. Six of those seven, including film director John McTiernan and former Hollywood Records president Robert Pfeifer, are expected to be called by prosecutors.

Other prominent Hollywood players on the potential witness list include one-time Walt Disney Co. president and agent Michael Ovitz; Brad Grey, chairman and chief executive officer of Paramount Pictures; and Ron Meyer, president and chief executive officer of Universal Studios.

Stallone and Shandling were alleged victims in the case. Stallone told the AP last month that he wouldn't mind testifying.

One of the first prosecution witnesses was expected to be retired baseball player Matt Williams, who had a bitter divorce with his second wife, actress Michelle Johnson, in 2002. Prosecutors said in a court filing they have an audio recording of Williams and Pellicano, but didn't elaborate.

The trial is expected to last up to 10 weeks.
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