LOS ANGELES -- Former celebrity snoop Anthony Pellicano was sentenced Monday to 15 years in federal prison for his convictions in two trials of more than six dozen felony racketeering, conspiracy and wiretapping charges for bugging the telephones of celebrities, attorneys and executives.
Prosecutors had asked in court papers that Pellicano be jailed for almost 16 years on grounds that the 78 convictions returned against him reflect only a small portion of his long-running criminal enterprise.
U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, who was urged by defense attorneys to give Pellicano as little as 19 months, agreed with prosecutors and imposed the stiff 15-year term.
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Fischer said Pellicano, 64, engaged in "reprehensible conduct for many years -- eagerly, maliciously and with great pride." His wide range of criminality "caused loss of confidence in government agencies" and "physical, psychological and emotional distress to his victims."
Several of those victims spoke during the sentencing hearing, explaining to the judge that their lives had been shattered by Pellicano's campaign of intimidation against them.
"I was afraid to turn on the engine of my car for fear it would blow up," said Anita Busch, a former Hollywood Reporter editor who was targeted by Pellicano for articles she was writing for the Los Angeles Times. "It was death by a thousand cuts -- and they were deep and hard."
Pellicano, who operated out of an office on the Sunset Strip, was hired for decades by some of Hollywood's wealthiest dealmakers to dig up dirt on enemies or to simply frighten them into backing down in business or personal confrontations.
As detailed in Pellicano's 10-week first trial, clients included Hollywood power brokers such as entertainment lawyer Bert Fields, Paramount Pictures chief Brad Grey, producer-financier Steve Bing, entertainment czar Ron Meyer, former talent agent Michael Ovitz, Madonna manager Freddy DeMann and comedian Chris Rock.
The list of those targeted featured familiar names: Sylvester Stallone, Garry Shandling, Kevin Nealon, Keith Carradine and the late producer Aaron Russo.
A raft of civil lawsuits against Pellicano and the companies and agencies he corrupted are now expected to be filed in the case, attorneys said.
In two separate trials, Pellicano mostly acted as his own attorney and never took the stand. Today, he was represented by defense attorney Michael Artan, who promised to appeal Fischer's sentence, which he called "excessive."
"There's a cornucopia of issues," he said.
Along with Pellicano's 15-year prison sentence -- prosecutors said 13 years was the more likely amount of time he will serve considering certain federal reductions -- Fischer required that he shoulder a share of a $2 million forfeiture levied against him and two co-defendants.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel A. Saunders, who prosecuted Pellicano in both trials, said he was "very satisfied" with the sentence.
Pellicano said little in court except to tell the judge that he had "already taken full and complete responsibility for my actions."
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin M. Lally, who co-prosecuted Pellicano, said that, in fact, "he has never once accepted responsibility for any of his criminal conduct."
During the trials, witnesses testified that Pellicano utilized bribes of both law enforcement and telephone company employees, intimidation tactics and wiretaps of "investigative targets" that included actors, screenwriters, Hollywood agents and journalists.
"This is a man who spent an entire career and amassed a small fortune" subverting the legal system, Saunders said.
"When he targeted victims, he made it his mission to destroy them," the prosecutor told the judge.
Pellicano, a Chicago native, has been in custody for five years. After being arrested in 2002, he pleaded guilty the following year to illegal possession of explosives and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.
Just before his release in 2004, he was indicted on federal racketeering and wiretapping charges for illegally snooping on celebrity enemies of his high-powered clients, a service for which he charged hundreds of thousands of dollars, Saunders said.
In his first trial, Pellicano and four co-defendants were found guilty of 76 felonies in May. A second trial, with ex-entertainment industry attorney Terry Christensen as co-defendant, ended Aug. 28 with both men convicted of two counts of conspiracy and wiretapping charges for bugging the phones of the ex-wife of MGM mogul Kirk Kerkorian during a bitter 2002 child support dispute that involved Bing.
Christensen, 68, was sentenced do three years in federal prison and fined $250,000 on Nov. 24, but allowed to remain free pending appeal.
Pellicano didn't have that luxury. As his family looked on, his arm and leg chains were put back on and he was led back to jail to await his removal to federal prison.