Daily Journal Staff
ANGELES - The allegations at the heart of the
federal wiretap investigation of disgraced Hollywood private eye
Anthony Pellicano are now spreading into unrelated cases, court records
A former Los Angeles
police sergeant at the center of several lawsuits and criminal appeals
is fending off questions about his ties to Pellicano.
During a recent
deposition, Mark Arneson invoked his Fifth Amendment right nine times
to avoid answering questions about Pellicano, according to the records.
Some lawyers question
whether Pellicano's notoriety is being used as a way to attack
Arneson has denied any
Invoking the Fifth
Amendment "can be powerful and damning evidence and can actually
make the plaintiff's case stronger where he doesn't have all the facts
at hand," Michael J. Proctor, a white-collar criminal defense
lawyer not associated with the cases, said.
"It can greatly
impact the jury or the judge," Proctor said.
Lawyer Hermez Moreno,
who questioned Arneson in connection with a civil rights lawsuit filed
over alleged police misconduct, said he wasn't displeased by the former
sergeant's refusal to answer questions about Pellicano.
"We have what we
want," Moreno said. "If he admits [to the association or the
conduct], it's great for us. If he takes the Fifth, it's great for us,
Pellicano, serving 30
months in prison on federal weapons charges, is widely expected to be
indicted on wiretap charges in the near future. Long a fixture on the
Hollywood circuit, Pellicano has included pop star Michael Jackson,
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone among his clients.
Sources have said Pellicano engaged in a massive illegal taping of
subjects of his investigations and even his own clients.
The case has gripped
the Los Angeles legal community, particularly the many high-profile
entertainment lawyers who employed Pellicano over the years.
Entertainment law titan
Bert Fields has acknowledged he is a subject of the grand jury's
interest but has not been informed he is a target of the probe. No one
has been publicly charged in the case so far.
lawyers are wading into the fringes of the case hoping to use the
allegations to bolster their cases.
In three unrelated
cases, lawyers have raised or say they plan to raise questions about
"We're hoping to
be able to explore the relationship," Amy E. Jacks, a Santa Monica
lawyer who has a civil rights lawsuit pending against the Los Angeles
While on the force,
Arneson accessed LAPD databases for Pellicano, according to sources
close to the case.
After retiring from the
force in 2003, Arneson opened his own private investigation firm. He
retired after the department placed him on inactive status as a result
of a joint LAPD/FBI investigation into alleged misconduct.
LAPD spokesman Lt. Paul
Vernon said the department's internal investigation was "primarily
over" and the findings were forwarded to the U.S. attorney's
"It's out of our
hands now," he said.
Vernon declined to
comment on issues raised in pending lawsuits involving Arneson.
Sources close to the
case say federal prosecutors are probing the allegations that Arneson
accessed confidential law enforcement information for Pellicano.
Assistant U.S. Attorney
Daniel A. Saunders, who is leading the wiretap probe, would not comment
on the investigation.
Donald G. Forgey, also declined to comment.
But during Arneson's
deposition in Lavont Guillory's civil rights lawsuit taken in August,
Forgey of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith interjected when
Pellicano's name came up.
"I think I'm going
to have to instruct him not to answer any questions specifically with
regard to Mr. Pellicano because of the pending investigation,"
Forgey said, and asserted the Fifth Amendment on his client's behalf,
according to a transcript.
Following his lawyer's
advice, Arneson did not answer the question.
So it went for all
inquiries relating to Pellicano, including when was the first or last
time Arneson worked with Pellicano, whether he accessed LAPD databases
on Pellicano's behalf, Arneson's knowledge of any state, federal or
LAPD investigations of his conduct, and whether Arneson made a deal
with the LAPD to retire rather than face discipline for his alleged
During the deposition,
Arneson did deny any misconduct.
Assistant City Attorney
Robert Brown, who attended the deposition on behalf of the city, could
not be reached for comment.
Proctor of Caldwell,
Leslie, Newcombe and Pettit in Los Angeles cautioned that a person may
well assert his Fifth Amendment rights not because he is actually
guilty but because he is "aware of a criminal investigation and
doesn't want his words to be misconstrued against him."
Arneson was being
questioned in connection with a civil rights lawsuit filed by Guillory,
who was released in 2003 after serving more than 10 years in state
prison for a murder he says he did not commit.
He sued the city of Los
Angeles and Arneson, the lead detective on his case, alleging
misconduct that resulted in his conviction. Guillory
v. City of Los Angeles, 04CV-9608 (C.D. Cal.,
filed Nov. 23, 2004).
In the lawsuit,
Guillory contends Arneson coerced witnesses to testify falsely during
lawyers, Moreno and Frank J. Perez of Los Angeles, are making Arneson's
association with Pellicano part of their case.
wrongful-prosecution suit, Harold Hall, convicted in 1990 of two
murders, sued the city of Los Angeles, Arneson and others for allegedly
fabricating evidence in a capital trial where he received a life
Hall was released after
the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed
his conviction. Hall v. City of Los Angeles,
05CV-1977 (C.D. Cal., filed March 18, 2005).
Hall's civil attorney,
John Burton of Pasadena, said he too plans to explore Arneson's
connection to Pellicano in discovery.
plan on looking into it," Burton said.
John A. Wright, who is
defending the city in Hall's suit, could not be reached for comment.
Prosecutors have denied
that Arneson committed misconduct in the case.
Forgey is representing
Arneson in the suit.
And then there is Erik
Portocarrero, who pleaded guilty to bookmaking charges in 2003. He
filed a habeas corpus petition last year to overturn his conviction,
citing what he called "significant evidence" of Arneson's
assisting Pellicano "in a pattern of wiretapping, intimidation and
criminal threats." Arneson was the lead detective in the
bookmaking investigation, the petition states. In
re Portocarrero, SA043913 (L.A. Super. Ct., filed March
2001 arrest, his brother allegedly received calls from an investigator
whose name he recalled as "Anthony Pellegrino" who said he
knew people working on Portocarrero's case who "could make things
go away" for a fee starting at $100,000.
attorney, said her client's brother later came to believe that
"Anthony Pellegrino" was indeed Pellicano.
Jacks argued the
failure of the government to disclose the connection between Arneson
and Pellicano and the existence of a joint LAPD/FBI probe into
Arneson's activities deprived her client of his constitutional rights.
connection ... been disclosed, [Portocarrero] could have established
that the investigation was intended to produce an illegitimate
financial gain for the police officer leading it," the petition
An evidentiary hearing
is scheduled on Portocarrero's claims in February. In discovery, Jacks
said she requested phone and financial records seized in the 2002 raids
on Pellicano's offices from the district attorney's office but has
received none to date.
Although she has not
yet compiled a witness list, Jacks said the Pellicano issue would be
raised at the hearing.
Attorney Andrew J. McMullen, filing a response to the allegations, has
denied there was any wrong-doing by law enforcement in Portocarrerro's