Patterico's Pontifications


NEWSWEEK Breaks Out the Pellicano Kneepads

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:34 am

Was it a condition of NEWSWEEK’s interview with federal prisoner Anthony Pellicano that they allow him to pretend without contradiction that he didn’t menace Anita Busch?

Hint to reporters: when someone pleads to something, it’s OK to say they did it.

With a Louisville Slugger in the trunk of his car and a computerized phone-hacking system in his Sunset Boulevard office, Pellicano dug up dirt on his clients’ enemies and helped make those problems go away—whether it was the embittered spouse of a mogul, an inconvenient gay lover, or a nosy journalist. That is, until he allegedly hired someone to intimidate the wrong nosy journalist—Anita Busch of the Los Angeles Times—and the FBI got involved, blowing the lid off the biggest wiretapping operation this side of Watergate.

What is this word “allegedly” doing there? Let’s review: this man pled no contest to threatening Busch in October 2009:

Hollywood private eye Anthony Pellicano and another man, accused of threatening reporter Anita Busch in 2002 to scare her off a story, pleaded no contest today to making a criminal threat.

But you’d never know it from the fellatio-as-news article interviewing Pellicano. They mention his federal convictions for possessing explosives, wiretapping, and the like — but allow him to pose as innocent of threatening Busch:

Pellicano gained access to Hollywood’s A-list after meeting celebrity power-attorney Bert Fields, who started using his services. Eventually, the detective was spying on Sylvester Stallone, comedian Garry Shandling, and Nicole Kidman. When he wasn’t digging through their dirty laundry, he was power-lunching with the stars, tooling around in his black Mercedes and dark sunglasses, and rubbing elbows with moguls like Ovitz, Universal Studios president Ron Meyer, and manager Brad Grey, now head of Paramount (Grey even attempted to make an HBO pilot with Pellicano, about a Hollywood detective).

It all came to a screeching halt in 2002, when federal agents started looking for evidence of his involvement in a plot to threaten the L.A. Times’s Busch—who had previously written about the downfall of Ovitz, and was now pursuing a story about alleged mob ties to movie star Steven Seagal. Busch discovered the windshield of her car smashed, and a dead fish left behind with a note reading “Stop.” (The man who vandalized Busch’s car, a Pellicano flunky named Alexander Proctor, told the FBI that he’d been hired by the detective. But Pellicano still maintains he had nothing to do with harassing Busch, who is suing him and Ovitz.)

“Maintain” it all you like, pal. You did it. You pled to it. NEWSWEEK won’t say it. I will.

Meanwhile, NEWSWEEK lets Pellicano portray himself as a hero:

Pellicano is currently appealing his conviction, and if he’s successful, he could be out by 2013, six years before his eligible parole date. He’s pinning his hopes on an 86-page appeals brief that accuses the government of misconduct, misrepresentation, and constitutional violation. Among other things, the brief charges that the agents’ search of his office was illegal. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has until late September to respond to the brief.

In the meantime, Pellicano has 30 civil lawsuits hanging over his head, including the one from Busch. Will Pellicano rat out anyone in the civil cases? Don’t count on it, says his attorney and friend Steven Gruel. “Everyone expected this to be the case that rocked Hollywood, and it didn’t happen, and it didn’t bring in the great names they hypothesized would happen,” the attorney says. “He wouldn’t buckle, and that is why he is in Big Spring, Texas, today.”

Yeah, that and all the crimes he committed.

The claim that the search of his office was illegal, by the way, is a story that disgraced Los Angeles Times reporter Chuck Philips tried mightily to push. This very blog you’re reading revealed that Philips liked the story so much, he wrote letters to inmates trying to get them to sign onto that story. The letters were phrased as follows: I don’t know if it’s true, but I’m told that the FBI tried to feed you a story about Pellicano . . . and you should know that they have admitted that some of your conversations were not recorded, so do you remember these things I am suggesting you should remember? Look at excerpts like this:

And this:

(Top of page 2)

Philips admitted to me that he had written these letters.

Meanwhile, Busch’s employer, the Los Angeles Times, treated Pellicano as the trustworthy one and Anita as a vaguely crazy person whose stories of being menaced were just a little suspect. If you haven’t pored through the links in this post before, do so now. They are eye-opening.

The media, and Busch’s employer, did its level best to conceal the full extent of the dirty business Pellicano was involved with, and Philips’s involvement in writing slanted stories to try to get Pellicano’s conviction reversed. The cover-up continues today with NEWSWEEK’s shameful story.

Thanks to C.B.

56 Responses to “NEWSWEEK Breaks Out the Pellicano Kneepads”

  1. Journalism is gone past being simply ‘dead’ it’s now on the T virus, and gone Zombie.

    ian cormac (81c5c2)

  2. By the way, many of you disagree with Anita’s politics, which is fine. She is nevertheless a friend of mine and I want her to be treated politely in this thread, the way you would treat someone if we were all at a party and I introduced them as my friend. I won’t let this comment section be a place to treat her the way the L.A. Times treated her.

    She has helped me deal with some issues I have been through that were similar to (but on a much smaller scale than) her issues, and I appreciate her help.

    Patterico (f724ca)

  3. That obviously wasn’t directed at ian. I meant for it to be the first comment in the thread.

    Patterico (f724ca)

  4. I’m all for civility.

    Simon Jester (9e206a)

  5. Wow. I just noticed Christine Pelisek wrote this piece.


    That’s too bad. I liked her.

    Patterico (f724ca)

  6. Hey, Angeleno: see why a normal person wouldn’t be ‘graceful’ when the LAT fails as a business?

    They deserve it. Everyone affiliated with it that isn’t on Anita’s side, trying to save the paper, deserves it too. I recall Anita has had positive things to say about some of her former co-workers, so I’ll assume there is some merit somewhere in that organization, but I would smile if they closed their doors today and never opened them again.

    Grace is another word for standing idle as bad people get away with crimes. There were/are many like that. Newsweek is a case in point.

    By pleading No Contest, Pellicano makes it more difficult for civil suits to extract justice for Pellicano’s victims. He did the crime, and he doesn’t feel like paying his debt to society or his victims.

    Dustin (b7410e)

  7. Why would someone write a story like that,Dustin, is it simply out of fear,

    ian cormac (81c5c2)

  8. Ian, I have no idea. That’s a good question. Pellicano should be ostracized. He’s dead weight. He’s not going to help progressive politics any more than Brett Kimberlin is.

    These journalists may actually be totally naive, and somehow fail to really scrutinize their stories.

    Did Christine Pelisek ask Anita Busch about any of this? Did she ask Patrick? She obviously should have. They know this story. They can answer questions. If Pellicano is denying what he did, they can explain how stupid that denial is.

    Did Christine do her homework? The story doesn’t really make Pellicano look terrific or anything. He comes across as a crazy and pathetic prisoner. She also gives him a lot of benefit of the doubt as to his integrity and some kinda of macho unbroken spirit.

    I think she should have taken more time and gotten the other point of view, and been more careful about conveying doubt about proven facts.

    And WTF is with Tony Danza?

    Dustin (b7410e)

  9. Dustin, this is not naivete, it is corruption.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  10. Well that’s a whole other column to investigate, also it’s ironic considering how NewsCorp is under
    the ‘two minute hate’ for hacking messages,

    ian cormac (81c5c2)

  11. Dustin, this is not naivete, it is corruption.

    Comment by SPQR

    Usually. At some point, the pattern is impossible to ignore. They are not this naive about right wing goofballs (not that Joseph Farah did anything similar to what the LAT and Pellicano did).

    But some of these guys are naive. Mark Singer is a great example. When they realize they were conned, they do their best to explain how they were conned so as to warn others.

    Has Christine Pelisek read Citizen K?

    Will she write a story explaining how Pellicano is lying to her, and using her? If she does, then I can conclude she was naive rather than corrupt.

    Dustin (b7410e)

  12. Sheri Urban at takes a look at the cover of NEWSWEEK today and declares it, and the new editor, Tina Brown, both decidedly sub-standard:

    U.S. Downgraded, SEALs Killed. And Tina Brown’s Newsweek Focuses on…“Crazy Eyes” Bachmann?

    “Shame on you, Tina Brown. The S&P downgrades the United States of America for the first time in history (after 92 years of rating us AAA). 31 Americans – including 22 Navy SEALs are killed in a Afghanistan – the largest single loss of life in the 10-year war. Monumental news events.

    And yet Newsweek, edited by Tina Brown, ignores all that, in order to place a deliberately distorted, “crazy eyes” photo of Michelle Bachmann – the “Queen of Rage”, in yet another hysterical, misogynistic portrayal of a serious Presidential candidate.

    Did Newsweek ever portray Barack Obama with such disrespect? Did they portray “Obama’s Pastor of Rage” about the wild-eyed, racist, anti-Semite in who’s pews Obama sat dutifully for over 20 years? Of course not.

    This is a woman who has far more experience as a legislator than did Barack Obama when he ran for President. And yet Tina Brown stoops to junior high school levels to try and dimish her stature and accomplishments. Shame on you, Tina. But of course a bottom-feeding media whore like you has none.”

    ropelight (e21797)

  13. There is more honesty, integrity and courage in Anita Busch’s little finger than in the entire steaming, sniveling, phony pile of trash Anthony Pellicano. Newsweek and the L.A. Times ceased to have any useful purpose a long, long time ago.

    Peter Pryor (e5654f)

  14. These are the same people, that allowed the Taliban, ‘to speak in their own words,’ the same
    Taliban that slaughtered these fine soldiers there
    are no words,

    ian cormac (81c5c2)

  15. To ropelight’s point is there not a case to be made for just generally ignoring Tina Brown’s Newsweek and never/rarely linking their site at all? (This is not meant as a criticism of this particular Pellicano thread in which which Patterico shines a bright light on the magazine for obvious and good reason.)

    elissa (c7c7ff)

  16. Short response to Patrick re Newspeak:

    “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown!”

    We must remember that this is the publication that employs Evan Thomas, who famously said that the media were worth 15% at election time for John Kerry;
    that this is the publication that lied about Korans being flushed down toilets at GITMO, and takes no responsibility for the deaths in Iraq (and elsewhere) that followed from that lie;
    that this is the publication that employs the notoriously non-partisan Eleanor “Rodham” Clift, who, to her dying days, will refuse to believe that Bubbah “had sex with that woman”;
    and now, they have Tina Brown, who never met a terrorist – foreign or domestic – that she didn’t like and admire.

    Remind me again, how much did Newspeak bring when it was sold?

    AD-RtR/OS! (b759aa)

  17. Imagine if a Bush affiliated PI from Fox News had tapped phones?

    Compare the coverage of Pellicano to the coverage of wiretapping scandal in Britain.

    Pellicano is a lone wolf who only allegedly did anything, even after he pleas to the crime.

    Dustin (b7410e)

  18. Thank you, Patrick, for pointing out the facts.

    Anita Busch (a025dd)

  19. That’s what he does.

    Machinist (b6f7da)

  20. Newsweek, allegedly a news magazine, is disgusting. And I really couldn’t give a rats hiney other than being further sickened at how this just adds to the misery they have inflicted on Anita. This isn’t a left or right issue, that is a human issue.

    Kaisersoze (298188)

  21. This isn’t a left or right issue, that is a human issue.


    Dustin (b7410e)

  22. @#2-Per my comment on an earlier thread, ‘well said.’

    Accordingly, here’s a refresher from the piece– a decade of hell condensed into a few paragraphs.

    Brown took advantage of a salacious storyline with similar elements revealed in the Murdoch mess and exploited it to make a buck for her rag. Free market capitalism at work and glamorizing ‘bad boys’ is nothing new. DiNiro, Pacino, Cagney. Eddie G., and Bogie made careers out of it. More disturbing, details like ‘accuracy’ can get in the way, taking the shine off the sparkle and obstacles like ‘the facts’ and can tarnish that manufactured glamour. The truth is, Pellicano, clad in government issued beige, is a convicted piece of petrified sh-t. Excrement. Human waste. A stale, old floater in a Federal toilet waiting to be flushed by the hand of God.

    Vacation August is ‘usually’ a slow news month, ripe for crappy, titillating ‘beach read’ pieces. Sunbathers will finish, close their eyes, escape and bake– and wonder, if only for a minute– what dirt is on those encrypted tapes about their rich and famous idols in Tinseltown. Of course the best news reported is how the hand of justice placed Pellicano in ‘BS,’ Texas. And, as Anita knows, Texas is God’s only rest stop on the road to Hell. 😉 More garlic for your institutional noodles and ketchup, Pelican?

    DCSCA (9d1bb3)

  23. Disco Stu has — half a clue?

    Well then. Good job!

    This time.

    Icy Texan (41c503)

  24. Dirty tricksters who roll on their paymasters tend to have short lifespans, even in Hollywood. He kept his trap shut because somebody would have shut it for him if he didn’t.

    Bigfoot (8096f2)

  25. If a lot of what he did is not known, ir may mean some people involved are also not known (or at least not prosecuted) and therefore some oif it may still be going on.

    Note teh similarity between Pellicano in Newsweek and Alicia Paine. Both solve problems.

    Sammy Finkelman (d3daeb)

  26. Hint to reporters: when someone pleads to something, it’s OK to say they did it.

    Patterico, isn’t the whole point of pleading “no contest” that you continue to maintain your innocence, but get to avoid a trial by consenting to be punished as if you were guilty? Isn’t it deliberately designed to provide a way for an innocent person to take a deal without perjuring himself?

    Milhouse (9ae5a3)

  27. Patterico, isn’t the whole point of pleading “no contest” that you continue to maintain your innocence, but get to avoid a trial by consenting to be punished as if you were guilty?

    However, he was convicted because he did not contest the charges.

    I don’t think this is a statement that ‘I am innocent’.

    Dustin (b7410e)

  28. I think the only real effect of “no contest” is that it is not “res judicata” for civil suits. In most jurisdictions, the plea is only available if the prosecutor consents. Its another little bene to pay off the defendant in a plea bargain.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  29. Milhouse,

    I’m not sure but I think this is a correct explanation of no contest pleas in California:

    Guilty vs. Nolo Contendere/No Contest
    Practical Effect

    In California, in terms of conviction, a plea of no contest has the same effect as a plea of guilty. Consequently, a plea of no contest is subject to the approval of the court. Prior to accepting the plea, the court must ascertain whether the defendant completely understands that such a plea will be considered the same as a plea of guilty and that, upon pleading, the court shall find the defendant guilty. In either case, the defendant will have a conviction on his criminal record.

    Collateral Benefit of a No Contest Plea

    There is one benefit to pleading no contest instead of guilty; however, in California, that benefit is limited to misdemeanors. In civil suits that are based on the same act for which the defendant was criminally prosecuted, the plea of no contest may not be used as an admission of guilt – that is, the determination of guilt remains open in other proceedings. This ban on use applies, also, to anything the defendant might admit during the court’s inquiry into whether his plea was voluntary, as well as any admissions he makes in response to the court’s questions about the factual basis for the plea. The legal effect of a plea of no contest — if the crime is a felony — is the same as that of a guilty plea for all purposes and can be used as an admission of guilt in any other proceeding.

    More at the link.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  30. On second thought, Pellicano was apparently pleading no contest to a federal charge of criminal threat, so that may not be the applicable law.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  31. Good link, DRJ.

    That settles it then, IMO. Not that Milhouse was out of step to ask about it. It seems unfair to the victims, in my opinion.

    Dustin (b7410e)

  32. Here is Rule 11 of the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure that governs no contest — nolo contendere — pleas. It is treated as the equivalent of a guilty plea.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  33. Yes, I understand that it has the same legal effect as a guilty plea; but it’s not the same thing. A person pleading “no contest” is saying that he is innocent but consents to be punished anyway as if he were guilty. The court can then sentence him without having proved his guilt, because he consented. As I wrote earlier, it’s a way for an innocent person to take a deal without perjuring himself.

    But what’s relevant here is not whether he can be treated by the law as if he did these things, but whether a reporter can honestly report as fact that he did them. And it seems to me that a plea of “no contest” is not sufficient proof that he did it. (Of course nobody takes such a plea unless there’s enough evidence against him that he doesn’t see a great chance of convincing a jury to discount it; but that doesn’t change the facts. Plenty of perfectly innocent people plead guilty, and falsely allocute to their alleged crimes, because they weren’t given the chance to plead “no contest”; surely even more innocent people do plead “no contest”. Is this fellow such a person? I doubt it very much. But I don’t know it for a fact, so it seems reasonable for a reporter to treat it with caution.

    Milhouse (9a4c23)

  34. I don’t agree that that’s really what the person is saying in pleading, Milhouse.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  35. Then what do you think he is saying?

    Milhouse (9a4c23)

  36. And it seems to me that a plea of “no contest” is not sufficient proof that he did it. (

    He was convicted, too. We have a process for determining if someone committed a crime, and that process resulted in a finding of guilt for Pellicano. He was convicted.

    Dustin (b7410e)

  37. How about:

    Well, I did it, and you know I did it, and I know you know I did it, and I’ve got no alibi that a jury will believe, but I don’t want to admit that I did it, so I’ll just say that I do not contest your allegation as to my actions.

    AD-RtR/OS! (b759aa)

  38. Milhouse, the defendant pleading nolo contendere is saying “Sure, I’m guilty but gimme a chance to defend the lawsuits first”.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  39. So it would seem if Michael Ovitz orders it, it’s ok, the same for Julian Assuange, however if Murdock
    or anty subordinate does, ‘Blimey, it’s the Spanish

    Crassus (81c5c2)

  40. Orders what?

    AD-RtR/OS! (b759aa)

  41. He was convicted, too. We have a process for determining if someone committed a crime, and that process resulted in a finding of guilt for Pellicano. He was convicted.

    He wasn’t convicted on the strength of the evidence, he was convicted because he consented to be. That’s not proof that he did it. The evidence that he did it was never tested, though presumably it was strong enough to convince him to take the deal.

    AD, SPQR, if that’s what you think a “no contest” plea says, then what in your opinion does say “I’m innocent but I don’t like my chances at trial so I’m taking a plea”?

    Milhouse (9a4c23)

  42. Also, AD, SPQR, and Dustin, do you deny that many innocent people do take pleas? That many of them even perjure themselves by falsely allocuting to crimes they didn’t do, because the prosecutor wouldn’t allow them to nolo contendere?

    Milhouse (9a4c23)

  43. None of which, of course, is to say that this creep is anything but guilty. But the mere fact of his plea doesn’t prove it.

    Milhouse (9a4c23)

  44. Well, he is guilty, but the question still arises, why did Pellisek, elide that point,

    ian cormac (81c5c2)

  45. Milhouse, sure, and they tell me that they were really innocent every day.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  46. I believe that there are innocent people who occassionally get swept up in the system, but I don’t know that there are that many who plead out to something that they are innocent of – or, that they might plead to one thing when they guilty of something else.
    Someone recently posited that with the expansion of the Federal Criminal Code, everyone in America commits three Federal felonies every day.
    I don’t think it is quite that drastic, but if a prosecutor looks long enough, and deep enough, he can put most anyone away for something.
    All that being said, I don’t think that Patrick’s associates were going to let Pellicano (Yes, I know he was in the Fed system, and Patrick is a State prosecutor, but they’re all cousins under the skin, aren’t they?) skate; and that Pellicano took whatever deal they hung in front of him to make sure they didn’t find more incriminating information on him, or even worse, on his clients.

    Short answer: He’s Guilty!

    AD-RtR/OS! (b759aa)

  47. “Patterico, isn’t the whole point of pleading “no contest” that you continue to maintain your innocence, but get to avoid a trial by consenting to be punished as if you were guilty? Isn’t it deliberately designed to provide a way for an innocent person to take a deal without perjuring himself?”

    Milhouse – No. One of my kids was allowed to plead no contest on a matter. He was guilty. Dead to rights. He knew it. The judge knew it. The prosecutor knew it. It was a deal, pure and simple, nothing like you describe.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  48. It was a state charge prosecuted by my office to which Pellicano pled.

    I am not going to start making statements that could have people saying I am giving legal advice on civil matters. But in our felony pleas we tell people that a no contest plea has exactly the same force and effect as a guilty plea, and the court is going to convict them on that plea. Here is a sample plea form used in Santa Cruz which tells defendants (see part 22) the exact same thing.

    Note that NEWSWEEK didn’t even bother to mention the conviction, regardless of the distraction of whether it was a no contest plea or a guilty plea. My point is, not only did they not call Pellicano guilty, they didn’t even say he pled.

    I say Pellicano is guilty. Pellicano, you did it. Don’t like me saying it? Sue me. I’ll laugh as I collect the attorneys’ fees.

    Patterico (f724ca)

  49. Short answer: He’s Guilty!

    Boom. That’s it. Well said.

    Patterico (f724ca)

  50. btw, if you’re innocent, I recommend you plea not guilty.

    /legal advice.


    Dustin (b7410e)

  51. Patrick, sorry I got that Fed/State thing wrong, for some reason I thought Pellicano was in Federal lock-up.

    AD-RtR/OS! (b759aa)

  52. What’s the old saw about court?
    If you’re innocent, ask for a court trial, and if you’re guilty, ask for a jury trial?
    Or do I have that backwards?

    AD-RtR/OS! (b759aa)

  53. A plea of “no contest” can very often mean “I’m not pleading guilty, I’m not admitting to any guilt, but the state’s case against me is so seemingly damning that I know that if I try to take this to trial, I’ll be found guilty by the jury.”

    So, why not just take the case to a jury anyway, then?

    Because a plea will usually get you a very substantial break on sentencing.

    So, you get some poor schmoo sitting in jail, accused of assault by the guy who tried to start a fight with him in the bar, the guy who (unfortunately) has five lying friends who’ll back up his story. Schmoo knows he’s toast if he goes to trial. If he’s convicted by a jury, the judge will give him a full year. If he pleads the case out, he’ll likely get 60 days.

    (Yeah, they punish the hell out of you if you insist on a trial and then lose.)

    His lawyer says, plead, take the 60, you’ve already been in for thirty, it’ll be over quick. Schmoo says “I can’t sit there and swear on a bible that I’m guilty ‘cuz I’m not.”

    So, they arrange for the judge to accept a nolo contendre plea. (Many judges won’t accept them – they want affirmative admissions.)

    bobby b (4baf73)

  54. Anita, your being a strident Liberal and my being a wild-eyed Conservative, you and I will disagree strongly on just about everything.

    That said, I’m fully in your corner, without reservation, on this one. (Story linked on my site.)

    John Hitchcock (9e8ad9)

  55. Several statements within the Pellicano article, not only the one relating to Anita Busch, need to be explained fully by Pelisek and/or Pellicano.

    I see huge spin in Peliske’s article and would like an explanation as to how and why that was allowed to happen.

    Deborah Ffrench (0d4445)

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