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Pellicano Trial: Belittling Job Titles, Denigrating Office Size and Threatening Witnesses

03/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

After Garry Shandling had left the building, Mr. Pellicano went back to cross-examining his former employee, Tarita Virtue. Today, he decided not to spend his cross making Ms. Virtue sob hysterically. Instead, he posed a series of questions aimed at trying to minimize Ms. Virtue's role and responsibilities at his agency. Aware from his years in Hollywood that the only thing that matters more to people here than the location of their parking space is their title, Pellicano went for the jugular, insinuating that Ms. Virtue's title of Vice President of Pellicano Agency was really completely meaningless. "Isn't it true that you weren't the Vice President of the Syllogistic research group?" he charged. "That's not true," she shot back defensively. "I was Vice President of all the Pellicano Companies." As he repeatedly suggested that Ms. Virtue was Vice President of nothing, she seemed to grow more and more agitated, insisting that her title was real and that she had the business cards to prove it.

Just when I thought she might crumble, she struck back. When Mr. Pellicano asked if she'd ever seen him conduct a negotiation meeting in his office, she hit below the belt, telling everyone that his office was too small to have real meetings. "My office is small?" Mr. Pellicano repeated, trying to conceal his rage. "Yes, it is," Ms. Virtue said, looking directly at him.

Many hours later--well, it just seemed like hours--Mr. Saunders finally got up to do his redirect questioning. Ms. Virtue spent some of this time chatting about her immunity deal and insisting that she never felt any pressure to tell the government what it wanted to hear and that she was just there to answer truthfully. And, don't think for a minute that just because she's afraid of going to jail, she suddenly remembered seeing Mr. Arneson get cash from Mr. Pellicano. She would have told the F.B.I. about the whole cash in the giant envelope thing if they'd asked her during the thirteen conversations she had with them. But, they didn't ask. Mr. Saunders, probably concerned that the jury might wonder what she did talk about during these thirteen meetings with the F.B.I. and the government, made sure to ask her about each one. At the end, we were all left to conclude that although she offered some juicy tidbits about listening in on wiretaps and she spent some of her time with the government spilling her guts to the grand jury, a lot of those meetings were just a complete waste of time or involved Tarita's fears about Anthony and need to find someone to care for her new puppy. I imagine that at some point over the last five years, Mr. Ornellas was definitely tempted to change his phone number.

Since she wasn't crying or looking particularly vulnerable today, Mr. Saunders took some of his redirect to have Ms. Virtue testify again about how other employees were scared of Mr. Pellicano and frightened that he would somehow retaliate against them when they quit his agency. Ms. Virtue recounted a conversation with Mr. Pellicano in which he asked her whether a former employee could be trusted to keep quiet. "He said, 'do I need to take care of the situation,'" Ms. Virtue recounted. Not satisfied with just Ms. Virtue's testimony on this issue, Mr. Saunders used the occasion to play one of his many tapes of Mr. Pellicano speaking to Rayford Turner, the former telephone employee. Although the tape included Mr. Pellicano voicing concerns about an ex-employee documenting illegal activity, it wasn't really a crowd pleaser. Besides being difficult to hear, Mr. Pellicano didn't really admit to engaging in any illegal activity and basically sounded as if he was asking Mr. Turner to deal with the ex-employee. All and all, not very threatening and not very interesting.

After Tarita Virtue was excused and happily ran out of the courtroom, the government finally got to call a new witness. Ah, at last a new and interesting witness to dissect, I thought as I watched Deputy District Attorney Karla Kerlin take the stand. But only seconds into Ms. Kerlin's robotic and frenetic testimony, I found myself wondering if maybe Garry Shandling could be persuaded to return and talk more about how Mr. Grey screwed him over, threatened him and then, finished him off by hiring Pellicano to make his life a living hell. Or, maybe, Mr. Saunders could call Mr. Grey to come and testify about how even though he doesn't really remember much about Mr. Pellicano or this lawsuit, Mr. Shandling really brought this all on himself by suing Mr. Grey and daring to question Mr. Grey's accounting methods. After all, if Mr. Shandling hadn't accused Mr. Grey of "triple dipping," he wouldn't have had to hire Bert Fields. And, if Mr. Shandling hadn't persisted in trying to prove this whole thing about Mr. Grey stealing from him, Mr. Fields wouldn't have had to hire Mr. Pellicano and this whole wiretapping, smear campaign and invasion of Mr. Shandling's privacy could have been avoided. Obviously, it's clear that Mr. Shandling brought this whole thing on himself. No offense to Ms. Kerlin, but I'd love to hear that testimony.

But alas, it was not to be. It was all Ms. Kerlin until 2:00. The prosecutor, who had the unfortunate habit of sounding like she'd dipped into some of Ms. Virtue's ritalin stash, began her testimony by quickly discussing a 1998 case sexual assault case involving John Gordon Jones. Mr. Jones was charged with 29 counts of sexual assault and when the case eventually went to trial in 2001, he was found not-guilty on all counts. Ms. Kerlin testified that Mr. Jones' acquittal was due in large part to the insanely fanatical investigative techniques of none other than Anthony Pellicano. She told the jury that although Mr. Jones was represented by real lawyers, Mr. Pellicano was designated as the person who would receive all the discovery in the case--which meant that he got the names and all the relevant personal information about all of the victims--including addresses. Probably not a great idea for her to have handed that all over the a private eye that she'd heard was probably involved in some illegal activity... but then, hindsight is always 20/20.

She characterized Mr. Pellicano's methods at the time as not only effective, but said that she became concerned that some of them were illegal. She said Mr. Pellicano investigated the John Gordon Jones' case with "a vigor that I'd never seen before." She noted that he'd contacted just about everyone associated with the nine sexual assault victims in the case, including bosses, employers, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends and family. She also claimed that Mr. Pellicano indirectly threatened one potential victim, by threatening to tell the police about her boyfriend's outstanding traffic warrants.

Mr. Saunders ended the day by telling the court that he intends to call various witnesses tomorrow from the John Gordon Jones matter and if time permits, Mr. Shandling's ex-girlfriend, Linda Doucett and several other witnesses.

UPDATE, 3/14, 2pm: The government just introduced evidence that in May, 2002, Sgt. Mark Arneson did extensive background checks on former New Tork Times' reporters Bernard Weinraub and Anita Busch, including DMV records and criminal history. Mr. Hummel's attorney is about to do cross-examination.



Read all of HuffPost's coverage from inside the Pellicano courtroom here