The trial started off with a bang today as Tarita Virtue, a former
Pellicano employee, continued to discuss who the private investigator
had wiretapped as well as the information gleaned from those wiretaps.
So far today, testimony has been all about Mr. Pellicano and his
incredible wiretapping set-up. Ms. Virtue, with long black hair tucked
conservatively behind her ears, spoke for over an hour about the
incredibly private information she gleaned from listening to these
wiretaps of Pellicano targets. Although she expressed some concern
that her listening into the taps was illegal, she explained her actions
away by saying "it was my job. I had to work with Mr. Pellicano for a
few years to become a private investigator." So, if that meant
listening to lawyers and clients chat or a target go on about her
escort service activities, well, that was just part of the job.
The big bombshells started coming when Ms. Virtue testified that Mr.
Pellicano had been hired by his client, Brad Grey, a former manager and
now Head of Paramount Studios, to find out information on Bo Zenga. As
Ms. Virtue recalled, Mr. Zenga was a screenwriter who was suing Mr.
Grey over credit involving the film Scary Movie. Even though the
happened years ago, Ms. Virtue seemed convinced that she was on the
side of right--at least when it came to listening into Mr. Zenga. She
seemed to fervently believe that he was a guy who deserved what he got.
Ms. Virtue testified that she listened to approximately 300 of Mr.
Zenga's telephone calls over several months. She admitted to preparing
summaries of those calls and then giving them to Mr. Pellicano. She
said that Mr. Pellicano was particularly interested in calls between
Mr. Zenga and a Ms. Stacy Codikow, who Virtue referred to as Mr.
Zenga's "Partner in crime." She also admitted listening to at least 50
calls between Mr. Zenga and his attorney, Greg Dovel. According to
Virtue, she heard numerous privileged conversations between Mr. Zenga
and his attorney, including calls discussing who they would depose in
the case, motions they would file, motions they wanted to oppose and
conversations about their proposed settlement position.
As she sat on the witness stand, Ms. Virtue seemed somewhat proud of
the job she'd done summarizing not only Mr. Zenga's conversations, but
also those of other Pellicano targets. She said that she was a bit
disappointed when she went to work for Pellicano, noting that "he was
the only private investigator I knew that never left office." She'd
signed on for the job with Pellicano in the hopes of being out in the
field, but instead, her job consisted of listening to hundreds of phone
calls made my various Pellicano targets.
She also took a minute to explain that there were times when she
worried about the Telesleuth program and wiretapping activities being
discovered by law enforcements. Sometimes there were FBI agents in the
office and she became concerned that they might notice that she was
busy transcribing information from illegal wiretaps. But fortunately
for her, nobody noticed and business went on as usual. She also said
that at one point, Erin Finn, whose phone Mr. Pellicano had taped,
seemed to have discovered the tap. Tarita Virtue freaked out when she
heard Ms. Finn say that she knew her phone was tapped. Ms. Virtue ran
to Pellicano who calmly told her not to worry. He told her that even
if the phone company came out to inspect the phone--which they
did--they wouldn't find anything.
In the first few minutes of testimony today, Ms. Virtue recounted a
number of Pellicano clients and cases. She said that Andrew Stevens
was a client of Mr. Pellicano's, although she couldn't recall the
specifics of his case. She also recalled that Chris Rock was a client.
She testified that Pellicano had been hired to find information about
a woman named Monica, who was claiming to be pregnant with Mr. Rock's
child. She also spent considerable time recalling the details of phone
calls made by Erin Finn, a target of Mr. Pellicano's. The firm was
hired by a client to find out information about Ms. Finn and Ms. Virtue
spent time listening and summarizing over 1000 calls in the case.
The prosecutor, Dan Saunders, has been methodical, cool and deliberate
in questioning Ms. Virtue. Even when she verified having listening to
the most sensitive and private of conversations, Mr. Saunders has
merely nodded and moved forward with his next question, leaving the
jury to ponder Ms. Virtue's daily activities.
And now, back to the courtroom.
Read more of Allison's coverage from inside the courtroom here