It became apparent today at the Pellicano trial why some people
actually go to law school in order to become attorneys. Even though Mr.
Pellicano made a decent showing in his early cross of some of the
witnesses, today his cross of Tarita Virtue--which is still
ongoing--made me want to scream "Get a God damn lawyer to
help you." Or, in the alternative, "why don't you just head right over
to prison now." Or, how about maybe asking one of the other defense
lawyers to give you some pointers.
Ex-Pellicano employee, Tarita Virtue, was on the stand for most of
today. Several of the defense attorneys managed to highlight some of
the obvious contradictions in her testimony and to question her
motives. After Lawrence Semenza, who represents Abner Nicherie,
finished his cross-examination, I had some questions about Ms. Virtue's
rather selective memory and wondered about why she seemed so familiar
with Mr. Nicherie being in the office and listening to wiretaps, but
had no idea why he'd hired Mr. Pellicano. And by the time defense
attorney Mona Soo Hoo took her seat, I had some doubts about whether
Ms. Virtue really left Los Angeles because she believed that Mr.
Pellicano had threatened her life. And, after hearing Ms. Virtue go on
endlessly about casually listening into the most private conversations
of Mr. Pellicano's targets, I wondered if Ms. Soo Hoo was right about
Ms. Virtue thinking the law didn't apply to her. Although none of the
defense attorneys really addressed the meat of Tarita's testimony--the
fact that she'd transcribed, summarized and listened to a hell of a lot
of wiretapped recordings--they did manage to to throw some doubt on
whether she'd testified truthfully about their respective clients'
involvement in the illegal wiretapping. Basically, by the time most of
the defense attorneys were done chatting with Ms. Virtue, they'd
effectively raised the possibility that Ms. Virtue was willing to say
just about anything about anyone--especially Mr. Arneson, Mr. Turner
and Mr. Nicherie--to keep the government from sending her down the
But when everyone should have just let Ms. Virtue gracefully exit the
stand with the jury possibly wondering about her motives and her
veracity, Mr. Pellicano stepped up to the podium, determined to have it
out with Tarita Virtue and to get a few things straight about their
The confrontation between the detective and his former junior private
eye/wiretap transcriber, started off with a soft spoken, almost morose
Pellicano gently asking Ms. Virtue if she'd told an interviewer that
she "hoped he'd have a stroke and die in prison." Ms. Virtue coldly
replied, "Yes, I did." There was a beat of silence. "You wish me
dead?" Pellicano asked sadly. "I did when you threatened my life,"
spat back Ms. Virtue. "I most certainly did." From the sound of her
voice, it looked like she wasn't about to apologize to Pellicano for
helping to send him to prison. When he talked about them having a
father and daughter relationship, she interrupted by noting that the
operative tense was "had."
But Pellicano pressed on, wondering why if she feared and distrusted
him so much, she'd sent him loving and supportive emails over the
years. "I wanted you to think that I'd always be on your side," Ms.
Virtue explained about the numerous emails and faxes she'd sent since
his indictment. She said that she wanted him to think that she was
still going to remain loyal so that he wouldn't know that she was busy
cooperating with the F.B.I. "So, you sent me deceptive emails," Mr.
Pellicano summarized. She refused to admit to the the emails being
deceptive, but basically, that was a fair characterization. She said
the emails were meant to show her loyalty and to disguise the fact that
she was cooperating with the F.B.I. She feared that the detective
would come after her if he knew the truth. As Mr. Pellicano struggled
to look kind, soft and non-threatening, he softly asked her the worst
of his questions for the day. "What was it that made you afraid of
me?" He quietly inquired. And then, Ms. Virtue took off the gloves.
She tearfully recounted him calling her father and threatening her
life--often sobbing so hysterically that it was difficult to hear her
Just when I thought she couldn't get any more sympathetic with the
endless tears and reams of tissue, and her talk about feelings of
betrayal and then some weird stuff about loving Anthony even though he
didn't care about her, she finished him off with an abandoned puppy
story. It was just too much--the tears and then, having to flee town
suddenly without her new puppy because he'd threatened her life. Could
any defendant be more monstrous?
"Your timing was perfect," she said, of his allegedly threatening call
to her father. "It was right after my grand jury testimony....I knew
once you saw my grand jury testimony, I'd be in serious trouble." And
then Pellicano's cross-examination turned into a modern version of a
scene from King Lear where the angry and disillusioned father tries to
understand the traitorous acts of his duplicitous daughter. Ms. Virtue
told her "surrogate father" that by testifying before the grand jury,
she knew she'd shattered his trust and that he would see her behavior
as the biggest betrayal a "daughter" could do. Mr. Pellicano seemed to
agree with her--although the Judge kept trying to keep him from saying
so. And, then, in a move that defied all explanation, Mr. Pellicano
again asked Ms. Virtue to discuss in detail exactly how and when he
threatened her life, setting off another round of tears, tissues and
distressed body language. Then after she said he treated her like a
daughter, he wondered, "Would I threaten to kill my own daughter?" She
wasn't having any of it. "You already did," she said, referring again
to him calling her father and threatening her life. As her body shook
with sobs, Pellicano appeared to be terribly concerned about her
demeanor. "Wish I could do something to cause you to relax," he said,
after repeatedly asking her if she needed a moment. She said angrily
that she was just fine and that she wanted to get this over with. Not
much chance of that. Pellicano was just warming up. After the day
finally ended, he let the judge know that he'd probably need another
few hours to finish off Ms. Virtue. The other defense attorneys looked
down at their computers, trying to hide their exasperation.
At the end of the day, Mr. Saunders asked permission to interrupt Mr.
Pellicano's cross of Ms. Virtue and call Gary Shandling to the stand
tomorrow morning given the scheduling demands of Mr. Shandling's
counsel. The Judge gave him permission to interrupt Mr. Pellicano's
cross of Tarita Virtue so as to call Mr. Shandling in the morning. Mr.
Saunders then noted that following Mr. Shandling's testimony and the
testimony of another government witness, Mr. Pellicano continue with
his cross-examination of Ms. Virtue. Looking forward to watching
whether Mr. Pellicano's cross examination of Mr. Shandling is so long
that Mr. Shandling begins to cry....
With Gary Shandling taking the stand tomorrow in the Pellicano trial to
talk about how he was wiretapped during his litigation with Brad Grey,
you can expect to see a repeat of the smear campaign that was initiated
against him the last time around. Hollywood's power players--and that
means the press that basically serves them--want this case to just go
away. I'd guess that Brad Grey, who's now the head of Paramount, isn't
looking forward to having Mr. Shandling testify about what was done to
him by Mr. Pellicano during his lawsuit against Mr. Grey. And, I'd
imagine that Mr. Grey's former attorney, Bert Fields, who represented
Grey in the litigation against Mr. Shandling, would also
prefer that this matter be closed and that everyone just get back to
business as usual. But, that's not going to happen before Mr.
Shandling gets a chance to tell the jury that during his lawsuit
against Brad Grey, his phones were tapped, his personal information
mined and his every move--both personal and professional--tracked by
Read all Allison's HuffPost coverage from inside the courtroom here