Mr. Pellicano's lengthy and often pointless cross-examination of
several government agents responsible for getting evidence off of the
investigator's computers this morning was mind-numbingly dull. When
Mr. Pellicano repeated for the third time that he was going to try
again and explain his question to one unlucky government witness, I was
tempted to stick a pen in my own eye. I guess the Judge was also in
pain, because just when I didn't think I could take it anymore, she
coldly suggested that Mr. Pellicano "wrap it up." I waited for the
entire courtroom--especially the other defense attorneys-- to burst
into applause as Pellicano irritably closed his notebook and returned to his
The energy in the room definitely picked up when former Pellicano
employee, Tarita Virtue took the stand. She was kind enough to spell
out her name for the clerk, noting that "Virtue" is spelled with a "V"
as in Vegas. With her dark suit, black turtleneck and subdued make-up,
I barely recognized her as the sexy, scantily clad would-be private
investigator from her website www.taritavirtue.com. This is the same
woman who Maxim named "sexiest private investigator" of the year. The
only sign of the website Tarita was her sometimes salty language. When
she told Pellicano she was quitting because of his abuse towards other
employees, she testified that he told her "then you fucking leave."
And she did. But, she was careful to let the jury know that even
though she quit suddenly and found working at the agency abusive and
difficult, she has no bad feelings towards Mr. Pellicano. Well, except
for the fact that he had her doing work that almost got her sent to
prison. But otherwise, it's all good between them.
I knew from having reviewed her 302-the notes of her interview with the
F.B.I.--that when she was questioned, Ms. Virtue admitted doing some
bad things during the two years she worked at the Pellicano
Investigative Agency. According to Tarita's 302, she'd spent a lot of
time at the agency listening to illegal wiretaps and the main part of
her job was transcribing them for her then boss, Anthony Pellicano.
And, then there was the time she spent reviewing police computer runs
sent to Mr. Pellicano by Mr. Arneson. But, besides all that stuff, she
made sure to tell the F.B.I., that she made it very clear to Mr.
Pellicano that she wasn't going to sleep with him. So, I guess if he
wanted to see "Tarita Virtue:EXPOSED", he'd have to go on her
website--just like everyone else. Tough break for the old guy.
Therefore, when she took the stand today, Mr. Saunders quickly
explained to the jury that Ms. Virtue was testifying under what is
known as "use immunity"--meaning that she had an agreement with the
government that anything she said on the stand could not be used as
evidence against her in a criminal prosecution. So, with the pesky
problem of potential jail time out of the way, Ms. Virtue sat back and
started chatting about her days at the Pellicano Investigative Agency.
She pleasantly admitted that one of her jobs was to listen to
wiretapped recordings. "Anthony asked me to transcribe wiretapped
recordings," she said proudly. He taught her about Telesleuth
because he trusted her. She even explained that before she could
listen to the wiretaps, Pellicano would have to enter one password and
then, he would have to enter a second password. Then, she'd open the
program and there would be tons of phone numbers listed. "It was remarkable," she said of the program. "It was able to record both incoming and outgoing calls." Well done, Mr. Kachikian, the inventor of the program. Well, actually, I should say Mr. Pellicano since yesterday he claimed
all credit for the program. She even could use a button that could
translate the sounds of touch tones (people calling someone) and
translate them into actual numbers. Very convenient. Her job was to
listen to these recordings and get as much information as possible.
But, she didn't need Anthony to really tell her that because she was
Apparently, the second password to get into the Telesleuth program was
usually about four words--and generally contained the word "Omerta."
Tarita thought that the word "omerta" was the name of Mario Puzzo's
final book. (It translates to "code of silence". A concept clearly
lost of Ms. Virtue at this point.) Mr. Saunders then posted an exhibit
on the screen which appeared to list a few passwords. The first line
read "sissy" and on the same line it read Cruise missile omerta. When
Saunders inquired as to whether that code word referred to Tom Cruise,
Ms. Virtue guessed that it did. He cautioned her not to guess--but I
had to believe she was on the right track. (After all, this is the
same woman who told the FBI that Bert Fields, Mr. Cruise's attorney,
was a regular caller to Mr. Pellicano's office. So, she's probably made
a fairly educated guess. Not good enough to be evidence, but okay for
those who just want to gossip. I give you permission.) The next line
included the code words "Laviolette omerta"--supposedly a reference to
a tape of John LaViolette, a respected entertainment attorney involved
in litigation with a client of Mr. Pellicano's, former actor and
producer, Andrew Stevens. And then, there was a reference to Vincent
"Bo" Zenga, a screenwriter who was in litigation with Brad Grey, then a
well known manager who is now the head of Paramount. The line
referring to Mr. Zenga read "Gypsy boy" on the left and then on the
right, VincentBoZenga Omerta Final. Of the Bo Zenga file, Tarita
happily admitted "that was one I listened to." Ah, good times.
Also on the exhibit that Mr. Saunders showed Ms. Virtue, there was a
line reading AB (as in Anita Busch) and then on the same line,
catholicgirlomerta. Mr. Saunders did not ask Tarita to speculate on
who AB might refer to or on the code word next to the initials.
The key thing that Ms. Virtue explained today in only an hour on the
stand (she's set to return on Tuesday) was that Mr. Pellicano had the
ability to have five computers running at the same time, recording
calls in the office, as well as computers running at off-site
locations. The office computers could only listen in on calls in the
310 area code--a code that covers most of West Los Angeles and Beverly
Hills. If you wanted to wiretap someone in the valley, it was going to
cost you more because according to Tarita, Mr. Pellicano would have to
rent out an apartment and set up computers near his target phone. So, finally a good reason to actually live in the valley.
When she wasn't accusing Mr. Pellicano of being a wiretapping genius,
Ms. Virtue made time to go after two of the other defendants in the
case--former Sgt. Arneson and telephone repair expert, Ray Turner. She
said that both men were often at Mr. Pellicano's office and that
whenever clients arrived, Pellicano gave instructions to hide both of
the men in the kitchen. She admitted that former Sgt. Arneson often showed up in his uniform at the office--but insisted that he was still
trying to not be noticed whenever he came to the office. She claimed
that both men showed up at the office at least three times a week and
both often left with envelopes filled with cash. According to Tarita,
Ray Turner, the SBC employee, was the man who helped Mr. Pellicano set
up the wiretaps and he was paid handsomely out of the safe in Mr.
Pellicano's office. She said that she personally witnessed Pellicano
hand Mr. Turner an envelope filled with cash. She actually sounded a
little on the jealous side. Guess that website doesn't pay too much.
She added, that on occasion, Mr. Turner also got checks issued by the
office account on a few occasions. She didn't know how much they were
paid--but she did know that it was a lot. As for former Sgt. Arneson,
she remembered having received all sorts of faxed information from
him--including driver's license pictures (which were subsequently
doctored to conceal where they'd come from), criminal histories,
addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and other personal information.
So from what she was saying, it sounds like when Mr. Turner and Mr.
Arneson weren't busy hiding in the kitchen, they were in the back
getting envelopes of cash (or traceable checks in Mr. Turner's case)
and then, somehow slipping out into the dark night. And, they were
doing this--at least the visiting part, allegedly three times a week.
And, don't think that Ms. Virtue isn't ready for the defense to
cross-examine her. When Mr. Saunders wryly proposed a defense
argument, suggesting that Mr. Pellicano might have been functioning as
a law enforcement source for Mr. Arneson, Ms. Virtue quipped, "That's
asinine. That makes no sense." Ah, so that's a no. Tarita Virtue is
set to retake the witness stand on Tuesday morning where she will
undoubtedly chat about the content of the various calls Ms. Virtue
transcribed--including calls involving a number of famous names.
Read full HuffPost coverage from inside the courtroom