Los Angeles police did not need any fancy computer program the time they turned the tables on private investigator Anthony Pellicano and secretly taped him in one of their own station houses.
Pellicano had requested a meeting with the police detectives investigating his client — accused "limousine rapist" John Gordon Jones — so they told him to come to the Hollywood station at 1 p.m. on Dec. 9, 1998.
That's when police led Pellicano into an interview cubicle where a hidden microphone was connected to an old-fashioned cassette recorder in another room, nothing like the "Telesleuth" system Pellicano is accused of using to wiretap people all over town.
But however primitive the technology, the tape of the police station encounter provides a rare opportunity to hear the now-imprisoned Pellicano in action.
He can be heard boasting of his celebrity clientele and the money he earns, prodding the detectives for information — even as he insists he isn't — and covering his rear after a break-in was reported at the apartment of a witness against his client.
"It wasn't me," Pellicano says. "Anybody who does anything illegal, get 'em."
It's one of several comments that resonate with different meaning in 2006, as Pellicano remains held without bail while an investigation into his activities shakes Los Angeles' entertainment and legal establishments.
Pellicano's work on the Jones case is the basis for eight of the 110 counts of a federal racketeering indictment accusing him of bribing police and wiretapping to dig up dirt on people that he was investigating. Those eight counts allege that he had a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant on his payroll run background checks on women who accused the millionaire barhopper of slipping them date-rape drugs.
In fact, two of the women, still listed as Jane Does, are atop the long list of names that Pellicano allegedly ran through police databases — they're the earliest such crimes cited by federal authorities.
The case involving Jones — who was eventually acquitted — is also an early instance of allegations of illegal eavesdropping by Pellicano. Here, they spilled out in court years before he came under official investigation. If what he was doing was a secret, it was badly kept.
Voluminous records from court proceedings also highlight a dilemma that Pellicano seems to have faced in the wide variety of divorce and Hollywood cases in which he is alleged to have made wiretaps: How do you use the powerful evidence such snooping generates without giving away what you are doing?
This episode from the seamy edge of Los Angeles nightlife also shows Pellicano in action, whether trying to neutralize witnesses against his wealthy client or schmoozing with the prosecution team seeking to send the man to prison for life.
Pellicano apparently did not suspect that he was being recorded in the police station that afternoon in 1998, for he said things he would not have wanted shared with the world, such as cursing out his own client.
The encounter was disclosed, however, when the government had to turn over the 32-minute tape to lawyers for Jones during the discovery process leading up to his trial. The Times also obtained a copy, portions of which can be heard at latimes.com/tapes.
There's much on the tape that sounded like harmless banter at the time but which invites a second listen today, such as Pellicano's touting his law enforcement contacts ("I got a lot of friends on the job") or telling the police, "I have a lot more information than you think I do."
Even what sounds like a friendly quip to the sex crimes prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Karla Kerlin — "You behaving yourself, by the way?" — could be seen as not so harmless after documents surfaced in subsequent litigation suggesting that Pellicano may have been digging into her background too.
Seven years later, Kerlin still finds it hard to believe that anyone might have thought of intimidating her with a tidbit from her past, her stint as a showgirl in Las Vegas.
Allegations of Abuse
Jones' mother owned Arthur Murray dance studios, and John Gordon Jones began working as an instructor as a teenager, in disco and ballroom.