Pellicano Trialâ€™s Restless Defense
Today defense attorneys in the racketeering trial of Anthony Pellicano and four co-defendants began their closing arguments, with lead-off hitter Chad Hummel attacking prosecutor Daniel Saundersâ€™ Tuesday closer on two fronts. Hummel reliably tried to exploit the governmentâ€™s court pratfall of last week, when Hummel impeached a defense witness called to impeach his own client, former LAPD sergeant Mark Arneson. Hummel, employing a classic quote-the-enemy strategy, also used former FBI agent Stanley Ornellasâ€™ testimony to suggest that the Feds didnâ€™t connect Arneson to Pellicanoâ€™s alleged wiretapping operation, nor that they considered Arnesonâ€™s handing of confidential crime and DMV data to Pellicano an activity that imperiled the safety of Arnesonâ€™s fellow officers involved in undercover work.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Saunders listened intently as Hummel spent 65 minutes trying to undo Saundersâ€™ handiwork of the previous day. Making only slightly better use of a PowerPoint display than the government, Hummel eventually moved to an old-fashioned easel and sketch pad, on which appeared a kind of Venn diagram consisting of two circles â€“ one with Arnesonâ€™s name inside it, the other encompassing Pellicanoâ€™s and the other three defendantsâ€™ names. Not surprisingly, the two circles did not overlap. He also cited Arthur Millerâ€™s Red Scare fable, The Crucible, to show how, like the playâ€™s hero, Arneson was the victim of a Salem-like witch hunt â€“ as well as being a man who had committed no heresies to recant.
Although it lacked a certain sound and fury that some in court may have been expecting, Hummelâ€™s performance was both self-assured and convincing. Anthony Pellicano, who presented the next closing argument, certainly could have learned something from it. Pellicano had told Judge Dale Fischer that he needed somewhere between an hour to an hour and a half to complete his speech to the jury, but he gave himself the hook after only 16 minutes. Appearing relaxed, affable and confident, Pellicano nevertheless gave a rambling dissertation on the roles of the jury and prosecutor. Jurors stared at him alertly but with opaque expressions.
If Hummel had alluded to The Crucible, Pellicano would have done well to quote from Millerâ€™s A View from the Bridge, in which a confused figure pays the ultimate price for being a government informant. Pellicano has made much of how he detests snitches and â€śrats,â€ť and certainly the governmentâ€™s dance card was packed with witnesses who were either cooperating with prosecutors for lesser sentences in cases related to Pellicanoâ€™s, or who had completely dodged indictments in exchange for their testimony about Pellicanoâ€™s alleged wiretapping activities.
"I could stand up here and take up more of your time and try to sway you," Pellicano instead told jurors. "But Mr. Pellicano has instructed me not to do so."
Wednesdayâ€™s final presentation, however, was in some ways more baffling than Pellicanoâ€™s brief strut across the stage. Adam Braun, whoâ€™d previously put on a shrewd and capable defense of his computer-programmer client, Kevin Kachikian, spent 77 excruciating minutes flipping pages of testimony and jury instructions on and off an overhead projector as he meandered from one seemingly unconnected topic to another. His argument seemed a willful act of anti-drama in which he showed an almost avant-garde scorn for theatrics and narrative build-up. Braunâ€™s postmodern contempt for text was clear from the way he sometimes flipped those pages too quickly for jurors to read them -- a deliberate reference, no doubt, to Jacques Derridaâ€™s dismissal of archiving as a reliable tool of human memory.
Braun did, however, draw a clear line between Kachikian and Pellicano, for whom Kachikian designed the Telesleuth software that enabled the private eye to wiretap subjectsâ€™ phones from his Sunset Boulevard office.
â€śMr. Pellicano duped Mr. Kachikian,â€ť Braun said of his shaved-headed client. â€śMr. Pellicano swam in a sophisticated world with the sharks â€“ with talent agents, businessmen and billionaires. If [Kachikian] had been an agent from CAA he would have picked up on this and left.â€ť
Yes, either that or have gotten Vin Diesel to play Kachikian in a movie version of this case.