As I promised you, The New York Times has a new Pellicano scandal story, this time focusing on the Hollywood lawyers. Frankly, it’s not even worth your time reading; it’s all dated stuff, wrapped around an old premise. Without naming names, reporters David Halbfinger and Allison Hope Weiner claim that the fraternity of lawyers located in LA’s Century City “are waking to a grim truth: The government believes they are the problem.” The story confirms what I’ve heard for many months now: that the real object of the U.S. Attorney’s Office isn’t the rich, famous and powerful clients as much as it is their rich, famous and powerful attorneys. “It is only now becoming clear that powerful businesspeople and stars are just collateral damage in a hunt for the real target: what government lawyers see as corruption in a legal system that is suddenly being policed after decades of neglect,” the journalists write. “Nothing like this assault on lawyers and the famous people they represent has happened before in Movieland, where studio walls and security departments were built to keep the outside world out.”
Unfortunately the NYT story is long on commentary from academics, ex-prosecutors and even lawyers not involved in the scandal — but short on new facts. There is this bland quote from George Cardona, the acting U.S. attorney for the Pellicano case: “To the extent that people in various positions have felt that they were immune from prosecution, hopefully, the case will send to those people the message that they’re not immune, and if their conduct is uncovered, they will be prosecuted just like anybody else.” But I might have had more respect for the article if it had at least examined the Pellicano prosecution in light of George W. Bush et al’s widening judicial assault on litigators since we know the GOP has long targeted trial attorneys as Corporate Enemy No. 1 because they give so much campaign cash to Democrats. (I’m also surprised that the piece doesn’t distinguish between different prosecutions: many of those ascribed to the feds were actually initiated by New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer.)
There’s not even any more detail about the Pellicano prosecutor, Daniel Saunders, beyond what we already know. (See my Pellicano Prosecutor: Hollywood Wannabe!) Nor does the piece address what’s already been reported: that the prosecutors may not be able to make a case against the capo de capo of Century City lawyers, Bert Fields. (See my Report: No Smoking Gun For Bert Fields) Meanwhile, my eyes glazed over at this lame nugget: “One consequence of the inquiry into lawyers has been frequent intrusion by FBI agents into the business of celebrities who may have had only marginal contact with Pellicano. Thus, Warren Beatty, the famously private actor-director, found himself being grilled by agents in July 2003 about his longtime lawyer, Fields, and assured the agents that he and Fields ‘would often laugh about’ the private eye, but never discussed wiretapping, government evidence reviewed by The New York Times shows.” That’s all, one Warren anecdote.
The NYT article excuses what now seems to be a long lull in the prosecution’s pursuit of the Pellicano scandal; after all, the judge and everyone else was told by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to expect more indictments back in April. Never happened. “But hidden from public view, a ferocious battle is being waged between a growing phalanx of defense lawyers, many of them defending other lawyers, and Daniel A. Saunders, a fiery assistant U.S. attorney who has been overseeing the case for nearly four years … Defense lawyers are fighting not only to keep their clients from being charged but also, in some cases, to keep their names from even surfacing.” The piece says some of the best Los Angeles lawyers are “avoiding taking clients now, betting that more indictments are coming and will land even bigger fish. Any further indictments are almost certain to take aim at the lawyers… If Saunders ultimately prevails, Century City is in for some serious pain.”
That’s it. Go about your business. Nothing new to see here.
Previous: Pellicano: Brad Asks to Stay Bo’s Lawsuit, More Legal Heat On NYT Pellicano Pair, Report: No Smoking Gun For Bert Fields, NYT’s New Pellicano Blockbuster Exposes Brad Grey and Mike Ovitz, Pellicano Probed? H’wood Attorney Patty Glaser Says “Absolutely Not”, Rats Desert Sinking Ship, um, Law Firm