It’s not online, but The New Yorker‘s Ken Auletta looks at the Pellicano probe with a long 12-page story featuring interviews with Bert Fields and Michael Ovitz. But do they really say anything? No. (Hey, they can’t, given the circumstances.) This is mostly written as a primer for people who don’t know a pelican from a Pellicano. So there’s not much juice for Hollywood folk who’ve been keeping up with the scandal. I’d say the most surprising bit is that Fields now gets $900-an-hour. (His pals have pointed out to me that Bert went on his annual summer vacation to his French chateau. Him worry? Nah!) Plus, more confirmation that Ovitz is going through a dressing-down, long-hair, phase. And he plays the victim yet again, though it’s strange that Auletta didn’t press Ovitz about hiring Pellicano to investigate a long list of Nixonian “enemies.” Key parts:

BertF.jpgFIELDS

…”When I suggested to Fields that even his friends were puzzled by his association with the detective (I used the word ‘thug’), Fields replied slowly, saying, “I never knew him as a thug. I never saw an instance of Anthony hurting anybody or really threatening anybody.” It is also known that no oneused Pellicano more frequently thanFields and his law firm, and that puzzles even friends and former clients, like Jeffrey Katzenberg, who told me, “I cannot reconcile the Bert I know having anything to do with Pellicano.”

…”[Fields] didn’t recall ever seeing a bill from Pellicano or asking for an explanation of his charges. He explained that Pellicano probably called his assistant and ‘told her to send the bill to the client.’ Of all the investigators he retained, Fields added, Pellicano was the best. ‘He came up with stuff that other people didn’t. He did that over and over again. He was just better. . . . I don’t know how he did it. It certainly wasn’t wiretapping.’ Fields’ law partner Bonnie E. Eskenazi says that Pellicano did not tell her and Fields how he retrieved his often ‘fantastic’ information. ‘And I didn’t tell him how I practice law.'”

…”Fields has been under intense scrutiny in the three years since Pellicano’s conviction on the weapons charge; he was interviewed by F.B.I. agents in the spring of 2003. Yet Fields’s life—outwardly, at least—doesn’t seem to have changed much. His only child, James, a New York investment banker, says, ‘He’s not going to let what’s going on affect him.’ Yet even some of Fields’s friends believe that he either knew the private detective’s methods or deliberately avoided knowing. Fields used to say of Pellicano, ‘I got my guy on it,’ one prominent friend recalls, adding, ‘It appeals to those in show business to talk about Pellicano as if he had ‘connections’ or extra special power.’ A grand jury has been impanelled since February, 2005, but Fields has never been summoned to testify, which could suggest that the prosecution case is weak—or that the prosecutor and the grand jury are just accumulating evidence.”

…”When asked if it frustrates him to be silenced, [Fields] says, without hesitation, ‘Oh, yeah. If it were a case that I was trying, I’d be all over the press, all over everything. That’s my style. But I have very good counsel in this case, and I’m going to follow him.’ As for the specifics of the case, Fields won’t go beyond his public comment, which is that he had ‘no knowledge’ of wiretapping and would never condone it. There is a five-year statute of limitations for wiretapping crimes, and for some of the cases in which Fields may be implicated the limit was due to expire in March. At the request of the U.S. Attorney, he has three times consented to extend the deadline. For a prosecutor, it means more time to gather evidence; for a potential target who wants to avoid the ruinous spectre of an indictment, it shows a willingness to cooperate. In early May, Fields believed that the case would either collapse or lead to formal charges by the end of that month. In mid-July, though, he said that he still wasn’t sure of his status; his lawyer, John Keker, who had been talking regularly with prosecutors, had not heard from the government since May 3rd. ‘The first time the F.B.I. came to my office was three years ago,’ Fields told me. ‘I talked to the agents voluntarily. I had nothing to hide. For the succeeding three years, I’ve been a subject of their inquiry.'”

…”It’s very hard on my wife. When the United States government says to you, ‘We think we may have evidence to put your husband in jail for a long, long time,’ to a woman who loves her husband that’s a frightening, horrible concept. How would she not be tortured by that? … I don’t pretend it’s easy,” he said, “but when you saw this lovely woman you’ve been married to for twenty-seven years’—his voice broke [Fields is talking about his first wife]— ‘slowly die of cancer, nothing after that is hard. This is easy compared to that.’ His eyes filled with tears.”

…”When I asked Fields if he had learned anything from this ordeal, his reply seemed somewhat labored. ‘ I have to go back in time to answer that question,” he said. “When I was in the service, I prosecuted high-profile military cases. I had the attitude of a prosecutor: I wanted to get these people and convict them because I was convinced that they had betrayed their ;trust as officers or airmen. I felt imbued with a spirit of defending the country. So I understand what the mentality must be of a young prosecutor, having been one myself. But having now seen what it’s like to be on the other end of that huge force that is the United States government when one is not guilty, it brings a kind of sense of completion to my understanding of the criminal process. By that I mean I saw what it was like to want to convict as a prosecutor, and I see what it is like to myself and my family and my partners to be accused of something I didn’t do, and to have to fight the power of the United States government.’”

…”Even if Fields is not indicted, people who have followed the case and his career  will undoubtedly continue to ask what he knew about Pellicano’s services and what he should have known, and how, as one prominent Hollywood lawyer said to me, “smart people could be so stupid.” One Fields client, insisting on anonymity, suggested that Fields’s competitiveness is at the root of his legal problems.”

…”Finally, I asked Fields if he was angry at Pellicano. ‘Sure, I’m pissed off at him,’ he said, and then his tone shifted: ‘I know the pressures he had. He would call me and say, ‘Can’t you get me any work?’ His expenses were enormous. It’s inexcusable. But I can’t be too hard on Anthony Pellicano. This is a guy who did good work for us.’”

OvitzCA.JPGOVITZ

…”Ovitz works in a one-story concrete building—a former film-production studio— that sits like a bunker on a quiet Santa Monica street. Exposed pipes traverse the high ceiling; a collection of contemporary German art fills the walls. When he worked in Beverly Hills, at the I. M. Pei-designed C.A.A. headquarters that he commissioned, he wore charcoal suits, white shirts, and Hermès ties. One day in May, he greeted me wearing a black Nike T-shirt, jeans, and gray sneakers without socks; his chestnut hair nearly touched his shoulders. Ovitz, who refuses to discuss his current activities in any detail, has about fifteen employees, who manage his art, his business ventures in real estate and finance, and a Japanese restaurant he owns, Hamasaku, in West L.A. He plans to open another restaurant later this year.”

…”‘I don’t think anybody knew what this guy was doing, because this guy traded in information,’ Ovitz said of Pellicano, picking up a basketball and pacing slowly. ‘That’s what he did. I used to watch Perry Mason reruns all the time. There was this guy who’s a private detective, Paul, and he always came in at the last minute and slipped a note to Perry Mason in court at the most critical time. So now I say to myself, ‘Let’s see here, did Perry Mason ask Paul how he got that information?’ Don’t think so. ‘Did Paul get it all legally?’ Don’t know. ‘Was it just a blank slip of paper?’ Probably. That’s more than I ever got. But, whichever it was, it sure seemed to save the day for poor Perry.” Ovitz said that he couldn’t speak for others, but that Pellicano ‘didn’t produce anything for us to even ask about. The lawyers hired him. We got nothing, zippo.’ Ellis and Ovitz declined to say what they wanted to learn from Pellicano, or whether Ovitz had hired Pellicano to pursue Anita Busch. “To me—this is going to sound really stupid—but the couple of times I met him he seemed really out of shape. He was just a regular-looking middle aged man. He didn’t look like those imposing guys on ‘The Sopranos’ or in ‘The Godfather.’ ”

…”Press accounts have suggested that Ovitz is being investigated in the wiretap scandal. Ovitz says that the stories about him ‘are basically not accurate. The one ‘article that surprised me was the Ron Meyer article,’ he said, a reference to a New York that Meyer had visited Pellicano in  prison and ‘urged Mr. Pellicano to ‘drop a dime on’ Mr. Ovitz.’ Nothing, he believes, could have justified his former partner in urging Pellicano to claim that he had done something criminal.”

…”Ovitz and his lawyers are aware that he still has enemies in Hollywood. ‘I think that what I’ve learned at this stage of my life is that if I could do it again I’d absolutely do it differently,’ Ovitz says. ‘But being in the agency business and starting a business at age twenty-six and building everything from scratch, I was as tough as I felt I needed to be, and probably tougher than I should have been.’ Hatred of Ovitz seems undiminished by time. One major Hollywood figure says, ‘If Ovitz gets indicted, there will be parties. It will be the end of a Shakespearean tale.'”