2ND UPDATE: I just got off the phone with top Hollywood litigator Bert Fields who tells me, “I intend to testify. I have nothing to hide. I have not been subpoenaed but if I am, I will show up and testify.” Asked why the feds said in pre-trial proceedings at the Pellicano trial today that Fields planned to take the Fifth Amendment rather than testify about his relationship with Hollywood private investigator Anthony Pellicano, Bert told me, “It’s complicated” and declined to reveal more than that.
What a stunner of a day. First, the feds announced in federal court this morning that Fields, long considered Hollywood’s leading litigator who frequently hired The Pelican on cases, would be taking the Fifth Amendment when he’s called to testify in the Pellicano trial. The news immediately threw the pre-trial proceedings into a tizzy as prosecutors and defense attorneys tried to figure out its ramifications. So U.S. District Court Judge Dale Fischer scheduled a conference on the situation for next Monday March 31st. It was Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders who first told the court during pre-trial proceedings today that his understanding was that “one of our witnesses” plans to take the Fifth Amendment. One of the defense lawyers asked the name of the witness, and Saunders answered, “Bert Fields”. The judge asked the attorneys how they wished to handle this, and next Monday’s conference was scheduled.
But, as I reported above, this is wrong. Fields will testify. True, Bert’s name has already come up many times during the course of the Pellicano trial. But, as I wrote back in October 2007, Fields is virtually free and clear of almost every aspect of the Pellicano case, including the wiretapping and conspiracy accusations which federal prosecutors have been pursuing against Hollywood P.I. Anthony Pellicano. Fields, to show his cooperation and his belief in his own innocence, has agreed repeatedly to requests by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles to temporarily waive the statutes of limitations for any conduct being examined by the Pellicano probe. And when these specified periods of time expired, he waived them again. But at that time the statutes of limitations have not yet lapsed on all potential charges against Fields. No charges have ever been forthcoming despite a myriad rumors, nor has the government charged him in this case with any wrongdoing. (See my previous, EXCLUSIVE: Bert Fields Can Put Pellicano Scandal Behind Him)
There was lots of juicy stuff to report from today’s testimony involving prominent Hollywood figures: studio head Ron Meyer, director John McTiernan and producer Chuck Roven, former agent and studio exec Mike Ovitz, and ex-studio exec Michael Nathanson (about whom Pellicano was heard on tape saying, “I saved Michael Nathanson’s ass. He was into prostitutes and coke”). Today’s court proceedings certainly painted Hollywood in as bad a light as possible.
First up was Peter Knecht, the lawyer for Bilal Baroody, a former Malibu neighbor of Universal president/COO Ron Meyer. Back in 1997, Meyer loaned Baroody $300,000 even though the neighbor was already extremely wealthy; when Baroody never paid him back and left the country, Meyer hired Pellicano in 1999 to find the money. The feds played a surreptitiously recorded tape of a conversation between Knecht and Pellicano who spent most of the conversation trying to wheedle Baroody’s whereabouts. “His life is about to change expotentially [sic],” Pellicano warned Knecht.
“How’s his life going to change?” Knecht pressed.
“It’s just going to change,” Pellicano said ominously.
During the conversation, Knecht detailed some of Baroody’s prime real estate holdings, such as the Malibu house and a high-rise on Wilshire Blvd. “…And this is what’s driving Ronnie crazy,” Pellicano told the lawyer. “He [Baroody] swore on the Koran that he’d pay. He’s fucking with the wrong guy.”
“Ron Meyer?” asked Knecht.
“Me,” said Pellicano.
Bigtime Hollywood producer Chuck Roven was as low-key on the witness stand as his dress (he didn’t even bother to wear a tie to court). Most of the time, he gave only perfunctory answers to questions centered on the movie Rollerball he made with director John McTiernan who has already pleaded guilty to perjury in the Pellicano scandal. The prosecutor tried to draw out Roven’s account of filming that movie with McTiernan in Montreal in 2000. “As sometimes happens, I had a different creative concept … And we would have discussions about that.” The government produced in court lists upon lists of often misspelled names of MGM and Warner studio executives as well as agents and associates with whom Roven was having phone conversations around that time. They were contained in summaries of incoming and outgoing phone calls which Pellicano allegedly had logged showing when they were made and who Roven was talking to. In Exhibit 54, McTiernan is heard talking to Pellicano, “Well, I think you got an education in the film industry.”
Replied Pellicano, “I had no fucking idea…”
Then the two men proceeded to chat about hard it is to make movies in the crazy entertainment biz. Pellicano expressed dismay at the sheer volume of phone conversations Roven had as his assistants rolled the calls.
“What do you want me to focus on?” Pellicano asked McTiernan.
The director replied, “Basically, I’d like to know if he says one thing to the studio…”
With that, Pellicano interrupted to remind McTiernan how much money this kind of surveillance was costing him.
“Let me get you a list of specific names he’s either talking to or about,” McTiernan suggested.
Again Pellicano expressed concern about the enormous cost. “I would just feel guilty taking your money and spending it,” he told McTiernan. “This guy [Roven] takes up to 10 minutes deciding if he’s miffed or not. I’m about to scream listening to this.”
The two men then talked about what a “rich fucker” Roven is because of his family money.
Also on the tape, Pellicano brought up the subject of one-time Hollywood mogul Michael Nathanson, then president/COO of MGM Pictures and before that executive vice president of production for Columbia Pictures. “I saved Michael Nathanson’s ass. He was into prostitutes and coke,” Pellicano boasted to McTiernan. [Nathanson’s name came up during the 1993 arrest of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, who at the time bragged to several reporters including me what a close personal and professional relationship she had with Nathanson. Fearing he would be exposed by one of the journalists working the story, Nathanson issued a statement through his lawyer Howard Weitzman denying rumors that he did business with Fleiss and claiming the exec “has not done anything that should cause concern on behalf of Columbia.” Weitzman is another lawyer who worked closely with Pellicano for years and in fact brought The Pelican to Los Angeles in the first place.]
There was one reference to Michael Ovitz, the CAA co-founder, fired Disney president and one-time most powerful person in Hollywood whose name repeatedly has come up during the Pellicano trial. The government asked witness Robert Pfeifer, who was first a Pellicano client and then a pal of the private eye’s, whether he was aware of any other clients of the P.I. “Yes,” Pfeifer replied, “I remember he [Pellicano] had to cancel something because he had to meet with Michael Ovitz.” Ovitz has repeatedly told reporters that it was his lawyers, not him, who hired Pellicano.
(Keep refreshing for latest news and updates… My thanks to LA Weekly‘s Steven Mikulan who’s covering the trial for DHD.))