A former member of President Clinton’s “Shadow Team,” a private investigator known for dirty tricks and rough tactics on behalf of celebrity clients, will face unspecified charges tomorrow in a high-profile Hollywood scandal.
Anthony Pellicano, 61, worked for many of Hollywood’s elite before and after being commissioned by Hillary Clinton during her husband’s administration to spy on their perceived “enemies.”
His celebrity clients have included Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Sylvester Stallone.
Pellicano was released Friday from a federal prison after completing a 2 1/2-year sentence for possessing illegal weapons. He was transferred to San Bernardino County Jail, which is sometimes used by the federal prisoners. He was booked on charges that are under seal.
Before he went to prison, Pellicano said he wouldn’t cooperate in the wiretapping probe and would protect the confidentiality of his clients.
Pellicano first gained notoriety in 1977 after locating the remains of Taylor’s third husband after they were stolen from an Illinois cemetery.
He also helped automaker John DeLorean win acquittal on cocaine trafficking charges in the early 1980s. He was hired by Jackson to refute child molestation claims in 1993.
Pellicano’s legal troubles began in 2002 when prosecutors claim he hired Alexander Proctor to threaten Anita Busch, then a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, who was working on a story about actor Steven Seagal and possible links to the Mafia.
Proctor allegedly went to Busch’s home, placed a dead fish with a rose in its mouth on the windshield of her car and made a bullet-sized hole in her windshield. He also placed a sign with the word “stop” on the windshield, court documents show. The FBI later raided Pellicano’s office, found illegal explosives and seized documents and computers.
Pellicano and Proctor each face one count of making criminal threats and one count of conspiracy but neither have yet entered a plea. Proctor is serving a 10-year prison term in Illinois on unrelated drug charges.
During two terms of the Clinton administration, Pellicano was one of several private investigators used by the White House to conduct “shadow” operations. Others included Terry Lenzner, founder and chairman of the powerful Washington detective firm Investigative Group International, and San Francisco private eye Jack Palladino and his wife Sandra Sutherland.
But it was Hillary Clinton who hired the “Shadow Team” – some believe to do work that employees of the federal government could not do.
Former congressional investigator Barbara Olson, who was killed Sept. 11, 2001, wrote that, “In the political life of the Clintons, it was she [Hillary] who pioneered the use of private detectives. It was she who brought in and cultivated the professional dirt-diggers and smear artists.”
Hillary’s detectives engaged in “a systematic campaign to intimidate, frighten, threaten, discredit and punish innocent Americans whose only misdeed is their desire to tell the truth in public,” former Clinton adviser Dick Morris charged in the New York Post of Oct. 1, 1998.
In his book, “Hillary’s Secret War,” author Richard Poe explains that Pellicano’s violent career as a private investigator reveals much about the sorts of qualifications Hillary sought in her “Shadow Team.”
In the January 1992 issue of GQ magazine, Pellicano boasted of the dirty work he had performed for his clients, including blackmail and physical assault. He claimed to have beaten one of his client’s enemies with a baseball bat.
“I’m an expert with a knife,” said Pellicano. “I can shred your face with a knife.”
FBI agents raided Pellicano’s West Hollywood office on Nov. 22, 2002, and arrested him on federal weapons charges. In his office, they found gold, jewelry, and about $200,000 in cash – most of it bundled in $10,000 wrappers – thousands of pages of transcripts of illegal wiretaps; two handguns; and various explosive devices stored in safes, including two live hand grenades and a pile of C4 plastic explosive, complete with blasting cap and detonation cord.
“The explosive could easily be used to blow up a car, and was in fact strong enough to bring down an airplane,” noted Special Agent Stanley Ornellas in a sworn affidavit.
The FBI raided Pellicano’s office after an accomplice ratted him out. Ex-convict Alexander Proctor told the FBI that Pellicano had hired him to threaten and intimidate Busch, who had been poking her nose a little too deeply into a feud between Mafia kingpins and actor Seagal. It seems that Seagal’s former friend and production partner, Julius R. Nasso, was tied to the Gambino crime family. When Seagal and Nasso quarreled, the dispute got ugly.
On the morning of June 20, 2002, reporter Busch approached her car, which was parked near her home. To her horror, she saw a bullet-hole in her windshield. A cardboard sign taped to the glass bore one word: “Stop.” A dead fish with a long-stemmed rose in its mouth lay on the hood.
Busch took the hint. She immediately went into hiding, staying in a series of hotels at her paper’s expense, while the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Deprtment’s organized-crime division investigated.
A break in the case seemed to come when ex-convict Proctor spilled the beans to an undercover FBI informant. Proctor reportedly told the informant, on tape, that it was not the Mafia harassing Busch – it was Steven Seagal. Proctor said Seagal hired detective Anthony Pellicano to intimidate the woman into silence. Pellicano, in turn, had subcontracted Proctor to do the dirty work.
“He wanted to make it look like the Italians were putting the hit on her, so it wouldn’t reflect on Seagal,” Proctor told the informant. Proctor accused Pellicano of ordering him to “blow up” or set fire to Busch’s car to frighten her. However, Proctor said he got cold feet and merely damaged the car, leaving the dead fish and “Stop” sign as calling cards.
A federal judge sentenced Pellicano to 30 months in prison for possession of the hand grenades and C4. Later, on June 17, 2005, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley charged him with conspiracy and making threats against Busch.
Despite the sensational coverage of the Hollywood scandals, few news organizations have included the name of Pellicano’s most famous client – Hillary Rodham Clinton.
A detailed, 1,680-word round-up of the Pellicano case published in the New York Times on Nov. 11, 2003 – a full year after his arrest – made no mention of Hillary’s name, nor even hinted at Pellicano’s White House connection.
Pellicano was deeply involved in Clinton damage-control operations – including efforts to discredit former Clinton lovers Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky.